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Shardik: my review, plus a question on effort vs. pleasure
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Kairos
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2010 5:51 am    Post subject: Shardik: my review, plus a question on effort vs. pleasure Reply with quote

No matter how intelligent you are and no matter how much you love to read, I don't think it can be denied that some books are just more difficult than others. Finishing them means working your way through dense paragraphs full of unfamiliar vocabulary and little dialogue, but there's usually something fantastic about the story that you couldn't get from a simpler read.

My question is, how much effort are you willing to put into a book like this for the sake of the reward? Learning something new is always worthwhile, and so is expanding your literary horizons, but there are times that reading can start to feel like work. Does the work always pay off? Is it always proportional, or do you sometimes decide that whatever you're getting out of it isn't enough to justify your time and effort?

It's hard for me to judge my own feelings on this because I'm very dogged about finishing books once I begin them, and I'll keep going to the end even if I never really enjoy it.

I just got to the end of Shardik by Richard Adams, and boy oh boy did it take me a long time. About a hundred pages in, I still wasn't drawn into the plot or the characters, and it wasn't because it wasn't a good book; it was just very slow reading.

Eventually, some interesting themes emerged: nature and civilization, slavery, the importance of children, guilt/responsibility, and of greatest interest to me, two opposed approaches to the same faith and religion. The plot revolves around the appearance of a giant bear, Shardik, to a people who hold it sacred, and the question that runs throughout the entire journey is something like this quote from a character who appears at the very end and needs to have the significance of Shardik explained to him:

Quote:
"Wouldn't it be possible for some foolish person to try to argue-- of course it would be foolish, but perhaps it might be said-- that what took place was all a matter of chance and accident-- that the bear was not sent by God--?"


When I finally got to the end, I thought that everything was brought together and tied up beautifully. Most of the truly inspiring parts were in the last few chapters, but of course, they wouldn't have worked without the rest of the book preceding them.

So this time I think my time and effort paid off, but since I didn't come to that conclusion until after that time and effort had mostly been spent, I was taking a pretty big chance with this book. In fact I have to wonder if that's coloring my perceptions, because I wouldn't want to put it down and think that it was all for nothing. Anyone else had an experience like that? What was the book?
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ljgould
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2010 7:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
My question is, how much effort are you willing to put into a book like this for the sake of the reward? Learning something new is always worthwhile, and so is expanding your literary horizons, but there are times that reading can start to feel like work. Does the work always pay off? Is it always proportional, or do you sometimes decide that whatever you're getting out of it isn't enough to justify your time and effort?


Like you, I am inclined to finish any book that I start. I have to admit there have been some that I've struggled to finish a book, and these (few) books have left a bitter taste in my mouth when I finally did. One that comes to mind is Gone With the Wind which holds the distinction as the only book that I finished and immediately threw in the trash.

There are two types of reading that I do: (1) professional reading, for classes and research, and (2) personal reading for enjoyment or interest.

Professional reading can be difficult. If I'm reviewing a book for a class or for a journal, I have to pay more attention to the author's techniques and skill in addressing the subject. I may not be familiar with the author's ideas, so I may have to spend some time researching the subject or premise as I read. If the author has not done a good job or has failed to make the subject interesting, it can be a trial to finish. And, as much as I enjoy learning new things, I can be bored by the subject matter.

I don't usually consider personal reading an effort. I usually pick books that I think I'll enjoy, and typically, I read mysteries, science fiction, or fantasy. However, there are books that I've read because they are on the list of books that "intelligent" people should read...A Tale of Two Cities and War and Peace, for example, both of which were a struggle to complete. One that I had a hard time getting into was Shogun, but as I continued reading, I began to enjoy it more.

I think I am less inclined to allow myself to consider personal reading to be difficult. If a book becomes ponderous or boring, I put it down for a few days and read something else. Then when I'm more in the mood for a challenge, I pick it up again.
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Ares
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 6:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fortunately for me I don't have to read for anything other than pleasure.

I've put down books that I have started and never picked up again. Usually it's because of writing style. Just the other week I picked up a book that my son reccomended to me, thinking I'll not like it, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was a historical novel and one I wouldn't have chosen. The writing style was what drew me in. And with the style came a character that I grew to love.

