I used to be one of those people. Those people who, once they’d started a book, had to finish it. Even if I was hating the book so much I wanted to drive to a freeway just so I could hurl it under the wheels of a passing semi-trailer and listen to its screams (what? I’m a book geek. Of course I think books are alive).
Not any more. Reading is meant to be a joy, why waste time with a book you hate? (BTW this is one of the many reasons I will never join a book club). Life is far too short to waste time ploughing through pages of a terrible book out of some obsessive-compulsive need to finish it. Also, as I write this, there are 346 books on my “to read” shelves just crying out for attention (yes, they actually cry. Books are alive, remember?), so a crappy book can easily be thrown under the wheels these days.
In fact, I’ve gone the other way, and now show a real impatience with books. If they start boring me, they’re gone. I’ve been 150 pages into a book and suddenly felt, “oh, jeez this is shitting me to tears now” and I’ve stopped. It’s the literary equivalent of walking out of a terrible film – a desire not to waste any more time on something I’m no longer enjoying.
Similarly, I have no tolerance for a book that doesn’t grab me straight away. Slowburning plots can get stuffed, as far as I’m concerned. Because of all the hype around it, I tried reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Twice. Both times I gave up around 30 pages in, because it was so slow. But those who had read the book would tell me the same thing.
“Yeah, it’s slow at the start but you’ve got to stick at it because it gets good later on.”
Ahh, get stuffed. As a reader I fail to see how it’s my responsibility to push through crappy, slow writing before a book gets good. It’s the author’s responsibility to write well straight from the get-go. A writer who can’t get their shit together for the first 30 pages is like that person who is always late – they have no respect for anyone else’s time. I’ve spent $20 or $30 on a book and decided to read it, my job is done. It’s all on the author from that point on.
In closing, allow me to say one thing: if that book you’re reading is crap, put it down. Go read something else instead. The world is full of great books and time is short. Don’t waste it on crap.