Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Three Skips and You're Out

When do you stop reading a book?

I used to be a compulsive reader. That is - if I started a book I had to finish it. I have to see what happens, it might get better.

Whether I'm losing concentration or becoming aware of my mortality, I feel like I don't have time to waste anymore.

So a book gets three skips and then it's out.

If I skip a passage (a paragraph or a page) three times (or so), then I will stop reading it. What would make me skip a part?

I often skip a paragraph or a passage because of smut. I just don't need sex scenes in books. It's just not why I read, and I find it unhelpful personally, so I'll skip it. If, otherwise, it's a good book, I may white out the bits as I go or stick white labels on them. This way I can come back and read the passage later without having to skip. Most times it makes no difference. One of my favourite books The War for Eternity starts with a sex slave scene that I just don't need banging around in my head. So my copy is self-censored. And now I can read the book and reflect on the ideas of life, meaning, eternal life, humanity etc etc etc without having my mind taken to a dirty cinema with popcorn and stains all over the seats.

(Interesting aside - a friend tells the story of a girl who grew up loving pretty woman, the Julia Roberts movie. watched it all the time raved about it. It was her princess story. It took a long time for her to realise that her dad had taped it and cut out all the smut and filth and generally tidied it up. She was quite embarrassed about how naive she had been. Incidentally it's amazing how well a movie or book goes without the smut. It contributes so little to the movie.)

I will skip a paragraph or page or chapter if it gets boring.

I will skip a bit if it gets preachy or is obviously pushing a bandwagon (although I'm more tolerant of bandwagons I also push, but it still has to be well written). This is why I have put down Time Enough for Love. I gave it a good long run, but there's no story there. Just the self important ravings of an egocentric old man (of course I'm talking about the character in the book - who did you think I was talking about?)

Badly Written
I will skip a passage if it is jarringly nonfactual, or so clumsily written that it gives you a headache trying to keep up, all the other personal taste reasons I will skip a passage. Emptiness, pomposity, slavish repetition of the current sacred cows, excessive exaggeration of the environmental emergency, etc etc etc.

Now I just have to find enough good books to keep me busy after I skip all the bodgy ones.

1 comment:

Lara said...

That sounds like a good policy. And, of course, what's most important is that it works for you.