Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bummer books

Taking a little side trip blog day here...

After a conversation with C this morning and the cover of Time magazine this week I am compelled to write a short side trip blog on bummer books. I am not talking about sad books that you need a box of tissues by your side to get through, or books that were just depressing or downers. I am talking about books that got impossibly high hype and set your expectations and then....meh...or worse.

I read The Passage this summer, along with everyone else. The two weeks before its release I got recommendations from 4 different literary sites, Stephen King and Amazon on advanced reads. THIS was THE book. It was vampires. It was post apocalypse survivors. It was brilliant. It was wonderful. It was right up my alley! And for the first 100 pages it really was. The problem is the book is 784 pages long. It took me weeks to read. Not because of the length. I can devour a 700 page book in two days. But I would put it down and just not be motivated to pick it back up again. There were splashes of great stuff...but then the author would wander...so my attention would flag.

Then I got to the end. And I had to go back and re-read the last chapter because I was sure that I had missed something. But no, I hadn't. The author had left me hanging. Over 700 pages and I still don't know the basic information about the characters that I needed to have to be invested in them, and to understand them. Looking at another review I see that it is part of a planned trilogy. But it's too late for me now. I won't read the other two books if he does publish them. I just don't care anymore. I am more than a little angry that I invested as much time and energy as I did.

Then here was my dilemma. C wanted to read the book as well. Do I tell him what a disappointment I thought it was or do I let him read it with the same expectations of it being a good read that I had? Hmm...well I decided that I would let him read it without telling him I didn't like it and see what he thought. Who knows, maybe it was just me? I could tell fairly early on how he was reacting to the book. It took him WEEKS to read it. This is the kid who can read the entire Harry Potter series in a week. All seven books of it. While composing a song, playing hours of video games and running random errands with me. Last night he finally finished the book and had the same thoughts that I did. Mainly "What the hell?" So at least I know it's not just me.

Jonathan Franzen is on the cover of Time this week. Back in 2001 he wrote a book called The Corrections. Google this book if you have a chance because the list of awards it received would take me ages to write out. This was the book of a generation! So of course, I read it. And I HATED this book. I wanted my money back, my time back and the part of my brain where this story had taken up residency back. The characters were unpleasant. The situations were unpleasant. The writing style was pretentious. You know THAT guy? The one who uses the 50 cent word not because he likes it or knows it or feels it would fit the situation better but because he assumes you don't know it and that way he can tell you what it means and feel just that much more superior to you? Franzen is that guy.

So those are two of my Ugh books. The Twilight series might fall into that category except I wasn't really holding out much hope going in. I had heard equal parts good and bad and I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised, so when I wasn't and when I just didn't like them it wasn't so much of a disappoint as an oh well. What are some of yours? Books that everyone else seemed to love that you had hoped you would find wonderful that you just don't get. Or worse, just can't stand?

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