Something that makes me feel a little sad is when an author almost writes an excellent book, but it fails because of self-indulgent tarrying and tangents. In my mind this is represented as a dish with too much potatoes and not enough steak. (Literally, this is the picture that appears when I have this sequence of thoughts.)
I went to my (disgustingly inadequate) local library this afternoon and borrowed a book which exhibited this problem. The reading went very well for a long while as I sat in the park above the library, and later on a bench in the garden. Gradually, however, I began to grow impatient for the denouement. Finally, 30 pages or so from the end, I was so apathetic towards the protagonist’s constant meandering that I committed the hideous crime of skipping to the end to see what happened.
In a sense the author had done something right - I was evidently intrigued enough by the build-up that I couldn’t miss the pay-off. But those 30 unread pages rankle. It was close, but, well. No cigar.
So much for that. The same phenomenon appears in music and cinema. Things should never be allowed to drag on. Cutting a good part is eminently more forgivable than not cutting a bad part.
Published on May 24th, 2010