Monday, August 21, 2006

SB Day: Use Me, Abuse Me

It’s Smart Bitches Day, and once again I feel compelled to talk about the abusive author/reader relationship. This relationship can occur in many ways: an author you previously loved changes their writing style or genre and you follow in the hopes that they’ll get over this stage and come back to you; an author you love keeps writing a series to the point of repetition and you realize that s/he will die before they finish (this is known as the Robert Jordan Syndrome); or you find an author who you fundamentally disagree with in several stylistic and character building areas but their plots (or plot ideas) are so compelling that you just keep going back because it’s got to get better, right? They’ll change.

He says he loves me.

And it is not until your friends are hustling you out of your home so that they can perform a ritualistic cleansing and book removal while you’re restricted to an Austen-only diet, that you realize that you’ve wasted the best years of your life on this person only to be left with a shelf full of re-released paperbacks and hard covers that you’re ashamed to tell anyone about.

“Why? Why did it take me so long to break free?” you’ll cry to your friends who will pat your on your back or tell you to buck up—we’re talking about books here, sheesh. They’ll give you a list of books that are supposed to expand your mind and your education (So that’s the difference between the Booker and the White Bread!) and you’ll take up knitting to keep your hands busy. Slowly you’ll expand your reading to recommendations given by the librarian, bookseller, and the girl who runs the espresso machine at your local coffee shop and then to clicking on the also bought links at Amazon.

You’re strong, you’re healthy, and you’re committed to never going back again. Not that you’ll ever be dragged back in! Because—hah!—you’ll never be that weak. It was all a phase. Those days are behind you.

And then one day, while playing around on the net or listening in on a conversation at the bookstore, you realize that your old author has a new book coming out. You turn away, pretending disinterest, but that information stays in the back of your mind. More research—purely for mockery purposes of course—reveals a summary and several reviews.

The reviewers love it. Sheep, you call them.

The summary is lauded as exciting and unique. We’ve tread this ground before, you remind yourself.

The excerpt ends as a cliff-hanger. A ploy, you cry, a cheap ploy. But your palms are starting to sweat.

You try to read some Austen, but you end up throwing the book across the room. You ask the bookstore employee for the Booker Bread winner, and stomp away when they look at you funny. You find yourself sitting at home in your bathtub, just rocking back and forth because the plot, those characters, that cliff-hanger! Why are they affecting you this way?

Of course! This paralyzing fear is because you haven’t proven that you are stronger than this author, you have not proven that you can flip through this novel and just mock. If you were to just read a few pages the shakes would stop and you would be assured that you moved on.

It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

So off you march to the bookstore—the waitlist at the library is too long and you must slay this monster now!—determined to just stand in the section and read the first chapter. That’s all you’ll need to prove dominance.

And you do read the first chapter and it’s all still there: the same awful dialogue, characters, and narrative voice…along with that evil, compelling thread of plot, the one that taunts you, teases you, promises that this book—oh, this book—will finally be the one to deliver.

You’re at the counter paying before you can rethink it, the cover slick from the heat and wetness of your hands. You have to take this home despite the twenty-five dollar price tag, you have to read and mock in private. If any of your friends saw you here they’d think you’d fallen off the wagon, which is just not the case.

You’re stronger than this. So strong that you can barely put down the book in the car. So strong that you skip dinner and take the phone off the hook. So strong that minutes after you finish the last page you’re on the internet looking to see when the author’s next release is due to drop.

And in that moment when your brain finally calculates that you’ve got a six month wait, you drop your head in your hands and cry. What happened? You’re smart. You’re educated. You know better. You should have some sort of self-control. It’s just a book, damn it. If you dislike it so much you should be able to just walk away.

But you can’t because that plot line that never quite delivers keeps pulling you back.

Next time, you know, next time it will be better. Besides, everyone has to have a weakness, right?

What’s your abusive author relationship of choice?


Nonny said...

Hm, Laurell K. Hamilton comes to mind. LOL.

Personally, if an author's work gets that bad, I won't read it unless I hear from friends/readers I trust that the author has gotten her head out of her arse. Which means I haven't read LKH since Narcissus. :P

Means I haven't read anything from Mercedes Lackey in several years, either. Oh well.

Sarah said...

I'm like that with Star Wars novels, after getting into them with the Timothy Zahn trilogy in the early '90's... even though most of them are crap. And even though I KNOW they will be crap, years go by and I don't read any... and then... I must pick one up. But then, this is a case of several authors. If you're talking about one single author, it's Anne McCaffrey, hands down. Because I used to love her books SO MUCH.

lady t said...

