Just Give It A Chance!

American Gods? More like American Gross! Okay, that sucked, sorry.

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 UniverseA 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.

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19 thoughts on “Just Give It A Chance!

  1. Oh god we’ve had some terrible luck, haven’t we? I’m not enjoying American Gods. One would think that after 100 pages, things would pick up. But I’m bored. Bored and annoyed by all the sexualization. I’m all for finishing things and giving books and movies a chance to redeem themselves, but after 100 pages, I want /something/ to happen to make me care enough about the book, or after 30 minutes in case of movies. Otherwise… meh. =[

    1. Yeah, I have to finish things almost no matter what, but… some of these are just bad. In contrast, the book I finished tonight, which was good for quite a long time, then had a terrible ending.

  2. I totally agree, time is too valuable to waste on something you are not enjoying. I try to give books a fair chance, if I can’t get into the story, characters or whatever within the first few chapters I put the book away. I’ll go back to it later, weeks, months, sometimes a year or so later and try again. If I still can’t get into it I give the book away. I’ve supplied the local library with lots of books over the years. In fact I just weeded out over 200 books because I need the space for new ones. I also tried reading American Gods, just couldn’t get into it. Gave it three tries and then it was out. Movies, if its at a theater then I’ll usually sit through it because I’m cheap. I paid to be here. At home, a 1/2 hour tops and then I’ll find something else.

    1. I know what you mean about the theater… I’ve only ever walked out on one movie in theaters, and that was American Gangster. I’m not sure how I got in there to see it in the first place, but I regret it. The book donation sounds like a good idea though! I might have to do that…

  3. This makes me wonder if we tend to give books and movies that start off strong more of a chance even if they start slacking in between or even until the end.

    For me it really depends on how long a book is to decide if I’m going to go through with it. If I’m thinking about errands I have to run while reading, i.e. if I have a really hard time focussing, then I just stop and move on. I often take advantage of the “try sample” on Amazon to make sure I don’t buy too much that I eventually won’t finish.

    1. I know I do that. If it starts off strong and gets slowly worse, I keep hoping that it will get better because I know the author has the potential! It’s even more disappointing if and when the book fails, but I’ll definitely give a book with a strong beginning more of a chance.

  4. I’ve been in the exact same boat as you. I walked on on the movie “Flight Plan” on a friggin first date, I was so bored. (WE were so bored) I felt bad, but I agree: the movie/book/whatever is not good if only the last third is good. A truly good movie can keep your interest for at least a majority. I’ll forgive down moments, but if the first 50+% is dull, the movie was no good.

    1. Yeah. If there’s a strong beginning and a strong ending, then a ‘meh’ middle is more okay (but it still sticks with me). I’m even more harsh on books, I think, because they take so much longer to get through.

  5. When reading begins to feel like a school assignment. When I think “oh that’s right, I SHOULD be reading that book…” is usually when I stop.

    1. That’s a good mark… it’s a relief to not be in school anymore where you had to finish them anyway. >.> That said, I tend to finish them regardless, because I just need to finish anything I start… but then I can leave reviews. \o/

  6. I am going to be a lone voice here because American Gods is my second favorite Neil Gaiman novel. I really enjoyed the entire book, yes it had slow moments. As for not enjoying books or movie, I usually give movie until the end to see where they are going in the hope that they have slipped in something that will make the start make sense. As for books if I can put it down and not feel the need to pick it right back up then I probably won’t ever finish it. If you are willing to give Gaiman another chance I would recommend Stardust.

  7. I’m usually pretty forgiving on things like slow plot build up and iffy characters, so long as both the writing is good (none of that pretentious diction for pomposity’s sake, while also above the grade 6 reading level, if you’ll please) and everything else pick up the slack. A good example for me would be Cassandra Claire with The Mortal Instruments. It wasn’t a Wilde piece, but the characters were clever, real, and reliable; I quickly beame invested in their story which went wonderfully paced. And then I opened Clockwork Prince. I put it down after Chapter 3. It looked like it had the quick plot of it’s predecessor, but the emotion felt lacking–I had no connection to these characters yet so by should I care about what happens as of yet? Miss Claire, I mean no offense! But yeah, something has to grab me immediately as peculiar or well wrought before I’ll give it more than 20 pages (10 min for movies).

    1. That’s the thing I think a lot of writer’s and readers alike worry about with sequels. Like… can the next books match up with the first? It seems like a difficult thing to do to get people attached to characters over series, or to write sequels well enough to match up with what came before.

  8. When we watch movies (me being me and my husband) we will give everything fifteen minutes, unless it’s really, really horrible or if they kill a pet or a kid–and then I’m out. As far as a writer, if the writing sucks (is mediocre even) I will only give it a few pages. If it is boring, I might give it 50 pages and give the writer some leeway–unless it comes highly recommended. Of course, as a student, I read whatever I was assigned, but as an adult, I don’t have time to read stuff I don’t like–you know?

    1. You are a strict one! Many books and novels are still in their openings by that point. But I suppose it also ensures you typically spend your time reading and watching good books and movies.

  9. With books I should be hooked with the first chapter. If it just irritates me, I read the end and give it to someone else (because no matter how annoying the book is – I have to know how it ends). If its boring, I normally give it about three chapters – depending on how long the chapters are – and then give up.
    With a movie, I don’t think I’ve actually thought about it. I would hope I’d be hooked within the first few minutes. Either that or I shut it off and find something else to watch.
    I don’t think I have a problem with this very often because I’m really picky. I want to make sure I’m going to be interested before I spend money on it.

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