Authors I’ve given up on

by Henry on November 19, 2006

Jim Henley passed on one of those internets memes to me a few weeks ago which I’m finally responding to – name three authors whom you’ve given up on, and say why. Here goes …

(1) Dan Simmons. This is a bit of a cheat, since Jim had given up on him too. But since our reasons are different, it’s not entirely a cheat. I liked Simmons’ Hyperion books a lot, once upon a time, and read everything that he wrote since, albeit not with as much enjoyment. Then I read this quite vicious and deranged essay and a number of things that hadn’t quite come into focus before clicked. The teeming brown-skinned hordes-worshipping-dark-gods stuff in Song of Kali, which I’d found creepy when I read it, but assumed was the result of a first time author trying to create an atmosphere of tension and going too far. The brief asides about Muslim fanaticism in Fall of Hyperion. When read in light of the essay, they don’t add up to a very pleasant picture. His most recent fiction apparently involves a Caliphate-Palestinian-France conspiracy to unleash killer viruses on the world.

(2) J.G. Ballard. The last book of his I read with any enjoyment was “Cocaine Nights,” which can be taken as an interesting take on social capital theory (the only effective source of collective solidarity in a deracinated world is random violence). But really, he’s been descending into self-parody for quite a long time. Chilly, self-involved women, chaos and bourgeois values going hand-in-hand. Swimming pools. Rough sex. Professionals, especially medical professionals, with a grisly enthusiasm for brutality. It isn’t Ballard commenting on society any more, so much as Ballard commenting on Ballard. There are still occasional glimpses of a frustrated intelligence trapped in its own labyrinth, but that’s about it.

(3) Ursula Le Guin. For me, the final straw was The Telling, which reads less like a novel than like the very worst sort of anthropological treatise, the kind in which the ethnologist turns the Other into a bludgeon studded with her own hang ups and obsessions and uses it to belabour the reader around the head until he collapses into a dazed stupor. There’s always been a certain ponderousness to Le Guin, a sense that she takes herself Very Seriously Indeed. But in her earlier work, that was leavened by a real interest in individuals. The Left Hand of Darkness is a quite lovely novel because at its heart it’s a love story, with all its awkwardnesses. But she isn’t writing books like that any more (nor do I think she ever will again).

Feel free to add your own opinions or abandoned authors in comments.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Grumpasaurus.com » The author ejection seat
11.20.06 at 7:06 pm
CMoore.com » The author ejection seat
11.21.06 at 2:45 pm
Authors I’ve Given Up On « Rivers Are Damp
11.26.06 at 12:36 am

{ 138 comments }

1

fjm 11.19.06 at 5:24 pm

I gave up on LeGuin in 1990 after suffering her work for a year while I wrote my dissertation on her work (among others). Wonderful stage sets. Shame about the cardboard cut outs.

My three:
David Weber, whose Honour Harrington series was ripping stuff, until about book five when it turned into endless admiring glances of Honor’s square jaw.
David Eddings: I know, too easy, but I liked them as a kid until he made us wait two years for the final book of the Mallorean and then had the great denoument rest on a *choice* between good and evil. My, let me see, I can choose the nice boy to be god, or the evil emperor… which shall it be?
Neal Stephenson: I’m sorry, but just because you write it long hand, doesn’t mean every word is necessary. In this case I found myself thinking that the bibliography looked more interesting than the novel.

2

Jeff Harrell 11.19.06 at 5:33 pm

You gave up on Simmons too early. I agree that his “Century War” essay smacks of irrationality, but the man’s a writer, for God’s sake, not a political philosopher. Give him a mulligan on that one and go read his most recent essay. (I don’t know if that link will last forever. It’s got the look of a transitory thing.)

3

Frowner 11.19.06 at 6:06 pm

Although I lurk rather than post, I wanted to add:

As far as Le Guin is concerned, a few of her recent books are charming, particularly Changing Planes and The Birthday of the World. It’s not that they’re less heavy-handed–she’s always heavy-handed, right from go–but they are heavy-handed about slightly more subtle things and the details of the stories have, often, considerable charm.

I’ve given up on Doris Lessing, to my considerable sorrow. I kept reading her books as long as I could, even as she went from left-wing critic of the left to right-wing..right-wing what? It’s not that she has displayed any real enthusiasm for Thatcherism, or even for New Labor. She just passionately, passionately hates anyone who has any sort of theory-based left politics. And her weird statements in interviews about how in the US feminists run the show and the poor men don’t have any rights anymore..! Her books are full of spite and despair, and she is roused to rage by anyone who objects to either.

4

Brendan 11.19.06 at 6:11 pm

Oh God,surely Martin Amis must qualify. I loved Money (no pun intended) and a lot of the stuff he did in the ’80s, but that short (not short enough) novel about the police (‘night train’…the one that begins ‘I am a police’) really was the worst novel piece of fiction I have ever read in my life.

Actually that whole ‘New Statesman’ bunch of pub going London literati (Amis, Hitchens, Clive James, Ian Mcewan) have increasingly been pissing me off. Has anyone read the new McEwan? Is it as bad as it looks? Same goes for the new Amis. Is it really like your favourite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating?

5

Matt Kuzma 11.19.06 at 6:13 pm

Orson Scott Card

I really appreciated the Ender trilogy. I didn’t even mind the transparent Mormon mythology inserted into the series. But between his cash-in sequels and his stumping for the US Military, I just don’t think there’s anything more he can offer.

6

paul 11.19.06 at 6:52 pm

Can I add Patricia Cornwell to the list? For pretty much the same reason as Weber — I don’t like the feeling that I’m reading the author’s very own personal porn. Other than the first couple of Ender novels, I’m not sure there was enough Card to consider giving up on rather than just never getting into.

7

breakfast 11.19.06 at 7:17 pm

David Foster Wallace, without a doubt. Although can you give up on something you never believed in? He’s a very talented writer, but complacency, and a seeming boredom with the act of writing, have made him even less enjoyable to read than ever before. I hope for his sake he encounters some kind of meaning beyond that.

Then again, it seems that Foster Wallace isn’t the only one; I’m pretty disgusted with the new American convention of style over substance…it seems so puerile, perhaps influenced by Generation X’s television addiction. Blagh.

8

kb 11.19.06 at 7:21 pm

Simmons is fine so long as you observe Simmons’s Law: the man writes good first books and violently bad sequels. Hyperion is great, The Fall of Hyperion is tripe, Endymion is unmentionably bad, The Rise of Endymion is simply unmentionable; Ilium is good, Olympos is not; etc. (There is a scene in a submarine in Olympos which tops even Ayn Rand for beating you over the head with the author’s politics.)

Jeff, I read the first section of the essay you linked to; what of it? The man quotes David Brooks with a straight face and proclaims his membership in the Screw Them Both party of American politics as if that was intellectually respectable.

As for Card, can I just say this– he always sucked. Always. I cannot understand the reverence people feel for Ender’s Game. It was bad in almost every way it is possible for a book to be bad.

9

Kelly 11.19.06 at 7:22 pm

Then I read this quite vicious and deranged essay
Didn’t Spider Robinson write a version of that story years ago, only it was… well, not deranged, and good?

10

Rich B. 11.19.06 at 7:43 pm

Comparing my feels on the publication of Mason & Dixon to the new novel, I fear that I may have given up on Pynchon.

11

roy belmont 11.19.06 at 8:14 pm

Brendan yes Amis. And McEwan’s “Saturday” is readable but…
It’s poetic, and he’s completely in control of his material, but the narrative stance, or posture, has this self-limited quality, the ambiguous loyalties of people who’ve been more than amply rewarded by a system they know is corrupt and past redemption but to which they have committed the well-being of their children.
There’s a kind of parallel in it to the distaste/fascination with the English prole/thug underworld that Amis exhibited in “The Information”.
Doris Lessing’s “The Grandmothers” can kick ass on both Amis and McEwan before breakfast.
And maybe, to be fair, Le Guin’s recent work should be evaluated by the standards of literature written for adolescents.

12

Barry 11.19.06 at 8:58 pm

“You gave up on Simmons too early. I agree that his “Century War” essay smacks of irrationality, but the man’s a writer, for God’s sake, not a political philosopher.”

I don’t think that anybody here is accusing Simmons of failing the standards for tightly written political philosophy, for being a whackjob. Just because one isn’t a political philosopher doesn’t have to mean that one is a whackjob.

13

david 11.19.06 at 9:03 pm

Amis’ Money is a bad script for a de Palma film. At least Night Train was a weak rip off of Homicide the book.

Henry James. Does he count? Cause I’ve really given him up for good.

14

Helen 11.19.06 at 9:31 pm

Dan Simmons. This is a bit of a cheat, since Jim had given up on him too. But since our reasons are different, it’s not entirely a cheat. I liked Simmons’ Hyperion books a lot, once upon a time, and read everything that he wrote since, albeit not with as much enjoyment. Then I read this quite vicious and deranged essay …

Vicious and deranged maybe, but what an awful writer. In that short piece I counted seven instances of “he said softly” plus one “said softly”. Clunky in the extreme. Are his novels that bad?

15

Russell Arben Fox 11.19.06 at 10:32 pm

“As for Card, can I just say this–he always sucked. Always. I cannot understand the reverence people feel for Ender’s Game.”

False. Get to a library, kb, and check out Maps in a Mirror, or any of his other short story collections. Read his stuff from the 70s and early 80s. Tight, scary, smart, ambiguous, brilliant stuff. As for Ender’s Game…eh. As a short story, it was a kick in the gut; as a novel, you could already see at that date his obsessions taking over his imagination. Occasionally he’s been able to fight it–I think Speaker for the Dead, as disconcerting as some of its themes are, remains excellent science fiction–but I gave up on his novels long ago. (My wife says his straight-up religious fiction isn’t bad, though; perhaps because he no longer has to sneak it in.)

