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Monday, March 12, 2012
Monday Discussion: What Do You Do When You Are Not Enjoying a Book?
Today's Monday Discussion is a bit different. I would like to combine it with my What I'm Reading post on The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus. Back here I posted about how excited I was to read The Flame Alphabet. Well, I read it (sort of; see Part 2) and I am sorry to report, I did not like it.
The plot has to do with a alternative reality where the speech of children is slowly killing adults. Marcus uses this plot to contemplate the larger philosophical concepts of language and expression. The narrator is a father. He and his wife have a teenaged daughter. He is trying to figure out why he and his wife are so sick. There is also this under current of a story about a very weird form of Judaism. (Frankly, I found it a bit anti-semitic; and I know Marcus is Jewish, but so am I and I didn't like it.)
Even after reading my own description of the book, it sounds like I should love it, but here's the main problem though, this book has no character development. There is no one here I cared about, nor did Marcus try to get me to care. Also, the plot doesn't move. I only got 150 pages into the book (more on that in Part 2 of the post) and nothing happened. I am fine for a book that doesn't really go anywhere, but only if there is character development. (See my review of Swamplandia! to see what I mean.)
But, as I have said before, these reviews are not about me and if I liked the book, they are about who I could suggest the book to. Therein lies another problem. I can not think of someone to give this book to. Jose in Circ is trying it, and will let me know. A woman in Kathy's book club who likes more dense books couldn't finish it though.
So, I am stuck here too. Which leads us to Part 2 of this post in a moment.
Three Words That Describe This Book: experimental, philosophical, relaxed pace
That's my report on reading the book, but let's move on to the Monday Discussion part of this post. As I mentioned above, I was very torn about giving up on The Flame Alphabet. I really thought I should like it. Many of my favorite authors (Lethem, Safran Foer, and Chabon) all had wonderful things to say about it. The entire plot intrigied me. It is an experimental book about language and expression which is normally perfect for me.
Now, normally if I am not enjoying a book, I skim through the middle and read the end to get a sense of how it turns out. As I tell my patrons all of the time, if you are not enjoying a book, there are many, many more; simply close it, bring it back, and we will give you something else. I almost always take my own advice. As a rule, I have no problem giving up on a book.
But with this novel, I felt like I should keep plodding away on it. I even took a 2 week break and went back to it. But in the end, I couldn't do it. I returned it half done and did not skip to the end to see how it turned out just in case I give it another try on audio. We will see.
What about you. For today's Monday Discussion, share what has happened when you tried to read a book you thought you would love, only to find yourself very disappointed. What did you do? How did you react? Or, just share if you are one of those people who can return a book unread, or do you finish everything, like it or not.
I am a Librarian [MLIS] in Illinois specializing in serving leisure readers ages 13 and up. I train library staff all over the world on how to match books with readers through their local public library. I am the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, 2d edition (ALA Editions, 2012). I am under contract to write content for EBSCO's NoveList database, Booklist and Indie Picks Magazine , am a member of the Adult Reading Round Table Steering Committee, a 5 term Trustee for my local library, and am a proud member of The Horror Writers' Association. Check out the side bar for links to the groups and organizations with which I am affiliated.