Why Shouldn’t I Continue to Read Your Novel?

Why Shouldn’t I Continue To Read Your Novel?

Coming across a couple of posts recently about when a writer/reader gives up reading a novel, I noticed a trend when a writer/reader will stop:  

  • when there’s little or no action to propel the narrative
  • lingering descriptions of ennui or minutiae (or the weather)
  • back story or info dumping (yes, I agree with this)
  • bad writing (yes, I’ll stop reading too)

The current literary aesthetic favours action over reflection, sacrificing the evocative power of language for a fast-food mentality of plot and writing.

Why not let language and words evoke scene, history and character idiosyncrasies, rather than simply pushing a plot along?

Literature is about plot and character and narrative tension, but it’s also about exploring the ennui of life, and why they are important, and the macro aspects of grand overarching themes in minute detail.

I want to read a fast-paced action story and I want to read a story that lingers on the little, unimportant things. I can have both. Trends be damned.

I want to enter the world the author has created, to see how they see the world and enjoy their word play, not consigned to reading a novel written within an artificial and constricted set of literary rules.

Writing is as much about observing and recording life’s details and universal abstract concepts as it is in participating and communicating, being involved with others, doing the action, and reading should be the same.


7 responses to “Why Shouldn’t I Continue to Read Your Novel?

  1. I agree – though would probably caveat with a: it depends on the skill of the writer. Imperium by a journalist, Ryszard Kapuściński, is one of the most descriptive reads I have in a long time – surprising for a journalist – but he sketches out the world, the old USSR and places the outside world hadn’t seen in 70 years (at that time), through offsides about cognac and frescos.

    • I see it as symptomatic of our modern culture’s obsession with instant gratification. I just finished drafting a novel with a friend where we hand wrote letters and sent them via the mail in what we called ‘delayed gratification.’ We had to wait for the installment to arrive.
      Hyper-connectivity allows us to be aware of news and events as they are happening, and we expect it. Yet the corollary is the affect on our reading habits.
      The skill of the writer is paramount, but there feels like a stripping away of depth; we don’t allow ideas to sit in our subconscious long enough, to reflect and meditate on them. A good writer will do that for, and with, you, but there is a sacrifice in contemporary literature on intellectual depth for instant gratification and response. The best works (literature, art, music, film, dance) are the ones that linger in the consciousness, deepening with each reflection and meditation.

  2. I suspect that writers will always be disappointed in what most people read. And chefs will always be disappointed in what most people eat. And composers will always be disappointed in what most people listen to….

    • Definitely, but I’m also coming from the perspective of agents and publishing houses focused on a “product” that can be mass marketed and distributed, easy to digest and will make money. It’s a way of controlling art and saying “This is how it is” rather than letting the art speak for itself. It’s akin to all the “writing rules;” they are only aesthetic guidelines reflecting popular culture.
      When a writer writes with commercial interests or a specific set of rules/guidelines, you are no longer making art. You can create for commercial interests within specific guidelines, but I want the publishing industry to take a chance on work that does not easily fit their perceived parameters.

  3. No.4 is the main reason I stop reading. Anne Enright often does not much plot but is glorious to read, well done fast pace is harder to write that I believed possible. Different moods suit different books, both are necessary (as is the need of the writer to write what is rea to him) And yes, bandwagon publishing could be the death of good writing, except that I think it is now easier to find good writing on-line than when one was solely reliant on bookshops.

    • There is certainly good writing to be found out there, but on a slight tangent, I feel there is a push to produce material as quickly as possible which doesn’t always produce quality work. Sometimes a work needs time to sit and rest before being released. But that’s another post for another time.

  4. I completely agree. Sometimes I’m exhausted by the pace of novels these days and I want to read something I can soak in. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce was a good example of this. I really enjoyed that one.

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