A Passage to Interestingness

From the 1984 film version of A Passage to India.

Have you ever read a novel you contemplated not finishing but then things picked up? Such was the case last week with me and A Passage to India.

The first part of E.M. Forster’s 1924 novel was actually pretty good: beautifully/subtly written — with mostly non-stereotypical depictions of India’s citizens and interesting cross-cultural interactions between those citizens and characters from Great Britain, the colonial ruler over India back then. But there was endless talking and little happening in the way of plot, and I found my attention straying. Then — pow! — an unfair arrest happened and things got really compelling.

Of course, a plot development that dramatic is not always needed to make a book more interesting.

It also took me a while to warm to A Game of Thrones, the first installment of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. It wasn’t that the writing wasn’t good — it was — but I was rather bewildered by the array of characters being introduced, the connections between those characters, and the fictional world being depicted. Then it came together, and I was hooked.

In short, the buffet had to be laid out and studied before the eating was enjoyed.

With Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, the structure of the novel made me consider throwing in the towel. Early on, the book was in the form of a long, at-times tedious poem. Then, Nabokov started using prose to offer clues about what was going on as he unraveled some of the puzzle he had set up. A novel almost totally devoid of warmth, but immensely clever.

Sometimes novels start with pages and pages of over-long descriptions of landscapes and buildings before characters are introduced and the plot begins to unfold. This is especially the case in older novels written during a pre-air-travel/pre-Internet time when most readers hadn’t actually or virtually seen most places, so authors had to fill in the blanks.

I’ll conclude by saying I HAVE abandoned some novels before finishing them — with few regrets. So many other fictional works to read instead. 🙂

Any novels you’d like to mention that started slow but picked up?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” local topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — about some interesting early-summer events — is here.

123 thoughts on “A Passage to Interestingness

  1. Hi Dave as always an interesting piece. There have been so many books and novels which I have not been able to finish due to number of reasons. Lately only novels that I’ve been able to finish is on my phone. There are several reasons which have become impediments, working, travelling, a toddler and one more thing font size…I am a great fan of Dostoevsky but I could never finish ‘Crime and Punishment’, I guess it was the font size somehow didn’t like it and too much internal thinking by the protagonist. Same was ‘ War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
    I agree with you on ‘ Passage to India by EM Forster’ it starts on a very optimistic note and as you said too much going on. Although not a very interesting read it remains largely important in post colonial orientalist discourse. I also encounter same difficulty with Virginia Woolf’s works so much is going on internally and that dreaded stream of consciousness that I am also tempted to leave the work in between…

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    • Thank you, Tanya!

      Yes, there are a number of reasons why people don’t finish novels. All legitimate, and there are always other novels to be read after that that could very well be finished. 🙂

      Interesting thoughts on “A Passage to India.” Even as it felt kind of slow before picking up, I appreciated E.M. Forster’s direct and indirect commentary on colonialism and other important issues amid the story line, the excellent character depictions, etc.

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  2. I must say if a book starts slow, I am quick to chuck it.
    Too much sewing, drawing and finding street art to do!
    You often make me think of something opposite, or random when you ask your question at the end.
    Like today, I immediately thought of LIFE by Keith Richards.
    It starts out fast, and then races to the finish.
    Not the opposite, exactly, but pretty random considering the books you have mentioned here.
    Yesterday when I read about the protagonist who is always getting pooped on I couldn’t think of one, unless it was in a comedy movie. So today, I looked up the word “protagonist”. Seems I didn’t even know what it meant. I thought it was the HERO! Now it appears it could be anyone, good or bad, who has a major role.

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    • Thank you, Resa!

      I hear you about chucking a slow-starting book given how busy your life is. If a novel doesn’t catch my interest, I’m quicker to put it aside than I used to be, albeit still not super-quick with the decision.

      There’s definitely something to be said about a book that starts fast and stays fast! Fast like a…rolling stone…going downhill. 🙂 Keith Richards has definitely lived quite a life!

