Oscar ReadingA Victorian Gentlemen Concerned About Catching Crabs

So we must immediately apologise for the misleading and attention grabbing title. We believe it is called “clickbait” in the modern parlance, which sounds to us like something one uses for catching crabs. We refer not to a refusal to read books of any kind. No, rather, to the the reasons why we may abandon any given book. You see, we have on our “electronic reader” a collection of books named Stopped. This little collection is like a dark corner of our literary world where we place books that we feel we cannot continue with right now on the assumption we may one day return. Of course, once placed in that virtual pile, they fester away, never touched again, with their electronic bookmarks wagging like the fingers of a chiding aunt.

As we are currently in the middle of writing a novel (stop laughing at the back) we thought it might be useful to visit this little literary backwater in the hope it might deliver us some insight on why these particular books have suffered such an ignominious fate. The aim, of course, is to prevent our own novel suffering the same misfortune. We present here the aforementioned knowledge. We shall mention no books in particular and offer the immense caveat that these ideas and judgements are most certainly subjective. One’s man’s meat is another man’s murder.

This Charming Man

After reviewing the list of books, one common aspect immediately made itself known to us. Namely, we don’t care about the the characters. We don’t mean they are unlikeable, although that may be a factor. Or even that they are uninteresting, although that too may influence such a judgement. We mean simply this: we don’t care two hoots whether the characters achieve their ambitions and dreams or end up in Cheapside taking in laundry for a living. We’re sure the reasons for this are as myriad as they are arbitrary, but once settled on such an opinion, it is hard for us to shift it. And conversely, the book is easy to shift into the Stopped section. Lesson number one, then, is make the characters likely to be of interest to the people who you hope will read the book.

That Joke’s Not Funny Anymore

At the Benthic Times we’re rather fond of comedy. We tend to prefer deadpan and surreal to, say, a piece of slapstick, but we’re not above making jokes about pineal glands. Our reading too reflects that, we heartily enjoy tales that a have a comedic element to the fore. However, there can be too much of a good thing. And, we have found, that books that are all gags and no substance tend to lose our interest. We call this the “pearl theory” of comedy. It’s pleasant to have something smooth, shiny and translucent to look at, but if there isn’t at least a little bit of grit at it’s heart, it’s going to seem rather fake and cheap.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

On a similar note, we like genre fiction. A lot. And whilst we like nothing more than a book that merrily (and hopefully, humorously) subverts genre tropes, we’ll groan and yawn when confronted with one that seems determined to tick all the cliche boxes without an ounce of irony. Not every genre book should be constantly genre busting, of course, otherwise there would be no such thing as genre. And yet, some fresh angle or approach is very welcome.

Well, that concludes our little reel around the fountain and through the cemetery gates of our electronic reader. We hope it was entertaining and enlightening. Next week we shall looking at more crab catching with a post entitled “Why I Stopped Watching Television”.

Paul Michael

One thought on “Why I Stopped Reading Books

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