I almost quit the book I currently am reading, Anna Quindlin’s Object Lessons. I was excited to start it because I had never read any of her books. My mom had said she liked them. I got hooked on the first paragraph:
“She would never be an imprecise thinker, Maggie Scanlan; she always saw the forest through the trees. It would be most like her to think of that summer as the summer her grandfather had the stroke, or the summer her mother learned to drive, or the summer Helen moved away, or the summer she and Debbie and Bruce and Richard became so beguiled by danger in the broad fields behind Maggie’s down-at-heel old house, or the summer she and Debbie stopped being friends. ”
That’s a hell of a way to start a novel. It got me asking so many questions – did the grandfather survive his stroke? Why did Helen leave? What were they doing in the fields behind Maggie’s house? And why did Maggie and Debbie stop being friends? Add to this that the book takes place in the early 60’s after Kennedy’s assassination, and I was hooked.
But then I was waiting for something to happen. 80 pages in and there still was character development that didn’t answer any of my questions. You learn the background about the Scanlan family. You meet Maggie’s maternal grandfather. But the book was getting close to 100 pages and nothing really happened.
Now, Object Lessons is not a hard book to read. I have finished some books that were difficult get through. While I was going to Hudson Valley Community College, I read Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner. It’s not an easy read. The sentences are dense and the book is about the guilt the offspring of plantation owners had in owning slaves. For some reason I finished it, but I can’t say I loved it. Another book I slogged through was The Mill on the Floss. It was hard getting past the dialogue written in dialect. I had thought of quitting but forged on until the depressing ending. Another book I found difficult but read all the way through was The Ginger Man. Not only was it a hard book to get through but the main character was a lazy, drunk womanizer. Still, I finished it.
My friend Marge has a rule of thumb that if she’s not into a book by page 100, she quits. I completely understand where she comes from. Why waste time reading a book you don’t like or that seems not to go anywhere?
I have quit some books. I could only get through the 2nd chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses. I never made it past page 2 of The Sound and The Fury. I read Irving Stone’s The Agony and The Ecstasy to learn about Michelangelo, but it went into too much detail about sculpting.
I am happy to report that Object Lessons finally picked up after page 100. Maggie’s mom is pregnant and refuses to move to a house her father in law bought for her and her husband Tommy. Maggie catches her older cousin Monica on the beach making out with a boy after dark. I’m now on. Page 188 and liking it. I’m glad I pushed on.
Do you have a rule about quitting reading a book? What turns you off about certain books? What books did you give the old heave-ho too? Let me know in the comments.