When Do You Quit Reading a Novel? (+ a Movie I’m Glad I Finished)

Okay, I know this is a deeply personal question, BUT …

When do you quit reading a novel? (Or do you?)

Do you have particular triggers that make you quit? Cursing? Violence? Sex? Gratuitous brand names? (Dear fellow authors, please don’t ever introduce a character by their car again … ever …)

Is a single trigger offense all it takes? Or do they get a few strikes before they’re out? Or if you read far enough, do you feel committed to finish no matter what?

What about the more nebulous problem of quality? What hints are you scanning for as you gulp those first few pages?

Or how about this: do you give a new book more of a chance than a movie or TV show?

I know I definitely give a book more of a chance. Books can surprise me, but I’ve finally learned that if a movie’s not working in the first twenty minutes or so, the odds are astronomically low that it’s ever going to recover.

Sometimes it’s still hard to stop watching. Sometimes it’s easy. (cough The Lobster.)

The Problem With Quitting

The problem with quitting is: I’ve been wrong before. There’s the occasional slow open that manages to end with a magnificent gut punch that haunts me for life.

I’m still grateful I made it through Babette’s Feast.

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On the other hand…

1) Babette’s Feast came with the halo of both “classic” status and a gushing recommendation, priming me to love it, and …

2) You could argue that the European pacing “works” just fine if you’re not expecting a Marvel movie.

By which I mean — it’s not always obvious whether I’m struggling to enjoy a work because of its flaws or … my own underdeveloped palate.

Take Shakespeare…

In high school, for instance, I found Shakespeare absurdly overrated. (Shocker, right?)

But recently, when I was studying five-act structure for Murder Feels Bad, I reread Romeo and Juliet… and mapped out all the scene changes … and wow. Talk about brilliant. I could write a whole column just on how expertly Shakespeare thrashes us between hope and despair…

Hmm. Would you be into that?

Anyway … I’m curious how you decide when to quit. We have so many gazillions of novels to choose from now…you might have hundreds waiting for you right on your device…

How do you choose whether a new book’s worth your time? Or whether you want to read the next in a series?

I’d love to hear your take. Just comment below. Thanks!

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