Hi folks, Mark here with a few thoughts on disappointment.
One of the ways I keep myself sane during the busy months of the year is to assemble a pile of books in a to be read file and work through them one at a time. I would carve out moments during the school terms to get my mind away from papers and re-teaching similar lit units all the time by wandering in the realms of others.
This practice helped me discover a number of my favorite authors over the years. These writers have become my go to group when I really need something special. Every six months I would find a way into a bookstore and make my circuit of the shelves looking for the latest crop. I rarely failed to find at least one among the throng with a new book out. I think my best day came around a decade ago when I walked out broke but the proud possessor of no less than eight expansive, page-turner epics. Glorious. Distracting. Instructive. That haul kept me occupied through the bulk of the school year and on into the summer. AND, there wasn't a stinker in the lot. As a result of similar success over the years, I feel I have become a loyal reader. Such is the life of the reading geek, I guess.
Last week I ran into my first dud in quite awhile, and the experience has me wondering how best to respond when a favorite author disappoints me. By disappointment I mean real disgust in multiple areas: bad plotting, clunky delivery, muddled pov, flat language, cardboard, cardboard and more cardboard.
I'm not going to name the author of this current stinker because I have enjoyed their work for many years. The novel in question is an historical fiction set in dark ages, post-roman Britain. The premise held such promise, and this writer has made a career out of the period in a slew of great stories.
But this one. No. On so many levels. I'm barely halfway through, and I'm ready to capitulate. What galls me the most about this effort are the frequent shifts in point of view often in the same scene and, all too frequently, IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH. At times I find myself gawking at pages rather than reading them. I get tossed out of the story altogether. I find I don't care much about the author's characters. There's no glammour. I've come to the conclusion ambivalence might be the worst thing a writer could engender in their audience. To paraphrase Melville: "Call me, Ambivalence."
I want to shake the author by the ears. I want to excoriate their editor for allowing such turgid stuff to go to print. Did the publishing house just figure the name alone would recoup printing costs? What about the cost to the art? What about the damage done to the author's reputation? I sense a conspiracy theory screenplay in the making here.
What I do not want to do is give up on the writer. I will forgive this one time, and I hope any of my readers would grant me the same grace. Heck, maybe they already have.
And yet there is instruction here. My current reaction reminds me that the art demands our utmost attention. Silly errors create not just disappointment but potential rebellion. This current fail by one of my favorite authors won't cost them my loyalty, but I expect to think twice before reaching for their next effort.
What do you do when a treasured writer disappoints you?