      I prefer something like “main character” over “protagonist,” which sounds a bit too fancy, but don’t like to keep saying “character” over and over so I use “protagonist” fairly often.

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  3. Nearly gave up on Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, which I finished only because I’d loved Housekeeping (twice). Surprised by the wonderfulness of the last 40 or 50 pages. (Then I went on to read her other novels and was disappointed.) Generally, though, my experience tends to run in the opposite direction–that is, I’ll be jazzed at the beginning, only to have my interest flag as I get deeper into it. But that might say more about me than the novels.

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    • Thank you, Barry! Yes, the flip side of this theme is a novel starting strong and then weakening. It definitely happens!

      I agree that the last part of “Gilead” was better than the earlier part, but I basically found that novel to be kind of boring. “Housekeeping” is MUCH better.

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      • I remember thinking Pynchon’s “V” was the most arresting novel I’d ever read, until it most definitely wasn’t. “Gilead” wasn’t as boring as Robinson’s other novels, all of which followed “Housekeeping” by a couple of decades. But then my taste runs more toward the sacrilegious than the religious.

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        • Interesting, Barry. I don’t have much experience with Pynchon — just “Inherent Vice,” which I found clever but ultimately tiresome.

          Yes, Marilynne Robinson peaked early, although some people like her later works — which some might call “mature” but others (such as you and I) call boring.

          I’m also not a big fan of “religious” novels, though of course some (such as Willa Cather’s “Death Comes for the Archbishop” and George Eliot’s “Daniel Deronda”) are better than others.

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    • Thank you, Bernadette! I totally hear you. I’ve also abandoned more books than before as I grow older, though I still don’t abandon a lot of them. “So many books, not enough time” indeed! 😦

      Your five-chapters-or-so rule is a reasonable one.

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  4. As an longtime commenter here, I’m pretty sure I’m already on record regarding the glacially-paced outset of Malcolm Lowry’s “Under the Volcano”, but I will mention it again because no one else has this time around. And I would like to cite the originator of the following images, but cannot find a source on the interwebs:

    Somebody some time ago made the observation that the novel’s opening 70-odd pages were like water circling a drain, water at its furthest distance away from said drain, circling almost imperceptibly at first, then with increasing speed, before suddenly the bottom falls out of the surface tension, and everything goes very fast down a hole. The ride after is relentless and exhilarating yet also dark and very ruefully insightful, as Lowry’s third person narration reveals the mental interior of all the major characters, his major character, the Consul’s, most of all, as he drinks himself past all saving.

    Lowry the writer was very much in the post-Joyceian school, employing ‘stream of consciousness’ to very good effect, though alcohol and guilt distort and channel the contents into dark conclusions and destinations.

    The setting is Cuernavaca,Mexico (in the novel renamed Quauhnahuac), some years after the Revolution, sleepy and poor and and mostly impenetrable to foreign eyes, except in terrifying flashes. The time: the Day of the Dead.

    Glad to say I persevered past the opening pages, and was rewarded. Though it’s been years since I read it, I recommend Malcolm Lowry’s “Under the Volcano.”

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    • Thank you, jhNY! All wonderfully expressed!

      As you know, when I read “Under the Volcano” a few months ago, I had some mixed feelings about it as one of many novels focusing on “first world” people in “the third world.” But the book is exceptionally written, compelling, and heartbreaking — and it held my interest from the start, even as the pace picked up, as you noted.

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  5. Hi Dave! There have been a number of such books certainly going all the way way to Jr. High School when, for a short time, I made a game of checking out the thickest books in the school library just to see if I had what it took to get from start to finish. It didn’t take long to develop my “three chapter” rule: no matter how uninteresting/cumbersome/incomprehensible, I attentively read the first three chapters. By the end of the third chapter, if nothing had caught my imagination I went no further. Soon, I discarded my “thickest book” game, and started picking out books that caught my eye. I continued to use the three-chapter rule. Later, I taught it to my children. Off the top of my head, I can think of two books in this category: “Wise Blood”, by Flannery O’Connor, was one I was ready to give up on, but stuck through the third chapter and finished the book. Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” didn’t pass the three chapter test, however.

