When should you stop reading a book? – Orange County Registry
This question tends to divide readers: if a book doesn’t grab you, do you stop – or do you continue until the end?
I was talking to Wendy Thomas Russell of Brown Paper Press in Long Beach, whom I met at the Little Literary Fair last weekend. I mentioned a book I had trouble with, but read through (largely because it was short).
A journalist-turned-editor, Russell said she felt like she had to finish every book she started, but not anymore. She changed her mind after her friend, journalist Valérie Takahama, explained her strategy to her. (Takahama also used to do arts reporting at the Orange County Register.)
“She has no problem stopping, not finishing the books,” Russell said of her friend. “She said that whether she’s one chapter in a book, or nine chapters in a book, or literally one chapter away from finishing the book, if she loses interest in that book, she puts it in writing.
“She took control of the whole experience. You know the book is not in charge, She is in charge. And if this book doesn’t suit her at that particular time, or if it just doesn’t suit her at all, period, she decides no,” Russell said. “It was very liberating for me to hear him say that. And I’ve taken it very seriously ever since.
Just as you’ll turn off a movie or TV show you don’t like, Russell asked: why stick to the wrong book when there are so many more to read?
“It’s amazing how many great books there are,” Russell said, adding that she’d rather give more books a chance and finish fewer with the limited reading time she has. “It’s just depressing to think how few of them you’ll get to read.”
Where are you on the subject? I would be interested to hear from readers. I can think of books I probably should have put away, and some I’m glad I stuck with. I made several attempts on “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner before I got there. This is probably more the exception than the rule, however.
Yet every reader has probably experienced this: you have a much-anticipated book to read next… only to have you bypass it in favor of something you impulsively picked up at the bookstore or some little free library.
Sometimes you just need to read what you want to read.
For more from Brown Paper Press, which published Cristina Salvador Klenz’s “Hidden: Life With California’s Roma Families” earlier this year and Cheryl E. Klein’s memoir “Crybaby” coming next month, check out the website. .
We often mention TV, film, and streaming adaptations here because, well, sometimes you have to watch something other than a book. And while it’s often exciting to hear that a novel you love is being adapted, it sometimes leads to the ominous thought: Oh no, they are adapting a book that I love.
But this week I wanted to mention a great streaming series that isn’t adapted from a novel, but it sure looks like it could be – it’s rich in detail, the writing is great, and it’s an inventive look at a familiar space.
I’m talking about “The Bear”, of course. Set in a Chicago restaurant, Christopher Storer’s FX series on Hulu follows the return of his son Carmy, a successful chef who returned to run the family business after his brother’s suicide. (I don’t remember how well this is explained; the show just jumps into the story and you aim to follow.) We wrote about the show when it premiered because it’s absolutely awesome: it’s intense , moving, and the story is fueled by the behavior of the characters rather than the random writers’ room issues thrown at them. (So read Stuart Miller’s interview with star Jeremy Allen White if you haven’t.)
It’s so good that I caught my dog watching it. While “even my dog likes it” probably isn’t a legit TV review, she seemed transfixed. Me too.
Back when ‘The Wire’ was airing people used to describe it as romance and I think basically that means it’s smart, well written and makes you feel things .
I purposely don’t share storylines to avoid spoiling anything, but I think I can safely share this as an example of what makes it good: There’s a set of paired scenes in one of the 8 episodes where you see an event and how the characters relate to it. In the next scene you see one of the characters recounting this event to someone who wasn’t there and it doesn’t translate to the other person and falls flat. It’s small but devastating, and probably anyone can relate to that feeling of trying and failing to connect with someone.
Did you see it – or something else you really liked? Or another new adaptation you like? Or pictures of dogs watching TV? Please send them to [email protected] and they might appear in the column.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Rosalie Knecht, author of ‘Vera Kelly’, shares the book that comforted her
Starting with “Who is Vera Kelly”, Rosalie Knecht is the author of three (so far) books about Vera Kelly, a young woman who is drawn to spy and detective work in the 60s and 70s. The most recent is “Vera Kelly Lost and Found,” and the previous, “Vera Kelly Is Not a Mystery,” won the GP Putnam’s Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award from the Edgar Prize, as well as a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. She is also the author of “Relief Map” and the translator of “La Couturière et le Vent” by César Aira. She lives in New Jersey.
Q. Your new novel “Vera Kelly Lost and Found” is set in Los Angeles in 1971. What drew you to that time and place?
I grew up on the East Coast and am fascinated by Southern California. I think for people from other more pessimistic places, there’s an attraction not just to the distinct landscape of southern California, but also to its mores, its refusal to be practical, its refusal to expect the worse, his refusal to check his credentials or disbelieve. I like a place where charlatans thrive.
Q. What is a memorable literary experience – good or bad – are you willing to share?
Early in the pandemic, I reread Betty MacDonald’s “The Plague and I,” a 1940s memoir about life in a tuberculosis sanatorium. It lifted my spirits.
Q. How do you decide what to read next?
What I read next are the two books I can grab from the shelves of the adult fiction section of the Jersey City Public Library before my three-year-old son rushes down the stairs.
Q. Is there a book or books that you always recommend to other readers?
It’s a non-fiction title – “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright, the history of Scientology. I also loved Jean Stein’s “West of Eden” to learn more about mid-century LA.
Q. Is there a book you dread reading?
Lately, I can’t read anything in which I suspect something cruel is happening to anyone. If you think that means I can’t read much, you’re right. Something about the pandemic and having little kids gave me this desperate aversion to dark things. I guess my taste for it will eventually come back. But life is hard enough, you know?
Q, What do you find most appealing in a book: the plot, the language, the cover, a recommendation? Do you have any examples?
I can usually tell by reading the first few pages of a book, regardless of the plot, if the book and I are going to be simpatico. I guess it’s the language, or maybe it would be better to say it’s the sensibility. It’s hard to put your finger on it.
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Sign up for the next free Bookish event taking place on August 19 with guests AJ Jacobs, Jerry Stahl and Laura Chinn joining host Sandra Tsing Loh.
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