Who have I given up on? John Irving. The first novel of his I read was The Cider House Rules, and it got into my head and challenged my thinking as few novels have. I went back and read all the classics: The World According to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire, A Prayer for Owen Meany. That latter one is, I think, his fullest, finest work. If you look over Irving’s early ourvre, you see the same tropes and themes over and over–bears, motorcycles, the Vietnam War, suicide, Vienna, ghosts, unfaithful parents, writers and writing block, possible incest, etc.–in ever varying arrangements; I think Prayer put most of them together into as forceful a tale as possible, and after I read it, I was convinced Irving was done with all that, and would need to find some new topic. Which is what I think he did in his next novel, A Son of the Circus, which is probably my favorite Irving book, even if it’s not his best. But then, ever since that weird story about an Indian serial killer and identity confusion, he for some reason decided to go right back to all his old stuff. I’ve picked up a couple of his more recent books, but I find I can’t handle his lurid plots and screwed-up characters (writers who get their hands bitten off by tigers, etc.) any longer; I feel as though he’s already done all that can be done with that sort of material, and is now just repeating himself. (To be fair, I think the critical consensus about Irving is the same as mine, only they think he ran out of new ideas a lot earlier than I do.)

16

Dweezil 11.19.06 at 10:51 pm

I like Ballard’s repetition. I once spent an entire weekend running an HPLC machine, sleeping between runs, and reading from the “Complete Short Stories of JG Ballard”. It was a freaky experience. The chilly self-involved woman is always Judith. There’s always a grisly doctor named R. Lang or Liang or something. There’s always a maverick guy called Halliday or Holloway or something like that. It’s the same characters every time. They can never get out. They’re trapped. It’s a dream they can’t wake up from.

I do recommend reading the “Complete Short Stories” one after the other.

Our University library also had the “Best Short Stories” of JG Ballard. It makes me wonder if they could just take the subtraction of the 2 sets and publish the “Worst Short Stories of JG Ballard”. That would be awesome too!

17

Tom T. 11.19.06 at 11:10 pm

Sorry to keep piling on Simmons, but his novel Darwin’s Blade is literally just a thin detective thriller in which the plot consists of Darwin Award stories strung together.

As for authors I’ve given up on, Neal Stephenson leaps to mind. I struggled through Cryptonomicon to the very end, including the horrible technical passages on codebreaking that reminded me of the tedious Enigma segment that dulled the otherwise delightful Jigsaw IF game. After that experience, the only way I’d continue through his recent books is if I’m physically restrained and my eyes forced open. Life’s just too short. Literally.

18

Anderson 11.19.06 at 11:38 pm

Second the giving-up-on-Pynchon. Gravity’s Rainbow was brilliant, but also a one-shot, it increasingly appears. Nothing he’s written since has seemed to matter to Pynchon like GR apparently did. I very much doubt the new one will be different.

19

fyreflye 11.19.06 at 11:50 pm

I’ve given up on everybody. Surely there’s no point in grownups continuing to read fiction. Time is short, there’s too much real stuff we still don’t understand but need to, Richard Dawkins is a better writer than any novelist; and if you’ve read Tolstoy, Flaubert and, yes, Henry James you’ve already learned all you’re going to about human nature from any novelist.

20

Tyrone Slothrop 11.19.06 at 11:53 pm

I had given up on Rick Bass, an author I used to love, because his work had become increasingly polemic. I don’t disagree with his polemics, but don’t want to read them, either. But I recently read his short story collection, The Hermit’s Story, and am willing to give his most recent stuff a chance.

21

Rasselas 11.20.06 at 12:15 am

Fyreflye, you might want to bone up on your Lifemanship. Subtlety.

22

astrongmaybe 11.20.06 at 12:23 am

fyreflye @ 17 Surely there’s no point in grownups continuing to read fiction. Time is short, there’s too much real stuff we still don’t understand but need to, Richard Dawkins is a better writer than any novelist; and if you’ve read Tolstoy, Flaubert and, yes, Henry James you’ve already learned all you’re going to about human nature from any novelist.

Er, yes… and let’s give up on music too, in favor of the radio news. Anyway, I heard that guy Bach once and learned all I needed to from that. I’m all grown up now, you see. So little time, so little time…

23

John Quiggin 11.20.06 at 12:33 am

I also enjoyed Changing Planes though nothing much recent from Le Guin apart from that.

I gave up on Neal Stephenson after one book, so I guess that doesn’t count.

24

John Emerson 11.20.06 at 1:11 am

I feel that Nora Roberts started to slip with her 23rd book and never recovered.

25

Bottle Imp 11.20.06 at 2:14 am

I liked Le Guin’s recent fifth book of the Earthsea series, but then, I must admit it might be nostalgia, as I loved the series as a child.

I have to be honest, I’m surprised I didn’t see Rushdie get mentioned by anyone. I gave up on him the moment I finished reading Fury. Writers aren’t always as intimate as they should be with the city they choose as a setting, but I’ve never read a book in which I felt like the author so thoroughly failed to evoke a location. Add that to the fact that it felt like a thin justification of his love life at the time…

26

trane 11.20.06 at 3:07 am

I am not sure it counts as a give-up, but since it is mentioned above: Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow.

I have gotten stuck in it one third of the way twice. Ten years ago, the first time, second time seven years ago. I might pick it up again after garnering strength for another couple of years.

27

bad Jim 11.20.06 at 3:52 am

I pretty much gave up on Philip K. Dick after The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. I kept waiting for something else, but all we got was juvenilia.

I don’t know whatever happened to the brothers Strugatsky. Did they stop writing, did they stop being translated, what? I love Stanislav Lem, but he never wrote anything quite as weird as The Snail on the Slope.

28

chris y 11.20.06 at 5:35 am

Jim,

According to Wikipedia, Boris Strugatsky died in 1991, but Arkady has written a couple of things since under a pseud.

29

SusanC 11.20.06 at 5:48 am

I’ll agree with giving up Ursula Le Guin. The Earthsea trilogy is one of my favorites, but I really disliked Tehanu. I think it’s inherently difficult to add to a children’s trilogy when the original readers have grown-up, because the writer is caught between two very different audiences, and can end up pleasing neither.

(See also: George Lucas and Star Wars.)

Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon was good in parts, but I couldn’t face reading Quicksilver.

30

SusanC 11.20.06 at 5:49 am

I’ll agree with giving up Ursula Le Guin. The Earthsea trilogy is one of my favorites, but I really disliked Tehanu. I think it’s inherently difficult to add to a children’s trilogy when the original readers have grown-up, because the writer is caught between two very different audiences, and can end up pleasing neither.

(See also: George Lucas and Star Wars.)

Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon was good in parts, but I couldn’t face reading Quicksilver.

31

Danny Yee 11.20.06 at 6:24 am

I’m a great fan of Le Guin, but haven’t been able to get excited about her most recent books. I liked The Other Wind more than Tehanu, though.

Definitely Orson Scott Card. I don’t really read many novelists in large quantities these day – I tend to read one or two books, maybe.

32

dave heasman 11.20.06 at 7:26 am

I gave up on Samuel Delaney with Dhalgren – I thought all his earlier stuff unbelievably brilliant. And Pynchion with G’s R. I tried it several times, couldn’t get beyond p 60. But “V” was fantastic.
Borges? “Imaginary Beasts” was pretty poor, wasn’t it?

33

H.C. Carey 11.20.06 at 7:56 am

Don Delillo. Really, I know I’m supposed to love him, but I’ve always found him insufferably pretentious in a kind of “postmodern lite” way. I’ve never been able to get more than 100 pages into a Don Delillo novel.

34

Jacob T. Levy 11.20.06 at 8:22 am

I do think that anybosy who liked the Earthsea trilogy should read the Tales from Earthsea collection of short stories, even if Tehanu and Other Wind are expendable.

35

bad Jim 11.20.06 at 8:23 am

Although getting books by Jules Verne for Christmas are among my fondest memories, “20K Leagues Under The Sea” for starters, and later the hard-to-get “Off On A Comet”, somewhere after “The Purchase of the North Pole” I found myself satiated.

R. Crumb is one of the few of my favorites who continues to inhabit my planet.

36

Tim B. 11.20.06 at 8:51 am

I’m with fyreflye. What’s been written to equal the quality of The Magic Mountain or The Street of Crocodiles? Contemporary fiction seems to be a symptom of our debased culture — faddish and oh-so-smart. Please.

37

rana 11.20.06 at 9:05 am

I’ve noticed this before –am I the only one?– that CTers, both posters and commenters, seem inordinately into fantasy and science fiction. At the risk of stirring the nest, I’ve always regarded these genres as a bit naive and adolescent, like Catcher in the Rye or certain political authors (no names), something one grew out of when reaching adulthood. I tried a few fantasy/sci-fi books, as a young reader, but never developed any interest to outgrow.

On the other hand, I’ve never outgrown my (pre-adolescent) weakness for mysteries/crime fiction, and the list of authors in that genre that I’ve given up on is far too long to be useful. To play the game, however, I could mention Reginald Hill, who seems to have become more verbose in recent years, lapsing into turgidity — On Beulah Height, Arms & the Women, Beyond the Bone , though the fact that I never read Dialogues of the Dead probably doomed my reading of the latter. I much preferred the earlier Dalziel & Pascoe books.

