Stately, plump Buck MullZZZZZZZZ
July 10, 2013 1:23 PM   Subscribe

What makes you put down a book? A Goodreads infographic on the what, when, and why of abandoning a book, and what keeps people reading.
posted by Cash4Lead (107 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I almost never give up on a book once I've started. Looking at that infographic I kinda wished I'd joined the crowd who gave up on Wicked, though. Hearing that it's utterly unlike the musical has made me more interested in seeing the musical than I was previously.

I'm baffled that Catch-22 is the #1 abandoned classic. I can't imagine not finding it compelling. Ditto for Moby Dick.
posted by yoink at 1:30 PM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


On advice that books, once started, should be read all the way through: "This is surely a strange advice; you may as well resolve that whatever men you happen to get acquainted with, you are to keep them for life. A book may be good for nothing; or there may be only one thing in it worth knowing; are we to read it all through?" --Samuel Johnson
posted by seemoreglass at 1:32 PM on July 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Up until recently, it was pretty rare for me to not finish a book. Maybe it's because I'm expanding what genres I read (I pretty much used to only read sci-fi/fantasy pulpy novels), or maybe my ereader has something to do with it, but nowadays if it's not a page-turner, and it's not a library book with an enforced deadline, I'll likely simply put the book down and not pick it back up, even if it's not particularly bad. There's just too many books out there. The latest one I'm ashamed of is Telegraph Ave. I've loved Chabon's previous books, but I'm halfway through and just too "meh" to keep going. Maybe in 10 years when I can more directly relate to the characters.

I'm baffled that Catch-22 is the #1 abandoned classic.

Mmm, the beginning is quite slow, not to mention nonlinear which is always a killer for some readers. I can imagine someone with a shorter attention span than me putting it down before the really exciting kick.
posted by muddgirl at 1:35 PM on July 10, 2013


not to mention nonlinear which is always a killer for some readers

Objectively I realize this must be true but a big part of me wants to be petulant and say that they must not be people who like books.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:38 PM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


It took me a long time to accept that abandoning a book (especially a "classic") was not a personal moral failure. As a child who devoured books years beyond my understanding, I had to learn when to set a book aside for later. I am a firm believer that books have seasons. It's an important skill to know when you're ready for them, and when you're not. And there are so many beautiful, meaningful, gut-wrenching books in the world, why waste your time on the ones that don't speak to you?

Of course, there's a lot to be said for perseverance. I would have abandoned Ulysses a thousand times had it not been assigned to me, and I felt afterwards as if I'd climbed a mountain or sailed across a sea. Reading it was honestly one of the achievements of my life. But as in the rest of our lives, we have to decide what's worth fighting for. I put down Catch-22 after maybe 15 pages. I'm sure I'll pick it up again.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 1:47 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've only come to terms with abandoning books in the last three years or so, after slogging through 900+ pages of a book that never paid off on its promising first chapter. At the end of it I was astounded to find that I was sincerely angry at the author for wasting my time and also angry at myself for forcing myself to finish it. No more! Since then I'll happily abandon a fiction within the first quarter thickness if I don't care for some combination of poor writing, editing or plot and each time I've felt a great relief when the book goes into the reject pile.

I've also learned that telling others which titles you've abandoned ranks right up there in grar-starting potential as discussing politics.
posted by jamaro at 1:49 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Two books I almost abandoned half way through recently, but read through because I wanted to give the authors a fair chance are Sharon Green's Silver Princess, Golden Knight and Trudi Canavan's The Magicians' Guild. The first because it turned out a romance story in which the heroine had no agency whatsoever and was constantly called a spoiled brat by her supposed love interest, not to mention her parents. It was all about forcing her into marriage, her own choice be damned.

The second started out well when it looked that this might actually be a socially conscious fantasy. Set in the usual medievaloid city state, it started with a bunch of wizards purging it from all the nasty, oikish lower class scum, with the spunky heroine from the slums learning she too is a magician when she manages to knock one of the wizards out with a thrown brick. Unfortunately it doesn't result in a revolution and just becomes a standard Harry Potterish "girl goes to magic college" story.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:49 PM on July 10, 2013


I don't need to drink a whole gallon of milk to determine that it's gone sour.
posted by Legomancer at 1:53 PM on July 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


I used to be a finisher, too. Dammit, I've invested time in this! I need to keep going!

No more.

Fifty pages is my usual limit. If I'm not seriously into it by page 50, I'm done. Occasionally if it's something that people are telling me is fantastic, or I am otherwise feeling generous, I'll give it another 50 but seriously, life is too fucking short and I have an infinite list of things I want to read, and a pile of library books that I will not get to at all (and which might be better!) if I don't put down books that don't enchant me.

I learned this from my librarian colleagues. We're surrounded by books all day, every day, and you only get to read ALL THE GOOD ONES if you have a rule of abandonment.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:55 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ditto for Moby Dick.

To be fair, 48.3% of the people who give up on Moby Dick are Marine Biologists and Librarians who get to the chapter on whether the whale is properly a fish or not and go "Melville, you are drunk!"

The reasons for keeping reading strike me as sort of compulsive. Reading a book through to the end is not a sign of moral character; it's more like a literary version of the sunk loss fallacy. If an author has earned my trust, I will follow them across many arid pages; if not, I am heading elsewhere. I've read Proust; no one can doubt my sincerity and tenacity.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:57 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh! I do have one exception: books I'm reading for my book club. Those, I finish no matter how much I hate them, so I can talk intelligently about how much I hate them when we meet.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:57 PM on July 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't give up on novels too often. I think my last was Chasm City, which was a perfect storm of annoying main character, annoying OTHER main character from flashbacks, unrealistic motivation, poor writing, worldbuilding that seemed cool at first but was clearly not as fleshed-out as it should have been, comical villains, and a plodding mystery that I just KNEW wouldn't be worth the wait.

I had to know what happened though so I Wikipedia'd it. Yeah, I'm glad I didn't finish it...
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:58 PM on July 10, 2013


Those, I finish no matter how much I hate them, so I can talk intelligently about how much I hate them when we meet.