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    • Thank you, Pat! I love that you checked out the thickest books when you were in junior high! 🙂 And your three-chapter rule makes a lot of sense, especially when there are SO many other books out there waiting to be read if the one we’re reading is not piquing our interest enough.

      “Wise Blood” is an interesting, quirky novel, but Flannery O’Connor’s best format was definitely the short story. Excellent cartoonist, too!

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      • “Wise Blood” the movie happens to have a girl I knew in college in its cast, so I went to the theater when it came out. She did a fine job. In my last band, we made a video thanks to the camera work and interest of a band member’s boyhood friend who had just moved back to the States, after many years in the Far East. During the shoot, I kept thinking he looked familiar– and indeed he was, as he too had played a part in “Wise Blood” (and in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”), before settling down behind the camera. For a relatively obscure movie, I managed two brushes, though decades apart, with (minor) fame!

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  6. Hi Dave,
    First of all, thanks for liking my new journey with my Blog!!
    As a teenager, I was an avid reader and attempted The Hobbit but found it very difficult to finish.
    The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand was also hugely descriptive and at times I felt overwhelmed. However, something in there held my attention and I read it to the end, think it might have been the complex romance between Roark and Dominique. It then became one of my favorite books, and to this day I pay more attention to architecture and feel I see Roark’s influences, lol!
    Yasmin

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    • You’re welcome, Yasmin, and thank you for the comment! Great that you became an avid reader as a teen! Sorry you weren’t more a fan of “The Hobbit” back then — I liked it myself, but we all have different reactions to different books. 🙂

      Re Ayn Rand, yes, certain novels can be challenging and even overwhelming yet still very satisfying. Definitely the case for me with various books, though I’ve never read Rand.

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  7. Hi Dave,

    This exact thing happened to me when I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day a few weeks ago. It started out with an old man having an emotional ramble that I just didn’t care about. Then suddenly I realised that the narrator was incredibly unreliable. Not only was he lying to me, he was lying to himself. It was absolutely masterful that Ishiguro wrote a single, first person narrative, and yet I picked up on so much that the story teller didn’t say. I honestly don’t know how Ishiguro did it, and I’m looking forward to getting to his other novels to see if they’re as well put together.

    I had a similar experience when reading John Williams’ Stoner which I finished last night. It took me quite a while to warm to the protagonist, but I suddenly realised that I enjoyed spending time with him and cared about his relationships, particularly his relationship with Hollis Lomax which was at times laugh out loud funny. Thanks so much for recommendation ❤

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    • Thank you, Susan! 🙂

      “The Remains of the Day” was indeed masterful, and it DID take a while for a reader to see where the protagonist was coming from and what Kazuo Ishiguro was trying to do. Loved the eloquent way you summarized/analyzed all that!

      Glad you ultimately liked the memorable “Stoner.” Great point that one thing that can make the early part of a novel difficult is not warming to the main character — until one does.

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  8. Interestingly enough, I almost put down the Hobbit when I first read it! The first few chapters threw a lot at me and it was hard to keep everything straight. It wasn’t until around chapters five and six that I really started getting into it, then I was hooked. Dune had the same effect on me – the first few chapters felt a bit dizzying, trying to get the hang of all the different alliances and planets. But once the story got going it was hard to turn away from! As for other “put downs,” novels that I don’t finish, I typically have a five chapter rule. If I’m not hooked by then, life is too short and my reading list is too long. However, I do make some exceptions here and there – if the chapters are super short, or if the book is on a lot of best seller lists, etc.

