If we learned anything from last week’s discussion, we know we can’t love every book. So, how do we know if the problem is the book or the author? What happens after you’ve been burned? Are you willing to try an author again?
I think this really comes down to why and how much I disliked the author’s previous work. If I loved the premise, but not the execution or thought the book fell apart toward the end, I’ll likely give the author another shot. But if I flat out thought the writing was bad or was really offended by something, I’d be hesitant.
This topic makes me think of Caitlin Moran. I tried to read How To Be a Woman. I tried, and failed. I didn’t like it. I really didn’t like it. When her next book, How to Build a Girl, came out last year I didn’t consider reading it. It was easy for me to skip because I’d been burned by her before. But now, everyone is raving about How to Build a Girl and even though I’m starting to feel quite out of the loop the chances are slim that I’ll end up reading it.
I wish I could say that I could be swayed to try an author again after I’ve been disappointed by them. But, even though I’m curious, I don’t feel a burning desire to get my hands on Moran’s work. I feel a bit ambiguous about her. Shrug.
Jennifer, I was the same way with Moran. I didn’t get halfway through How to Be a Woman. The only reason I approached How to Build a Girl was because it’s fiction and I thought maybe she would be different—and she was. I loved it. I’d never read her nonfiction again, but I will pick up her next novel.
Honestly, even since beginning blogging, this hasn’t been an issue I’ve really had. I mean, I can think of a few memoirs that I’ve read with authors I’ll never go back to again, or apologetics, but that’s more of a difference in philosophy and life perspective rather than a commentary on the writing itself. For me the issue has less to do with an author (especially a prolific author) and more to do with what subject matter (fiction or non-fiction) that the author chooses to write about.
What if you absolutely hated author’s book A, but everyone seems to be raving about book B? Is that enough to sway you?
This is where I am with Hanya Yanagihara. The People in the Trees was a DNF for me because I couldn’t get into the writing style at all, even though the premise sounded amazing. And now, A Little Life… what to do?!
Boy, I’m going to step in here but the first Rainbow Rowell I read was Landline and I hated it. Sorry, flat out hated it. I thought I was just one of those people who did not get her books but then I decided to try Eleanor & Park I thought it was beautiful. In this instance, I chalked it up to feeling as if she’s great at YA but adult…not so much. Don’t hate.
I’m stuck in the situation where I’ve been less than impressed with new titles by well-loved authors I’m reading for the first time, like Michel Faber, which leaves me a little nervous about going back to read their more popular earlier work.
Just to mess with everyone’s head: what about when you love an established author’s work but their most recent novels disappoint- do you try them again or move on?
This is an especially personal question for me because I was a huge John Irving fan. The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany are on my all-time favorites list but by the time he got to the late 90’s and A Widow for One Year I just didn’t enjoy his writing anymore. And it hasn’t changed. I haven’t read his last three books because I look at the subject and think ‘no’.
Since you used the example of John Irving I’ll weigh in. I totally agree that some of his books in recent years have been abject failures (though I must recommend you read In One Person, but I think that’s another discussion). There are three authors who’s work that I pick up with no questions asked. That’s Stephen King (of course), Margaret Atwood, and John Irving. It may take me time to get to the books—but if I don’t know something’s coming out and I pass it in a bookstore—I just pick it up without even reading the jacket.
But, for other authors it all depends on subject matter of future books. For example, the first thing I read by Cormac McCarthy was The Road, which I loved, but his next most famous books are ‘The Border Trilogy’ which include All the Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men, I don’t particularly care for ‘westerns’ … so I’ve been very slow in picking these up.
Sometimes I do wonder if it’s me that’s changed or an author. I know I went through a big Chuck Palahniuk streak in college, but haven’t enjoyed (or even picked up) one of his books in years. I’m still not sure if it’s a decline in his work or a shift in my interest.
There are authors who could burn me a time or two and I would still crawl back for more (King and Irving to name a couple). That’s probably because I loved their first offerings so very much. They might lose their way, they might put out a few books that don’t live up to my expectations. But you know what? I’ll always have hopes that they will return to their former glory, and there I’ll be, first in line to see it happen.
That’s a good point. I’m definitely more likely to try again if I’ve already read and enjoyed an author’s previous work. New-to-me authors get far less slack. First impressions become more important when there are so many other books I want to read.
What do you think, readers? What happens after you’ve been burned? Can an author bounce back from a bad book? What about those you’ve loved for a long time—do they get more leeway?