December 1, 2012

Pajama Musings - Thou shalt not judge... the aftermath!

Now look at that ... I've hit quite a nerve with last week's post about lil' ol' judgmental me. But did that ever lead to a wonderful discussion or what?

So, here it is. The aftermath.

In short, this is what last week's post boils down to: I claimed the 50 Shades books were crap without actually having read them.

And comments started rolling in. There were a few who chimed in, admitting to judging other people's reading choices, and then there were those who made it very clear that if I have not read a book, as crappy as it might be, then I have no right in judging it. Good point there, and I can't even disagree on that statement. Last but not least, let me add that I absolutely loved when Judith commented that she stopped reading my blog post the moment she realized I never read the book.

Now, time for yet another confession.

What!?
Another one?
Worse than what I rambled on about last week!?!?

See (and judge) for yourself.

Well ... in the meantime I did read a few pages of the first 50 Shades book *gasp*. I figured it couldn't be worse than a root canal (I was wrong). Admittedly after 12 pages I heeled it out of that bookstore (come on, you didn't seriously expect me to pay good money for that novel!?) and despite saying to myself, "Self, you should give this book a fair chance!" those few pages did not inspire me to favorable thoughts of any kind.

The question is, having read a dozen pages doesn't exactly qualify me for throwing in my ten cents either ... or does it?

Daring reader that I am I will still share my thoughts on those few pages. Let's call it a first impression.

A narrative which I'd expect from a very mediocre (that's putting it nicely) YA novel with adult protagonists who are awfully chlich├ęd in both appearance and actions. Adonis? My ass.

I've been pondering this matter for some time now and would like to hear your thoughts on this - how far do you have to stick your head into a book before you are, by all means, allowed to come to an opinioned conclusion (aka judgment).

Do you need to read the whole book? 
Half of it? 
Two chapters?

So, how much do you, personally, believe is necessary to read before you may officially declare a book to be abysmally poor when it comes to plot, characterization, narrative, etc.? After all, while the narrative voice itself is usually quite consistent, the plot is a whole different story and things can really start picking up, maybe even half a page after you decided to call it quits.

I know that many don't write reviews of books they don't finish, because they only got so far and it wouldn't do a book as a whole justice, especially if it means it gets pulled to pieces on account of the first two chapters being below your expectations/standards/etc. I rarely encounter this kind of problem as I am a bit of a fighter and will struggle through almost every book until the bitter end. Sometimes things get worse, sometimes they get a whole lot better. In the first case I often wish I had given up, in the second I am glad I didn't cave and kept on going.

Now that we've established it's not fair to have on opinion on something you don't know at all, I wonder how well acquainted do you have to get with a book and its characters to rant about it?

You know the drill. Comment away!

22 comments:

  1. Hi Birgit! I read part of the book... maybe a quarter of it after my mom deemed it "crap"... so then when I read my quarter of the book I deemed it "crap" as well. I usually read a quarter of a book before I know if it's something that I will like, sometimes less if I'm relaly bored with it.
    Have a great day! hugs Jennifer

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    1. Maybe I should ask my Mom what she thinks about it *lol* though that would mean I'd have to actually buy the book. Uhm, nope!

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  2. I do tend to give each book I read a chance, meaning that I tend to finish them all, but I am free to express my judgement at any point I want. It is definitely a good book (and it could become excellent) if it captivates you from the first pages, like most Murakami novels, for instance, but we don't have to be compelled to have an opinion on it just after we read a certain number of pages...

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    1. Mostly I finish all books I start as well. This year I only had one DNF which isn't bad I guess, but sometimes I wonder how many more books I would never finish if I listened to my inner voice telling me to stop reading.

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  3. ...i usually ( or in fact until now i have never)stopped reading a book before the end.even if i don,'t like it i want to finish just to be sure but i admid that i often regret after because i could have spend this time on a book i love.
    Now i think we can decide if we like a book or not after a few pages, if the points in wich we want quality aren't reached..; so yes i understand you i would have never pay for that book either...that a lot of people love it or buy it doesn't mean a book is good and perhaps when we read a lot we get higher expectency yes but that our right

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    1. Me too, I rarely stop because I am always hopeful it will get better. And you're right, just because so many people buy a book doesn't mean it has to be good. Maybe it's just really good marketing!

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  4. For ebooks I try getting to at least 50% before quitting. Hard copies on the other hand, it varies. Sometimes I get so tired of even flipping the pages. :p

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    1. I guess with physical books the pages you still have to read are more obvious so that makes it even harder to continue? I certainly feel this way sometimes.

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  5. It depends. I tend to finish most classic literature I start, but if it's a contemporary novel I have quit after a couple of pages. If the writing is terrible I simply cannot bring myself to finish a book unless I have to (like stupid Robinson Crusoe for uni which took me well over a week to finish because I kept falling asleep). My pet peeve is bad writing; bad grammar, poor spelling, repetitive phrases, unbelievable dialogue, etc. I feel that if the writer cannot bring him/herself to edit this book then why should I waste my time reading it. It's like buying a shirt with the buttons in a little bag on the side that you have to attach yourself. If the writing is good however, I'll continue reading even if the plot may be bland or even boring.

