Tuesday, December 09, 2008

If I can't understand it, I won't read it

Apparently, I am not stupid. Apart from maths, but we don't need to talk about that now*. Specifically, I am not a stupid reader. I have a degree in English literature and language and I studied linguistics for a while and did OK there (but not as well as Paca). I can even spell, not that that is particularly relevant.

So here's the thing. As a reader, I don't think that a writer being deliberately opaque is a pleasant experience. And although I admit I read for pleasure nowadays I don't mind a bit of a challenge (apart from Russian names, which, as discussed before, I just cannot master - I like to see that as a quirk, rather than general stupidity...), if I do not have any idea what is going on after the first five to ten pages, I will put your book down.

This doesn't mean you can't intrigue me, I'm all over that. But I need to know something. For example, I don't necessarily need to know who the speaker is if I can vaguely follow what they are saying. If I understand who the speaker is, I may bear with difficult content. So tell me something, anything. Even knowing where an unnamed speaker spouting confusion is located may help me. For example, jail. No names needed, confusion expected. But don't hide everything from me or I will put your book down and recommend others skip it too.

I need to have something to hang my hat on before I start taking my coat off. (Whirl, feel free to make merry with that one).


* Never give me the bill to check. It will not work out.

9 comments:

pjd said...

And you're not going to share with us what set off this rant?

Seems to me you're being deliberately opaque. Although that did not make reading your post an unpleasant experience.

spyscribbler said...

Ohmigosh, I'm the same way! It's actually a learning style. For me, it's to the point where I MUST read the little blurb saying what a tv episode is about, before I can watch it. In books? The blurb and first page DARN WELL better tell me what the book is about, or my attention is gone.

I can't watch a movie, unless I know what it's about, too.

Listening to someone talk? I'm terrible. I have to know the big picture first, and then work inward.

JaneyV said...

Well if the confusion is, at least, interesting, I'll hang about but if it's just a case of writer climbs up his/her own bee-hind trying to be clever then the book is forgotten before gravity has taken it to the floor.

I'll second Pete! What book infuriated you into writing this?

pacatrue said...

Can you make it through Faulkner per chance?

Btw, if you think I know anything about linguistics, you clearly haven't seen any of my "research" yet.

fairyhedgehog said...

I have to know what prompted this!

Sarah Laurenson said...

There is a movie that came to mind when I read this post, oddly enough. The Telephone. Much as I love Whoopi Goldberg, I just couldn't get past the first 10 minutes.

Why do you think I'm immersed in children's literature. Give me something to latch onto and quickly or the book is going back on the shelf. And I tend to skip paragraphs, even pages at a time if I'm enamored of the author and want to read the book anyway.

laughingwolf said...

what pd sez...

Robin S. said...

Absolutely agree. I need to be grounded.

Sooooooo...what gives, girlfriend?

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm with you. If it feels like a white room with people speaking a foreign language, I'm not going to keep at it more than, say, ten or so pages. Sometimes, though, my mood dictates what's too opaque or irritating!