38

rana 11.20.06 at 9:11 am

Oops, dropped a title. That should read:

“… , Death’s Jest-Book, though the fact that I never read Dialogues of the Dead probably doomed my reading of the latter…”

39

Peter 11.20.06 at 9:16 am

I cannot understand the reverence people feel for Ender’s Game. It was bad in almost every way it is possible for a book to be bad.

It might have had something to do with growing up as a target for bullies. Somewhat like this essay, people who were “nerds” in school or were the targets of bullies think it is a great (although long) essay, and people who were the bullies or who stood by when bullies acted don’t relate to it at all. Ender was the target of institutional childhood violence. He was very good at turning it around. That makes him the hero of every kid that was bullied.

40

DaveMB 11.20.06 at 9:29 am

[gave up on Stephenson when unable to finish Quicksilver]

I thought The Confusion, the second Baroque Cycle book, picked up considerably from Quicksilver, and I also enjoyed the final book. The first one had plotting problems because Daniel is such a passive character, but the second has a round-the-world voyage at its core and thus moves a lot better.

If you’re fundamentally annoyed at NS’s writing style, the later books aren’t going to change that, but if you find yourself wishing that he’d write about something more interesting, you may get your wish.

Along the same lines, you might enjoy the two present-day thrillers that MS wrote with his uncle, a professor of political science. (They were first published under the psuedonym “Stephen Bury” but have been rereleased to take advantage of NS’s name.) The Cobweb takes place during Gulf War I, where an Iowa deputy sheriff finds that Something Is Going On at the local university. Interface deals with a presidential contender who has a stroke and gets a chip implanted in his brain by A Consortium of Large Corporations. The political plotting worked very well for me.

41

tony 11.20.06 at 9:48 am

If the only reason one reads fiction is to ‘learn’ about ‘human nature’, then yes, you may as well give up on all of it.

42

eweininger 11.20.06 at 9:52 am

Philip Roth. Yawn.

43

astrongmaybe 11.20.06 at 9:54 am

What’s been written to equal the quality of The Magic Mountain…? Contemporary fiction seems to be a symptom of our debased culture…

Shouldn’t a serious reader of Thomas Mann hesitate before unironically, undialectically using words like “symptom” and “debased” when speaking of an entire culture?

44

Ralph Hitchens 11.20.06 at 10:04 am

John LeCarre, of course. Also Robert K. Tanenbaum, who’s been mailing it in since (so I’ve heard) splitting with his ghostwriter, Michael Gruber. I still pick up everything churned out by Robert B. Parker, in spite of the margins growing wider and the line spacing increasing by small increments.

45

astrongmaybe 11.20.06 at 10:07 am

Does “give up on” mean they have to be alive and just writing bad stuff now? If not:

Elias Canetti, most overrated author to win a Nobel since…

His aphorisms are trite and underwhelming, Auto da Fe simultaneously too slight and too fat, and “Crowds and Power” has a lot lot lot of woolly blather in it.

46

Anderson 11.20.06 at 10:28 am

Magic Mountain. Got to 10 pages from the end & felt no desire to continue.

(I was reading it on a long Greyhound trip, in winter, with a bus full of coughing, sneezing strangers. Apart from reading it in an actual TB ward, that was about as bad as it could get.)

Note to “Richard Dawkins is a better writer than any novelist” — that is the most touching confession of an utter lack of aesthetic sensibility that I’ve ever seen. Don’t fret; it’s like you’re color-blind, or tone-deaf, or such.

47

Frowner 11.20.06 at 11:13 am

Hi there 37,

With the science fiction, weirdly, I feel like I get more out of it than out of a lot of other fiction. Partly because I try to read it in light of Moretti’s essay on Dracula (where he talks about the novel as a story of bourgeois hatred towards feudal capitalism and also makes an interesting point about the American vampire-hunter).

The other thing is this: I get kind of bored with certain kinds of psychological subtlety. Do I care, even the tiniest bit, about the delicate epiphanies of an aging bourgeois, the topic of so many contemporary novels? Well, maybe a tiny bit, but if it’s an aging university professor and his fascinating affair with a student or something, not at all. But when I can read a really neat, politically smart book like China Mieville’s Scar (clunky-o prose in patches, though) and I can amuse myself with the scary deep sea and then think about how political projects organize groups…well, that’s interesting!

Admittedly, a mediocre science fiction novel is worse than a mediocre…um…standard novel…realistic novel…mainstream novel…

Because I am rather pathetic, also, I do like a happy ending now and again, or at least an ending that isn’t crushingly sad. And it’s easier to find a science fiction novel that is politically smart, left-wing, reasonably written and not terribly, terribly tragic than it is to find a non-science-fiction novel of this kind.

And then I’ve read such a lot of science fiction already, what with starting when I was eight or nine, that I’m kind of interested in the genre just from the weight of existing knowledge.

But then the science fiction/fantasy that I read tends to blur into the non-science-fiction–it’s all weird, with minor exceptions. I read Angela Carter, Alistair Gray, the weirder Dickens, Doris Lessing, Sarah Schulman–in general, novelists who are neither interested in the New Novel thing nor interested in psychological depth as practiced by Henry James et al. (Although I love Henry James, inconsistantly enough)

Several people have said that contemporary fiction is, essentially, too clever-clever. When does “contemporary” start? Where do the good novels stop, and with who?

And then, as a corollary, why do people read novels? It seems like your idea of a good novel would be pretty tightly tied up with what you think a novel is for.

I find that I read the…um…”classics” mostly when I’ve read interesting commentary on them–for example, I’ve been reading Flaubert because Samuel Delaney writes about him a lot, and I’m working on some other novels because I’m reading (slowly, slowly) Franco Moretti’s The Way of the World.

48

Rob G 11.20.06 at 11:26 am

Dave @32; I gave up on Samuel Delaney with Dhalgren

Give it one more shot mate. Took me two goes, but it was worth it.

49

msw 11.20.06 at 11:38 am

I haven’t given up on Richard Russo yet, but he’s on probation. Yes, I liked Empire Falls, but I liked it better when it was called Nobody’s Fool, and almost as much when it was called the Risk Pool , or Mohawk. If his next book is the same goddamn book again, he’s done.

50

vanya 11.20.06 at 11:53 am

Viktor Pelevin – Up through “Chapaev and Emptiness” he was great, since then it’s basically been a recycling of the same buddhist influenced paranoia.

Vasiliy Aksyonov – is well on his way to becoming a self-parody of the aging European intellectual with excessive libido.

51

Jon H 11.20.06 at 12:06 pm

Re: Stephenson

I enjoyed the whole Quicksilver trilogy, but I never got anywhere in Cryptonomicon.

I bought it, and it sat on the shelf for a while. I was going to read it on a summer roadtrip, but when I picked it up, I found I really couldn’t care less about a story built around a mid-90’s Wired magazine fad premise like “data havens”.

52

Jon H 11.20.06 at 12:08 pm

“But when I can read a really neat, politically smart book like China Mieville’s Scar (clunky-o prose in patches, though) and I can amuse myself with the scary deep sea”

While reading The Scar, I started to get annoyed by all the appearances of the word “recurved” to describe things.

53

Frowner 11.20.06 at 12:23 pm

51: Oh, so did I! And the “blah blah blah…they were not [something portentous], they were scars“…and the many, many times that Bellis says “Jabber preserve us” and varients…and what exactly does the Brucolac do when he’s not brooding darkly over his Riding, anyway? And why are they called ridings when they’re at sea? There’s certainly a long list of bad writing habits in China Mieville’s work, but then there’s the sequence with the bonefish (scary!) and the fact that the Morning Walker is like the Dawn Treader exposed for its evil colonialist self and the terrible, metaphoric, despair-causing part where Tanner is in the water and he sees men and women sinking all around him, too many to ever save. That China Mieville sometimes needs a bit more editing than he gets, and I’m not actually too fond of Perdido Street Station, but with the Scar his politics and the story come together perfectly and it is, to me, very powerful.

54

Doug T 11.20.06 at 12:27 pm

I’ve got to defend Elias Canetti from the attack on him above. Not that I’d change anyone’s mind, but I disagree on both Auto-da-Fe and Crowds and Power. I think Auro-da-Fe is too slight and too fat in sort of the same way that The Castle by Kafka is. There’s some justice in the complaint, but I still consider it a top notch novel.

And maybe I’m just a wooly thinker myself, but I found Crowds and Power fascinating and have read it multiple times. It’s certainly more of a free-association literary essay than a tightly argued treatise, but I find that a feature rather than a bug.

As a last point, his autobiography is a tremendous piece of writing, one of the best non-fiction works I’ve ever read.

Agree that the aphorisms aren’t anything to get excited about. I liked the rest of his work so much that I really wanted to like the aphorisms, and even had convinced myself I did for a while. But I was wrong.

55

Kristjan Wager 11.20.06 at 12:28 pm

Nobody mentioned Dan Brown? What’s wrong with you people?

56

JR 11.20.06 at 12:30 pm

#44, I second Le Carre. The Constant Gardener was just ridiculous.

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sbk 11.20.06 at 12:31 pm

Those of you who have given up on fiction: perhaps you could continue the thread by mentioning nonfiction authors you’ve “given up on,” to keep things interesting rather than degenerative? There’s no stipulation that these writers be writers of fiction.

[This is an interesting question for me: I can’t think of anyone who inspired enough faith in me initially to disappoint me later. I don’t know if I’m unerringly able to identify what I like, or if I’m pathologically loyal, or what. But I don’t read much — really any — contemporary fiction, genre or otherwise, and I don’t have the good ideas/poor execution problem very often because, honestly, how good are any of those ideas ever? I do hold good novels of ideas in high esteem, but there aren’t very many of those, and for everything else there’s “non-fiction”! Still, have I not been let down by a writer during my adult life? Really no one? BANDS, now, that’s a different story, and probably analogous.]