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    • Thank you, M.B.! I also loved “The Hobbit,” maybe more from the beginning than you did — though I see what you’re saying about how the first part threw a lot at the reader as Tolkien introduced “a whole new world.” What an appetizer that whole book was ​for “The Lord of the Rings”!

      One of these days I need to read “Dune”! 🙂

      “…life is too short and my reading list is too long” — well and cleverly said, and a good reason for occasionally jettisoning an unsatisfying novel before it’s finished.

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  9. Your post is very interesting, Dave and rather challenging for me, because of the many book proposals by you and your readers I have never heard about:) I, however, read “The Passage to India” and was impressed by the way the English treated the Indian doctor and read it to the end.
    Some time ago I told you about “The Absolute Book” by Elizabeth Knox, which, for the time being, I put away, because I have the feeling that I don’t come to grips with her talking birds and her parallel world!

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  10. I’m now wondering if I would have read most of the English “classics” if not forced to in high school. And some of those prize-winning books – I just couldn’t continue reading, making me wonder if, deep down, I’m really superficial.

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    • Thank you, Cynthia! I hear you — there are indeed many classic novels a lot of us wouldn’t have read as teens if not required to in school. But, in retrospect, I’m glad they were required. Well, many of them, anyway. 🙂 In some cases, I didn’t adequately appreciate some of them — “The Scarlet Letter,” for one — until I reread them years later.

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  11. I love the work of E.M. Forster: A Passage to India, A Room With A View, Howard’s End. But to your comment on slow starting novels… I started The History of the Siege of Lisbon by José Saramago (in the English translation of course) and found it to be an especially hard slog and set it aside for about a month or so and when I took it up again it had been so long I had to start from the beginning. The second time around I had more sympathy for the main character and more patience in letting the story unfold.I found it to be a brilliant story. I suppose that is the point; if you are to enjoy a work of art sometimes you have to give it a chance to unfold.

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    • Thank you, Fictionquest! Great that you’re an E.M. Forster fan!

      “…if you are to enjoy a work of art sometimes you have to give it a chance to unfold” — excellent line! Sounds like that was the case for you with “The History of the Siege of Lisbon.” Sometimes it does help to put a book aside and try again. Heck, the reader might be in a better frame of mind or be otherwise more receptive to the work.

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  12. Well, I see that I’m going to have to put in a good word and show some love for one of my favorite authors, Henry James. Like you, I most enjoyed “The Portrait of a Lady,” but I was also captivated by “The Ambassadors” and””Daisy Miller,” and more recently, “The Wings of the Dove” and “The Golden Bowl.” I do understand that he wouldn’t appeal to many, especially in this modern age, but he ranks high on my list of classic authors, though of course below Jane Austen and Edith Wharton. I admit that one does need to concentrate while reading him, and he does write rather long sentences; in fact, I tried to read “The Bostonians” twice but had to give it up. However, I was perusing a list of feminist literature just last week, while thinking about your last column, and that novel was listed, so I thought I’d give it another go — third time the charm, perhaps?🙂

    The other day I just finished a very clever detective novel, “Magpie Murders” by Anthony Horowitz, which paid homage to the Golden Age of Mystery, in particular Agatha Christie. It was a book within a book, or rather, a mystery within a mystery. I found it rather slow-going at first, but it certainly paid off to keep reading. It features a Poirot-like detective in the first part, then a woman editor in the latter part. I’m heading to the library today to pick up a copy of the second novel in this series, “Moonflower Murders,” as well as “The Moonstone,” which I’d mentioned in last week’s comments as wanting to reread it.

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    • Thank you, Kat Lit!

      Yes, Henry James is polarizing. As I mentioned, I do like a lot of his work, while finding some of it a bit of a slog. 🙂 His writing style was of his time, in a way, I guess — and, as you say, one needs to REALLY concentrate when reading him, especially his later fiction. I also prefer Jane Austen and Edith Wharton (the latter a friend of James, as you know) over Henry. Good luck with “The Bostonians,” if you try it again!