I like this! I am imagining the conversation:

Concerned Onlooker: What are you reading?
rabbitrabbit: [Book Title]
CO: Is it any good? You are grimacing and your teeth are grinding.
rr: No.
CO: Why do you continue?
rr: Spite.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:00 PM on July 10, 2013 [27 favorites]


I occasionally deliberately abandon books (I think The Night Circus was the last one I gave up on). More often, I put down a book fully intending to come back to it, and I never do. Sometimes they'll be books I really like, but don't get all the way into, or life gets in the way and by the time I come back to the book I've forgotten what's going on.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:05 PM on July 10, 2013


I finished every book I started until I was about 30 years old, and I think there was a value in that. You have to learn to be a reader, especially a reader of some kinds of literature. Brothers Karamazov, for example, was a grueling, uphill slog for me for the first 400 pages, but for the second 400 I couldn't put it down, and I was glad I stuck with it. Sometimes you don't know if you like things until you finish them, or until you've done them a few times (Russian literature I am looking at you), and since reading is a personal, internally-motivated act, there is a real value in "always" finishing books; it helped me develop taste and discrimination, learn what good and bad books were, learn what I personally liked and did not like.

In the last five years, though, especially since I've had kids (and have much less time for sustained reading), I have much more a sense of, "There are so many great books in the world waiting for me to fall in love with them that I will never be able to read them all." So with the taste and discrimination developed in the first 30 years of never putting a book down unfinished, I've started setting some aside -- so far, when it becomes clear they're bad books. Maybe one day I'll be able to set aside great classics that just aren't for me, but I'm not quite there yet.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:05 PM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've read Proust; no one can doubt my sincerity and tenacity.

This strikes me as like saying "hey, I finished ALL the chocolates in that box; you can't question my dedication to the task."

The "book" that had me feel most strongly a sense of "wow, I really made it through all that?" was reading the Old Testament (KJV) end to end. Man there's a high dross to gold ratio there. The great stuff is unbelievably great, of course, but it's all the stuff you already know (Genesis, Job etc.). The rest is largely ignored for very good reason.
posted by yoink at 2:08 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cash4Lead: "What makes you put down a book? "

The name "Stephanie Meyer" on the cover.

Otherwise, rampant sexism, racism, stupidity, egregious typos (Hello, Laurell K. Hamilton) or sheer boredom.
posted by zarq at 2:10 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This strikes me as like saying "hey, I finished ALL the chocolates in that box; you can't question my dedication to the task."

Proust is a bit like eating a huge batch of chocolates -- you are never quite sure what you are a biting into, some you like more than others, in the middle of the project you can see neither the beginning nor the end, there is near endless variety made unmistakably by the same hand, and the experience will stick with you forever (although mentally, rather than in pounds).

The difference is that, even though I have eaten all the chocolates, there are still all the chocolates for you to eat, too.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:12 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be fair, 48.3% of the people who give up on Moby Dick are Marine Biologists and Librarians who get to the chapter on whether the whale is properly a fish or not and go "Melville, you are drunk!"

What librarian could resist the division of whales into "folio, octavo and duodecimo"?
posted by yoink at 2:14 PM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ha! Yeah, I put down Twilight after the first paragraph. That was a new record.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:21 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The first book I ever just stopped reading was The Shadow of the Wind. Someone gave it to me, recommending it in the highest terms, and from the very beginning, it irritated me, and it only got worse. I lasted about 20 pages.
posted by Jpfed at 2:23 PM on July 10, 2013


Years ago, I was at some friends' house, and they weren't ready to go, so I picked up a book. It was The Blind Knight by Gail Van Asten. I read a few sentences, and then my whole body gave a convulsive shudder and hurled the book across the room. I stared at the volume in dumb amazement as it flew through the air, but, as it hit the wall, part of my brain went "oh my, that is bad writing." It was like my autonomic nervous system leapt into action to save my conscious mind.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:28 PM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I put down Twilight after the first paragraph.

That made me curious to read the first paragraph of Twilight. According to The Internet, this is it:
My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue. I was wearing my favorite shirt--sleeveless, with eyelet lace; I was wearing it as a farewell gesture. My carry-on item was a parka.
I have to admit I'm not seeing the "whoop, whoop, pull up, pull up" here. I'm thinking you went into it with some pretty strong reservations already.
posted by yoink at 2:28 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Most of the books I put down I fully intend to come back to once I'm done being distracted by the distracting thing. Often I do come back....but when I don't, I've finally stopped feeling guilty. Especially since there are an awful lot of books that I've read (and enjoyed) all the way through and then barely remember a month later.
posted by rtha at 2:31 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I almost always finish books, but sometimes I just can't. One of these occurred yesterday, mainly, but not solely, because I simply could not get past the dialogue:

"Jesse, I like you and I can see you in you the makings of a great pimp, if you stay off heroin. All you need is a good femme to back your play. With a little help you could back up that cocky attitude of yours with genuine confidence. Your sexy, arrogant stride and soft, classy good looks packaged right could make you a real femme magnet ... Today you start 'Pimp 101'. The first lesson is: It's all about the front. Rich rags and a flowery rap, backed with a badass attitude. I think you'll be a natural."

"That works. Pimping is simply marketing and sales management. I learned from the best. My father could sell ice cream to an Eskimo and charge interest. I'll teach the girls everything I know and treat them well."

(I knew I had to give up when I found my brain simply translating passages like the above into Shakespearean iambic pentameter in an attempt to make it better.

"Sweet Jesse, if thou canst stay off the smack,
Then thou shalt be the greatest pimp yet known.
With me, a comely femme, to back thy play,
Thy cocky strut and arrogant appeal,
Will lure the winsome wenches to your side."