What about political theorists who have just gotten crazier and crazier over the years?

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Bill Gardner 11.20.06 at 1:35 pm

“Philip Roth. Yawn.”

Tragic.

59

Megan 11.20.06 at 2:05 pm

I want to like Kim Stanley Robinson’s new stuff, but just can’t read through the preaching.

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perianwyr 11.20.06 at 2:21 pm

Ender was the target of institutional childhood violence. He was very good at turning it around. That makes him the hero of every kid that was bullied.

I always thought that Ender’s real strength was to recognize that in a world consciously designed for the success of self-absorbed monsters, the most self-absorbed monster wins. He cannot even spare time for gloating or sadism- those are luxuries a true monster cannot afford.

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nick s 11.20.06 at 3:03 pm

Amis fils after London Fields. Rushdie after the move to New York.

62

Steve 11.20.06 at 4:10 pm

But then, ever since that weird story about an Indian serial killer and identity confusion…

John Irving wrote one of these? Or have you conflated an Irving book with Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer?

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Rich B. 11.20.06 at 4:20 pm

“Philip Roth. Yawn.”

Tragic.

I gave up on Roth about 10-15 years ago, and then un-gave-up (gave down? I guess “took up”) with him again with The Plot Against America, which was the best thing he wrote since at least “The Conversion of the Jews”.

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wookie 11.20.06 at 4:21 pm

To give up on Dan Brown wouldn’t I have had to enjoy him in the first place?

I have given up on Heinlen. I love his early stuff, but honestly I found his later stuff (starting with Friday and I Will Fear No Evil) to be just a little too much on the sexual obsessive scale for me.

I like Spider Robinson’s Calahan stories (mostly) but he had seems to have worshiped at the pervy-Heinlen alter too much for my taste in his novels. Why all the sex? I don’t MIND sex on a personal level, but if I wanted to read erotica, I’d READ erotica, I would like to keep my science fiction seperate from badly staged sex-scenes.

In a totally different genre, I’ve hit my limit for Alice Munroe. Yet I want more Atwood and Sheri S. Tepper.

I have limited tolerance for Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Asimov and Clarke.

Basically, no matter the author their style and general story become familiar after awhile, and you either like that dish enough to keep eating, or you look for something new. I don’t always purchase more of an author who I already have a lot of. It’s not nessicarily that the author has “jumped the shark”, it could just be that they’re repeating the same thing you read in the last book.

I still read Agatha Cristie when I’m looking for a little brain candy.

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Doug 11.20.06 at 4:23 pm

55: Never having read any Dan Brown, I find it hard to have given up on him.

I’ve definitely given up on O.S. Card. I’m having a hard time with V. Pelevin, too. K.S. Robinson also, though I’m stuck between the first and second Mars books, which is probably earlier than other people who’ve given up on him. The premise is interesting, it’s that I just can’t summon the desire to spend any time with those characters. Harlan Ellison. Bill Bryson (though not a fiction author). Tried David Foster Wallace once; I may even have written a review titled “A Supposedly Good Author I’ll Never Read Again.” Also in non-fiction, Stephen Ambrose.

More? I give up.

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abb1 11.20.06 at 4:24 pm

Rushdie after the move to New York.

I heard him on Bill Maher’s show a couple of weeks ago marveling about the great gifts of civilization the British empire brought to India. I haven’t read much of his stuff, is this typical?

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Patrick 11.20.06 at 4:38 pm

I haven’t given up on anyone.

I don’t have time to think it through that explicitly.

And when I’m working (literary critic/writing teacher), I don’t evaluate, and when it’s the book I’m reading to read, then I find what I like and go with that.

I used to have a friend with whom I played golf. One day he shot an 81, missing a couple of makeable birdie putts, and was very, very pissed. I shot 96 and enjoyed one of the most beautiful mornings in the history of Indianapolis IN. Later we had dinner. His steak was a hair overcooked. My wine was terrific.

That said, ever since a middle-aged woman in an American Lit class of mine said, “I hate ‘On the Road,’ because Sal reminds me of my first husband, and I’ve had to raise our girl alone because of his drinking,” I’ve had little tolerance for that book.

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Russell Arben Fox 11.20.06 at 5:10 pm

“But then, ever since that weird story about an Indian serial killer and identity confusion…”

John Irving wrote one of these? Or have you conflated an Irving book with Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer?

Nope. A Son of the Circus has a lunatic, toe-fetish serial killer wandering around India, murdering people and then drawing elephants on their stomachs, all the while a Indian doctor from Toronto and a Bollywood film star (who happen to be twins separated at birth) are re-united in Bombay, each undergoing crises related to religious faith and sexual identity. Also, there are dwarfs–circus drawfs, in fact. It’s all pretty nuts, but wonderfully written; Irving has some great lines (he had me laughing all the way through his description of a human-cannonball act gone awry). Sorry, I’m unfamiliar with Sherman Alexie.

Bill Bryson (though not a fiction author)

When did you give up on him, Doug? I liked In a Sunburnt Country but haven’t read anything by him since. I hear he’s moved back to Europe; maybe that precipitated a change?

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kb 11.20.06 at 5:24 pm

peter, speaking as someone who was bullied quite viciously as a kid, and read Ender’s Game for the first time when I was 12 and some of the worst of it was still going on:

— you.

(Mod gods, I fully understand if you feel this response merits a banning or a disemvowelling. But a comment like peter’s deserves no other response.)

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novakant 11.20.06 at 5:30 pm

Can we mention books? I gave up on Ulysses about 15 times, boring beyond belief – there, I said it, but I really liked “The Dubliners”. And I didn’t give up on “The Man without Qualities”, a fact of which I’m still insanely proud, especially since my ueberintellectual friends have never gotten through it. The fact that it kind of peters out into drafts, revisions and whatnot at the end, is, while interesting in itself, a bit of a letdown though. Still, a great read, even though Musil wasn’t as good a writer as, say, thomas Mann.

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Walt 11.20.06 at 5:30 pm

Kb: I don’t understand what you found offensive about Peter’s comment. (And BTW, cursing is allowed here — I do it frequently.) Is the idea that you would find Ender heroic?

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kb 11.20.06 at 5:32 pm

Incidentally, Neil Gaiman. Around about American Gods, I began to find that his writing, which is for the most part pretty good, became totally obscured by his overpowering sense of his own cleverness. Anansi Boys is a very good example– you just know that if you could see the possessor of the narrative voice, they would be wearing a permanent know-it-all smirk.

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Ancarett 11.20.06 at 5:39 pm

I gave up on Heinlein once I got far enough past his juvenile works to realize that his later works were all about sex and conspiracy theories. I gave up on Niven for much the same reason. And I enjoyed some of Card’s early works (anyone else remember “A Planet Called Treason” which I understand has been totally reworked. Ah, well!) but nothing since the third book in the Ender series has whet my appetite.

I wholesale gave up on the Victorian English novelists when I was in my teens and realized that I’d enjoyed nary a one. This is probably also the reason why I never considered becoming an English major. If only I’d known that a love for Dickens, Trollope, Bronte and the like weren’t required for the field, I might have chosen differently.

I also gave up on Agatha Christie when I read through her entire oeuvre in the mid 70s. Sadly, I don’t have any desire to return to the books — knowing the ending robs crime fiction of its power for a return read. But Jane Austen makes compelling reading every time. I can’t imagine ever giving up on Jane Austen!

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kb 11.20.06 at 5:42 pm

Walt: The implication that only people who were bullies or accessories to bullying dislike Ender’s Game.

Actually, the debate over EG reminds me a bit about the debate over Heinlen, especially The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. They’re both formative texts for so many people in sf fandom that you basically can’t mention that they’re bad books. If we’re listing specific objections: the plots are juvenile, the characters are cardboard, the writing is flat,* and the tone is self-righteous.

EG was unsatisfying even as a revenge fantasy because I just couldn’t take it seriously. And this is a kid who at the time thought David Eddings was really something on the literary front.

*. Less so Heinlen. I’ll give TMiaHM its due–that he can make Manny’s fractured slang smooth and unobtrusive speaks to his talents as a writer.

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pedro 11.20.06 at 5:45 pm

Cormac McCarthy: No Country for Old Men was shockingly shallow.

Ian McEwan: Saturday was a mega-disappointment.

Herman Melville: Petulance + philosophical naivete + pedagogical exuberance = Moby Dick.

Ann Patchett: She butchers the Spanish language in Bel Canto. Unforgivable :-)

Salman Rushdie: I’ve always wanted to like him; it just never happened.

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Bill Gardner 11.20.06 at 5:54 pm

“Cormac McCarthy: No Country for Old Men was shockingly shallow.”

But a hell of a read regardless.

“Ian McEwan: Saturday was a mega-disappointment.”

A mild disappointment. But to give up on the authors of Blood Meridian or Atonement based on one disappointing book?

77

Anna in Portland (was Cairo) 11.20.06 at 6:05 pm

I agree with so many people. It is great to read these posts. I also can’t read OSC although I have read some of his older books and liked them (I am not big into SF anyhow so I actually never read Ender’s Game, but there was one alternate history of Columbus’ voyage that I really enjoyed).

Rushdie – I read Midnight’s Children, fell in love, then tried to read the Satanic Verses. Argh!

