12 February 2014

A book is not a cake

from Yahoo! Answers:

Can you accurately determine if the plot of a book is good if you only read one chapter?

I'm asking about books in general.


from Jonnie Comet

A good book should be good all over. That said, many times the prospective reader/buyer isn't aware of the further content of the book from one chapter. It may not be the style or skill of the author he notices or dislikes; it may just be the plot or theme of the book that he presumes to have assessed from the first chapter. So it's entirely possible that a really well-written book with a truly gripping plot may just not appeal to someone who examines only one chapter (like an agent or publisher); and so that party drops the book and says 'Ta; but I won't.'

It's another case of how so many these days are looking for immediate gratification. We want the first seven words of the book to be good; and if they're not we claim to be already 'bored' with it. If some will only read the first chapter, imagine when that begins to be only the first page, or first paragraph, or first sentence. Can any of us truly judge a book on so little a sampling of it? And, if so, what is the point of generating any work of literature at all? (Maybe we should just sell our Tweets from now on.)

In John Boorman's Excalibur, Merlin compares life to a biscuit: 'What do you know if it, till you have tasted it? And then, of course, it's too late.' But for those who would say 'You don't have to eat the whole cake to know that it's good,' I would contend that a book is NOT akin to a cake. A cake should be homogenous all the way through. A book is full of varying tasty bits in diverse places, some of which are meant to take you by surprise-- so you won't have any inkling of them from the initial passage anyway. The best way to decide if you'll like a book is to know something of its theme, characters, style and plot beforehand; and that's what good back-cover and promotional blurbs are for (and why we pay those who compose them the good money, after all). If, after believing the book will grab, respect and arrest your interest, you find the book is nothing but abject naff, that's what 'bad reviews' are for. :)

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