Well, I had intended that this be the second installment of Leah's Literary Adventures. And I suppose it still is. But friends, I failed.
I failed to finish a book.
At the suggestion of my friend Alice I began reading The Unvanquished by William Faulkner several weeks ago, because of how awful she thought it was.
Boy, was she right.
But it wasn't awful in the way that Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms was. That one repeatedly made me frustrated. At least I had some sort of emotional reaction to it.
The only reaction I had to The Unvanquished was... "What?"
It takes place in. . . the south somewhere (I couldn't quite figure out where) during the Civil War. It's narrated by a pre-teen boy, the son of a high-ranking officer in the Confederate Army. I caught that much.
I also caught that at some point while his father is away, the boy, his grandmother, and their slaves (among whom is the boy's best friend, a slave he grew up with named Ringo) have to run away from their home to escape. . . the. . . Yankees? Is that right?
I don't even know. I mean, I only got halfway through before I quit.
The thing that tripped me up the most is the colloquial language. Faulkner spells out the accents spoken by the characters, and most often I had to expend more brain cells than I really wanted to in order to even kind of understand what they were saying.
I mean, I understand Faulkner wanted to convey the type of culture and where they were from, etc. But when the reader can't understand the words, it kind of works against the author.
So why did I stop reading? Why did I give up?
I really do hate giving up on a book, and it's rare that I won't finish one that I start.
But all the books that I've given up on have had one thing in common.
I've had zero emotional connection to the characters and the story.
The author has failed to make me understand why I should keep reading, why I care what happens to these people.
This is the key, I think, to writing a story that people will read. Make me care about the story from the very beginning. Make the characters relatable; connect them to me in some way.
Then I'll at least finish your book, even if it's bad.