I understand the comments on Le Guin, but as her stuff really is suited to young adults can’t you just consider that you grew out of it rather than she got worse? (Same for L’Engle, or anyone else whose writing is for the teen market)

I have totally gotten over Anne Perry. Her writing style just did not grow on me and it never varied and after several books I managed to get through the final book in the WWI recent series she wrote and said “Never again.” My sister and I both have declared ourselves to be over her.

Patricia Cornwall – Yes, the right-wing Reagan-worshipping started to really shine through Scarpetta at some point and as the SF people say the books are now “Mary Sue” throughout.

Re Dan Brown, all you have to do is read one book, they are all formulas of each other. I read 3 of them just because they were there and I am the sort of reader that, when nothing else is in the room, will read the phone book or the zip code directory.

78

Maynard Handley 11.20.06 at 6:30 pm

No-one’s mentioned Tom Clancy yet?

Heinlein, Card and Clancy all followed exactly the same trajectory. At some point they deluded themselves into thinking that what their readers really enjoyed in their early works was not well told stories but the philosophical and political musings of the authors, and that what they really wanted was books that skipped all that tedious gripping story and just gave us heapings of the political philosophy.

I have to admit to having a lot of sympathy for fireflye in spite of what people have said. Listening in the car I alternate between fiction and non-fiction, and increasingly the fiction feels like a chore and, halfway through the first disk, I just say “screw this, let’s get back to US history (or anthropology, or invertebrate biology or whatever the next non-fiction work happens to be)”. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ll never bother with fiction again, but given just how vast, and how interesting, the realm of non-fiction is, I am constantly surprised at how few people read it.

If you have not already done so, I recommend you get a librarything.com account, enter some books, and explore. I’ve found, as I enter books, that most of my non-fiction books register as having zero or one, or maybe very rarely ten other people with the same book. When it comes to fiction, there are hundreds, often thousands of people with the same book.

Another fun toy at librarything that is somewhet germaine to this discussion is the unsuggester which tells you “if you loved X, you’ll hate Y”. Maybe not useful, but certainly amusing.

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astrongmaybe 11.20.06 at 7:51 pm

#54 – your gracious defence of Canetti makes me slightly embarrassed to have gone off against him so fiercely. But this theater production was great apart from the damn words, made of EC’s aphorisms. Maybe I dismissed him too much as a result of that disappointment.

On the original post, I agree on the latest Ballards. Not worth bothering with. Thing about JB, though, is that he was always a bit lazy and slapdash at times. He’ll happily repeat the same observation within the space of a few pages, even in good books (e.g. Crash, Kindness of Women). In general, his prose is nothing to write home about – many of his sentences lump along, heavy and ungainly.

But somehow the force of his vision often pushed through all that. The earlier commentator @16 is right too, that at his best, a certain kind of repetition serves him well. The moments at the end of many of his better books (High Rise, Drowned World), when the hero calmly, cheerfully even, faces the post-apocalyptic era, have a force that gains from the their repetition across his work.

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pedro 11.20.06 at 8:01 pm

Bill Gardner: I’m sure I’ll forgive McEwan eventually (I never held Borges’s political reactionary views against his literature). But McCarthy is not the most versatile of writers, and I’m not sure I agree that No Country for Old Men was a hell of a read. Besides, after reading his latest book, I’m pretty sure my subversive interpretation of Pretty Horses is dead wrong, and that makes me angry (/jk)

81

Frowner 11.20.06 at 8:07 pm

Le Guin: The problem isn’t that her books are for adolescents. (Anyway, show me the adolescent who actually likes Always Coming Home! And I don’t really think that you get the most out of the Earthsea books when you’re young, in part because they’re a bit Pollyanna-ish and you need to be old enough to read through that.) Her earlier books (and parts of The Birthday of the World) have a mobilizing quality to their naivete, and they’re written level with the audience. Her later books are much more de haute en bas. It’s as if, in Always Coming Home or The Wind’s Twelve Quarters she is saying, “Come on, we can make a different world! Look at all these terrible things! Let’s change them!” and in her later books she’s saying “Why don’t you people get it? Let me explain in simple language and then maybe you’ll shape up!” I don’t know as I blame her, though, since I think a kind of intellectual-spiritual burnout is one of the hazards of left-wing writerdom.

I…I was a bullied child. And very conscientiously never a bully except on one single occasion. I don’t like Orson Scott Card. Or rather, I like a couple of his books while recognizing how politically problematic they are. He revels in the almost lascivious depiction of child suffering, over and over and over again. He loves setting things up so that the world can only be saved if one child is tormented repeatedly and unjustly, and therefore tormenting the child is the right thing to do and the really sensitive characters steel themselves to do it. (In this he’s the opposite of Le Guin–even at her sappiest, in The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, her politics do not permit her to enjoy depicting pain.) The key to Card is found in his horror/thriller book called something like Lost Boys where there’s actual pedophile murderer…he’s someone who is really in the grip of some unpleasant intellectual compulsions and it’s kind of embarassing, like “anti-porn activists” who amass libraries of the stuff.

That said, his interlinked stories in The Folk of the Fringe are really classic US science fiction and deal very handsomely with some interesting things. I also like Wyrms a lot even though it’s really about justifying colonialism and genocide. The funny thing is, what I like about Card is that he gets–almost uniquely among conservative white science fiction writers–that race and genocide are major, serious and tragic issues in American history. I don’t like his conclusions but I appreciate his engagement.

82

Rob 11.20.06 at 8:28 pm

Ballard, definitely. It’s not just repetition now, in the sense of the reappearance of tropes, but just outright sameness. Cocaine Nights and whatever the hell the one after that was called just had exactly the same plot, with exactly the same characters and exactly the concerns. Dull.

83

Matt Weiner 11.20.06 at 8:32 pm

I’ve sort of given up on Carl Hiassen; at least, now if I were going to read one of his books I’d expect to be fun but to contain a lot of the same old tricks. Though that’s not so different from my old appraisal of him.

84

Jeff R. 11.20.06 at 8:50 pm

Just a quick note on Simmons: Olympos comes across a lot better if one has started the story with it’s proper beginning, an extremely creepy little novella called The Ninth of Av.

Illium is a somewhat strong, if a bit more disturbing work when one recognizes a few characters and settings bits from that novella. On the other hand, taking it into account did pin Simmons into a bit of a corner, and the worst bits of Olympos are most likely an attempt to write himself out of it.

85

Alan Bostick 11.20.06 at 9:03 pm

I gave up on both tries of reading Scott Card, first of Seventh Son and then Saints. In both cases I refused to go past the child-torturing scene on page two.

John Kessel wrote a fabulous essay about the moral bankruptcy of Card’s Ender books.

Now, of course, his public anti-gay stance makes me even less willling to pay a dime for anything he writes.

86

Frowner 11.20.06 at 9:32 pm

That Kessel essay is interesting–and thorough–but I think it doesn’t quite explain some of the themes of abjection and sin that occur repeatedly in Card’s work…maybe that’s the suppleness of Card’s approach, since you get the pleasure of being the good victim who suffers for your superiority, but you also get the pleasure of being punished and put in your place–consider the underlying idea of Red Prophet and the Folk of the Fringe: that white people, white Americans, have misused this continent and will be punished and displaced from primacy for it. (Actually, Red Prophet, deeply problematic as it is, was the first time I ever encountered something that really got through to me about the evils worked on indigenous people by white colonizers) The thing is, he kind of plays with this idea in a way I find really disrespectful of actual indigenous experience, as in that one about Columbus where people decide to wipe out all of human history. He is an ambiguous and unpleasant writer…I find him a bit more sympathetic than most conservative science fiction writers simply because he’s so messed up. He’s not someone who is merely cheerleading for his own side, even though the net political effect is pretty much the same as if he were. Although I too don’t buy his books anymore, and since the last round of creepy interviews and columns I certainly won’t start again.

87

Bill Gardner 11.20.06 at 9:34 pm

Hey Pedro,
I should have a chance to read The Road soon. We’ll see. I’m guessing we are quite different… I found Moby Dick hard to put down.
peace
Bill

88

Russell Arben Fox 11.20.06 at 9:50 pm

The key to Card is found in his horror/thriller book called something like Lost Boys where there’s actual pedophile murderer…he’s someone who is really in the grip of some unpleasant intellectual compulsions and it’s kind of embarassing, like “anti-porn activists” who amass libraries of the stuff.

Back at BYU, I had an English professor who was convinced that Lost Boys was where Card lost it; it is a fiercely, to me almost revoltingly Manichean book, with certain evils/sins/horrors plugged into the universe practically on a genetic level (the wicked pedophile/murderer, Boy, could never have been anything except a wicked pedophile/murderer, that’s made clear), while the good people also similarly touched/fated/whatever from the outset. This also plays into his weird obsessions with children as our suffering saviors vs. our tragic villians. Bad kids are going to grow up to be bad people, and you can feel sorry for them, indeed you should feel sorry for them, but dammit, they’re just bad. Children can grow and mature and deepen, but they don’t seem to change.

Overall, it’s a disturbing philosophy. It gives him, I’ll grant, a better grasp of evil and punishment than most fiction writers, but still, I find it so predictable now.

Again, I suggest you go back and read his early short stories. Just good hard, thoughtful, sci-fi. Frankly, I can’t think of any book he’s written–unless he’s come out with a brilliant one since I stopped reading the man–that can top even some of his run-of-the-mill short stories.

89

garymar 11.20.06 at 9:51 pm

Ancarett (November 20th, 2006 at 5:39 pm) said:

I gave up on Heinlein once I got far enough past his juvenile works to realize that his later works were all about sex and conspiracy theories. I gave up on Niven for much the same reason.

