Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 8, 2009

Rocks and Stones

My husband just finished reading Drood, a novel by Dan Simmons based on the later life of Charles Dickens, told through the point of view of his friend and rival, author Wilkie Collins. He loved all 771 pages of it, enough so that I want to read it – and take a trip to nineteenth century London – but that very thick spine discourages me. How will I read anything else – for weeks? I not only write slowly, but read slowly, too. I think my husband may loan it to a friend – good – and get it out of temptation’s way.

Of course Peter hated leaving that world that engrossed him for a while. The novel made him curious about Dickens, so he found another book about him. Around page ten the author had someone “throwing rocks and stones.” What’s the difference? my husband asked, annoyed enough that he’s unsure whether he’ll keep reading.

How much does a bad phrase bug you? Will it make you shut a book forever? A friend of mine told me she’s reading a book she likes quite a lot, but about every ten pages, something rings untrue. She gave herself permission to write in the book. “I bought it, it’s mine now, and it makes me feel better to edit and grumble across the page.”

In other news, those little white specks coming down from the sky can’t really be more snow, can they?

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Responses

  1. I just stumbled upon a misspelling in an adult novel. It was a usage problem, although I can’t remember, now, what it was. Something simple, like “there” instead of “they’re.” Made me wonder if the copy editor slept through that page. Or maybe she was so caught up in the story, she missed it? Whatever, it bothered me and took me out of the story for the next few pages, searching for more errata. That’s not good.

  2. I basically “did” Victorian novels in college and LOVED the 700/800 pages. I actually read fast and used to get so sad when I have to give up characters after 200-300 pages. Now I don’t know if I could go back to that. It is hard reading “over” days–one of the things that makes the nonfiction research so challenging for me, even as I love it.
    I don’t care that much about bad phrases or mistakes–my husband HATES them! He’ll put the book down and just stop reading. I get madder about characters behaving in a way they just wouldn’t or just not DOING anything.

  3. I think I have a little crush on Peter, just for his love of DROOD and his wanting to live inside the book and for his persnicketiness about “rocks and stones”. I do get annoyed enough at bad phrases to holler at a book. And if there are enough of them, I suppose I would shut it forever. I can’t think of a specific example, however.

  4. Copy editors are not supposed to get lost in the story! Or if they do, go back!
    And what’s sad is that you remembered — it can sour something that’s otherwise satisfying.

  5. I guess after you’ve read LOTR trilogy enough times, nothing seems too thick. The book is still right in my eye’s range as I write — but so are some piles of thinner books calling!
    Nice interview today — I’m glad to be part of your “tribe!”

  6. If I told you carries at least a dozen writing tools in his pocket whenever he’s not sleeping would you swoon even more?
    Hollering at the book — he’d like that. He cracked quite a smile when I told of my friend writing in the book: said he’s sometimes thought of doing that. But then his mom was a librarian…
    Did you read Drood? Is it on your pile? I haven’t yet even read that E Dickinson novel..

  7. I’m awfully glad you’re part of it!
    And LOTR was the first time I found a book/series that DID go on long enough. 🙂

  8. Drood is on the wishlist for my TBR pile. Which is to say that it came highly recommended by someone who’d read an ARC in the comments over at Laurie Halse Anderson’s blog, and then she read and loved it, as did Adam Selzer. So it’s on my list . . . but I must finish Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell before I even think of adding another ginormous book to the TBR pile.
    And yes, Peter is still more swoon-worthy owing to his writing implements.

  9. I have been tempted to write in the books that bug me but usually I just grumble and my husband tells me to just put the book down and I tell him I can’t because even though it bugs me, I want to know how it ends.

  10. More snow? Oh, I hope not…
    If the plot and the characters are good enough, I can cheerfully bear with any number of clanking phrases and grammatical faux pas. But they really do have to be very good indeed for me to stick with it. And I have a tendency to edit sentences in my head even so, which is not the best way to sink into a book’s spell.

  11. Grumbling is good! And curiosity — waiting for the ending. If the book stirs that, it’s got something pretty good.

  12. In case anyone is interested, here’s the exact line from “The Last Dickens” by Matthew Pearl to which Jeannine was referring:
    “The day before, a long train of twenty or thirty bullock carts had been hit with a shower of stones and rocks.”
    I’m still scratching my head over that one. But tonight, I ran into a line even more stupefying, as follows:
    “Rebecca went upstairs, her hands clenched in fists on her desk.”
    As I write this, I have a vision of this character wearing a portable desk designed like one of those boxes with straps that a peanut vendor at a ball game would wear. I suspect that was not the writer’s intent.
    I’m continuing to struggle through “The Last Dickens”, and I’ll probably finish it, but I have to say — it’s no “Drood”. — PL


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