"Your words are sooth, and I shall be your pimp -
I learned the precepts at my father's knee!
He was a man so canny in his sales,
He'd sell a Viking snow in trade for whales!
I shall be firm yet gentle, soft but keen,
And treat our ev'ry hooker like a Queen.")
posted by kyrademon at 2:32 PM on July 10, 2013 [28 favorites]


Most recently I had to put down Blood Meridian. Was just too grim and nihilistic for me. Kinda wish I hadn't read all the way through 2666 either. Now that was a one-note book!
posted by Therapeutic Amputations at 2:32 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue. I was wearing my favorite shirt--sleeveless, with eyelet lace; I was wearing it as a farewell gesture. My carry-on item was a parka.

I have to admit I'm not seeing the "whoop, whoop, pull up, pull up" here. I'm thinking you went into it with some pretty strong reservations already.


Really? Because that is one hell of a ponderously uninspiring opener. It's like a grocery list. It doesn't grab me at all.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:32 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I gave up on Chabon's Telegraph Avenue less than 50 pages in. I told a friend that her husband might like it for the reasons I didn't: too much Berkeley, too much Jazz.
posted by vespabelle at 2:37 PM on July 10, 2013


I rarely, while in the act of reading, put down a book. For me it's more about seeing the book on the bedside table, or on the Kindle menu or whatever, and realizing I don't give a fuck anymore and maybe it's time to move on. Life's too short to finish a book you're not enjoying.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:38 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ha, liked the title of this post. My wife this year has been reading Ulysses before bed and almost never makes it more than 2 pages before drifting off to dreamland.
posted by Falconetti at 2:41 PM on July 10, 2013


It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue

Like it's ever 75F in Phoenix in June during the day.
posted by jamaro at 2:41 PM on July 10, 2013


I used to be one of those people who religiously finished books. Interestingly, the book that broke me of that habit was Atlas Shrugged, a book I set out to read for a scholarship application and got halfway through before I realized that I would rather be punched repeatedly in the throat than have to read another page of Pure Awful.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 2:42 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have, once or twice, finished a book I despised simply because it was so gobsmackingly stupid that I couldn't look away. Example: Clive Cussler's Raise the Titanic.
posted by SPrintF at 2:43 PM on July 10, 2013


Yeah, that opener may not have been enough to make me put it down right off the bat, but it's full of bad omens for the quality of the rest of the book. The description of what she's wearing is a particular red flag for me, since in my experience, that kind of clothing description is a sign of immature writing. And yeah, it's just uninspiring what with the cliche descriptions like "perfect, cloudless blue." It establishes that she's moving and unhappy about it, but there's not much of a hook otherwise.

I used to be one of those people who would soldier on through a book no matter what, and still do that sometimes. But having an ereader and easy access to so many books means I've grown out of the rationing frame of mind that led me to finish each and every book I got my hands on when I was younger. Before I became an Adult, I was reliant on library trips and allowance money for my book supply, so every book had to be fully utilized or else the money or trip was a waste and who knew when I could get more?

Now I am an Adult, and can procure books for myself whenever I want, short of blowing my whole paycheck on them! Also, now I am an Adult, and free time is in much shorter supply, so I better be reading something I'm actively enjoying rather than slogging through out of obligation.
posted by yasaman at 2:43 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should note, however, that I still have a Goodreads shelf for books "on the backburner," which is my way of deluding myself that I will ever actually return to the book in question and finish it. I might as well call it the "it's not you, it's me," shelf, since usually there's nothing especially wrong with the books in question, I just suffer a catastrophic lack of interest and never return to them.
posted by yasaman at 2:46 PM on July 10, 2013


Stately, plump Buck MullZZZZZZZZ

This makes me sad. Mostly because I've really tried to finish it and fall off about halfway through every time.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:47 PM on July 10, 2013


I've only recently given myself permission to quit books. I quit Consider Phlebas just recently about halfway through. It's a really weird feeling actually - and it takes then finishing a couple before you totally shake the feeling.

I probably would have quit Catch-22 if I picked up these days, because I found the cleverness of that book to get quite stale after about 50 pages, but I muddled through because I still felt at the time that quitting a book was a sacrilege. And Melville, how I love thee, but you really could have benefited from a better editor. Ulysses I had no problem finishing but I think I have a sort of taste for the modernist stuff and I can totally see why that book could be impossible to finish.

Also "Extremely Stupid" is maybe the best reason to abandon a book.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:52 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


CO: Is it any good? You are grimacing and your teeth are grinding.
rr: No.
CO: Why do you continue?
rr: Spite.


I had like twenty variations on this conversation as I neared the end of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, which is a book I started reading out of idle curiosity, but which switched to a SpiteRead by about halfway through.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:58 PM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


It doesn't grab me at all.

I wouldn't say it "grabbed" me, either. My point is not "oh, how could you not like this magnificent opening paragraph" it's just that I can't see anything in it so egregiously awful that it would make me toss the book aside once I'd decided to give it a go. I mean, did rabbitrabbit pick the book up thinking "this will be a paragon of endlessly inventive prose style from start to finish"?
posted by yoink at 3:14 PM on July 10, 2013


In high school I started Catch-22. Somewhere around page 100 I forgot I was reading it. Some other book replaced it. I found it under my bed months later. Oh, I thought, I was reading this... Last year I decided to read Moby Dick. I've heard it's a slog to get through. I was surprised how modern it sounded. It was good! And then as Ishmael and Queequeeg were about to embark on the Peqoud some other book got in the way. Having an apartment with 3400 tomes might explain it. Gravity's Rainbow has been sitting on my shelf for years. One of these days. Proust too. I did read the Overture. Twice. Being a known Joyce freak, I've been through his books many times. He's easy. My general experience is if I got 100 pages in I will probably finish it through reader momentum.
posted by njohnson23 at 3:24 PM on July 10, 2013


"Abandoned" isn't the same as "disliked," for me -- there are a number of books on my GoodReads "abandoned" list that I quit with the intention to pick them up and try again some other time.