I probably haven’t read all of Niven, but read most of the “Known Space” series, especially the Ringworld trilogy, and I don’t see the sex and conspiracy theory angle for him. Vast cosmic forces impacting and shaping humanity don’t count as conspiracy in my book.

Niven tantalizes me because of the huge disparity between the grandeur of his conceptions versus the paltry execution of the books. The palette is huge but the colors are thin. The books are a kind of dark and filthy window through which I can just barely discern an amazing world. That’s why I can’t give up on him – if Niven had been a better writer he might have created something to rival Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy.

90

Matt McIrvin 11.20.06 at 10:28 pm

I think the reason I don’t read much nonfiction any more is that I became conscious of how many popular nonfiction books in subjects I know something about (especially physics) are full of nonsense and misconceptions. There are many perfectly good ones too; but in subjects I don’t know anything about (which are the subjects in which I would be most likely to want to read nonfiction), I have no way of telling the difference, and it makes me suspicious of all of them. With fiction you at least know the author is trying to lie to you.

91

Frowner 11.20.06 at 10:32 pm

89: See, to me his short stories prefigure a lot of the stuff I don’t like about his later work. They aren’t, true, as vexing–possibly because the disturbing stuff isn’t worked out at such length. The horrible fetus-thing story…I dunno, gender problems if you ask me. And the one about the unendingly punished genius boy-musician? That one about the china salamander is pretty decent, in a kind of soppy way. They are vivid and memorable stories, though. I could probably recount a lot of them just off the top of my head.

I was just musing on this, and it occurs to me that the systemization of his books is one of the non-sinister (well, sort of sinister) things that may make his books appeal to adolescents–the orderly discipline in Songmaster and Ender’s Game, the doubled plot points, the system of the computer game in EG, etc. Systems and rankings really fascinated me in my early teens and I remember even when I was in college being sort of aesthetically pleased by some of the recurring things and echoes.

I wonder whether Card is just too nasty to be recuperable? I can still read certain ideologically toxic books with some pleasure–parts of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader and the Space Trilogy, for example, just because I like the idea of, say, the spooky island with the water that turns things to gold or the floating plant-islands of Perelandra–and I read certain books like the Ring trilogy for the pleasure of counter-plots (Sauron is really an anti-colonialist ruler akin to various sixties/seventies African leaders; the hobbits are really non-aligned powers who suddenly become important, etc.) But Card is too powerfully icky, at least his later work. And honestly, given how many planets he describes, Card doesn’t really give you that much descriptive pleasure.

Although Wyrms now, Wyrms is bizarre and does have some vividly described passages. (Passages, that is, that are not about children being abused.) It also has some pretty decent aliens.

92

Danny Yee 11.20.06 at 11:43 pm

I’ve pretty much given up on Irmtraud Morgner, Peter Weiss and Borislav Pekic, since the chances of any more of their writing being translated into English seems slim.

Of course if anyone ever does translate The Golden Fleece or the other volumes of The Aesthetics of Resistance I’ll be onto them like a shot, so I guess I haven’t really given up on the authors, just on the publishing system.

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Ken Houghton 11.20.06 at 11:59 pm

Giving up on Tom Clancy would imply there was a reason to read him that has changed: the prose is still wooden, the plots are still plodding, and (unlike post-Cold War Le Carre) the atmosphere is still the same.

There are writers whose works I gave up because life is too short: Tim Sandlin comes to mind. (Apparently, his publisher gave up as well.)

I can’t tell if I gave up Vikram Seth or he gave up me when he moved from poetry and short stories to novels.

Those who gave up Rushdie because of The Satanic Verses should try The Ground Beneath Her Feet.

I’ve given up Kroeber’s daughter so many times now, I don’t know what…oops, wrong riff.

I suppose I could claim to have given up Stephen King, but the truth is that he writes faster than I can read.

But to give up on James Graham Ballard would bwe to give up on life. One might as well claim to give up Tom Holt or Christopher Priest or M. John Harrison.

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aa 11.21.06 at 12:04 am

Nick Hornby, a long long time ago (la dah dee dah).

Plato – all smoke and mirrors.

The merits of Dan Simmons always escaped me entirely, though I am sufficiently blessed with low tastes (Ender’s Game, almost any PKD, particularly the works he wrote while alive, Louis de Funes, baloney samiches with mayonnaise).

95

Mark 11.21.06 at 12:23 am

I pretty much agree with everyone’s comments regarding OSC: he’s exactly the author I would pick for the original meme.
However, he had one son, Charlie Ben, who was profoundly affected by cerebral palsy-I don’t believe he ever really spoke– and who died quite young. Card has written very movingly about him. Perhaps the endless suffering of children, an admittedly creepy and off-putting theme that’s one of OSD’s very favorites, is an attempt to make sense of this tragedy?

96

Tom T. 11.21.06 at 12:45 am

Must agree with #72 and Neil Gaiman. Each novel circles just a little closer to Xanth.

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JohnP 11.21.06 at 1:23 am

James Ellroy peaked with “White Jazz” and it’s been all downhill since. Elmore Leonard too, judging by the embarrassing “Be Cool”.

98

Toby Joyce 11.21.06 at 2:47 am

Orson Scott Card – he rewrote Ender’s Game from a different perspective – nice conceit but he messed it up. Ender’s Game was brilliant because we saw an intergalactic war from the point of view of the small boy who is also a military genius. In Card’s latest book, the wars take precedence and the characters are dwarfed by unconvincing discourses on strategy ripped from academic textbooks.
U.K. LeGuin – I would not read anything of hers after Tehanu – like Card, she tried to “improve” earlier work and failed miserably.

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Doug 11.21.06 at 3:52 am

68: Russell, I just sorta barely made it through Australia with BB. His Short History of Nearly Everything stares unread from a shelf near the computer. I think there’s one or two since then, too, but nah, no thanks.

As others have mentioned above, Heinlein and Asimov tend to pale past a certain point. Clarke less so because he is so damned clever after all. But Bradbury? His gifts keep on giving. In One More for the Road (very late Bradbury indeed), there’s a terribly poignant story about being young and gay in the 1940s. Bradbury is a wonder.

100

Gracchi 11.21.06 at 5:16 am

93 how could you give up on Plato- the kind of writer you can circle around and around working out from your birth to your death a really great thinker.

As for people I’ve given up on- I think its people I liked in massive bursts and then basically read myself out of- so Terry Pratchett always sounds the same to me now partly because I read him as a kid in a huge burst. Dickens partly I had the same thing with- read too much in one go and got sated.

Political thinkers- John Dunn always tempts me in and then confuses me- I’m a historian so like his early stuff on Locke but hte later books especaillly the Cunning of Unreason are too elaborate- having said that I must give them another try.

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Gracchi 11.21.06 at 5:17 am

Sorry meant to say 95, 93 hasn’t given up on Plato its 95- apologies to both.

102

dave heasman 11.21.06 at 6:19 am

Oh, and Walter Mosley.

103

Far Away 11.21.06 at 6:24 am

He’s probably too low brow to be mentioned in the above company, but I read the first two or three of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” (or whatever) series, enjoyed them for a while, but then tired of the excessive repetition (some big confrontation with one of the Fallen, or whoever they were in the third last chapter). When I look at the fantasy shelves in the bookshop he seems to be up to Volume 10 or so, with no sign of stopping. Not only is it a waste of paper, it seems like a waste of space on bookshelves.

104

Far Away 11.21.06 at 6:35 am

On the more highbrow side, I really enjoyed Nabokov when young, but made the mistake of reading about 15 of his novels in a row. I got about 2/3rds of the way through “Ada”, put it down and have never picked up another.

105

Bruce Baugh 11.21.06 at 9:14 am

Ursula Le Guin remains a very fine essayist and lecturer even though I don’t much go her fiction anymore. Her acceptance speech for the Washington State Book Awards is a delight, following in the tone of its opening:

Thank you all for the honor given, through me, to Literature by this award. It makes me happy, of course, because writers live on praise; and because it is regional, and I love the Pacific Northwest. But I feel above all that I’m here as a proxy, a stand-in, for Literature. Literature is too busy to come collect her prize, and she’s too big to get into the building, even this building which was built for her. Literature is huge — they can’t fit her even into the Library of Congress, because she keeps not talking English. She is very big, very polyglot, very old, even older than I am by about 3000 years, and she weighs a lot.

106

Robert Love 11.21.06 at 9:19 am

I can’t believe a site I rely on for intelligence is spending so much time on Orson Scott Card? Didn’t he do a Star Wars Adaptation? Give him up? I never touched him.

I still read Heinlen. “The Number of the Beast” was just pathetic, and it went a long way to poisoning the well, until I read “TMIAHM” again. I was born in 1964 round about when “TMIAHM” was published. If you were born later, you must understand that a novel about a black polygamist who bombs the United States is startlingly radical for the time it was written. Sure, Heinlein was utterly confused politically. So was Kipling. That is a source of strength as well as of weakness.

I have given up a couple of times on “Quicksilver”, but Stephenson has a lot of credit with me after “Cryptonomicon”.

“Dhalgren” is one of those interesting cases where I have given up on reading the book but recognise it as brilliant.

Cormac McCarthy? Sorry, if you haven’t read “The Road” you can’t comment. Stunning work.

Bill Bryson? “Thunderbolt Kid” is his best in ages.

My three. Mark Steyn. Brilliant prose style. No heart, no human feeling. Wrong. Digging himself deeper every day.

Terry Pratchett. Still like the guy, just can’t be bothered. There comes a time when most successful writers give the impression of being paid by the word. Good for you, but I won’t follow.