However, I have on occasion plodded through a book I don't like just to see how it pans out. I can't remember any instances why I did that. Perhaps to see if the book got better, there must have been glimmerings of hope in the beginning.

A very few times, when I've got halfway through and decided, no more, I've gone to the last page and read the ending. And sometimes I've breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn't finished the book.

Have any of you done that?
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Kairos
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="ljgould"]
Quote:
One that comes to mind is Gone With the Wind which holds the distinction as the only book that I finished and immediately threw in the trash.


HA! That's awesome. I haven't read the book in question, I just love the mental picture of that.

Quote:
One that I had a hard time getting into was Shogun, but as I continued reading, I began to enjoy it more.


Hey, me too! That one took me for freakin' ever, but again, I'm glad I read it.

Quote:
I think I am less inclined to allow myself to consider personal reading to be difficult. If a book becomes ponderous or boring, I put it down for a few days and read something else. Then when I'm more in the mood for a challenge, I pick it up again.


Good method. That's what I was interested in-- how other readers react to a challenge in their personal reading. I like the idea of not allowing it to be difficult, and letting it go for a while until the mood strikes. Another weird obsession of mine is "one book at a time", so I might try to work on changing that.

Ares, what was the historical novel you read? The way you described it reminds me of one that I enjoyed...of course there's a million out there, and I haven't read too much in that genre.

Yes, I have definitely skipped to the last page; anyone know how I can break that habit? I almost always regret it, either because it's a really amazing ending and I cheated myself out of getting it in context, or because it doesn't interest me and I can't figure out if further reading will be worth it.

Ack! Gotta run. Pretty sure there were other threads I wanted to reply to...grrr....
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Kean
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's strange, before I started my degree I was quite doggeded about finishing a book once I had started it. That completely changed with college though.

I'm doing a joint major of English and History so my reading list is quite dense. For the first 3 years of the degree I don't think I read a single book for pleasure. I just couldn't approach any kind of literature with anything but an academic mindset.

If I'm struggling with a text academically I first come away from it for a few hours and then try again. If we are still butting heads after this I totally cheat and download the audiobook and read along with it. It's a really handy way to get through a book quickly and literally saved my life when I had to read Ulysses, but the danger is that you can get swayed by the narrator's interpretation of the text. This works great for the English side but I don't have the same luxury with history. With that side of things I just take it page by page, paragraph by paragraph if I have to. It is the complete opposite of fun but alot of the time it has to be done.

If I'm not enjoying a book I have chosen to read for pleasure I will just plain give up on it. I only have so much time to read for enjoyment and I spend 80% percent of my time forcing myself to read stuff that I hate. By the time I'm reading for pleasure I have absolutely no will nor desire to force the issue.

I do feel the pressure to read certain books because that is what "smart" people read but sometimes I just want to girl up with a Nicholas Sparks novel that doesn't require me to do anything but embrace the fluff!
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Kairos
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 3:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Huh, books on tape-- interesting. I don't think I've ever listened to one; it seems to work the opposite way for me than it does for you. That is, I can't concentrate on spoken words, since my mind will drift and I'll realize suddenly that I haven't actually heard any of what was said for the last ten minutes.

Quote:
I do feel the pressure to read certain books because that is what "smart" people read


Sounds like we all have a little of that going on! I admit it, I hate when someone has read a classic that I haven't. Primary motivation to reading "smart people" books. Smile

But after that thick ol' Shardik, I'm glad to now be immersed (well, semi-immersed) in a cheesy fantasy paperback. Balance to all things!
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I do feel the pressure to read certain books because that is what "smart" people read


I have never read a book because of what smart people are deemed to read. Never!

I love reading. I enjoy all books but Romance. Romance for the sake of romance does not interest me at all. And now they have Fantasy Romance - Twilight, anyone? I watched 5 minutes of the movie the other day and changed channels. What a lot of twaddle. Buffy did the high school thing, with vampires, better.

I don't mind romance in a novel, as part of the story. I am more interested in the characters and, of course fight scenes, suspense, whatever, than in any smoochies that might be going on. However, I'm not adverse to it if done right.

