I eventually stopped reading The Pickwick Papers at the place where you're conventionally required to stop reading it, that place being the place that is marked The End. And though you might think that at that point I was quite relieved, I was actually rather sad. I suppose I'll just have to stop reading it at the start again sometime.
Anyway, the book I've started reading is Tim Winton's Cloudstreet. Being a big, serious, Australian-produced tome, you'd obviously expect it to be the sort of book that teachers have been using to clobber students over the head with, both literally and metaphorically, with predictable results: the students have hated it. But the book is good. I found a sentence at the beginning of an opening chapter that really stopped me:
Just near the crest of a hill where the sun is ducking down, the old flatbed Chev gives up the fight and stalls quiet.Okay, maybe it doesn't seem quite so impressive subtracted from the rest of the book, but from the first few words I expected it to be in past tense, and then the use of a timeless image and the present tense, see... aw, gee, I hate sounding like a student essay.
So the writing in the book is pretty well wonderful. The writing on the book, however - well, let me just quote the back cover to you:
From separate catastrophes two rural families flee to the city and find themselves sharing a great, breathing, shuddering joint called Cloudstreet, where they begin their lives again from scratch. For twenty years they roister and rankle, laugh and curse until the roof over their heads becomes a home for their hearts.Yuck! Eugh! Fawgh! And that is the kind of overly descriptive, overly pretentious blurb-writing that I could stop reading, over and over again. In fact, I could stop reading that back cover blurb so much that I kind of wish I had never started to read it in the first place. And I can just imagine school students being confronted with a Tim Winton book and turning to that back blurb and throwing the whole book away, cover and contents - this writing would be some people's first and last experience with a Winton book.
Tim Winton's funny, sprawling saga etc etc etc...
So: what books have you stopped reading lately? Are you likely to pick them up again?