What makes you give up?

While not large, a certain percentage of books I start end up being put aside. There isn’t necessarily a common thread to that decision but it’s something I began thinking about because of the most recent book on which I punted.

The book is the latest by (but my first experience with) a bestselling novelist and has received fairly good reviews. My mind gagged on this sentence 14 pages into the first chapter: “In the moonlight the lawn in front of my house was the color of blood and the restless silver sky had a spectral look, as if death itself had its great white whale of an eye upon me.”

I certainly don’t claim to be a writing expert but between the absurdity of a lawn being the color of blood (in early October no less) and death’s “great white whale of an eye,” my reading came to a halt. How could a popular author write something so atrocious and how it could get by the editors at a major book publisher? When I resumed, it was with significantly diminished hope for the book and the author faced a much greater burden in keeping my attention. My appetite for the book ultimately disappeared within about 100 pages. There was nothing in the subsequent pages that dismayed me. They just couldn’t overcome the damage done by that one sentence.

Sometimes the subject matter is difficult or approached in a fashion that is too dry. Sometimes you just seem to have lost interest in the topic since you bought the book. It’s a real shame when it’s the writing that causes you to put the book in the discard pile.

Writing is like jazz. It can be learned, but it can’t be taught.

Jazz saxophonist Paul Desmond

1 comment to What makes you give up?

  • It is also an incoherent sentence grammatically. It is hard to understand an editor letting it slip by, unless the author met editorial remonstrance with godawful temper tantrums. Some writers are given to those if their precious prose is called into question.