      “Magpie Murders” and its format sound very intriguing.

      The best Wilkie Collins novels — including “The Moonstone” — are SO good! I also love his “The Woman in White,” “No Name,” and “Armadale.”

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      • I’m back from the library with “Moonflower Murders” in hand, though they didn’t have a copy of either “The Moonstone” or “The Bostonians.” Although I could get them both sent from another area library or borrow online, I may instead get used paperback editions of both from Thriftbooks or Abebooks — there is something to be said for having classics to keep in my library and read on paper rather than on my Nook or PC. I’m getting used to reading more and more books that way (I have dry eye syndrome and a problem with eyelid glands that makes reading on a Glowlight Nook much easier, especially at night), but classics deserve to be read the old-fashioned way!🙂 I look forward to reading more by Anthony Horowitz, who among other writings, has done scripts for “Poirot” and “Midsomer Murders” on ITV, has written two novels featuring Sherlock Holmes, and was chosen by the James Bond estate to write more Bond novels.

        By the way, I’m glad that you were able to get through “A Passage to India” and found it interesting. I’d encourage you to also try “Howards End” someday, which I’ve read twice and, as I mentioned before, really loved. One of the characters in the “Magpie Murders” commented on how some great novels truly deserved to be titled after the place in which they were set, such as “Wuthering Heights,” “Middlemarch,” “Mansfield Park,” and “Howards End.”

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        • Glad you found one of the three books you were seeking, Kat Lit! Anthony Horowitz sounds like a person of wide-ranging writing talent!

          It’s true that reading a book on a screen can be easier on the eyes in some ways — also including the ability to enlarge the print. But, like you, I have a fondness for old-fashioned print when it comes to reading fiction.

          Yes, some novels deserve to be named after a place. (James Michener was certainly one author who wouldn’t have argued against that. 🙂 )

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  13. As I read your post all the books I can remember not finishing flashed before my eyes. I gave up with ‘Game of Thrones’ and never went back to it. Despite watching the series twice the sheer number of characters in the first book was overwhelming. Martin knows how to craft a tale though.
    Recently I read ‘Silent House’ by Orhan Pamuk (a year or so ago this is). As Liz found with Henry James I found that I was reading this translation in 20 page chunks. I got through it though because I was so curious to find out how it finished, but I did find it a little bit of hard work. I’m unsure if this is because it’s a cultural understanding thing or not. I tried one of his other novels some years ago – ‘My Name is Red’ – which is one that never got finished.
    ‘Master and Margarita’ is another one that almost got consigned to the slow read pile, but I found that really picked up suddenly and I ended up whizzing through it and loving it. And another is ‘Alone in Berlin’ by Hans Fallada. This, again, is a very slow start, but it was so worth wading through the first 70 pages or so. It’s a tremendous novel and heartbreaking as well as it’s based on a true story.

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    • Thank you, Sarah!

      Yes, the first installment of the Song of Ice and Fire series was VERY ambitious and wide-ranging as George R.R, Martin set things up. I never watched the TV series.

      Orhan Pamuk is definitely an author whose work takes some patience.

      I also loved “The Master and Margarita” — what a vivid, memorable novel! Things are usually very interesting (in any work) when the devil is involved. 🙂

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      • I think I had the capacity for these wide ranging epics when I was younger, so ‘The Song of Ice and Fire’ will now sit forever unfinished, alongside its companions, in the box set I bought a couple of years ago.
        I honestly didn’t know what to expect from ‘The Master and Margarita’ and I’m sure a lot of it went over my head but, yes, vivid and memorable. I quite enjoyed the scenes with Pontius Pilate as it really cast him in such a different light – or certainly one that we (I!) probably hadn’t considered.

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        • Sarah, there’s definitely a push-and-pull between spending a lot of time with one epic or reading several stand-alone novels during the same period. 🙂

          And I agree that “The Master and Margarita” can make readers see things in a different light!