Rowling. Loved Harry Potter initially, but it strikes me that very few writers can write for children and adolescents. Children and adults yes, (Kipling and Heinlen again). Don’t know why. I think transitioning between the two age groups means that you have to deal with your protagonists first masturbation experience, or ignore it, and both are no win artistic choices. I’d love an example to prove me wrong (and to knock out an obvious example, while Joyce wrote as a child in “POAA” it was not FOR children.)

Robert Love

107

Frowner 11.21.06 at 10:43 am

Huh. If you asked me whether I’d rather be forced to read Heinlein or be forced to read Card, I’d take Card and be thankful. I can’t stand Heinlein’s “smart hot women serve the patriarchy and love it” routine, or the incredible smarminess of Stranger in a Strange Land. I think it’s tough to make a case that Heinlein is more “profound” than Card, since both are sterling examples of pseudo-profundity in its manifold guises.

Oh, hey, I can list a classy author I’ve given up on: Paul Auster, although my reasons have everything to do with ideology and nothing to do with quality. I was reading “In the Country of Last Things” on the Amtrak from Minneapolis to Chicago on a lovely winter morning in the late nineties when I happened across a creepy-snotty frat boy passage where the heroine reassures us that even though everything is a disaster and she and her lover are living in desperate conditions, they certainly do reserve their last remaining razor to shave her legs, because it’s just so sexy, giggle giggle. Up until then, I had been ignoring the relentless reminders that even in poverty, dirt and misery the heroine is just smoking hot. But I couldn’t take it any more, that perennial need to reassure a male audience that they aren’t wasting their time reading about some homely chick, because who would want to do that? Even if she was brave and talented and interesting and off on a crazy, foolish bizarre adventure, if the readers had to think of her with stubbly legs it would just…ruin the whole thing. And that’s actually the main reason I don’t read that Snowcrash/Diamond Age guy anymore–the constant nudge-nudge-wink-wink about just how attractive the main women characters are.

108

Jacob T. Levy 11.21.06 at 10:52 am

I unfortunately never gave up on Robert Jordan, or at least on Wheel of Time (I certainly won’t pick up anything else of his)– the annoying crack got into my system. And I’d read the complete Heinlein too early to get bored. (It’s not the sexual or political or philosophical material that would have bored me later; it’s the metastory, the inability to end stories, and the desire to have all his characters– at first just all his character from within one novel, and then eventually all his characters ever– happen to find each other and like each other and live happily ever after.)

But with Tom Clancy, or probably with any genre writer, one doesn’t have to think that the writer has changed or gone downhill; one just has to get bored. The gimmick was new and exciting, then it was carried along by some momentum and residual interest, and then the reader had had enough, even if the later books were better (which in Clancy’s case they weren’t). Gave him up long since and never looked back.

Gave up on the second generation Dune novels.

Gave up on Kundera at some point; not sure why.

And the big one, giving up on Rushdie, I discuss further here.

109

Matt Weiner 11.21.06 at 11:36 am

Oh, I forgot a big one: David Lodge. Loved the Changing Places-Small World-Nice Work trilogy, and the earlier books I’ve read have been good. But Paradise News had too much sentimentality, and Therapy I found sentimental and unpleasant. Lodge seemed so pleased about bringing that jerk to a happy ending. The reviews of his subsequent books haven’t made me want to pick them up; it sounds as though his protagonist are getting more unpleasant and he’s getting more invested in them.

110

Matt Weiner 11.21.06 at 11:40 am

I posted that before looking at Jacob’s link. Jacob, you didn’t like Nice Work?

(And I should’ve said “In Therapy the sentimentality takes over and gets unpleasant.” In Paradise News I at least felt that the emotions I was being manipulated into were worth feeling.)

111

Jacob T. Levy 11.21.06 at 11:54 am

I liked Nice Work fine, but haven’t ever felt inspired to reread it. In a sense Nice Work is a more serious novel, and I reread Trading Places and Small World for the academic comedy.
I also just think I like Phillip, Morris, and Percy as characters better than the characters in NW.

I can happily recommend “Thinks…” Give it a shot.

112

Dick Mulliken 11.21.06 at 11:58 am

Recently I decided to get around to James Gould Cozzens. I have never had an author make me so angry. I don’t mind an author heartily disliking or feeling contempt for all his characters, but Cozzens does it im some especially hypocritical way, where he for example would have us admire his upper class wasp types only to then expose their shallowness and cheap vanity. It’s contrived. Reminds me of I A Richards’ dictum that bad art is bad because it tells lies. meaning primarily that the author doesn’t really feel what he pretends to feel) Give me an author honetly disgusted with humanity – like Beckett – any day

113

Down and Out in Sài Gòn 11.21.06 at 12:01 pm

Piers Anthony.

114

Chris Bertram 11.21.06 at 12:01 pm

This year’s Nobel prize-winner, Orhan Pamuk. I dragged myself through _Snow_ , despite desperate feelings of boredom coupled with irritation at the pretentious and overelaborate plot. Never again.

115

Dave Maier 11.21.06 at 12:33 pm

The only Card I’ve read is EG. I was wondering what was bugging me about it when I learned that it was an expansion of a short story. That’s it exactly: it’s an excellent short story (I assume) with lots of tendentious and redundant padding. If he gets worse I certainly am not interested. I should check out the early stories, as someone suggested.

No one has mentioned Robert Stone, which must mean that no one was ever into him in the first place, because his later books are Just Awful, but A Flag for Sunrise had a big impact on me when I read it (20 years ago).

116

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.21.06 at 12:53 pm

Card is an odd person. His early short stories were freaking amazing. His later work has gotten tedious. Last I checked he has the “homosexuality is wrong wrong wrong, but homosexuals are very sad unfortunate people line”. That is kind of strange, because “Songmaster” is the book that really helped my realize I was gay, that it wasn’t my fault, and that I could be a good person anyway.

117

Jacob T. Levy 11.21.06 at 12:56 pm

Hm. I read Ender’s Game as an adult, not as a kid. I liked it a lot but felt no urge to continue in the series. And I can’t say that any of my inner bullied-nerdness felt any connection with Ender’s torment, which was so openly deliberately engineered by adults as to seem entirely unlike the Lord of the Flies character of junior high life that I remember.

118

Doctor Slack 11.21.06 at 1:04 pm

Chris is absolutely right about Snow. Sheer drudgery. (I’ve only read one other Pamuk book, though, the spectacular My Name is Red, so I couldn’t say I’ve given up on him.)

Agree with those who’ve given up on Stephenson (he lost me with The Diamond Age, and I gave up on Cryptonomicon around the appearance of Qwghlm), and on Rushdie (I loved Midnight’s Children and liked The Satanic Verses, but each subsequent outing was tougher going until the unreadable The Ground Beneath Her Feet put me off entirely).

It seems awfully early in the game to be giving up on Zadie Smith (I really liked White Teeth), but I have to confess that I don’t see the appeal of On Beauty and was not terribly fond of The Autograph Man either. We’ll see.

119

Henry 11.21.06 at 2:24 pm

Very quick comments as I’m rushing to catch a plane. On Le Guin – comments above aside, I’m one of the few people to have liked _Tehanu_ and to have thought that it completed her earlier trilogy and gave it an edge. Martin Amis I too gave up on after _London Fields_ and I’m fonder of Amis pere by and large than fils, for all his splenetic conservatism. Disagree on Pynchon – Mason and Dixon wasn’t Gravity’s Rainbow_, but it was very good nonetheless. Rana – don’t know that sf/f is any more juvenile than crime fiction, but agree on Reginald Hill – he never seemed very good as a crime novelist as such – the explanations were always a bit forced, but the early books were very, very good on character, esp. the two main protagonists. I liked McCarthy’s _The Road_ a lot – thought it was nearly up there with _Blood Meridian_ and _All the Pretty Horses_, but an email conversation (which I may reprint sometime if I get permission) with China Mieville has convinced me that it has some problems.

120

Russell Arben Fox 11.21.06 at 3:09 pm

Wow, this thread is still going. Cool. Ok, some more thoughts:

Mark,

[OSC] had one son, Charlie Ben, who was profoundly affected by cerebral palsy-I don’t believe he ever really spoke—and who died quite young. Card has written very movingly about him. Perhaps the endless suffering of children, an admittedly creepy and off-putting theme that’s one of OSD’s very favorites, is an attempt to make sense of this tragedy?

I know that his and his wife’s experiences with Charlie (who died, I believe, when he was around 17) profoundly affected his writing, if only because he has said so several times in his forewords and afterwords in various books. The protagonist family in Lost Boys has a child who is clearly based on Charlie, and in some ways, the child’s ability to flourish is tied to the sacrifice of his oldest brother. I called the book “revolting” above, and that’s a little unfair, but still: there’s just so much anger and ferocity and self-justification in it, that the tenderness which is in there is equal measure gets mixed up. But then Card is, I think, a profoundly mixed up guy.

Robert,

Bill Bryson? “Thunderbolt Kid” is his best in ages.

I hope you’re right; I read a lot of Bryson up to a certain point, and I saw this one in the bookstore recently, and thought that reading Bryson’s Iowa memoirs could potentially be a lot of fun. I’ll have to give it a shot.

Jacob,

Gave up on the second generation Dune novels.

You mean you made it through the first generation? Oh man. Herbert’s original fourth book–what was it, the God-Emperor of Dune or some such thing–was a turgid mess; I could not get past the first few chapters. Completely killed the Dune mythos for me, for good.

I read Ender’s Game as an adult, not as a kid. I liked it a lot but felt no urge to continue in the series.

