As a librarian and avid reader I always tell my patrons, and friends, and children, that if a book doesn't grab you in the first couple chapters (say 50 pages) it probably isn't the book for you. Not to worry...there are plenty more and life is too short to read a book that isn't right for you.
This theory was tested this summer when my son Owen, entering 11th grade, had to read IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote.
Now, I understand the importance of this book and appreciate the ground broken by Mr. Capote. I also think the movie adaptations of his research fascinating.
I don't like the book.
There, I said it.
Here is a case where the movie depiction is better than the book. IN MY OPINION.
Again, I can appreciate the build up and the pains taken to paint the close knit rural community. I understand the shift in narrator. I really do appreciate this as the birth of a genre.
I still don't like it.
The overly descriptive, overly long set up drove me bat shit crazy.
I am a fan of voice and I appreciate good pacing, so it is easy to see how Capote's treatment of each of these elements jarred with my personal reading preferences.
So...back to Owen.
Owen: "I hate being assigned books to read."
Me: "I understand, but you are a good reader. You can knock this out in a week."
Three days later
Me: "How's the book coming."
Owen: "Holy crap, what is this book even about? I don't understand. Nothing is happening."
Me: "Well, Capote uses this literary style to make a point and allow the reader to view things differently. It also is unique in that you have sympathy for the killers."
Owen: "What killers? I haven't even gotten to that part yet."
Me: "Be patient."
Three days later
Me: "So, do you like the book any better?"
Owen: "I stopped reading it. I don't like it and don't want to finish it."
Me: "Owen, you HAVE to finish it."
Owen: "Actually, I don't. You always tell us that we have to read a book for the first 50 pages and if it doesn't work for me, I can put it down.
"I LEARNED THIS FROM YOU MOM. I LEARNED THIS BY WATCHING YOU."
No one ever tells you how hard parenting can be. There is a constant war within your head. There is the correct reply to this arguement and then there is the right reply.
The correct reply had me parceling out pages for him to read by certain dates. Not continuous pages, but samplings of chapters.
The right reply had me agreeing with him that I too thought the book kinda sucked and then purchasing SPARKNOTES.
In addition to IN COLD BLOOD he also had to read another recent nonfiction title. He read FREAKONOMICS, which he finished in two days and then asked me for more books like it.
He got a C on his back to school quiz on IN COLD BLOOD.
For your viewing pleasure...other cases where kids learn "bad" habits from their parents:
Do you remember this?
And then there was this...of which I am totally guilty.