My "dreck" shelf though... hoo boy.
posted by trunk muffins at 3:25 PM on July 10, 2013


most recent I gave up on Stephen King's 11/22/63. Held my interest for quite a ways and then when I began noticing how he had done ZERO research about Texas, locals, basic history....just left me angry, so mad that if I knew of a number to call him I would tell him off. A sorry excuse for a book. and I had high hopes.
posted by shockingbluamp at 3:35 PM on July 10, 2013


Is this where I admit I never got through one of those Neal Stephenson doorstops? I think it was Quicksilver... I can't even remember what page I was on, only the feeling of relief when I realized I didn't have to finish it, no one could make me, and I could just move on with my life.
Also, I'm about to go to a book club discussion of a book (The God Complex) that I really hated and I am curious to see whether anybody in the group loved it. Many goodreads folks did. I should have noted their names so that I never, ever read anything they recommend.
posted by tuesdayschild at 3:38 PM on July 10, 2013


The day I realized that I could actually stop reading a book without finishing it was the day I put down The Bonfire of the Vanities on the next to last page. I had long passed the point where I found it interesting, moved into reading it for spite and just could not stand one more word of Wolfe's prose. It was a truly liberating moment.

I've abandoned a lot of books since then, some with the intention of picking them back up at a later date (266 and The Children's Hour) some because I couldn't stand what I knew was coming next (Joe Hill's NOS42) and some because I was bored stiff (The Swan Thieves. But nothing has compared to the satisfaction I felt at giving Thomas Wolfe the boot.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 3:45 PM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Even a short book can be evil. Despite my misgivings, I just finished Sackett by Louis L'Amour. I somehow felt dirty when I finished it. The moral of the book was apparently: Shoot first, don't think, don't ask questions, cos nerds like that weren't worth spit in the old west.
posted by jabah at 4:13 PM on July 10, 2013


"When an author is committed to doing something I hate" is a pretty damn big category. For me this would encompass, just as an example, Infinite Jest (footnote wankery) and Stranger in a Strange Land (misogyny). And I threw Portnoy's Complaint across the room, screeching "I get it, I get it, you hate your mother!"
posted by scratch at 4:19 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The day I realized that I could actually stop reading a book without finishing it was the day I put down The Bonfire of the Vanities on the next to last page.

I like that. I agree that it's never too late to abandon a book.
posted by fredludd at 4:28 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't through any of the Delillo, Pynchon, or Gaddis I compulsively order, begin to read, and fail to finish. Collectively, they're doing significant structural damage to the Shelf of Shame* right in the middle of my bookcase.

Matthieson's Killing Mr Watson is on the shelf, too, but that's because it was so good, and Watson was so compelling, that I did not want it to end, ever. So far it hasn't.

----------------
*Doing a decent job cratering the imareader part of my self identity, too.
posted by notyou at 4:36 PM on July 10, 2013


"When an author is committed to doing something I hate" is a pretty damn big category.

I made it through three and a half books in the Outlander series before I reached a contrivance that made me stop the book mid-sentence. Apparently I can deal with various kinds of rape, assault, and historical anachronisms, but if you try to throw the ol' "Two characters have an extended conversation where character A thinks they're talking about X, and character B thinks they're talking about Y, thus furthering a misunderstanding, without anyone stopping to clarify anything" cliche my way (twice!), I will be done with you.
posted by muddgirl at 4:39 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the most recent books I can remember abandoning was The Princess of Cleves. I gave it a try, but it just seemed like the book went on and on about how beautiful and virtuous she was and how handsome and noble she thought the object of her affection was, and how beautiful he thought she was and how much he wanted her but how nothing would ever happen because she was just so virtuous, and then the two characters met again and the book went on about how beautiful he thought she was and how handsome she thought he was but how she would never do anything because she was so virtuous and then they met again and the book went on about how beautiful he thought she was and how virtuous she was and okay okay i get it nothing is ever going to happen why am I reading this god.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:45 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hit post too soon.

I tried reading Proust in college - not for a class, just "oh hey I'm in the library and there's that book everyone talks about lemme give it a shot." I think I gave up after a couple chapters, but I had the sense that maybe I was swinging a little bit above my head and maybe I could try again later. And I was very tempted to give up on Jude the Obscure, but I did not give up and I want credit for actually getting through the damn thing, someone.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:47 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


My Sidetable of Shame is huge right now. Probably 30 books, most started and abandoned. For only the second time in my life, I'm preparing to declare unread book amnesty, clear them all out, and go borrow a bunch of highly readable schlock from the library.

(At least this time you can still SEE the table they're stacked on. Last time I had the table surrounded on all sides ... )
posted by feckless at 4:48 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, Jude the Obscure. That was a real confidence builder for me as a late teen reader. I was all, "Whoa, I actually like this."
posted by notyou at 4:50 PM on July 10, 2013


It's no Bartleby, the Scrivener but yes.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:55 PM on July 10, 2013


Okay, I just wrote a defense of two novels I love that you've abandoned (Wicked & Moby Dick), but I deleted it, and I'm trying not to take it personally, and I know I can't change your mind.

Instead, I'll say that I agree with 11/22/63, which started fun, and at some point became a truly boring novel about a high school teacher who directs the senior play. (wtf??) I'm sure he got back on track at some point, but I was gone before that.
posted by MoxieProxy at 5:02 PM on July 10, 2013


I actually did not like Jude the Obscure; I think I had the same problem with that as I did with Turn Of The Screw, where it felt like things were just being allowed to go on because there were people who just could not spit it out and talk about the fact that they had a problem with something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:03 PM on July 10, 2013


I used to abandon books all the time. I got better at picking reading material and now I do so rarely.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:07 PM on July 10, 2013


Like Eyebrows McGee, I used to finish things through to the bitter end, regardless. I think this was actually useful when I was younger, as it helped me work out what I liked and what I didn't, understand that things written in the 18th or 19th centuries tend to be more slow-moving than things written in the 20th (and now 21st, but I haven't been a child in this century), learn that sometimes things are not going where you think they're going, etc.

