A few weeks ago, I promised a part 2 of the review for Remember the Ladies, a book set in DC around the push for the women’s vote, by Gina Mulligan. But I can tell you right now, this post is going to morph into something other than a review. This is going to be a discussion of why I can’t read books (or really, put up with stories) the same way I used to.
And I wonder if you feel the same way… Or whether I’m just turning into a crazy cat lady, without all the cats!
Now, I’m not going to lie. Remember the Ladies has been hard for me to review. One obvious reason is that, as I mentioned in part 1 of the review a few weeks back, it’s a hard story to really love. The characters are largely unlikable, certainly hard to root for. The plot, at points, seems hard to believe. There are a few moments when the villain of the piece goes over the top in ways that feel more Snidely Whiplash than necessary, and it didn’t work. Yet it’s a story I really wanted to like because of its subject matter – empowering women, women in politics, and so on.
But an even bigger problem is simply that it was hard for me to keep reading, period, because I have problems finishing any books these days, period. I’ve been having that problem with all kinds of books lately, not just Remember the Ladies. Equal opportunity suffering, all around.
This never used to be a problem. I used to read avidly, constantly, but these days, a lot of books leave me feeling let down, distracted, or even worse, disgusted by the poor writing and plotting. Somehow…through age, osmosis, or what have you… I’ve become tougher and more critical and more easily bored by books than ever before.
I wish I could give you a clear cut reason why that is. As I become busier with other parts of my life, it’s much harder to be patient with books that don’t hold my attention. I resent the infringement on my time that less than stellar writing tries to demand of me.
No doubt I’m as influenced as anyone else by the ADD culture we live in. Everything moves so fast…movies, TV, my iPhone…that if I don’t feel immediately hooked fast by a piece of writing, I put it down. Gone are those Romantic and Victorian days when a writer could take three chapters to get to the main point of the action, because I can’t take it.
This malaise that’s fallen over my relationship with entertainment extends to movies as well. They’re shorter than a book read, sure. But they are no less guilty of boring the hell out of me at times. Am I more impatient? Am I a tougher critic? Does it have to do with all the writing I do, as well as all the editing and critiquing? Maybe I just can’t sit through anything without being utterly distracted by the plot holes.
It’s happening with old movies as well as new. I just tried to watch The Wild Bunch this weekend. A classic Western in many ways, right? It was nominated for awards, I know that. I have no idea why, though. I was halfway through it and still couldn’t figure out what the point was supposed to be, what I was supposed to get out of it, so I gave up.
I feel the same about the latest Star Trek movie. Discovery, I think. What I discovered was that JJ Abrams and Hollywood can’t find a new damned plot for these movies to save their lives. All the same elements were in this movie that were in the first two, only watered down. It’s like someone said, let’s just rehash what worked, only this time let’s see if we can make it not work. And I like Star Trek, including the reboot. So what’s my problem? I can’t explain it.
It’s hard to be surprised, astonished, and better yet awed and moved, by fiction these days. And I suppose the problem is mostly me. I don’t know why. It makes me unhappy and uneasy to think I have become so hard to please.
Do you find this is happening to you? Or am I alone in this funk? It’s okay if I am. I wouldn’t wish this criticality on you. But what is clear is, I probably won’t be reviewing much fiction on the blog for a while. I’ll have to find other topics.
Sorry, books and movies. It’s not you, it’s me. Well, maybe it’s both of us. Sigh.