Friday, May 2, 2014

Is Mediocrity a Crime?

I mentioned recently that I started reading a giant book on my cruise in March. It's called And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer. It's 1433 pages (mass market). It was recommended by a friend who admittedly has not read it herself but it's about a book club that's been in existence for 150 years (a novel but it's supposedly based on a real book club). Was a big bestseller in the 1980s and on the cover is compared to Gone With the Wind among other sagas. I thought it would be a home run. And yet, it's kind of boring. It's about everyday life in small-town Ohio in the 1870s (thus far--the book starts in 1868 and goes through 1932). But it's not boring enough to be tedious. It's just kind of... mediocre.

My husband suggested I stop reading it. I mean STOP stop as in put it down forever and walk away. But that seems unfair. I don't mind the book. In fact, when I'm reading it, I mildly enjoy it. I've read more than 1/4 of it. I've read plenty of books that I disliked more. Should I give up on this book just because it's bland and really, really long? Is that a crime? Why would I stop reading this book but not shorter books that I actively dislike? (I do often stop reading books I dislike unless they're for book club. But sometimes I've gotten so far in, I want to see it through, or I have hope that the ending will redeem the book, or I want to be able to rant about how awful the book is and that's better done from a position of having read it.)

After all, when I put it down for several weeks at a time and go back to it, I have no problem picking up where I left off. That seems like a good thing. I find myself occasionally thinking about it. And I would love to be able to say I've read a book this large (probably will be a record not to be broken.) But are those reasons to spend the massive amount of time it will take to finish it once and for all? I have 1000 pages left to go.

What say you, readers? To finish, or not to finish?

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