Wednesday, January 27, 2010

boring!

Book Ninja linked to this ironically amusing NYTBR article about why we're so afraid to admit that sometimes books are boring.

True for reviewers, true for editors! I hate admitting to an agent that a manuscript bores me. So... I don't! I (like reviewers, apparently) suggest there is unevenness, a pacing issue, or lack of character development (all of which may be true leading up to the boredom).

Anyway. Fascinating.

16 comments:

M.B. Sandefur said...

But why would you not want to say the book bores you? I'm a writer. I'd like to know what people think of my writing. That's who I write for...readers. If they don't like it, there's no one else? lol

moonrat said...

It's silly, right? But it's just like the author of this article says--if you're bored by something, it's embarrassing, since we're taught to think that maybe that means we don't "get" it. Like Herman Melville. Bored me to tears... But it's a classic! So the failure is mine... right?

M.B. Sandefur said...

It is silly, but I say don't be embarrassed if you don't get something. Trust me, I'm lacking in the street smarts area so I'm lucky to have friends to guide me...lol. But Jane Austen bores me to bits and she's a classic!!! But goodness help me I CANNOT get into her stuff, any of it! I'm a fantasy writer. I live for science fiction, the paranormal. So a lot of stuff isn't my fave. Maybe the boredom is just a lack of interest. I don't know. Using the phrase "isn't my cup of tea" seems to work well for me.

Erastes said...

I have to say that I always - when reviewing - say if I don't get it. There have been so many books that have been hyped to death, like Chevalier and Klay which I read and went "What??" because I really can't see what all the fuss was about. Sometimes one needs to point out that the King is wearing no clothes.

Jon Paul said...

To me, boring equals broken somehow. Boring seems hard to place in the "needs improvement" column like unevenness or poor character development.

Does that fact contribute to the unwillingness to say a book is boring, or do you think it's related purely to self-incrimination/fear of being seen as not getting it?

Gemma Noon said...

I second M.B. Sandefur on this one - if wat I write bores someone, I'd rather know!

Oh, and if you don't like Jane Austen but like SF&F, have you tried "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies"?

M.B. Sandefur said...

I have heard a lot of great things about it, Gemma, so I'll be checking my library for it.

moonrat said...

Jon--totally. It all means the same thing, in the end, doesn't it?

Therese said...

Yeah, my mom always used to say "only boring people get bored." But it would be nice if reviewers could break through the shame and admit it when a book is a yawner. Then maybe I wouldn't have had to suffer through The Corrections ...

Southpaw said...

I'm with Jon. Books I haven't been able to get through have had major issues. 'Cause I'll keep reading if it is just typos!

Phoebe said...

I come from a poetry background, where admitting boredom is definitely tantamount to admitting ignorance (how often do people say things like "I don't get poetry. It's boring" ?) In the poetry world, I've found, the onus is on the reader to search for meaning, no matter how buried that meaning is. Things are a bit better in fiction--at least in fiction, the onus is largely on the writer to create interest, and therefore most writers don't want meaning to be oblique. Of course, there's less prestige attached to writing "difficult" fiction than there is for poetry. And I think this is fair. Like everyone else here, I want to know if I'm boring someone to tears.

One nitpick with the Times article: if, in a review, I say that something is compelling or absorbing or intriguing, I'm pretty much saying "I got wrapped up in this! It's interesting! It's not boring!" Also, I do know many people who are loath to write anything negative in a review, for complicated reasons often having to do with professionalism and hurting peoples' feelings, though, and I wonder if the lack of the word "boring" referring directly to the works at hand has something to do with that.

Travener said...

There are so many boring books published by boring authors who win boring prizes. James Patterson, the mega suspense writer? Why all the fuss and zillions of copies sold -- BORING! There's a lot I like about Pynchon, but after awhile -- BORING! So just say "boring" and be done with it. After all, we keep hearing how "subjective" this business is.

Laurel said...

Moonrat:

The "you just didn't get it" phenomenon wore out its welcome with me years ago. Now, when I am cornered by someone who would never admit to even having heard of Patricia Cornwell and claims that I don't enjoy bleak novels about very depressed people because I'm too stupid to get them I have two things I like to tell them.

1. Not all smart people liked that book either. Just the pretentious ones.

2. And I still like Vampire Weekend even though everyone else knows about them now and their songs are on Apple commercials.

But then, I don't work in NY publishing so I can be bold like that.

Gary said...

Although this may seem facetious, I think the reason reviewers resist the sometimes overwhelming urge to call a book boring is that it makes for awfully short reviews. Seriously, what do you follow up with after you've called someone's 343 page book boring?

On a related note, as a writer, I don't want someone telling me my writing is boring. It's not a pride issue (well, it shouldn't be), it's because how do you fix "boring." I want the "unevenness" and the "undeveloped character" comments. Those things I can fix (hopefully).

Cassandra said...

I'm not sure if this is what you meant by ironically amusing, but I found that article really boring. Which is funny because I thought the idea behind the article was great. Anyway, I'm going to end this comment before it gets boring.

moonrat said...

Cassandra, you made my day.