At the moment,it's LKH but for a time,it was Anne Rice. Fortunately I was able to resist her literary charms after reading Violin(one of the most self indulgent tomes I've ever set my eyes on).

I was able to justify buying LKH's latest book,Danse Macabre,due to a chain store coupon for it. Yes,it was a mess but a damn entertaining one-like watching a Sci-Fi Channel movie:)

Anonymous said...

Wait a second, you work in a bookstore. Can't you just take the book home, read it overnight, and return it the next day?

At least then you won't be out the $24.95.

Michelle said...

Laurell K. Hamilton, I know that I will buy the one coming out in Oct. but I will feel guilty doing it.

Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffrey and John Ringo went from my Must Buy as soon as possible list to my check to the Library list. They got 1 to 2 or in the case of Mercedes Lackey three meaa books and then moved to the Library list. There I can read them and then decide. Sometimes they can be redemed but so far no has done that.

Elizabeth Lowell is Like this right now. I got her last book in Hardback because I had a coupon. I am not sure what will happen with the next one.

As I am writing this i am coming up with more that go on the list or on the you had me but then you lost me list.

Michelle in warmer than it was Colorado Springs

Doug Hoffman said...

Clive Barker. I used to read everything he wrote, but then he wrote something I considered a dud (The Great and Secret Show) and THEN wrote a sequel to it, and THEN started writing this weird romance stuff. Hmm, maybe I'd like the romance stuff nowadays.

Terry Pratchett can be disappointing at times, too, but that's a classic case of intermittent positive reinforcement. Just when I think he's lost it, he writes something brilliant.

Jane said...

Joan Wolf. I can't remember the last good book she's written and I still keep buying her. Dammit.

Anonymous said...

Yet another LKH - I flipped through Danse Macabre just in case. Put it back on the shelf.

I've also been having trouble with Stephen King - just about everything he's written since the near-fatal accident has been a disappointment for me. Reading Wolves of the Calla was a joy and a relief, but I'm still worried.


Amie Stuart said...

I gotta go with King ...and Koontz too =( especially Koontz. Its as if he's forgotten how to trim the fat but I stilll love and buy him. I still wade through him, sometimes, sometimes I just sit and stare at his books. Same for Jude Deveraux and not because she quit writing historicals, but I finally gave up. I see her books, I consider them then dismiss them but it makes me sad. My TBR pile is huge!

Maya said...

I walked away from Stephen King during the middle of "Tommyknockers" in 1987 and never looked back.

I did the same thing with Dean Koontz in 2000 with "From the Corner of His Eye."

I've been ambivalent about LKH's Anita Blake series since "Incubus Dreams" in 2004. I'll admit some of my discontent began after I read the first Kim Harrison book. Harrison's Rachel Morgan reminds me of the old Anita Blake character that I knew and loved. I still look forward to the Merrie Gentry series, which I find interesting about myself. I think the reason is because Merrie was sensual from the start. Anita just suddenly morphed in the middle of the series.

Probably my most addictive relationship, which I cannot seem to break--no matter how much I try--is with Robert B. Parker's Spencer. I KNOW RBP is just phoning them in, but I keep buying those hardbacks. I can't help myself.

Beth said...

Diana Gabaldon. But I swear I won't go back. I stayed too long past Digust, blew through Despair and am now stranded Hurt And Pissed.

Joia said...

[Copius Weeping]

Tom Clancy! I admit it!

[/copius weeping]

C2 said...

Elizabeth Lowell...but I'm in recovery. I haven't read anything of hers in a few years, at least. :o)

She just chooses not to finish series (rather than being unable due to death or dismemberment). Grr.

Kendall said...

ROFLMAO! BSC, you so rock! "It's funny 'cuz it's true."

Piers Anthony: I took years to learn, but I finally realized that any series of his that went past 3 books went horribly wrong. Not necessarily at book 3, but if it was more than a stand-along, duology, or trilogy...then it went south eventually. Xanth, Adept, Incarnations...sigh. If he goes past 3, then he doesn't know when to stop!

But a silver lining: I read a recent contemporary fantasy series recently -- started great, but book 2 was so bad I couldn't read it...just skimmed & jumped around a lot. I'd already bought book 3 (I was taken in!), so I finally started skimming -- and hey, it was better than book 2! So I read it and, still untrusting, bought book 4 used. (I didn't want to encourage her!) It was good enough that I'm going to get book 4, probably new....

But, see, this is probably just setting me up to be disappointed in some other author that I'll stay with too long. ;-)

Kendall said...

p.s. In case it's not clear, the contemporary fantasy series wasn't by Piers Anthony. (It's Rachel Caine.) Sorry, I shouldn't have been coy with the name of my silver lining.

raine said...

Nathaniel Hawthorne.

