Thursday, July 21, 2016

100 Books: An interlude to check off all the books I've started this year but then gave up on.

I was trying over the past day to start The Loney, but whenever I put it on the audiobook I found my mind wandering and I kept having to rewind the book. After the 15th time or so, I gave up; the book doesn't have an interesting voice and begins with so many details that are very hard to get into, plus it jumps back and forth from a memory to an insight to the present to a memory.  Not worth it.

I had high hopes for both Red Mars and Finches Of Mars but I'm pretty convinced that (other than Mark Haddon's short story) it's impossible for people to write a good story about Mars. Kim Stanley Robinson wrote A Short, Sharp Shock, one of the greatest books I've ever read. Red Mars starts out intriguingly, with a murder, but then quickly drops off into what every. single. Mars. story. becomes: a dissertation on the science of living on Mars. Someone once described The Martian as being Apollo 13 but focusing on the guys back and NASA, and that is how Mars books feel. It's to the point where if Mars is even referenced in the book I don't give it a try.

Bellweather Rhapsody seemed kind of interesting: a ghost or murder story set in an old hotel while a bunch of kids are there on a music retreat, but it wasn't too interesting and other books became available shortly after I started it so I set it aside. I might go back to it someday (I probably won't).

Lord Malquist & Mr Moon was an interim book, when I couldn't find anything I liked. It was by Tom Stoppard, who wrote Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, my favorite play (I have a favorite play!) but this one started off slow and somewhat jumbly, so I gave up on it.

I Am Radar was on my list for a long time. Then it became available, and I borrowed it from the library, and then I never read it. Never even opened it up. I'm not even sure why. It just seemed like I was no longer the type of person who would read that book.

The Corpse Rat King was one I had really high hopes for: a thief dies and gets mistaken for a king, and the dead want him to help them get God's attention or something, but he's not really a king so he has to go find them a king. It started off very promisingly, and then just suddenly jumped into some kind of weird farce where a hut got burnt down and I was like I don't really have time for this in my life; it just seemed like it was going to get worse from there so I stopped.

The Deep was a horror story that I started on audio, then couldn't stay interested in; like The Loney I kept tuning out and thinking of other stuff and having to rewind. It wasn't very compelling, even when the main character was going into an abandoned undersea station with spooky things happening.

When It Happens To You I borrowed one day because there were no other likely-looking audiobooks available and I was in a hurry. I thought maybe Molly Ringwald has something interesting to say but she didn't. I made it through maybe 1/2 of the first story, if that.  Celebrities (?) shouldn't get book deals just because they are famous (?), but they do and that will continue to cause people to waste their time/money on books like this.  At least I didn't buy it.  If you buy a book and it's crappy and it's apparent it was published solely because of the person who wrote it, the author ought to have to personally write you a check for 3 times the cost of the book.  Make that a rule and we'll all be spared vanity projects.  Think about this: there is someone whose book didn't get published because they were not Molly Ringwald.

Us seemed like it would be right in the mix of books I like: a family takes a trip to Europe to save their marriage or something (I think) but again: couldn't hold my interest even through the first chapter, so: gone.  I think audiobooks make clear just how poor some writing is. It's not that I tend to have my mind wander if I'm driving. A good book on audio will captivate me (and to be clear mostly I drive the same route, two or three times a day, as I take Mr F for his rides, so I could probably do that in my sleep now.)  A bad book and I find myself thinking about the workday, or remembering something, or just sort of drifting off into vague thoughts and traffic lights.

& Sons was not only boring, but it was too jumbled. Maybe it would've been better if I'd read, rather than listened to it, but 1 chapter in and I could never tell who the narrator was, or who he was talking about. It's as if the entire book was made up of nothing but pronouns: he said he did this to him but he didn't etc. I felt like I was listening to a story from a 7th grade girl: name after pronoun after name after adverb after pronoun. It's hard to be juvenile and stuffy at the same time but this book's first half-chapter managed that dubious nonchievement.  I actually, when & Sons first came out, read a review and thought it would suck, but then later I thought well it got a good review so maybe I should try it. But my first instinct was right: it sucked.

10:04. I no longer even know what this book is about. It's there in my history and I can't even think what it might have been about. In fact, I just went and looked on Amazon to see what it was about and even reading the actual blurb about the story doesn't ring a bell. I can't recall downloading this or starting to listen to it. In my history it's right after Molly Ringwald's so-called book, and right before Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You), but even that doesn't ring any bells. If anyone knows why I might have wanted to read this (the description doesn't make me think I want to anymore) or why I stopped, please let me know.


Liz A. said...

Love this line: "It's hard to be juvenile and stuffy at the same time..." Made me giggle.

When you talked about boring Mars books, I remembered the Doctor Who episode "The Waters of Mars". They definitely didn't spend much time on how to survive on Mars. Because they weren't. As they were being killed off by water monsters.

Andrew Leon said...

I've never listened to an audio book that held my attention, even books I like. I just start thinking about other things.
Unless I'm really focusing on it, which I can't do while I'm driving, which also defeats the purpose of it being an audio book. If I have to focus on it so much that I can't do anything else, I might as well be reading it.

I like Robinson's Mars books. It's been a long time since I read them, but I remember really liking them.

Briane Pagel said...

Andrew: I guess you and I will have to disagree on that Robinson thing. Maybe they picked up later but I have no patience for "keep reading it gets better." What about just cutting out the parts that aren't better already? (I know you didn't say that but that's the feeling I got from the books: it was the long boring stupid polar expedition in "Red Mars" that ended me).

You might want to try audiobooks that you're familiar with first, maybe an old favorite you haven't read in a while. That might get you used to listening to a book rather than the way you listen to radio, podcasts, etc.

Liz: The Dr Who episode sounds like the kind of Mars story I would enjoy.