Saturday, August 11, 2012

No more Pollyanna, I've Grown up

I read the original Pollyanna book in the fourth grade.  The following summer I brought Pollyanna Grows Up home from the library.  One day I made a decision I still remember, I was bored and didn't feel like finishing it.  For many years after--I  mean 40 or 50 years--I resolutely finished every book I started. Often I was glad I did, sometimes I wondered if I'd wasted my time.  I have great respect for writers and feel they deserve a full reading.

BUT I'm getting older and  I've begun putting books aside after I've read enough to know I don't want to finish them.  This is a kind of liberation.  Yesterday I decided not to finish Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I'm nearly at page 200 and I've just had it with the swaggering young protagonist. I read a review of Eggers' new book (4th or 5th) and felt he is a writer whose work I should know and take seriously.  Maybe I'll read the new one if the protagonist is an adult.

Lately I've purposely avoided books that are written from the point of view of a very young person, especially memoirs that dwell on growing up years.  Yes, I just read American Chica, but the voice of the writer was very much a mature person and it was bi-cultural.  I am somewhat horrified when I read magazines for writers and find great emphasis on Young Adult fiction as a genre.  On one hand I'm happy if young adults are reading fiction; on the other, aren't writers copping out of depth and insight by ignoring the world of adult responsibility and concerns? 

Recently Ronni Barrett in her blog Time Goes By (see sidebar) wrote that older adults are turning more to memoir than to novels.  And writers who have a story to tell (often just one story) are not writing novels but memoirs -- ready made plot, characters, setting! Plus nostalgia. There's a glut.

I've just bought five more books from our  library's sale, all by non-American authors. The blurbs promise stories that will be a bit exotic to me about adults in cultures that are not mine.  I'm sure the human  problems will be familiar but when I read I will be transported into a different world. For this reason I also prefer foreign films. 


Anonymous said...

I'm always really torn when it comes to finishing books. Part of me feels "I've started, so I'll finish" and yes, like I'm doing a disservice to the writer - but at the same time... would the writer want a reader who was plodding through their book because they feel as though they should? I'd think they'd rather someone read it for enjoyment, so I'll find something else to read - and hopefully enjoy. There's too many good books out there to bother with one that I'm finding not-sog-doog

June Calender said...

Thanks for the comment taketimetoshine, I'm glad I'm not alone in my feeling. As a writer I think every one wants all their writing read avidly every word. But as a reader, and one getting older, I just don't have time. Too many good books is exactly it. We can't read everything.