Talking books? My Pop was blind and used talking books, or audio books, and it's something I've never considered for myself. I think, I too, would drift off, when listening, and miss what's going on and have to replay.

You asked which historical novel I had read? I did a post about the books in a previous discussion. This is what I said.

James McGee's books are set during the Napoleonic war, his hero is a Matthew Hawkwood, ex Rifleman, and now Runner, a constable in London with Bow St his headquarters.

I borrowed the third in the series for my son, who loves historical novels, he read it and gave it back to me to read and I fell in love with it. I read the series backwards. The third book first, then the first and second.

Rapscallion is the third in the series and it sent me into the hard facts of life of the nineteenth century in England. How people lived to survive back then was appalling. And the author uses real people and real situations as background for his novels.

Hawkwood is a great character, a hard but fair man, loyal and intelligent, good looking (that always helps) and the intrigues and investigation of his work keeps one captivated.

I highly recommend the series.

Ratcatcher, Resurrectionist, and Rapscallion by James McGee.
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Kean
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 2:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Originally I used the audiobooks as an aid in falling asleep. I bought "How the Irish Saved Civilisation" (even my sleeping aids are utterly nerdy lol). It was a book I'd heard rave reviews about but mostly I got it because Liam Neeson was the narrrator and really, who doesn't want to nod off to the sound of his voice Wink

As far as using the books as academic aids I've only done it twice. For Ulysses because it actually reads more like a play and hearing the words is actually far more helpful. Also, hearing the last chapter is something I would highly recommend, yes! :p

The only other time I used an audiobook is when I had to read Mrs. Dalloway and had a deadline breathing down my neck. The book itself isn't particularly challenging but I generally find English writers to be painfully dry. I don't think there is a single novel written by an
English writer that I have enjoyed, rather than endured lol

Does anyone else have that? A genre or a period of literature that they just cannot connect to?
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Kairos
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 5:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love poetry but gag whenever faced with the Romantics. Just seems like a lot of melodramatic dudes sitting on their butts and gawking at skylarks and roses.

Thanks for the review, Ares. I've never even heard of those books before and they sound great.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 5:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're welcome, Kairos.

And as I said before Romance novels just don't do it for me. Mills&Boon, particularly. Mind you, I hear that those authors make a packet churning out the stuff. Am I jealous? you betcha!
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Kean
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kairos wrote:
I love poetry but gag whenever faced with the Romantics. Just seems like a lot of melodramatic dudes sitting on their butts and gawking at skylarks and roses.


It's funny you mention that because the only English writer I genuinely enjoy apart from Shakespeare and Donne, is Lord Byron. He writes the most beautiful poetry, considering he was such a rake that he would of make Rochester blush it's quite a feat.
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Kairos
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Condemning all Romantics was a pretty flip thing for me to say. Smile I'll have to review some Byron; I don't remember him that clearly.

Ah, schlock romance. I don't think I've ever read one cover to cover, but once in a while I get to wondering if I should try writing some for cash. It can't be that hard, right? Boy meets girl, there are troubles, then sex?
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kairos wrote:
Condemning all Romantics was a pretty flip thing for me to say. Smile I'll have to review some Byron; I don't remember him that clearly.

Ah, schlock romance. I don't think I've ever read one cover to cover, but once in a while I get to wondering if I should try writing some for cash. It can't be that hard, right? Boy meets girl, there are troubles, then sex?


Here's two of my favourites, they never fail to remind me of Buffy and Angel, maybe that's why I like him so much?

Remind me not, Remind me not
I'm convinced Joss wrote IWRY with this poem in mind.

So we'll go no more a'roving
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love Byron. My absolute favourite poem is his The Destruction of Sennacherib, and I have a copy of that over on our old Blood Roses website.

http://roses.darkstarfic.com/thedestructionofsennacherib.php
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 04, 2010 1:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Does anyone else have that? A genre or a period of literature that they just cannot connect to?


Not a big fan of romance or westerns, but I have read some books in both categories that I enjoyed.

As for poetry...I love it without reservation. When I'm stuck in a mood -- anything but totally cheerful -- I read poetry relating to my mood out loud. It always seems to make me feel better. I think that poetry needs to be read aloud to make the connection with what the author is trying to present.

Of course, the kittens think I'm crazy... Smile
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