Monday, March 28, 2016

When Literary Goods aren't Quite Good Enough

I imagine you, like me, read. Maybe a lot. Possibly as an escape from that noisy, sometimes chaotic real world thingy. Perhaps because you crave some witty repartee and smoldering glances. Or hey, maybe you’re just bored. Whatever your reasons, and contrary to the national trend, you tend to treasure your forays into literary landscapes.

But what happens when you arrive there and don’t particularly enjoy the scenery?

Luckily, this doesn’t happen often to me. Books are a lot like romantic dates: I may not adore my date or find every second with them inspiring, but at the end of the night, I can usually find some redeemable qualities to focus on. Maybe not enough for a second go, but at least I finished this date without dumping my drink on my date’s head, right?

But just because it’s mostly tolerable, does that mean I should have to tolerate it? Increasingly, my answer is “no.” See, I have very recently discovered an amazing, magical method for dealing with a less-than-dazzling book: I stop reading. I. Stop. Reading. It. Sometimes right in the middle of the book!

I mean, I’ve always had media deal breakers: hurting an animal, sexual assault, rampant sexism or racism, and so on. But, almost forty years into my reading career, I have finally given myself permission to put down a book simply because I find it uninspiring, insipid, or poorly written.

My reading friends, have you given yourselves such delicious permission? Have you cast off the shackles of reading etiquette and embraced the heady freedom of deciding for yourself when the reading experience should end? I’m not going to lie – it feels pretty decadent. Heck, I feel downright giddy!
 
Yes, I know books cost money and the act of reading another’s work is a relationship built on mutuality, but time is finite and our emotional pleasure vital. Why suffer through one more mind-numbing novel in hopes it finally, maybe, someday will get better?

To clarify, I’m not trying to thumb my nose at the fruits of other authors' extensive labors. I mean, a lackluster book may not have anything wrong with it; it just may not be The One (whether temporarily or permanently). Just as two amazing people won’t necessarily click when they get together, so, too, does a certain chemistry need to exist between reader and book. If you aren’t finding satisfaction in the experience, it’s okay to stop it. In other words, it might not be them, but it also might not be you; it’s the lack of a literary us.

Your fictional Ms./Mr. Right may be just around the corner. Don’t settle.