I keep thinking, "next time he won't shy away from telling me what REALLY happened in the woods, and he'll REALLY do a throw-down passionate love scene..."

And yes, I know he's dead.
I'm still determined to wait for his next book.

Jodi Davis said...

Mine is Anne Rice... I don't want to talk about it.

Wesley Smith said...

So you've been reading James Patterson again, have you?

Take two Steinbecks and call me in the morning.

Amie Stuart said...

Raine!!!!!!! LOL

Kathy said...

LKH here too.

As we speak the latest sits half read on my dresser. With no plans to finish it in the near future. No more Anita Blake for me until there's a plot besides seeing how much sex she can have. (so I say anyway.)

I already have the merrie book on pre-order. (drops head in shame and sighs.)

I just keep getting pulled back in.

Kendall said...

An even weirder one I "stuck with" -- Jay Caselberg. The problem there was that the first book wasn't good; why did I ever buy book 2? (cringe) I liked the covers and the descriptions always sound good. He never delivers. I should've stopped after book 1. But noooooo, I kept hoping "maybe he'll get good"...sometimes I'm a masochistic completist.

December Quinn said...

LKH, too, and I can't believe nobody's mentioned Patricia Cornwell. Her books were so they're boring and drab and senseless.

AngieZ said...

Again LKH. I cannot bear to finish her latest piece of trash. There are low budget porn movies out there that have more plot.

I am also afraid to admit this but I have been less than thrilled with the last two Dark Hunter offerings by Kenyon. Hope this is not the beginning of the end.

Wendy said...

I'm ashamed to admit this. Please don't think less of me. Lilian Jackson Braun. Lord help me. I started reading her as a teenager, so I feel nostalgic even though the last several (I've lost count) have been gawd-ass awful. In my defense, I no longer buy her in hard cover. I don't buy her at all. I wait for a library copy and read/skim it in a couple of hours.

And I'm getting like this with Patricia Cornwell. After Blow Fly I was so peeved off that while I still read Predator, I borrowed it from the library. Every time I think about what she's done to the Marino character I start foaming at the mouth....

Annie Dean said...

Never read an LKH book. Gave up on Robert Jordan. Never got Stephen King.

I guess the closest I come to that is Simon Green. I buy all his John Taylor books even though the last couple have been a little smelly and kinda, dude, what were you thinking?

I have to disagree with with Koontz, though. Check out Lightning, Odd Thomas, and Life Expectancy. Those are some seriously kick ass books and I didn’t even like his horror shit. I would say he’s getting better, not worse.

Debra Young said...

LOL! Great post. Mine is Laurell K. Hamilton. The last one--got two chapters in, gave it away. I'm not buying the next one! I'm done, I tell you! d:)

Jennifer R said...

Another LKH here. Though I did finally break myself of buying her after Incubus Dreams. I give up, she'll never stop writing anything but porn now. I did peek at DM after I heard about the pregnancy storyline, but just to see how it worked out. Then I rolled my eyes and put it back. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

I actually agree with Lillian Jackson Braun. Maybe she's getting way too old to write any more, but the last few books of hers didn't even HAVE any mystery to them and it was obvious from the first time the character was introduced that that person was the killer. It makes me too sad to read any more.

Jennifer R said...

Er...she'll never write anything other than porn again. Oops.

Colleen Gleason said...

I never got hooked on LKH or King or Gabaldon.

I haven't read past NINE of the Evanovich/Plum series; although I own TEN. (I consider myself cured.)

Great post, BSC.

Nica said...

LKH. Bad writing and an arrogant author who thinks she's the hot shit of the century

timepiece said...

David Weber - if they would just give him an editor ....

Michael Romkey, though he hasn't had a book in years.

Jean Auel.

Patricia Cornwell (though I hear reports that she is improving).

RegencyFool said...

LKH, Sue Grafton, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart (are those last two still alive?),Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Anne Rice, PD James, Elizabeth George.

The first two are just boring and static now; the second two I outgrew a long time ago; the next two have become books-by-committee; Rice's non-Mayfair books just don't hold my interest and the last two, while still well-written just seem to require more effort for less reading joy now.

December Quinn said...

How could I forget Elizabeth George? I will never forgive her for With No One As Witness.

Bernita said...

Mercedes Lackey is fading for me.
When one begins to see the objective mechanics, as in,"Next, I'll do a series on this theme..." the love slowly dies.

Jana J. Hanson said...

I've never read any of LKH's Anita series (mainly because 2 of my very good friends ranted and raved about Anita's changing personality). I have read all of the Merry Gentry books (and will probably read the December release, even though I skipped the sex in the last 2 books to find the plot).