    I do think you have a right to judge 50 Shades based on what you've read. Obviously you wouldn't be (fairly) able to judge the awful sex-scenes, blatant misogyny, misrepresentation of the BDSM lifestyle, and other random crap that's in there - but then again, maybe that wasn't your intention. I've found that a lot of people have been judging the books based on hearsay, which always sort of irks me. Yes, you can say that you've heard that it's bad and that you're staying away from it for that very reason, but that'd be as far as the commentary should go.

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    1. Bad writing is also something I don't forgive easily. All right, sometimes you do stumble over the odd typo here and there, that can happen, but when grammar and spelling are concerned *shudders in horror at the very idea* I am usually not amused when a text reads like a orthographic war-zone.

      As to the 50 Shades book, I believe I did get a good idea about the narrative voice which is usually something that is consistent throughout a book. And yes, I have my doubts about whether the writing would have improved much.

      As to the plot itself - like I mentioned in a reply to Judith's comment, I have no clue how the steamy scenes wrapped in the underwhelming writing would have impacted my verdict. And to be honest, it was what I had heard about the writing and not so much the plot which made me feel that this must be an awful book.
      But you're right, building an opinion solely on hearsay really isn't fair. I guess what set me off was how something that's "apparently" badly written could be so popular. Must be the sex scenes. Maybe. Now I'm making assumption again (which I don't want to).

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  6. I rarely give up on books. Even if I hate it, I will keep plugging along forcing myself to get through it. Especially if it's one people have raved about... I keep thinking I haven't gotten there yet. There are maybe a handful of books that I have completely given up on before finishing them, and even those were put back on the shelf to try again another time.

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    1. Me too, though I usually don't keep those unfinished books as I doubt I will like them better in a year or generally at a later time. There is even one book by my favorite author Dean Koontz which I never finished because it was bad, REALLY bad. I might give that one another chance though. Maybe one day.

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  7. I usually give the book 40-50 pages, it gives you time to get used to their style and see if there is anything to hook you. Note that if you are constantly checking what page you are on early in the book, it is not a good sign.

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    1. Been there too. Checking what page I'm on is usually a VERY bad sign. And I agree, a book should already hook you within the first pages and not (possibly maybe) in the last chapter! ;-)

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  8. As you can see, I'm still commenting on your posts... Another critical comment I'm afraid.

    My question: do you normally read erotica? Do you read chick-lit? Do you read romance?

    My feeling is that 50 Shades is not your genre of book. In that case, it's not fair to say you don't like it. Well, I mean, you can say that, but then you have to say more generally "I, Birgit, do not like erotica and therefore it does not come as a surprise: I do not like 50 Shades".

    I must admit I did what you did, and read the book so that I could give my honest and degrading opinion on it (not fair, because I don't read erotica either). But I read the whole thing and I found it OK. I mean, I cut it some slack of course, for not being my genre, but I didn't hate the book. I picked up a part of the story that I was really curious about how it ended (probably not quite the story line as intended by the author).

    So, I didn't find it terrible. It was an average chick-lit (a genre I enjoy) with a lot of sex thrown in. The sex had a purpose in the story, what happened in the sex scenes was part of the story. So, altogether, it wasn't that bad.

    So there.

    (Judith @ Leeswammes)

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    1. I never doubted you'd be back, Judith! :-)

      As to your question ... yes, I do read (and enjoy for that matter) chick-lit and romance and (even though rarely) I will read erotica too. I am certainly not opposed to fluffy light reads with hot and steamy sex scenes.

      Before I set out to read "a few pages" of 50 Shades I was already awfully prejudiced (as is apparent from last week's post) which was hard to ignore when I finally opened the book. On one side I heard how badly it is supposedly written, and on the other side what I read didn't convince me otherwise.
      Admittedly I didn't even get into the full fledged sex scene territory because I was already turned off (literally) by the discouragingly bad writing. Had the narrative been at least "ok" chances are I would have continued reading.

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  9. BTW,I did read the whole of this post! Also, I read about 100 pages before putting a book away if it doesn't appeal. Only sometimes I stop earlier, if the book is really awful.

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    1. Honestly, I should make that a habit too. Sometimes I struggle through books from start to finish even though I'm having several issues with it. I remember when I read "The Passage" by Justin Cronin earlier this year the only reason that kept me going was the fact that I read the tome for the Tea & Books Reading Challenge and I felt that now that I got started it'd be a shame if I didn't follow through.
      That'd make a great resolution for next year, to stop reading after 100 pages if the book doesn't work for me!

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  10. You have got to say one thing for the author, she is raking it in. All her books were displayed on an end rack at Target the other day. Unusual for them. Everyone is grabbing the dollars while they can. This author is no Balzac, Dickens or even Gore Vidal. Light Porno selling as a best seller with steamy sex scenes dispersed.

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    1. Makes you wonder if that trilogy is one of those one-hit-wonders. If so, it's probably a good thing for the author that the big bucks are rolling in now.

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  11. Honestly, I've read enough thoughtful reviews by people whose opinions I respect, that I feel comfortable calling 50 Shades of Grey crap without having read it. I guess I wouldn't write about it on that basis, but I'm not above disparaging comments here and there :) For other books, I think reading a chapter can be enough to tell the writing/grammar are awful. To critic the plot, I think you should read at least half, since it could always get better.

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    1. I guess that's exactly why I flew into this judgmental rage myself - I've seen too many reviews that practically convinced me the book must be awful ...

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