Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Once Upon a More Embarrassing Time

It’s time for a fun story, wouldn’t you say? Here we go!

Now before I get started with my story, I feel the need to give a little background, lest you think I’m a total dumbass by the time I wrap this up. I do actually have some fairly decent reading comprehension skills, despite what you’re about to read.

Really, I do.

I swear.

I love to read. I’ve been reading since I was roughly 2 (so I’ve been told) and since then I’ve never slowed down. This year a message board I participate in is having a reading challenge. The challenge is to read 20,100 pages in 2010. At the rate I’m going, I should be done by September. And I’m a working momma. With a one year old who refuses to sleep. I just like to read a lot, and I’m lucky in that I’m a pretty quick reader and that reading comprehension comes pretty easy to me.

Honestly, I know how to read.


Okay, that’s enough background. Let the story commence!

Once upon a time (maybe 5-ish years ago?) I got into a reading rut and was looking for a new author to try. Why? you ask. Why not? Something new can be fun, right? You’ll never know unless you try. And so I went about my search for the perfect new author.

It occurred to me that in his writings, Stephen King had often praised the work of Peter Straub. I’d never read anything by Peter Straub, but I really enjoyed King’s stuff, so I figured, hey, maybe if Stephen King likes it, it’s pretty good. I decided to give it a go. I went out and bought my very first Peter Straub book – Ghost Story. I thought this would be a good one since it was very popular and well known, which tells me that a lot of other people have liked it. Lots of people liking a book = the book being pretty decent, most of the time.

I read it. It bored me stupid. It was a serious struggle to finish.

Now most of the rest of the world liked this, so I wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong with me. Maybe I was having a bad week? I didn’t know. I decided that I should give Straub another try, just in case I was having an off week or the book hit me wrong, or some other similar misunderstanding had occurred. I picked up another Peter Straub book, this one titled Floating Dragon. It wasn’t nearly as bad as Ghost Story. Not horrible, but nothing spectacular either, as far as I could see. Plus (and I’m sure this didn’t help things at all) it reminded me of the story line of another book that I’d read but that I had liked a lot better. *shrug* These things happen.

At this point I started to think that maybe I just didn’t like Peter Straub. Unfortunate, but it does happen. Doesn’t mean he’s a horrible author or that I’m a horrible reader. Sometimes things just don’t mesh, know what I mean? I gave up on him and moved right along to something else, giving myself lots of credit and pats on the back for at least trying, and for not giving up after just one book. Yay me! said the little cheerleader in my head, feeling quite relieved that I would never have to open another Peter Straub book, ever again.

Life continued, quite happily.

Then, one day, I went out during my neighborhood’s annual association garage sale. While picking through all of my neighbors’ books (what else are garage sales good for if not cheap books?), I found a hardback Peter Straub book for $.50. I figured, what the hell?, and decided to give it another go. If I didn’t like it I was just out $.50, and I’d sell the book next year at my own garage sale. That little cheerleader in my head was jumping up and down like I’d just discovered a cure for cancer. Whoo hoo! You’re trying again! You don’t have to, but you’re going to anyways! What a sport! said the little cheerleader. Rah, rah, sis boom bah! shouted the little cheerleader, while doing a snazzy little scissor kick.

I felt quite good about the whole thing.

I took the book home and commenced reading it. Here’s where things get complicated. You know how some books start off one chapter with one character and set of circumstances, then start the next chapter off with another character and set of circumstances, then somehow put them together further on down the line? This is what I was encountering.

Chapter 1: random characters with random circumstances.

Chapter 2: whole different set of characters with whole different set of random circumstances.

Chapter 3: yet another whole different set of characters with a whole different set of circumstances.

At this point I started to get a little worried. I could not, for the life of me, understand how he was going to get all these sets of characters together. I couldn’t figure out what they could possibly have in common or how they could be tied together. I was also having a hard time just following each individual story line – they seemed to be getting wrapped up at the end of each chapter and I couldn’t understand how they were going to keep going. I thought to myself, oh, dear god, is this a weird Peter Straub thing, or am I just too dumb to follow this? Then I thought to myself, he’d better start putting these people together pretty soon, or he’s going to lose me on this book too.

Then I thought to myself, this is so incredibly stupid. I am done.

Right at that moment, the little cheerleader we have come to know and love stepped in and told me, in no uncertain terms, that if I didn’t keep reading I’d never know how all these characters got together and then I’d be the stupid one for not even giving the character meeting a chance to work. Since she is not normally so firm or demanding, I listened carefully. I kept reading.

Chapter 4; new set of random characters, new set of random circumstances.

I finished the chapter. I looked at my book and thought, Seriously? WTF? I commenced reading chapter 5. You guessed it, new set of random characters, blah, blah blah. I did not finish this chapter. About 2 pages into the chapter I looked very seriously at my book, thinking, something is sooo not right here. Not wanting to disappoint my little cheerleader, I was determined to figure out why things seemed so off.

I examined the back cover very carefully.

And discovered that I was reading a book of short stories.

Which, looking back, pretty succinctly explained why each “chapter” was getting wrapped up at the end, and why none of the stories seemed like they were going to fit together.

*bangs head on desk* I don’t think I have ever felt stupider in my entire life, not even after telling the butter story and admitting that I kept dating the guy after that.

To this day, I have not read another Peter Straub book. This probably sounds stupid, but I’m too embarrassed to attempt it. Silly, I know. Peter Straub isn’t going to pop out of his book, pointing and laughing at me, and the librarian at the checkout probably isn’t a mind reader….. but still, I’m too embarrassed. I know what happened, and that’s been enough to scare me off. Not even my little cheerleader has encouraged the reading of more Peter Straub.

My cheeks are a little flushed just writing this right now.


I honestly can read, I swear.


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