Do find the time to read Speaker for the Dead sometime, Jacob. It’s the book he originally wanted to write, the book that he went back and expanded the short story “Ender’s Game” in order to provide a prequel for, and really, it’s his best novel period (unless, as I said above, he’s somehow unlearned all his bad habits and has written something new and interesting over the past 7 years or so).

Doctor Slack (and Chris),

Chris is absolutely right about Snow. Sheer drudgery.

My wife read Snow for a book group; detested it. No, wait, that would mean she felt strongly about it; in truth, she just found it utterly, miserably dull.

121

Matt Weiner 11.21.06 at 3:18 pm

[Robert Stone’s] later books are Just Awful

When do the later novels start? I remember liking Outerbridge Crossing, then I read Children of Light (if that’s the one where they’re filming The Awakening) which I thought was hilariously self-important, and Dog Soldiers which is supposed to be The Great One and which I thought was a second-rate Elmore Leonard with pretensions (could you please stop pretending you have something to say about Vietnam?) I admit this may be a flaw in me, and I’ve like some of his short stories, but no more Stone for me.

122

m, 11.21.06 at 6:10 pm

Ken MacLeod. I loved the Fall Revolution books, but at some point the later books just got really repetitive and not very good. And can’t he write one damn book set in the near-to-distant future which doesn’t have a strong link to Glasgow in the 1970s?

123

Ian 11.21.06 at 7:10 pm

124 posts and no-one’s mentioned The Greatest (according to one of those silly millenium polls) Writer Of The Twentieth Century, Tolkien? Loved “Lord of the Rings” when I was 12, but can’t understand why people keep going back.

Writers for grown-ups: Rushdie (started off bad, got embarrassingly bad) and, maybe, Pynchon (why 1080 pages? I have to cook dinner…)

124

Miriam 11.21.06 at 7:17 pm

Of the writers named above: I too am on the “abandon Card” bandwagon (read my way through everything he published up through the early 1990s, found what came afterwards to be rather dull and badly crafted), but must defend Reginald Hill (agree about lousy plotting, but love the Dickensian grotesques and the allusion-heavy narratives). Besides, there’s a new Dalziel & Pascoe coming out in March.

My own choices:

1) Joyce Carol Oates–endlessly recycles the same quasi-gothic themes, without thinking them through to any great extent. I was a huge fan as an undergraduate, but in more recent years her work has left me cold (although I’ll make an exception for My Heart Laid Bare).
2) Minette Walters–predictable plot twists coupled with equally predictable preachiness. I tried again recently, and was left feeling decidedly grouchy…

125

rushmc 11.21.06 at 7:37 pm

Wow. I find myself agreeing with every author cited by others above (that I’ve read, which is most of them). I was a huge Card fan in my teens (A Planet Called Treason, Wyrms, EG and SFTD, particularly) and watching him self destruct has been particularly painful. As for Stephenson, I slogged through Quicksilver but have no real interest in going further. No interest in reading more Simmons, though I enjoyed his first trilogy at the time.

But beyond that, I have just recently realized that I’ve given up on ALL the writers that I have read. I still read a fair amount (http://www.webnesia.com/booksread.htm) and try to read pretty eclecticly, but it dawned on me the other day that while much of what I read might be rewarding enough while I’m reading it, virtually none of it sticks with me, none of it becomes something that I’d feel good about unequivocally recommending to someone else. Is it me? Has anyone else experienced this? I’ve been a reader my entire life and value books extremely highly…why aren’t they doing it for me anymore?

126

Keith 11.21.06 at 10:03 pm

I second (third, forth, whatever) Stephenson. Snow Crash and Diamond Age blew away. Quicksiilver just blew.

As much as I enjoy Neil Gaiman’s work, about a month ago it suddenly dawned on me that every novel is just a cookie cutter variation on the Hero’s Journey. Which is fine but it’s the same story every time, just change the character names and witty dialogue.

127

rana 11.22.06 at 8:15 am

#126 (Miriam),

I never worried too much about Reginald Hill’s plots, or lack of them; his charm always lay in the characters, their interplay, the literary allusions, etc. But the going has become a lot heavier in recent (oh, say 8) years. Is every new Hill book 50 pages longer than the previous one, or is that just my imagination?

128

Jacob T. Levy 11.22.06 at 8:48 am

As much as I enjoy Neil Gaiman’s work, about a month ago it suddenly dawned on me that every novel is just a cookie cutter variation on the Hero’s Journey. Which is fine but it’s the same story every time, just change the character names and witty dialogue

Well, sure. Not only Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, American Gods, and Stardust, but also Black Orchid, Preludes and Nocturns, A Doll’s House, Books of Magic, and Brief Lives.

I think Gaiman’s openly a placeteller as much as a storyteller, though. Lots of those stories are barely about the Heroe’s Journey; they’re about the place being journeyed through. I think that’s part of the point of what he does.

129

Dave Maier 11.22.06 at 12:01 pm

Okay, I was too quick to assume that’s Stone’s story was one of decline (I haven’t read Dog Soldiers). I’ve only read three: A Flag for Sunrise, which I really liked, and then two later ones which I hated: Children of Light (yes, that’s the one with the film) and Damascus Gate (apocalyptic self-indulgence). (For the record, the other one you read is called Outerbridge Reach, not “crossing”.)

122 made me laugh – yes, there should be a warning on the first Dune book: Stop Here, They Go Downhill Fast. I didn’t like the end of #3, so I skipped #4 and I thought I was done. But someone recommended #5 (Heretics), which takes place way in the future (w/r/t #4), and that one was fun (still no patch on #1 though). No interest in the others.

130

not max power 11.22.06 at 12:11 pm

“Loved “Lord of the Rings” when I was 12, but can’t understand why people keep going back.” (#125)

Reminds me of a Terry Pratchett quote: “If you don’t think Lord of the Rings is the greatest book ever when you’re 14, there’s probably something wrong with you. If you still think it’s the greatest book when you’re 40, there’s definitely something wrong with you.”

131

Nicholas Mycroft 11.22.06 at 12:30 pm

back in college some of us creative writing types thought a better question was which writers -didn’t- steadily decline after reaching an early peak. I think sustained success is probably a bad thing for a writer. one counterexample is Melville. haven’t read -Pierre-, but “Bartleby” and “Billy Budd” certainly are up to standard.

I’d propose Paul Auster. -The Invention of Solitude- is quite astonishing and -The New York Trilogy- is really good. Some decent stuff in the early 90s but of late I’ve given up.

132

Frowner 11.22.06 at 1:52 pm

132, LOTR: Well, for my family it’s a family-culture thing. My father read it to me when I was 11-12 and then, amazingly, read it to my brother when he reached the same age. (We could read, you know, perfectly well–maybe even morbidly well, considering how many perfect summer days we spent indoors with books–but we liked to share books. In fact, my father read me David Copperfield, Pickwick Papers and the Old Curiousity Shop starting when I was 8 or 9. I did fall asleep during quite a lot of it, but it gave me an enduring fondness for Dickens.) We all know the books well, and they serve as grounds for reminiscences (my father has an extremely memorable Ent voice, for example) and grounds for debate. We all hold very different views about how you read and think about literature, and we tend to lay things out using LOTR as an example.

In general, I bet lots of people return to the books simply because it’s nice to have a shared reading experience to talk about. I rarely meet anyone who reads the authors I like, and even when I push books on friends they don’t always feel as engaged with the books as I do.

133

DaveL 11.22.06 at 2:22 pm

I haven’t given up on most of the authors repetitively listed here (Pynchon, Stephenson, Gaiman, LeGuin, etc.)

I have nearly given up on Card: I still (foolishly) hold out hope for the Alvin Maker series to actually end some day.

I have nearly given up on Iain (M.) Banks. “The Algebraist” is resisting all efforts to distinguish it from any of his other novels, alas.

I gave up on LeCarre somewhere between “The Night Manager” and “The Constant Gardener,” though momentum led me to read up to that point. His Smiley/Karla books are classic, though.

I gave up on P. D. James long ago, during a book I can no longer remember the title of, when I realized I had read the same story in her previous ten books and no longer cared who dunnit.

I have not been able to finish Mary Doria Russell’s “A Thread of Grace,” so I may be giving up on her.

134

not max power 11.22.06 at 7:25 pm

#135:
Glad someone else still reads Stephenson – I thought the Baroque cycle was amazing though agree with earlier commentators on Cryptonomicon: it pales in comparison to the latter three.

Iain M. Banks – haven’t got past 1st part of The Algebraist somewhere in the tangle of disemvowelled alien and Culture names, sarcastic drones and special-ops masturbation I just got bored. Banks’ regular fiction continues to be inventive though.

135

roy belmont 11.23.06 at 5:41 am

Le Carre’s “Absolute Friends” justifies his entire career.

136

roy belmont 11.23.06 at 5:49 am

Robert Stone’s “Bear and His Daughter” is unimpeachable – free-climbing, honed, brilliant.
Anybody who mentions Rushdie and Pynchon in the same sentence needs to live on a way tighter budget.

137

Ian 11.23.06 at 3:30 pm

Anybody who mentions Rushdie and Pynchon in the same sentence needs to live on a way tighter budget.

I seem to be the last person to have done that. I DO need to live on a tighter budget, now that you mention it, but the connection with Rushdie and Pynchon escapes me. (God, I’ve done it again!)

138

indiyoda 11.24.06 at 12:00 am

#19: No matter what you think about the benefit of fiction as a whole, saying that Tolstoy, James, and Flaubert can tell you everything about human nature that can be found in fiction implies pretty strongly that women have nothing (certainly nothing unique) to share about human nature. Are you sure you want to make that claim?

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