Now, however, I have no compunction about abandoning things. I love rereading favourites, so between them and all the books I haven't read once yet, I will not have time to read all the books I want to read before I die, regardless of when that is, because immortality does not seem likely. I do generally give it a good 50-100 pages first, maybe more like 150 if it's an 18th or 19th century novel. Meanwhile my pile of unread books continues to grow, despite continually working on it.

The book I was most happy to abandon was probably either Twilight (I thought it wasn't fair to condemn something I hadn't actually read before reading 10 pages and realising I just couldn't read more) or Confederacy of Dunces, which I was reading for book club. I made myself get through 100 pages just so I could say I'd given it a fair trial, but I resented every minute of it. Then I went on Amazon and started reading reviews. While discouraged by how many people OMG LOVED IT BEST BOOK EVAR, I felt vindicated and cheered that there were others who loathed it as much as or even more than me. The moral of this story is: whether you want confirmation of your opinion or someone to rant at, you can find them on Amazon.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:36 PM on July 10, 2013


I can't imagine not finding it compelling. Ditto for Moby Dick.

Moby Dick is glorious writing, but frustrating storytelling: Melville keeps taking chapters off the plot to tell us all how much he knows about whales and/or whaling, and it takes perseverance to plow through those and get back to business on the Pequod.

(I've been quite enjoying the Moby Dick Big Read, on and off; feels like I get more from the writing by hearing it read aloud.)

They also cite Atlas Shrugged as another most abandoned; not good writing, but setting the politics aside, the story does at least rattle along quite briskly until suddenly HOLY SHIT HOW LONG DOES THIS SPEECH GO ON FOR? and all the momentum is lost.

I wonder at what point most people bail out of Lord Of The Rings? Tom bloody Bombadil, I'll bet. Ring a dong dillo.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:41 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Proust is, I think, best read in a group for the first time. Then you can share lines and encourage each other through the difficult parts. It is also an excellent excuse for dinner parties.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:49 PM on July 10, 2013


I don't know what the deal is. I set books down for a while all the time. It's not even really something that I hold against the book. I actually threw Foucault's Pendulum across the room about 3/5ths of the way through it – "Fucking Templar bullshit!" – and I will still recommend that book to people. I set aside Invisible Cities, which is fantastic, not long ago because I was super depressed while I was reading it and picking it up somehow dropped me back into the blues consistently. I have recently set aside a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories (admittedly, that's not a novel). If you bought the book, you have it around. You can pick it up later when you're in a better frame of mind!

An oddly specific reason for me dropping a book:

The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay: Does anybody ever have the experience where you imagine details in a book before the author gets around to talking about them? Well, I must have read some of the same stuff Chabon used as source material, because with this book, what would happen is that I would read it and imagine the setting and two sentences later Chabon would get around to describing the very thing I had just imagined. "Grr," I'd think, and imagine some other details that seemed apposite, and two sentences later there would be those very same details! The dialogue was good, but there's a lot of description in that book! I made it 30 pages in.
posted by furiousthought at 6:15 PM on July 10, 2013


The first book I ever consciously abandoned was one of Stephen Lawhead's endless Arthurian tripe (I went through an Arthurian phase - don't judge me!) novels and I got to the point where the Ancient Celts sat down to a traditional feast of pork and potatoes...

It hurt my brain that such a simple fucking primary school history fact had escaped every editor and the author himself. Still cant read Lawhead without teeth-gnashing, so I just avoid him despite various friends loaning me books with earnest "Oh go one - this one's really good!"

Since then I've abandoned books with...well...abandonment. There's a contract of sorts between the author and the reader. I read your book and you give me something - amusement, emotions, facts, SOMETHING!! If all you give me is a headache and a vague sense of being insulted, I'll ditch your masterwork with a high-ho and a hearty fuck you and I feel no guilt.
posted by ninazer0 at 6:15 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


As I've gotten older I've tended more and more to finish what I start. There have been some notable exceptions, though. Most recently "Snow" by Orhan Pamuk, which after about 200 pages was bound and determined to go nowhere at all. I gave up when I found myself looking at the page numbers two or three times on every page.

Also, "Ulysses" has been giving me a run for my money. About 6 years ago, I started reading "classics" to push against the Mark Twain dictum that a classic was a book that everybody has praised, but no one has read. I fear that "Ulysses" may remain a classic in the true Twain mode.
posted by hwestiii at 6:45 PM on July 10, 2013


I give up on books when it seems like there is too much explanatory detail that doesn't move the plot forward. I mean, I know Clancy is awesome, but I couldn't finish any of the several I borrowed from a friend. When I returned them I had to confess my abandonment. When he pressed me for a reason, I (half) jokingly said, "a character can't go to the bathroom without Clancy telling you all about the factory where the toilet paper was made!"

Sorry Clancy fans. It's not you it's me.
posted by The Deej at 7:00 PM on July 10, 2013


I put down The Bonfire of the Vanities [...] just could not stand one more word of Wolfe's prose. It was a truly liberating moment. [...] But nothing has compared to the satisfaction I felt at giving Thomas Wolfe the boot.

I couldn't finish reading Look Homeward, Flak Catchers either.
posted by zadcat at 7:06 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have about 20 books on my Kindle and I'm kinda sorta reading all of them. I've had the Ulysses problem that everyone seems to share, and it's a problem I tend to have with a lot of classics: I just don't get the context and the references. The first ten pages of A Tale of Two Cities has at least a dozen references to people and events I would have zero clue about had there not been footnotes. The question then becomes, will I get something out of reading a book in which I won't really understand the context? With Ulysses, the Catholic Church references alone sift right through my hands like so much gold dust.

Having said that, there are some books out there that are just bad. Like Mrs. Parker said, "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force." It's unclear if she actually finished these bad books; we can only guess.
posted by zardoz at 7:06 PM on July 10, 2013


My Goodreads ratings are very weirdly skewed. It looks like I've never met a book I didn't like, but really it's because I only give ratings to the books I finish. I give them about 50 pages, usually, and if I still don't like it at that point, I put it down.

