Thank you, to those of you who commented on my last post. You've brought up a number of ideas that are new to me. Best reason for maintaining a blog, I say, not marketing or platform, but I digress.
To recap, this was the question I asked:
Why are some books difficult to read on?
I am excluding obvious reasons such as poor writing or dull story.
I kept this question front and center as I read The Solitude of Prime Numbers, which I finished over the weekend. I had wanted to put it down after the initial chapters but decided to use this reading experience as an experiment to see if I can figure out possible reasons for why I feel compelled to put down books.
And I did come away with a few observations.
I mentioned in the earlier post that I find it hard to stomach reading about young people suffering, yet that alone doesn't stop me. Room is about a very young, innocent, and vulnerable child, yet I was able to read it to the end.
The difference is this: hope. This young boy and his mother speak of their environment not as their destiny but keep hope alive in their minds about how life can be. In Solitude of Prime Numbers, the young people who are affected and those around them are portrayed as having surrendered to their lot. There is no hint that there may be changes in the future. Their days, their interactions, their outlook: they're all shrouded in despair.
In Okay For Now, Doug doesn't come across as someone who is hopeful for change either. In fact, he seems to be following in exactly the type of behavior--channeling his nasty brother, Lucas-- that will seal his fate in its current manifestation. Yet, Gary Schmidt managed to infuse an uncertainty in Doug's behavior when he acts in -self-destructive ways. We feel that underneath the bravado, he is still holding out hope for a different, a better outcome that he seems destined for.
Hope, that's a big difference in why I will or will not read on.
The second reason I discovered is this: how characters treat one another makes a huge different to me. When people treat another with nastiness and contempt continuously, it gives me a bad taste in my mouth. In Prime Numbers, the moment when I didn't have to push myself to finish the book was when the characters started feeling empathy and treating others with tenderness. In Okay For Now, even when Doug was being mean outwardly, a few key people treated him with respect and understanding. In Room, mom and son loved each other fiercely.
I'm not sure why this issue have such a strong impact on me, People treating one another badly isn't uncommon.Again, I believe it's the sentiment underlying the behavior that affects me. I need a smidgen of suggestion that these people have some respect or understanding or acceptance of the people they mistreat to not make me despair. People being nasty to people just because: it's not something I can handle a lot of.
So hope and understanding between people: these are the ingredients necessary for me to read about people going through horrible circumstances.
Any of these resonate with you?