I've made no secret of the fact that I haven't been able to physically read a book for many years. I simply fall right to sleep. I blame my late 20's, early 30's and overall complete lack of focus. Lately, in the past few years I've discovered Audible and audio books as a way to consume stories—and stay awake through them. I listen to a story while I'm roping pizza at work, or driving or in the bath.
For whatever reason, I decided that I wanted to listen to a book again that I hadn't read since I was in High School. Don't do the math, but it's been over a decade. Arguably, my tastes in books have changed. I blame life, or college or any number of things. Just like anything else, your tastes for stories and characters and subject matter will change along with you.
Trigger warning: I'm going to talk (very briefly) about topics that may disturb you. If you have issues with triggers, please skip this blog today.
In my life—I've never started a book and stopped it because it angered me. Until recently. I wanted to revisit a New York Times best selling author: Terry Goodkind. I had once read every single one of his Sword of Truth books (up until 11 “Confessor”). I could remember, distantly, the content being dark but that I had been very interested at one point.
Now—the writing style, skill level and story telling is a personal preference to each and every person. I am not a New York Times Best Selling Author; I have no expertise or valid opinion on what it takes to get there. All I can say is that once I started listening to “Wizard's First Rule,” I was disappointed with my memory of it. I could no longer swallow the style of the story, no longer appreciate the repetitive manner of the characters or the sheer brutality within the story. I felt like I was being spoon fed the story, and I was angry. I couldn't remember a time when a book passage had made me physically uncomfortable—but it really, truly did.
I stopped the book less than half way through and have no plans on returning to it. I have to simply acknowledge that one version of myself either didn't notice—or didn't care—about the subject matter and how it made me feel. At some point in my life, I could read a book that had graphic descriptions of heads being cleaved open and blood and bone spilling out; or men with ravenous appetites for rape and violence, or men with an uncomfortable sexual taste for, specifically, little boys. Or somehow tolerated “heart, brain and testicles being mashed into a paste and then eaten” as a form of “magical components.” Don't even get me started on the antagonist's oral fixation about licking his fingers and rubbing them on his eyebrows. It wasn't magical for me—it was filth, and I stopped reading it.
I have outgrown the story—and my brief college experience made me aware of the concept of “philosophical fiction” which these books (along with Ayn Rand) define the category. Concepts and philosophy veiled behind fiction and fantasy.
I'd be lying if I said I hated every moment of it—I enjoyed the characters, the fantastic/non gory fight scenes when they happened and many of Goodkind's story elements are wonderful. I simply couldn't get past the “let me remind you that I'm the bad guy” antagonistic forces or any number of things. I realized that I didn't have to stomach the story and push on if I didn't want to—and so I didn't.
Again, everyone is entitled to their own opinion; if you read and enjoy Goodkind, hey, that's your right. As it is mine to say, thanks, but I'll not be reading them again.
However—if you'd like to enjoy the series minus all the ickiness—the TV series “The Seeker of Truth” is a very loose and enjoyable adaptation of Terry Goodkind's series. There were a total of two seasons directed by Sam Raimi (of Xena and Hercules fame, so you can imagine the style of the show).
The first half of the book was not wasted for me. Just like you need to read books to learn how to write, you also need to learn books to learn how not to write. I don't like the style, so I will avoid it all costs.
I think, as readers (and writers), we have to accept that our tastes change over time and give ourselves permission to stop and try something new. I had considered trying to finish the story (I was listening to it with Mason, we're like a 2-person book club) and decided it just wasn't worth the feelings it would stir within me. I accepted that I just couldn't read it anymore, that I knew too much about how I preferred stories to be written and delivered, and my needs were not met.
It could happen to any of us; I've even outgrown my own story concepts, stepped away from plot lines and characters that once interested me and now do not. My own readers (all three of you) may not be interested in what I'm writing now, or may be uncomfortable by my shift in topic. It could happen to any of us, readers or authors, and the blame belongs to no one. I'm not in control of how I feel when I read something, no more than is Goodkind for what interests him. It's really just important that we not be static readers, static writers, unmoving in our tastes and preferences. Interest is fluid.
I have since moved on to a different book series—and that brings me to my next post “being inspired and angry,” how reading books you love makes the author in you really, really self-conscious.