I'm starting to feel this way with Sookie Stackhouse and Betsy Taylor. I've never bought either of these series (thank God for the library). After finishing the respective latest installments, I have to wonder how long can a series go on without causing the reader to pull his/her hair out. Both Sookie and Betsy are quick reads, so unless something happens to really tick me off, I'm going to keep checking the out from the library.

Anonymous said...

I second (or third) Diana Gabaldon. I SWEAR I will not buy the next one.
Other writers (i.e. Maeve Binchy, Mary Higgins Clark), I think I've stopped reading because I just grew tired of the genre or kind of grew out of them, so I don't know if their books have gotten worse or not.

Flo said...

Gotta say it's LKH, I did my own intervention and threw out my entire collection when I realized it's all sex and that was the sole plot. AND when both of her series started to blend together.

Another one that's doing that for me is Mary Janice Davidson's Undead and Unsomething series. It's just rather boring. And trite. And well dull. It was funny and enjoyable! But now not so much.

Robert Jordan gives me hives. I WANT to know what will happen (and like JKRowling he has hte last scene stashed away somewhere) but I can't wade through the terrible chunky writing anymore. And I abhor women sniffing now.

Another author (not so well known) that has characters blending together but I keep buying is Michelle West Sagara. She's got several series out but they all kind of blend together and my brain oozes out my ear while I read them.

*runs crying to her Mark Twain*

Virginia Miss said...

I still love PD James, Elizabeth George, and Maeve Binchy, but I gave up on Mercedes Lackey and Robert Jordan long ago. I've never been able to get into LKH, and I've only read a few Grafton's.

sweedreams said...

I'll have to admit that I too have given up on Patricial Cornwell, LKH, and Jean Auel. Used to love them all and now they are the biggest waste of cash I can think of at this time.....Perhaps I can use their books as an alternative fuel source?

Stephanie said...

Jean Auel, Diana Gabaldon (OH, the atrocities she committed in that last book), Anne McCaffrey... yes, yes, and yes.

I content myself with the knowledge that I seem to be the only person in the world who bounced off LKH after one book instead of eight.

Anonymous said...

Janet Evanovich, who I think is a very nice person and still do. It's not that I think the author is bad, it's that I'm not the right reader to appreciate her.

Her Plum series started out cute, but seemed so increasingly juvenile to me that by the third novel I was done. But I like Janet as a person, and I thought she might redeem the series, so I kept going back. It only got worse.

Finally I stopped at book six, took all my Evanovich novels and donated them to the library. I am still tempted every time I see her on a sale rack, but so far I haven't given in.

Anonymous said...

I voluntarily stopped reading Anne Rice. Memnoch the Devil was really rather "meh" for me, but I read The Vampire Armand because I loved Armand to bits. Then... nothing. I did read Blood and Gold because it was about Marius, but that did very little for me.

And now the addiction I haven't broken...

Robert Jordan. I admit it. I read and I read and I even read Knife of Dreams. I found New Spring: The Novel to be fantastic (probably because it was SHORT and dealt with the traditions of the Aes Sedai and White Tower) which pulled me back in, but Knife of Dreams was just a big bitch slap in the face.

Geez, Jordan, just ADMIT you hate women and get over it. No need to be passive aggressive.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

For it's Diana Gabaldon. As far as I'm concerned once Clare and Jamie were reunited, I had no more reason to continue reading the series. I still read Janet Evanovich although Stephanie is beginning to wear out her welcome.

K said...

After Incubus, LKH has died, as far as I'm concerned.

Koontz I gave up on a long time ago, but, my god, TERRY GOODKIND. GAH! How many damn books does that series need?!

Oh, and J.D. Robb.

Those are my big ones.

Jen said...

See, I've just accepted that LKH is now soft porn with merest whisper of plot, and read it as such. Plus, I don't have to cover the books with plain brown paper to bring them out in public! :)

Absolutely agree on Anne McCaffery and Mercedes Lackey, though. In the case of Lackey, it's almost ruined rereading her early stuff for me - everything seems recycled after a while. I got 50 pages into the Obsidian whatever that she did with James somebody, and it was a struggle to get even that far.

Nat said...

I have to say LKH as well. I call her my train wreck read - no matter how bad it is, I still have to look. It's a bad, bad, bad compulsion.

Kenyon is hit or miss lately with her Dark Hunter books. If she screws up Acheron's story, I'm going to be soooo pissed.

The last Undead had not much of a plot, but they're my fluffy read, so it doesn't perturb me that they're getting silly.

Nike said...

Terry Goodkind. I found his first two novels very entertaining, even though they had a few flaws, and then something happened to the man because it's been a steady decline in quality ever since.