Thursday, September 16, 2004

When Good Writers Go Bad

Just to follow up on a comment below...

Tammy asks:  "And you're still reading it why?"

An excellent question.  I'm still reading it because I always read one book too many from an author I once liked. 

If I pick up a book by someone I've never read before, and it isn't any good, I'll give it up without finishing it, with no problem.

But if I pick up a book by someone whose prior work I've enjoyed, I'll read it to the end -- even if it's bad -- because I'll still hold out some vain hope that this book will regain something of the former glory of the earlier book(s). 

I could give you a list of authors who I've given up on after that "one book too many."  In fact, they probably outnumber the authors I read who are still putting out enjoyable books.  It happens so frequently that an author goes bad, I sometimes hesitate to pick up the newest book from an author I still enjoy, dreading the thought that this is going to be the book that ends our "relationship."

Katherine Neville, the author of the piece of crap discussed below, wrote a lovely little book called The Eight.  (How to describe The Eight?  Take Foucault's Pendulum.  Dumb it down.  Dumb it down some more.  No, a little more than that.  OK, now add a car chase.  That's The Eight.)  The Eight was a great read -- very engaging, with a terrific plot that could easily keep you entertained on a cross-country flight.  There were a few signs in The Eight that Neville's writing might be problematic.  It had a few too many "arm out of the socket" scenes.  (Those are those scenes where the heroine is oblivious to what is actually going on, so some man grabs her by the hand and pulls her out of the way of oncoming doom, leaving her safe, but yelling, "What's going on?" as she is pulled after him.)  This sort of thing drives me nuts, but the plot of The Eight was so strong, I overlooked it.

I am halfway through A Calculated Risk, Neville's next book, and I will likely finish itbecause I can't yet decide whether the plot is worth sticking with (despite how much I otherwise abhor the writing).  Were it anyone else's book, I'd toss it aside immediately.  But Neville wrote The Eight, so I have a reason to hope that the payoff of A Calculated Risk plot-wise will be worth the effort.

But I'm sure it won't be.  And then I will add her to the ever-increasing list of "Authors I Used To Read."



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