Quitting is for quitters

As recently noted on twitter/facebook, I have a curious inability to stop reading a book even if I don’t like it. In this case it was the irritatingly tedious “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood. I knew after about 100 pages that I wasn’t really going to enjoy it very much, and yet I couldn’t just stop part way through and leave it. Maybe it would get better? Maybe, even if the overall quality remained low there would be one or two interesting bits that would make it worthwhile? I can only remember ever giving up on a book once, when I was in my early teens and I tried to read Thomas Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge” (must try it again sometime soon).

And yet this attitude is reversed when it comes to film and TV. Despite the fact that it’ll probably take me less time to watch one season of a TV series than it would to read a chunky novel, I’m very quick to decide that a drama isn’t worth my time. This despite that fact that I’ve watched a few series which took one or even two seasons to really get into.

It’s not snobbery. I don’t assume that a book is by definition bound to be more worthwhile and nourishing than a TV drama. And yet if I dropped a novel without finishing it I’d always be wondering what I’d missed out on. Maybe the second half is really good? Not all stories have to be attention-grabbing and exciting right from the start, do they? Maybe I just have to eat my vegetables before I’m rewarded with dessert?


6 thoughts on “Quitting is for quitters

  1. Erik R. June 27, 2011 / 3:38 pm

    That’s a bit odd, since books necessarily require more effort from the consumer than television or film. Perhaps it’s the remote control channel surfing nature of television that lowers the threshold to find something else more interesting.


    • simonlitton June 27, 2011 / 3:49 pm

      Yeah, I don’t really know what it is, as it’s a little counter-intuitive. I’m a mystery to myself.


  2. Di June 27, 2011 / 6:24 pm

    you’re funny …

    that was what i said outloud as i read this. sorry it’s not more highbrow but i was laughing quietly too.

    i have mostly impeccable taste in books but every now and again, i pick up one that doesn’t hold me. so i let it go. there’s not enough time to waste on bad or tedious books and there are just so many exquisite books out there in the world.


    • Mlle June 27, 2011 / 6:34 pm

      I fully agree Di. The feeling you get when rapt is slightly addictive and so investing my energy on a book that feels tedious to read is the exact opposite. It’s more akin to reading something for an assignment. I’m only willing to suffer like that when I read non-fiction and I’m interested in the topic.

      That being said, I recently read through half a book waiting for the author to “get to the point already!” Finally, I felt completely irritated with him for writing an entire book about his opinion on the subject, which is rather annoying, innit?


  3. karenmeg July 15, 2011 / 5:37 pm

    I tend to be like you Simon. One reabook that I HAD to finish (for book club) but honestly, hated every minute of , was the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Dias – I couldn’t get into it after the first few pages, despite all the raves and the awards — but I read every word (well, except all of the footnotes, it started feeling like a reference text there were so, so many….).
    But even a 90 minute movie, if it doesn’t grab me in the first 30 minutes I usually just turn it off.


    • simonlitton July 16, 2011 / 9:03 am

      Glad to see someone understands.
      Although I have to admit, I loved Oscar Wao…


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