So, I feel like this post can apply to all types of media, whether it be music, books, movies, comics, tv shows, etc. This particular example will focus on literature, as it’s the current book I’m reading, which has made me think about this. I’m curious how most people process and assess what they read, see, and hear when it comes to “old” entertainment.
I’m currently reading a book entitled Dark Dance by Tanith Lee. It’s been 30 years since it was published. I was 18 at the time of publication, so it wasn’t published at a time I had no reference to. I didn’t buy it back then. However, probably around 1993/1994, I purchased Tanith Lee’s Personal Darkness. Either after the first page or first chapter (I’ll need to find it and check it out again), there was a character reveal, and it made me think I was supposed to know who that was. I felt like I was reading the continuation of a story. Pre-internet (or, at least, pre-me getting onto the internet), it wasn’t as easy to find information about everything. I can’t remember if I finally discovered that it was indeed part of a series or not, but I never read the book. I was in a used bookstore a few years ago and saw Dark Dance. It looked like the beginnings of a story. Since I never read Tanith Lee, I decided to purchase the book. As it turns out, Dark Dance is the beginning of the Blood Opera trilogy, of which Personal Darkness is the second. Anyway, I’ve finally gotten around to the book. As of this writing, I’m on page 122 of 409.
There are parts of this book, so far, which are making me roll my eyes. I’ve taken a pause and am now trying to remember what things were like in 1992 when the book was written. This was after mid-80s masterpieces like Near Dark, Fright Night, and The Lost Boys. It was after Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles were in print but before the film adaptations. It was published the year after my favorite vampire movie, Subspecies, was released, as well as the great, new iteration of Dark Shadows on tv. At the time, I don’t think we were over-saturated with vampires. Should I go easy on the book? When I read something that’s a no-no now because it has been done so many times before, do I pause and think how this wasn’t a no-no back when it was written? It’s not the author’s fault that I’ve finally gotten around to reading the book 30 years later. Or, should that not matter? Like, I was let down when I read Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby because I already knew the story and felt like he telegraphed it in such a way that it wasn’t shocking. Were people shocked when they first read it? Then, I also think of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and how it was still an impactful book, even after seeing the movie countless times. Do you base your views on a book at the time of your reading? Or, do you try to base it on the time of its writing? If it’s really a good book, would it transcend the tropes we don’t care to see anymore? Or, if it’s a really good book, would it not bother us as much when the tropes appear?
That’s another thing about the book so far. I’m on page 122, but I feel like I’ve read about 25 – 30 pages worth of story. I don’t mean it’s so good that I can’t believe I’m that far into the book. I mean there are almost 100 pages of text that probably don’t need to be there. The reader wouldn’t lose anything if those 122 pages were condensed down. I like a slow-burn story as much as anything, but this one is tough to get through. Maybe that’s causing my brain to wander and think about things like the modern tropes in classic books instead of focusing more on the story itself.
I don’t know. I was curious how other people approach their reading, viewing, listening. Do you also have a need to finish what you start? I’ve thought about putting the book down a few times now. Over a quarter of the way through it, I feel like I should keep going. Does it bug you to leave things unfinished?