Sometimes I pick it up again later to see if it was just a matter of mood and timing, but I've long stopped feeling guilt over abandoning books. Life is too short.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:18 PM on July 10, 2013


I wonder at what point most people bail out of Lord Of The Rings? Tom bloody Bombadil, I'll bet. Ring a dong dillo.

Bombadil is a little weird but I think he's charming in his own way. The trick with the Fellowship of the Ring is to skip the elvish council. Once they get to Lothlorien and people start talking, just jump ahead 50 pages and try to get your bearings.
posted by Jpfed at 8:02 PM on July 10, 2013


Mark Z. Danielewski's Only Revolutions was a book I not only put down but returned to Borders the next day. I liked House Of Leaves but never understood OR.
posted by stltony at 8:02 PM on July 10, 2013


I'm not a rereader. Rereading a book makes me feel like I'm Yossarian, which is kind of a problem because I really, really liked Catch-22, I think about several of the scenes pretty often, but for reasons that I no longer recall, I put it aside around the 2/3rds mark. If I were to ever finish it, the catch is that I would have to reread most of it first.
posted by Skwirl at 8:34 PM on July 10, 2013


Bad writing is my #1 reason for DNFing a book. Some times you run into a sentence that is such a clunker, so awkward and wrong, that it grabs you by the back of the collar and the seat of the pants and flings you out of Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
posted by ohshenandoah at 9:23 PM on July 10, 2013


I used to think I had to finish every book I started. Then I read Gone with the Wind because someone told me that it was a great romance (which I thought would somehow mean people falling in love). I was a teenager, what can I say. That's over a thousand pages of tragedy and sadness. I still hate that book so much.

Since then I've decided I'd rather be willing to try anything but abandon it than make myself read things that I'm not that into. I quite often just don't make it back to less interesting books, in favor of more compelling ones. One of my favorite things about getting my books from the library is that I have to give them back, whether or not I've read them. So I don't have a stack of shame so much as a return stack. It's much happier. Also I like saying yes to trying books.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:27 PM on July 10, 2013


Chalk me up as another one that could not get through Confederacy of Dunces. One of the most excruciating characters in literature this side of Robert Langdon.

Some years ago an earnest coworker, knowing that I liked fantasy, pressed a copy of Eragon on me. She promised how fantastic it was. Those few pages I read were 5 minutes of torture I will never get back and will forever resent.
posted by Ber at 9:36 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the 8th grade I read the first 9 volumes of Hubbard's Mission: Earth scifi decalogue before abandoning it. I went on to abandon many much better books by such giants as Murakami, Sartre and Dostoyevsky.
posted by newton at 10:35 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guys, that paragraph posted upthread is not Twilight's first paragraph. You are forgetting the book's Preface, which is a series of vague portentous sentences broken into single paragraphs for maximum melodramatic effect:

I'd never given much thought to how I would die — though I'd had reason enough in the last few months — but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly back at me.

Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something.

I knew that if I'd never gone to Forks, I wouldn't be facing death now. But, terrified as I was, I couldn't bring myself to regret the decision. When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, it's not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end.

The hunter smiled in a friendly way as he sauntered forward to kill me.


I think there's a reason Amazon's "Look Inside!" feature pretends the Preface doesn't exist.
posted by brookedel at 11:21 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


These characters do not interest me and/or are not credible. The situation these characters are in does not interest me and/or is not credible. This writing style is terrible.

Those are the main things that make me put a book down. I've been putting a lot of books down since about the year 2000.

I'm baffled that Catch-22 is the #1 abandoned classic. I can't imagine not finding it compelling. Ditto for Moby Dick.
posted by yoink at 9:30 PM on July 10


Totally agree. Moby Dick is a wonderfully written tale, full of darkness and big characters and adventure and allegory. Catch-22 is a mercurial wonder that has me gasping with admiration - and laughter. I'm baffled at how many people seem defeated by these literary gems.
posted by Decani at 2:10 AM on July 11, 2013


My current unfinished stack includes Blindness, Hyperion, and A Canticle for Leibowitz.
I mean to finish all of them.

I not only didn't finish Only Revolutions, I don't think I even started it.

There was this awful piece of shit called Deprivers that I didn't get probably even twenty pages into. I don't even know how I made it that far.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:58 AM on July 11, 2013


Look, if you don't abandon a book every now and then, you're either in a rut reading the same stuff you know you'll like before you start, or you're so uncritical you'll everything. Real readers abandon.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:27 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I tried to read Stephenson's REAMDE multiple times, and finally abandoned it. I felt so glad I had done so. On the other hand, although I had a rough time with the first half of Mielville's Embassytown, it drew me in and I was glad I finished it.

(I should reveal that Infinite Jest is my favorite book of all time, so some can dismiss my assessments as irrational.)

We all have specific aspects of books we enjoy/don't enjoy/hate passionately. Might as well go with the enjoyment as much as possible.
posted by miss tea at 4:13 AM on July 11, 2013


Ditto Gravity's Rainbow and also Against the Day. I wonder if Pynchon is one of those authors whom you have to be high to read (when stoned, it will all make sense, like donning 3-D glasses to watch a 3-D film). I don't use, so that's not an option.

The dearth of good editing seems a major cause of unfinishable novels.
posted by bad grammar at 5:46 AM on July 11, 2013


I have never totally given up on a book to this date. I might sigh and put the book down but if I've paid for it, it will be read (eventually). I like mostly non-fiction but there is a certain type of thriller which to my shame I occasionally read - the modern techno-thriller (think along the lines of Tom Clancy).

The last book I nearly dropped (and it was as close as I've come to just outright stopping) was Outsourced by R.J. Hillhouse. The story is about an ex-special operations trained woman running a Private Military Company and was set in contemporary Iraq. "This should be great!" thought I. A tough, no-nonsense woman in a man's world who gives the orders and can kick ass when needed? A subject I am very much interested in? Count me the fuck in!

