September 4, 2012

Padding or the Point?

Category: Literature :: Permalink

I’m the kind of reader who, having once started a book, feels an almost-moral sense of compulsion to finish the book, even if I’m not enjoying it or benefiting from it.  But today, I took the plunge.  I decided to stop reading a book that I was at least two-thirds of the way through.  Yes, part of me insists that it wouldn’t take me long to finish the thing and so maybe I should.  But there really isn’t any should about it.  Life is short.  It’s time to put some books away.

But what was so bad about this book?  In a sense, nothing.  The book itself was innocuous, a mildly helpful book on the importance of thankfulness, which is certainly a subject I could benefit from.  And the book had some good things to say.  So why am I giving up on it now?

Because most of the book strikes me as padding.  Yes, there are good things here and there, but I have the feeling that they could all have been summed up in, well, a medium-length essay instead of a book.  To make the thing book-length, numerous illustrations and stories have been added, a few of which are quite helpful but many of which seem unnecessary.

Here’s an example of the kind of thing I mean, which I’ve made up for this occasion.  Suppose an author says something like: “The Christian life is difficult.”  Suppose then that the author goes on to tell the story of a classical pianist, tacking an extremely difficult piece.  Suppose that story goes on for a page, maybe even two or three pages, describing how the pianist had to practice, how she failed to master the piece, how she had to work at it for years until finally she had trained herself well enough so that, at last, she could play it … and even then found it extremely taxing.  All of that to make what point?  Well, no point, really.  It was all just an illustration of what it means for something to be difficult.

That’s the kind of thing I found in the book I was reading and it’s why I’m closing the covers.  It’s padding, not an illustration that really helps make the point.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:06 pm | Discuss (2)