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  14. This feeling you describe is familiar, Dave. I think I’ve experienced it many times, but most recently while reading a fairly new book, “All Adults Here,” by Emma Straub. I’d never read anything by the author before, and didn’t think I’d finish this book until–just like that–I got interested. I think I was close to halfway through it, so I was being pretty persistent with it!

    Great post! I wish I could remember some other titles–I suspect a lot of them were classics.

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    • Thank you, Sheila! Glad “All Adults Here” was ultimately worth the effort; sticking with nearly half of it until you got more interested was indeed persistent!

      And I agree that a number of classic novels start slowly. Maybe another reason why long-ago readers tolerated that was that there weren’t as many entertainment options as there are now, so they might have had more time and patience for books. There wasn’t the alternative of checking social media or browsing the Internet. 🙂

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      • Good point, Dave, about the readers of the past!

        I have a thought related to your theme–which is how many books have a certain payoff when you reached the end. When I was in a book club I finished quite a few books that I probably wouldn’t have if I were reading on my own. When I finished the book, I often felt it was worth it to me to have slogged through it. However, I don’t normally feel much regret if I abandon a book.

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        • Interesting, Sheila! Excellent point that some novels have enough of a payoff to more than make up for some slow-going earlier on. And, yes, so true that being in a book club is a major incentive to stick with a novel!

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  15. I know I saw the movie version of A Passage to India and liked it. I think I tried reading the book and found it much slower than the movie, so probably quit. I had a similar experience with Goethe’s Werther. Loved Massenet’s opera, found the book a disappointment. Finally, I bogged down in spots with Hugo’s Les Miserables (English translation, of course), but was glad I kept reading to the poignant end.

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    • Thank you, Audrey! Very true that movies can be “faster” than the novels they’re based on, even if they don’t do the books complete justice. Focusing on the novels’ more dramatic moments and such.

      I found “The Sorrows of Young Werther” book pretty compelling; never saw a screen adaptation of it.

      And I agree about “Les Miserables” — less-scintillating in spots but WELL worth the time overall!

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  16. Reading this in a 1920s French edition. I have progressed to Tome II! I concur regarding contemporaray parallels. But then, the same can be said of so many great novels of earlier times. Balzac’s Illusions Perdus (1837) is another striking example.

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  17. Very interesting post. I remember thinking that re A Passage to India and then as you say, it suddenly got interesting. Lol, who knows but if I had persevered with Foucault’s Pendulum, I might not be singing its praises in terms of a book that suddenly got interesting. But I didn’t. I put it in the charity shop bag. I remember thinking Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety was much like watching paint dry to start with. And this wasn’t just to do with having had my head done in, wading pages of maps and characters, none of whom I could remember the name of, by the time I got to the opening paragraph, because I thought the opening paragraph was good actually. But for a while after I thought that paragraph was all that was. Then for me it got really gripping. .

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  18. ‘Fraid not. I can only think of a novel that started slow, stayed slow, and ended slow. I read it in fifteen-page increments because I kept falling asleep. The only reason I finished the book was that it was assigned in a graduate literature seminar, and I was already suffering from Imposter Syndrome. The book? The Ambassadors by Henry James.

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  19. Another great post, Dave and follow-up conversation which I will be returning to over the next couple of days. I have found that when I know a little about the author (s) I am more likely to enjoy their books. This is just my idiosyncrasy. I remember reading Pitcairn’s Island after I read Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. It was a difficult read for me because of the profound sadness that I felt, but I persevered. The bios of Nordhoff and Hall are even more compelling to me that their books. Reading is not for the faint of heart – stories demand that we listen, we learn, we overcome even during the most difficult days. But I confess, I did not read the third book (2nd installment) Men Against the Sea. Just couldn’t see myself in a boat adrift on the ocean, especially with Bligh (who went on to experience a second mutiny). But that is another story.