I had been reading a lot of dry textbooks and personal accounts about PMCs, CIA black prisons, ghost flights, renditions and so forth, thanks to my tremendously sad RPG research fetish. I had only just finished reading Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry and a boatload of other books about these topics and so I came to the story having read that the author had conducted amazingly detailed amounts of research (it does actually have a decent bibliography).

Oh deary me... It was not good. It was, if I am being honest, Da Vinci Code bad.

SPOILER WARNING - In the book the main characters constantly refer to how Bin Ladin had been captured and was in a black prison somewhere. This is treated as common knowledge amongst both CIA and civilians as being a fact. - SPOILER WARNING

Now I appreciate that the book was written prior to his death but even as ridiculous as that theory always was, it was not this that made me say "Oh fuck right off".

Everything about the story was wrong, wrong, wrong. The interaction between the female and male protagonists was some of the worst writing I have ever seen. It read like a Mills and Boon story in some parts and the promised badass, awesome female character turned out to be a weak-ass princess needing to be rescued by the rugged jawed hero. It committed the worst offence a book can commit - it looked like it was written with the express purpose of being optioned and turned into a movie.

Of all these critisisms though I think what pissed my off the most was that the people were using the wrong kit, the wrong body armour, driving the wrong APCs and flying the wrong helicopters. "How could someone who had done all this research fuck up so very badly?" I thought to myself. It seems so very petty but when the lead character (who is essentially a civilian) is using an experimental prototype rifle that never went into production it threw me so bad I could barely focus on the actual story. Every little thing, every wrong tactic, radio code etc. ended up grating on me more and more.

The takeaway from all this (aside from the obvious i.e. me being a fucking loon) is that if you post a two-page bibliography at the end of your fiction and claim to have performed loads of research that I also happen to have read: DON'T MAKE SHIT UP. You are not the talented millionaire Dan Brown. He might get away with re-writing Holy Blood, Holy Grail as fiction but chances are you won't.
posted by longbaugh at 5:49 AM on July 11, 2013


The second time I gave up on "Infinite Jest", I started just reading parts of it at random. I'd dip into the footnotes, back to the text, read a page or two, then some more footnotes. I seemed to understand it about as well as I had when I was reading it straight through!

Eventually I got interested enough to read the whole thing in the normal way.
posted by thelonius at 5:51 AM on July 11, 2013


The book that comes to mind as the most unputdownable, after I spent the time reading fully half of it, was Tree of Smoke. It's rare for a text to make me angry at its obtuseness, but Tree of Smoke did just that.
posted by zardoz at 5:57 AM on July 11, 2013


I'm another Telegraph Avenue abandoner. Not for the characters, not for the jazz & Berkeley, but for the writing. Too showoffy.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:29 AM on July 11, 2013


Aw man, so many people disliking books I like, here. Tree of Smoke is great!
posted by shakespeherian at 6:33 AM on July 11, 2013


Jpfed: " The trick with the Fellowship of the Ring is to skip the elvish council. Once they get to Lothlorien and people start talking, just jump ahead 50 pages and try to get your bearings."

I'm going to be That Guy, and point out that the Council of Elrond takes place in Rivendell, not Lórien.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:25 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ditto Gravity's Rainbow and also Against the Day. I wonder if Pynchon is one of those authors whom you have to be high to read (when stoned, it will all make sense, like donning 3-D glasses to watch a 3-D film). I don't use, so that's not an option.

Nah. I tried Gravity's Rainbow both straight and high this spring, and Nope. Couldn't. Go. On.

I wanted to like it, but sometimes you just have to say enough already.
posted by RedEmma at 8:09 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I'm keeping it for later, though. I suspect, however, that I will never be old or patient enough.)
posted by RedEmma at 8:10 AM on July 11, 2013


I got through Gravity's Rainbow during The Year I Was Drunk, so maybe you have to be drunk, not high.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:28 AM on July 11, 2013


Other books I read during The Year I Was Drunk: Infinite Jest (which I finished) and Finnegans Wake (which I got through maybe 23 pages of, with like 10 secondary sources helping me to Get All The References, before I ran out of library renewals and had to give up). Finishing Finnegans Wake is, to me, probably like traveling the world or retiring rich is to other folks : a big dream that will probably never happen, but I can always hope.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:35 AM on July 11, 2013


I wish I could swap Gravity's Rainbow (still, unfinished, maybe the 3rd try?) with Brothers Karamazov. I can't believe I read that whole fucking thing, and I wish I could somehow un-read it. Seriously, Doestoyevesky, I wanted to read a story _about_ suffering, not _experience it directly_ for a thousand pages. I also wish I could un-read Catcher in the Rye. Insipid pap, that. It's like the rick-roll of books.

Is it weird that I'll abandon a book that just bores me, but I'll rage-slog through a book I hate?
Although, I utterly hated Game of Thrones in the first 50 pages and got rid of it... so.. maybe it's just 'terrible classics'. I'm just now reminded that I was in the middle of Dante's Inferno last time I moved, and I haven't gone back to it either, but it was a fine read.

It baffles me when people don't finish Catch-22.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 8:54 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh! Oh! Oh! I also read Catch-22 during YIWD. Maybe I should start drinking heavily again, it seems to make me way more literate.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:08 AM on July 11, 2013


Loved Moby Dick. Eventually ended up skipping some of the later whaling chapters, but I think that's acceptable.

I read Atlas Shrugged in a day and a half, staying up till god knows how early in the morning to finish it. Skipped the speech though. If Rand had just written thrillers, the world would be a better place. (I actually read the Fountainhead and Anthem before I wised up and found better uses for my time, like playing Quake until I could beat it on nightmare without dying.)

I have made it 70ish pages into Crime and Punishment multiple times. I love the writing, but I can't seem to stick with it. I seem to have this problem with some authors, where I love their short stuff but can't get into the longer material. I almost did not finish The Life Cycle of Software Objects, which makes me glad Ted Chiang writes only short stories. Similarly, I got through and really enjoyed with The Crying of Lot 49 and then tried Against the Day. I ended up lost about 600 pages in. I do kind of want to finish it, but there is no burning need. On the other hand Inherent Vice was easy. I can't say why.

