Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Pages: To Turn, or Not To Turn.

I closed a book last week that I simply could not wait to finish. Blech. I lost interest halfway through. It was a chore.

It's not that I feel a moral obligation or personal ownership to finish every single book I start; a gifted teacher once told me, "There are so many wonderful books in the world. Don't waste your time on one you don't like." So I don't. I have several strategies for collecting good recommendations, and I always have a pile on my shelf, on my waiting list at the library, or in an open document on my desktop: Titles I Cannot Wait To Get My Hands On.

And that's where I went wrong: I picked this one up on a whim. Nobody told me to read it; I took a risk on my own judgment. Indeed, I judged a book by its cover. There's a reason for the proverbial adage: a cover artist can lead you terribly astray, in either direction.

I finally resorted to reading only the dialogue. I skipped all the fluff. Let's wrap this up. Blech.

When I finished, it took me a while to determine why I had so not-enjoyed this one. The storyline was... fine. The characters were... okay. Just enough flaws to keep me interested. It had all the right components, but it bored me to tears. Why??

And then I discovered the missing component: throughout the hundreds of pages, I was never prompted to pick up my pen. I never wanted to circle a great metaphor, underline impressive dialogue, write down quirky word choices, or jot anything in the margin. Never. I never thought to myself, "Brilliant!" Not once.

Clearly, this partnership with the pen is a very important part of my literary experience.

But there's a happy ending to this sad story of a poor choice: I am into a really good one now. In fact, four pages in, I wrote in the margin: I'm on page four. And I love this book. The storyline could go either way, but the author's voice has me hooked, line and sinker. I am laughing out loud, I am underlining, scribbling, and doodling all over the margins and anywhere else to remind myself later of what I loved most.

And the best part? This is a retired library book that I bought online. I am writing in a library book. I haven't yet gotten over that thrill. (Yes, I realize the inherent dorkiness of that statement. I cannot deny it.)

And for you fellow book worms who are dying to know, it's Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos. I think I will need to read everything she has ever written.

Maybe even her grocery lists.

1 comment:

my3boys said...

I read a fascinating story a couple of years ago that was horribly written. It was a true story, but the guy didn't feel qualified to write it, so he told his story to a PROFESSIONAL WRITER!!! Really badly written. By a "professional." So bad that it was distracting. Too bad he couldn't find someone better. It really was a fascinating story. "90Minutes in Heaven" was the title, in case you wondered.