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    • Thank you, Rebecca! Glad you liked the post!

      I hear you that knowing something about the author can potentially help increase enjoyment of novels by her or him.

      And an excellent point that a very sad book, even if compelling, can possibly spur a reader to abandon it — especially if one is already not in a happy mood (either that day or more long-term).

      There have also been a few instances where I stopped reading a novel because it was too gratuitously gory. One James Patterson book, as I recall, was in that category.

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      • HI Dave, you comment a book being to gory resonates with me. I have stopped reading books for that reason. I have also stopped reading some of Stephen King’s more recent books because they just cross lines of what I can bear to read about. I felt like that about The Dome and a few others. Sexual abuse of children can be unbearable for me.

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        • Stephen King can indeed go over-the-top here and there, Robbie. And, yes, depicting sexual abuse of children can absolutely be unbearable to read.

          There ARE some very violent novels written so well that I’ve read/finished them with a mix of horror and admiration. One example would be Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian.”

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    • I had exactly the same experience, and to this day can’t figure why these stories held my interest. The little bit of bio I read helped a lot. Then there was also The Caine Mutiny. Maybe it was the themes of justice and rebellion when we were teenagers?

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  20. Such an interesting theme, Dave! A ‘passage’ such as you refer to I experienced when I read Susan Sontag’s The Benefactor (which was some years ago). In the beginning I felt the story was artifical, dry and academic. But soldiering on I struck that pivotal point where the novel reasserted itself to leave me awed, bewildered and longing after I had finished it. I consider it one of the best novels in modern literature. Another novel that I recall took quite some pages to convince me but then (if gradually) morphed into a compulsive read is The Revenge for Love by the great Vorticist painter, novelist and satirist Percy Wyndham Lewis.

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    • Thank you, Dingenom Potter! “Artificial, dry, and academic” is daunting, but — wow! — that’s VERY enthusiastic praise for the latter part of “The Benefactor.” I might give it a try. And that’s an interesting mention of “The Revenge for Love” by a multi-talented creator I wasn’t familiar with.

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  21. My sister-in-law gave me a book recently called “Girl, Woman, Other,” by Bernardine Evaristo, a Booker Prize winner from 2019. It took me a long time to get into the novel because it jumps around between several story lines and main characters, and is written with eccentric punctuation and narration. But after awhile I stopped noticing all that and became complete engrossed in this panoramic and often humorous portrait of Black women’s lives in Britain and abroad.

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    • Thank you! Terrific example! Yes, a novel that jumps around a lot and has some odd punctuation and narrative touches can indeed be daunting until the reader (hopefully) gets into the author’s flow of things.

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  22. Yes, Dave! I recently had this experience with nearly the first half of Dostoevsky’s The Possessed. If it were any other author, I’d have bailed much sooner. It felt more like a Tolstoy novel, not that there’s anything wrong with that. 🙂 I kept waiting for why the novel was named such, and then it got really interesting! Excellent novel with eerie contemporary parallels.

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    • Thank you, Mary Jo! Sounds like a GREAT example of this phenomenon! (“The Possessed” is a Dostoevsky novel I’ve yet to read.)

      And you make an excellent point that if the author and/or novel is renowned, readers will often give her/him/it more of a chance. That’s the reason I tried Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” a second time, only to give up a second time. 🙂 (Though I like some of that author’s other work.)

      Liked by 3 people

  23. I regularly abandon novels that I can’t get in to – as you say, life’s too short to read stuff that doesn’t appeal. So I can’t immediately think of any books to contribute here. If it hasn’t grabbed me in the first 30 pages or so, it’s toast!!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Liz! I totally hear you! I abandon novels too — perhaps five or so a year. But if I’m at least half-interested, I’ll persevere, especially if the novel was recommended by a commenter here or by a family member or friend.