I have The Prague Cemetery sitting on my shelf, taunting me. I read all of Eco's novels before this one (even The Island of the Day Before, which was not worth it in the slightest) but I cannot get through this one. It's turning into a point of pride, I will finish it, I have to.

I get distracted from books, put them down and forget to get back to them. I think I either need to tear through a book or it will fall by the wayside and get forgotten for a while.
posted by Hactar at 10:02 AM on July 11, 2013


"Cash4Lead: "What makes you put down a book?"

The name "Stephanie Meyer" on the cover."


Do you often start reading books without even glancing at the name of the author?
posted by Eideteker at 10:58 AM on July 11, 2013


Go Ask Alice was a very important book for me, in that it taught me that it was OK to put down a book.

Even as a straightlaced, straightedge middle-schooler, I could tell it was a Bad Book. Then, of course, years later I found out it was an entirely invented work of propaganda. Since finding out, I've trusted my instincts unfailingly.
posted by Eideteker at 11:03 AM on July 11, 2013


I think we read for different reasons and those reasons can change over time. There's a famous narratology book called "Reading for the Plot" - I shifted from reading for the plot to reading for the pleasure of the act of reading when I was about 22 or 23 (yes, obligatory Roland Barthes link). Suddenly I abandoned a lot more books and I felt far less compelled to stick around "to find out what happened". It's not like I read high-brow books all the time, but I'm far less forgiving.

Plus I only have so much time to read, so why stick with a book if it doesn't work for me on any level?
posted by kariebookish at 1:42 PM on July 11, 2013


Notable points in my history of deliberately abandoning books.

L. Ron Hubbard,"Battlefield Earth". I was young, I'd vaguely heard of this Golden Age SF author named L. Ron Hubbard. I had a trip to my aunt's coming up that weekend, which I knew would be tedious. it was there on the new releases shelf in the library, it was thick, so I grabbed it.

I'd finished everything I'd ever read, up to that point. Even if "finishing" meant "turning the pages and looking at all the words but not really understanding or enjoying the process". About a hundred pages in I decided that I'd rather stare at the walls than read that dog.


Thomas Pynchon, "Mason & Dixon". Bought it from the remainders rack in a bookstore. Worked on it over a few days. Two chapters from the ending, I realized that I really didn't care about anything in it, and that I really didn't think there was going to be any hope of a narratively satisfying "ending". I put it down and never looked back.

(I've read and enjoyed other Pynchon, just not that one.)
posted by egypturnash at 5:04 PM on July 11, 2013


Do you often start reading books without even glancing at the name of the author?

What's funny is, you quoted the whole comment including the question I answered.
posted by zarq at 5:53 PM on July 11, 2013


"What's funny is, you quoted the whole comment including the question I answered."

The FPP is about abandoning books. So either you deliberately misinterpreted it to take a potshot at Twilight (you dashingly clever rebel you!), or you're about as good at reading TFA as you are at reading author's names.
posted by Eideteker at 4:26 AM on July 12, 2013


Congrats, Sherlock.

*eyeroll*
posted by zarq at 4:38 AM on July 12, 2013


I finished every book I started until I was about 30 years old,

I did this too. Mostly.
Then death tapped me on the shoulder and I realise life was too short.
For books I own, I have the SHELF OF SHAME.
It shames me. I did manage to finish The Night Lands (William Hope Hodgeson, apparently it is a classic) in the last few years.
Books have to be awful to make that shelf, because I am a stubborn reader.
There are two books I have hurled across a room in my life, one was Poppy Z Brite.

I have a small pile of books I intend to burn when I have a fire. They are all by L Ron Hubbard.
posted by Mezentian at 10:15 AM on July 12, 2013


Otherwise, rampant sexism, racism

Modern? Or historical?
Because, a lot of classics from, say, ERB, HPL or Doc EE Smith, are like that, and I am happy to roll with it, but anecodtally younger people are less prepared to, and I fear we are at risk of losing some classic literature.
posted by Mezentian at 10:18 AM on July 12, 2013


>Otherwise, rampant sexism, racism

>>Modern? Or historical?
Because, a lot of classics from, say, ERB, HPL or Doc EE Smith, are like that, and I am happy to roll with it, but anecodtally younger people are less prepared to, and I fear we are at risk of losing some classic literature.


You may fear correctly. It might be a serious hit to my nerd cred, but I never finished the first Foundation book. Because I was reading it, and becoming gradually aware that, yep, there are literally no female characters in this book AT ALL, like, not even incidental characters. Then about 75% of the way through, suddenly, there's a queen! Oh finally, a woman, and in a position of power even!

When she turned out to be a foolish whiny shrew who was ultimately placated by high-tech jewelry I put the book down and never picked it back up.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:36 AM on July 12, 2013


"Like it's ever 75F in Phoenix in June during the day."

Not F, C.
posted by Eideteker at 10:52 AM on July 12, 2013


Yeah, it's not like characterization was ever Asimov's strong point, but he's particularly bad at women. Susan Calvin is really the only woman character he wrote memorably, and of course she's (intentionally) robotic.

The less said about Asimov's personal relations with women, the better.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:54 AM on July 12, 2013


Ditto Gravity's Rainbow and also Against the Day. I wonder if Pynchon is one of those authors whom you have to be high to read (when stoned, it will all make sense, like donning 3-D glasses to watch a 3-D film).

Not really. I'd recommend Mason & Dixon (sorry, egypturnash), which I really enjoyed even though I was indifferent to the setting before starting.
posted by ersatz at 4:35 PM on July 12, 2013


It shames me. I did manage to finish The Night Lands (William Hope Hodgeson, apparently it is a classic) in the last few years.

If you liked The Night Land, or tried to like it and couldn't, you should try reading Greg Bear's The City at the End of Time, which is basically the same story, even admitting to as much in it, but written in a modern semi-soft SF style.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 2:11 PM on July 17, 2013


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