Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Do you ...

Do you ever find some authors that you know are good, possibly even great, are highly esteemed, are lauded by others whose judgment you generally agree with, that you just cannot stomach? If you are still with me after that convoluted sentence, let me explain. This past weekend I tried to once again read several novels by John Dickson Carr. I have had five of his novels around for twenty years and make periodic attempts to read them. It never seems to work.

For those who don't know Mr. Carr's work, he is widely considered to be the absolute master of the locked room mystery. His protagonist, Dr. Gideon Fell, is highly educated and erudite. He is also a man of considerable size and girth. Given that I am a fan of detective fiction, intelligent protagonists, and always root for big guys (maybe a bit of personification), it seems that the Carr novels should be some of my favorites. But they aren't. I struggle to read more than a chapter or two. And it drives me crazy because I know that if I could just get past whatever is stopping me from enjoying these books, I'd get the chance to enjoy some highly reguarded literature. This is the author that Dorothy Sayers once remarked "... can lead us away from the small, artificial, brightly lit stage of the ordinary detective plot into the menace of outer darkness." He was the president of the Mystery Writers of America and a Grand Master recipient from the same organization.

I think what really drives me crazy is the fact that the only Carr novel that I like is one that is closer to a romantic comedy than the normal Carr novel. "The Case of the Constant Suicides" is one of my favorite locked room reads, exceeding even the Sherlock Holmes stories in my esteem. When I read that story, I experience new vistas opening before me that I know must be lurking in the other novels that I cannot stand. But it is no good. Years and multiple attempts to even tolerate the other Carr novels have fallen short.

So answer the question! Do you have authors like Mr. Carr that you know you should like and yet you just cannot do it? Who are they? And perhaps more important to my personal decades long quest: did you opinion ever change to the point you came to like that author?


  1. Great question. I'm like that with James Joyce ---can't get past page 10. There are others but I can't think of any at the moment.

    On a couple of occasions, I have tired listening to an audio book (from the library) instead of reading it. Sometimes the dramatic reading makes it easier to get through, if it is read by a great reader. (I like Robert Parker, but one of his books read by Burt Reynolds was terrible, whereas Joe Mantegna is a perfect Spenser.)

    If I can't get into a book after giving it a good try, I don't waste my time trying to plow through something I'm not enjoying when I could be reading a million other books. I usually feel the same way about something I've already read. Instead of reading it again, I'd rather spend my time reading something new (to me.)

    I used to enjoy Agatha Christie so a few years ago, I decided to read the novels I had missed. (I had read about 60 of her 80 or so.) I couldn't do it. They seemed so predictable and way too "cozy" for me. I need a faster pace, an amazingly clever plot, or wildly original characters now. And I absolutely hate books where busy bodies (Miss Marple) are the detectives. Yet, James Lee Burke has characters who are way too evil & violent for me. I guess I like them somewhere in between.

    Have you tried Lee Child's Jack Reacher series? Many months ago I reserved a copy of his latest at my library. I'm now number 5 of 213 holds on it. Popular isn't always good, but I enjoy this series. If you haven't tried him, start at the beginning. (No locked door business, but an interesting premise for a character, because he is a free spirit and can get himself into trouble anywhere..)

    By the way, thanks for visiting my blog. I left a comment in response to your question (about how long it took me to create a digital design) on the post on which you asked the question. (http://proartz.blogspot.com/2009/05/creative-process-9-from-photo-to-art-ii.html)

  2. I can't make it past the first two chapters of a Stephen King novel. And no, I've never changed by thoughts on him. I recently tried to read "Wicked" and was floored to learn the author has more than one book. I made it 2/3 of the way through and had to quit and felt like a failure. Maybe you just need something super light for summer like...Doggy Day Care Murder by Laurien Berenson

  3. With all the hype about the Twilight series I decided, against my better judgement, to give it a go. I read the first book and just did not feel the love. I have no idea why the series is so popular...but I'm SO tempted to read the rest of the series just to find out what I'm missing.

  4. For some reason, no authors come to mind right now that do this to me. I remember having a hard time reading The Scarlett Letter in high school. It just wasn't compelling enough to keep my attention.


You know you want to ... so just do it!!!

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