The Book I Never Finished

04 Dec

unfinished businesses
Let’s talk a little about reading today.

In case it isn’t completely self-evident with the fact that I want to be a writer, I love to read.

I finish a book every 3 or 4 days, sometimes sooner, sometimes longer  – although, this usually occurs when I am trying to read several books simultaneously and it probably averages out the same.  Like many avid readers, or book lovers or whatever you like to call yourselves, I tend to have books piled up in strategic locations around my house (although fewer, and harder to reach locations since fathering a brood) and take almost as much pleasure from the simple act of gazing over the bindings of potential reads as I do from reading the books themselves. Each pile of books is peppered with variety, providing a selection of material for the right mood, available time, moon phase, etc.

What I Read

Ready for a ‘peak behind the curtain’ moment?

Okay, here goes: I like to read a wide variety of subjects and genres, but fiction before non-fiction. My non-fiction reading is pretty much centered around news & current events, books on writing or language, and historic tomes (I have degrees in History/Anthropology) and while I like the idea of reading Biographies, and have a shortlist of selections I would like to read, I haven’t ever found the time to dig into the genre.

I fell in love with Shakespeare and Voltaire and Joseph Conrad while in high school (I will never forget the moment of shock my grade 12 English teacher experienced when he discovered I had already read Heart of Darkness) and have slowly worked my way through the traditional canon of English lit ever since, and enjoyed most of what I read.



I also love thrillers and mysteries and crime novels – thanks to a childhood spent reading Hardy Boys and thin Executioner serials I’m sure (man would I love to get my hands on a set of Don’s original books to give them a reread!) And thanks to my ‘Stephen King’-fan mother, I have read and appreciate creepy, but I never really got much into horror. And I have loved anything post-apocalyptic since way before that was cool – Damnation Alley being one of my favourite.

At heart though, I’m a fantasy geek and groove on a good magic spell or tale of dragons and hero’s or a Gods vs mortals story – the grittier the better.

And while I may take a long time to read some books, a chapter at a time while I have time, I am NOT in the habit of giving up on books. I mean, hell, I had to restart both Moby Dick and The Silmirilian multiple times over the years, but I eventually made it through both (Moby Dick didn’t get any better for me, but the Silmirilian improves greatly after 100 pages – those first 75 pages, though, are tough.)

Here’s what the corner of my desk looks like right this very moment (as of writing anyway):

You could click for more detail if you were so inclined, but you would find some marketing books, some howto books (program python, play harmonica and build concrete counter tops), a handful of short story collections (Hemingway, King, Asimov and Ford), a number of books on writing, some marketing books and sundry fiction.

Thanks, but, ah… What’s the point?

So why am I telling you about this now?

Because I wanted to clear up that I am a fairly well read and genre unspecific reader.

Because yesterday Penguin Canada released, nah, revealed (through some creative social media usage) a chapter of Guy Gavriel Kay‘s newest novel, River of Stars. You can read the free chapter on Facebook here.

And why is this relevant you ask?

Because Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the few authors that I walked away from. I closed his book with intent, stuck it on a shelf, and consciously NEVER OPENED IT AGAIN. That book was a large print compilation of his original trilogy of the Fionavar Tapestry.

I really don’t say this lightly either. I don’t walk away from much, I try to find redeeming qualities, and usually do. I’ll keep watching a bad movie if it has good dialogue, I’ll keep reading a poorly written book that reveals an interesting story, well, you get the picture.

I can only think of 1 other book that I ever opened and didn’t finish (ironically, that other book was also written by a Canadian, although a much more Americanized Canadian.) I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am really disappointed with Guy Gavriel Kay’s writing.

Don’t get me wrong here, because I’m not trying to bash his writing, or mar the launch of his new book in any way. Indeed, go and pre-order a copy at the link above, he has won many awards, and been nominated for just as many and I am certainly in the minority with regards to his writing. I believe in supporting Canadian authors and the publishing industry and good books.

I think this is part of my frustration though. I REALLY WANTED to like the Fionavar Tapestry books, I wanted support this Canadian author and enjoy his work and feel good about being Canadian… but I didn’t. I couldn’t honestly tell you anymore what it was about the book that turned me off, but I barely made it to page 50, and it affected me so profoundly that I remember those first 50 pages clear as day more than 10 or 15 years later, and still feel a raw disappointment in myself for not having been able to enjoy it. I have avoided Guy’s books ever since, but I never forgot, and for some reason I have always felt a little like a traitor to Can Lit.

So now a new book is coming. And for some reason I can’t explain, I still WANT to like Guy’s work, so I thought I would read the advanced chapter on Facebook.

I only made it through 2 paragraphs.

I had to walk away. And I am disappointed once more. And I still can’t explain why. But it is clear that I am just not a fan of his writing style, or voice. It feels to weak, soft. I don’t know… :(

- sigh -

So here’s the deal. Go buy the book and support this Canadian author, because anyone who can make it through the process of writing a book, and has an imagination as vivid as Guy clearly does, deserves to be supported. And tell me what you think. I’m curious if there is anyone else out there who also doesn’t like these books.

And just so I don’t sound like a hypocrite, I will be buying a copy of the book and reading it when it comes out. I want to give it a fair chance and I’m hoping the story will make up for that ‘Je ne sais quoi’ in his writing that turns me off.





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