By Ann Minnett
My own writing has affected the way I read novels. I now notice how other authors craft sentences, use dialogue to move the story along or flaunt literary norms. (No punctuation? No problem!) Admittedly, the sparse prose of Cormac McCarthy or Kent Haruf appeals to me. A friend once said, “Each simple sentence in All the Pretty Horses is like a sunset.” I agree.
Don’t give me the seven-minute drum solo when a riff will do.
I just read a new novel by a bestselling author. Her first novel sold a million copies, and critics predict this second book will fare as well. The novel’s story gripped my heart. The complex characters came alive for me on the page. I cared about them and eagerly read through to the end.
I did not read every word.
Within the first few pages I began skipping chunks of backstory, fussy details, and rabbit trail asides. Page-long paragraphs revealed the author’s skill to the point of, dare I say it, showing off. As a reader, I don’t appreciate the author’s shout, “Look at me.”
I read those long paragraphs using a shallow, not too sophisticated strategy:
~ read the first sentence in the paragraph
~ skimmed the middle
~ slowed to catch a thought or the gist at the end of the paragraph
I don’t think I missed much with this approach. If anything, the strategy saved me from frustration and allowed me to finish the book to see what happened.
Can you relate, or do you think I’ve succumbed to the Twitter-ization of literature? When do you notice your attention drifting or bogging down while reading a novel? When do you skip to the next good part? When do you stop reading at all? I’m curious to hear what readers think.
Happy Holidays, Everyone. And Happy Reading!