      “If it hasn’t grabbed me in the first 30 pages or so, it’s toast” — ha! Love the way you put that. 🙂

      Liked by 5 people

    • And I have my toast with tea, Liz & David. I have abandoned many books without any regrets. My thought is that they had me for a few chapters which propelled me to the last page and a synopsis on Wikipedia. As Dave said – it has nothing to do with the writing, For me, it has more to do with my current experience. Sometimes I come too early to a book and am not prepared or ready for the message. A few years later, I find that the right time has come.

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      • Becky you are, as always, completely right – there is no such thing as a bad book, just the wrong reader and/or the wrong time. Virginia Woolf’s work is this for me – when I was young I could not understand what all the fuss was about. These days, I absolutely love her writing. Also, I could not get into several novels last year because of ‘lockdown-itis’, and I feel sure I would have enjoyed them in different times. So I may well give those another go another time. There are also books that I have tried to read several times because I feel like I really ‘should’ enjoy them. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is one such example. So many people love this novel, but sadly not me, despite plenty of trying! Gosh, so many permutations to keep us on our reading toes!!

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        • You have brought up an excellent point about books and recommendations. Why don’t I like the books that everyone else seems to love. I think – there must be something wrong with me. If X and Y love this book, why don’t I? There is a sense that I am experiencing fear of missing out (FOMO). Didn’t I get the plot, the overall theme etc? But as you say so wisely, Liz, “so many permutations to keep us on our reading toes!!”

          Liked by 6 people

          • We have to develop thick skins about our reading choices and likes, Rebecca. My whole life people have thought I’m very peculiar in my taste for books. Some people have been quite nasty about it. That is one of the reasons I love reading Dave and your blogs so much. I feel more at home about my reading choices here. I brought my boys up not to care about what others think of their music and book choices.

            Liked by 3 people

        • Thank you, Rebecca and Liz, for those make-a-lot-of-sense thoughts!

          Yes, Rebecca, when in life someone reads a novel, and how one is feeling at the time, can have a big impact on how absorbed we get or don’t get. The pandemic could certainly have an impact, too, Liz.

          Liz, I tried one Elena Ferrante novel (“The Lost Daughter”) and managed to finish it but was not impressed at all. Probably read the wrong book of hers. 🙂 As for Virginia Woolf, “Mrs. Dalloway” was worth every minute for me.

          Liked by 4 people

    • HI Dave, I read your post with great interest. I loved A Passage to India. I love reading about people and their lives so I didn’t find it slow but I do understand your comment. I can’t think of a single book I’ve read that I have abandoned. I don’t abandon I skip the boring bits. I often find that authors go on to much with tension. An example of this for me is the last Harry Potter novel when Ron, Hermoine and Harry are zapping around the countryside arguing and having ups and downs for pages and pages and even more pages. I skipped over a lot of that. I also skipped over all the very many pages of Sam and Frodo in the passages under the mountain on their way to Mordor. This part of Book 3 just got to much for me. On the whole, I rarely skip bits because I can’t review a book if I haven’t read every word. I have enjoyed the first 35 hours of Gone with the Wind but this last section about Rhett and Scarlett has become a little OTT for me. I have 6 hours to go and will be glad to get it finished now.

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      • Thank you, Robbie! I totally hear you — I also often love thoughtful, not-action-packed chapters about people and their lives. Not sure exactly why that wasn’t the case with me in the early going of “A Passage to India.” Could have been an external mood on my part. But, ultimately, I was very glad I read the novel. 🙂

        Amazing that you’ve never abandoned a book! That’s still relatively rare for me, but happening a little more often as my to-read list grows and as I’m no longer young enough to feel I’ll get to everything I want to read. Nice strategy by you to skim or skip some pages; I do that here and there, too. While I didn’t do that for the “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings” passages you mentioned, they were certainly not the most scintillating parts of those ultra-popular works. (Both of which I loved.)

        Liked by 1 person

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