Zen and I love reading together. We’ll read a chapter or two, then discuss what we just read, hate on characters, etc. We’ve had kind of bad luck when it comes to books recently, picking up things like Swamplandia!, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, A Visit From the Goon Squad and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Yuck. All of them, yuck. (Subjective, I know! No offense.) So we decided to take a look at American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
Looks like our bad luck hasn’t run out yet. Dear god, no pun intended, this book is so very difficult to enjoy.
Now wait a minute. I’m not done reading it. And I’m going to stick it out until the end, because I believe in finishing what I started. I told that to a friend of mine who adored the book, and she genuinely seemed shocked that I disliked it so much (though she did soon after admit that it did start out a bit slow). She said I would enjoy it more as it went on, and that got me thinking about the way I read books and watch movies.
A few years ago I was discussing a recent movie that had come out. I remember that the movie had bored me so much that I walked out about an hour into it. I tried, I really tried, but I couldn’t take it. It was just too terrible. During this discussion, I was scolded most terribly for walking out and then saying I didn’t enjoy it. “Well how can you say you didn’t like it if you didn’t even finish it?” they asked. “You have to see the whole thing before you can have an accurate opinion on it.”
At first I could see their point. Why not see the whole thing to form an education opinion? I mean, who knows what was at the end? But then I realized something: it didn’t matter. The movie was still bad.
Here’s the thing. If I get an hour through a movie, there’s only thirty minutes left. Those thirty minutes could be the most glorious thirty minutes of footage ever produced by man to the point where it could be argued as proof of God’s existence, but that wouldn’t change the fact that the first hour was still utter garbage. I don’t have to see the ending to know that watching the first bit was torture.
The same goes for books. Reading American Gods, I’m just not enjoying it at all. And to Neil Gaiman, I still plan on buying more of your stuff, since I’ve heard awesome things about you. I’m just… underwhelmed. My friend says that it gets pretty interesting about halfway in, but as a reader, I don’t want to wait half the book. When I see a movie or read a book, I want the whole thing to be interesting. Sure, there can be buildup. It can start off slow. But how long is that acceptable?
So here’s my question for you all. How long will you forgive a movie or book for being dull and uninteresting before you write off the whole thing as something you don’t like? Will you give it the first few chapters, the first twenty minutes? At what point does it go from “oh, the beginning is just slow” to, “this whole thing kind of sucks.” Time is valuable, and I think that most of any published thing should be enticing. But apparently some disagree.