Dystopia – to go or not to go?

29 thoughts on “Dystopia – to go or not to go?”

  1. So, I started reading Irish literature about halfway through my sabbatical. At first, I intended it as a way to learn more about the Irish people and the Irish psyche. But setting turned out to be critical to my enjoyment. I loved books set in Dublin because even if they were set a century ago, I could still recognize the names of streets that I walked down every week. And even now that we are back, vividly recalling images of Dublin or Belfast or Cork adds to my enjoyment of the books immensely. (On a related note, I need to take a break from Irish literature. It just makes me wish I was still on sabbatical!)

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    1. I hear you, Allen. Literature is a blessing and a curse when it comes to armchair traveling – you get to be there again, but it makes you long for it in real life, too. Please, please share some Irish titles you’ve enjoyed. That’s a place I definitely want to go, both on the page and in real life.

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  2. I love this new in-flux of dystopian literature (I just finished “Divergent” – fantastic!!) I think setting has less impact for me; if I quit a book (which I do all the time), it’s almost always because I can’t grab on to anything interesting. Now, if the book isn’t interesting, but it’s set somewhere interesting (“the secret keeper” is the perfect example of this), then I’ll keep reading to learn more about it.

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    1. So what is it about dystopian lit that you like? Is it the imagination that’s involved? I can totally get on board with that – creating scenarios and what ifs. We need to talk more about this.

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  3. I love the idea of “breaking up with a book.” It does have an emotional component! Maybe just for the incredibly nerdy; but I am what I am, and I am incredibly nerdy.

    When I quit on a book, I always second guess myself, wonder if I’d like it if only I were a more committed/more cerebral reader ( i.e. a better person). Could I have made it work?

    But, no! If I’ve reached the age where I can embrace my nerditude in all it’s glory, then I can certainly be okay with putting down a book. Life is too short to voluntarily spend time unhappy!

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    1. I agree, Dee. I used to second guess myself too, that maybe I wasn’t committed enough, that everybody else in the world has gotten something out of this, why can’t I? Or, am I just too stupid to get this? But I came to the same realization as you – I’m reading for pleasure, and I want to enjoy my reading experience, not choke on it.

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      1. Also, I wish I could take credit for the “breaking up with a book” idea, but I’m pretty sure I picked that up from a Book Riot piece. Let’s see if I can find the post… Well, I can’t find it. Dang. Anyway, I like that phrase too, so thanks to whoever wrote that for the first time!

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  4. When I think of my abandoned books one thing that comes to mind is that I did not connect with the main character. But there are other books where this happened and I loved the book, so there are probably multiple elements. Thanks for this post that made me reflect.

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    1. Yes, I started a post about characters, too, but I didn’t finish it. I’ve been trying to find the common thread to why I’ve quit the books I’ve quit, and I don’t know that there is one. Like you, I’ve not connected with characters and still loved the book, or never knew where it was set and still loved it, or maybe I hated the book but finished it anyway. Interestingly, it is those books I didn’t like that I often carry the deepest lessons from.

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    1. To say Brian was moved by that book would be an understatement. I’ve been waffling about it. Now you, he, and Tim (see below) have all recommended it. I’m thinking I should add it to my list.

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  5. You know, I have never really thought about that before – but I definitely will from now on. Now I’m wondering how settings influence the stories I write; am I more likely to finish writing a story that’s set in a place I want to be? Thank you for getting me thinking 🙂

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    1. Oh wow! I never thought about that either – will a writer be more likely to work on a piece that’s set in a place she wants to be? I know I tend to avoid the hard stuff, the uncomfortable stuff. I’d rather be back on the marsh, or in the mountains, or laughing with our kids, so those tend to be the places i write about. Thank you so much for suggesting that – it makes sense.

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  6. That’s what I love about you, kiddo, thought-provoking blogs ! First “serious” book I ever read on my own was Thor Heyderthal’s “Kon-Tiki “, at ten yrs. old. That book, and, quick on the heels of it “The Old Man and the Sea” set me out seeking books with settings that appealed to me, the ocean being both a curiosity and an escape. By late teens, early twenties things got more character driven and the setting mattered less. While “The Sun Also Rises” made me want to go to Spain, and run with the bulls ( ah, the folly of youth ! ) “To Have and Have Not ” did not bring Key West alive for me, Jimmy Buffett’s songs would stoke my curiosity there. These days as a card-carrying curmudgeon, I like stuff that is subject / story-driven. I love Donald Ray Pollock and Cormac McCarthy ( among quite a few others ) , so, if southern Ohio Appalachia and west Texas-Mexico, respectively, are dystopia, consider me there.
    My tastes in transgressive and bizarro lit further supports this.

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    1. Yes, characters drive my book choices quite a bit, at least for rereading. The characters become my friends and I want to keep hanging out with them, so I just reread. “To Have and Have Not” didn’t do it for me either, though “Old Man and the Sea” definitely evoked the Caribbean. I haven’t read any Donald Ray Pollock – I’ll have to look him up. That’s interesting that your reading drive changed throughout the years. Since I’ve been exploring this setting/character/plot dynamic in my head, I have struggled most with the plot element, and whether plot really affects my book choices. I still haven’t determined the answer. I have to write to find it out.

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  7. I don’t really mind where the events in a book are set, but I have found that I prefer to read books set in the real world. Things that really could have happened, to real human beings. But that said, I have read and enjoyed books that have more or less supernatural elements, sci-fi… (Harry Potter comes to mind, and also the Lucky Starr series by Isaac Asimov, which I read years ago as a teenager, though I never really liked his other books) I think I can accept a fantasy setting if I like the way the writer brings us into that world.

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    1. I realized when I was writing this that I’m the same way – I like books set in the real world I have a few fantasy books that I like to escape into now and again, but I move into a hazy place, like a dreamworld, when I read fantasy, and not in a good way. Fantasy is like a drug – good in moderation, but I can definitely overdo it 🙂

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  8. Well—I have, over the past year, finally given myself permission to ditch a book if it’s just not working! I think before I just felt that I HAD to finish it. No more. The latest book I broke up with was (I hesitate to name it) a NY Times bestseller that all my book-club lovin’ friends raved about. I finally got it from the library, read 4 chapters, stopped, then flipped to the back to see if what I thought was going to happen did. Yep, it did. I didn’t like the two main characters so I declared, “fini!”

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      1. Yes, it was! It’s always interesting when my reaction is SO different from most others’ on a book. Although I was at a family reunion and a cousin thought exactly what I did…..she said, “I saw the author on a talk show and she seemed so nice!” I just found the tone of the book so ugly.

        I really DID like the protagonist’s sister though….but that wasn’t enough to keep me reading!

        What did you think about it?

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