aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Writing had made me a less-happy reader

I guess it could simply be getting older, but I think being a writer has taken away some of the joy I've felt from reading.

Which is kind of like playing both parts in that O'Henry story The Gift of the Magi. (That's the one where the wife with the gorgeous hair sells it to the wigmaker so she can buy her husband a watch fob for Christmas, and the husband sells his watch so he can buy his wife a beautiful hair ornament.)

Reading has meant everything to me. Everything. When I was 10, I asked for nothing but books for Christmas. I became a writer because I was first and foremost a reader (and because no one will pay me for reading unless it involves something else, like reviewing).

But now that I've written more than a dozen books, fewer and fewer books suck me in (and more just suck). I used to finish every book I started. Now I abandon so many half way.

Take yesterday. I had gotten a book I have seen hyped everywhere. Magazines, ads, reviews (all glowing). It's a mystery about memory loss (and since I have a mystery about memory loss coming out, I was even more interested).

And the main character was unsympathetic, and the writing was stilted. Here's some sample dialog: "So why did you do it? Make him aware of Kathleen's ... ambiguous ... paternity? About Jessica's single instance of straying, about what everyone else has known for nine years. As I said, you would never lie unless you were in extremis. What is going on?" [Note: ellipses are author's.]

This sounds like how someone writes. Not how someone talks.

Like another book on memory loss that I read recently, there is a sort of journal meant to keep the character on track (although really to clue the reader in). This one is mostly written by the people who come to visit her. I had to suspend so much disbelief that a visitor would write pages and pages, by hand, with things like: "And after you'd dug a couple dozen holes, you inserted rose saplings into them into them that you got from that nursery on Halsted. The first time you'd ever set foot in such a place." And quite a bit more about the roses, as well as many, many important facts and recollections about the main character's life. I think in real life someone might write, "Jessica, it was great to see you today." And not much more.

I gave up on page 133.

And this was a book I had been looking forward to for weeks!

Ah. But then I picked up an ARC of Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick. This was one of the best books I have read this year. It was funny and well-written. It was just plain great.

I initially fell in love with it when I read the description on Publisher's Marketplace: "Pitched as Ferris Bueller's Day Off meets The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with a dash of John Green: in which a high school senior finds out that the homely Lithuanian exchange student he is forced to take to the prom is actually a trained assassin who has a busy night ahead of her in New York City…and she needs his help to get the job done."

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Tags: reading, writing
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