When you simply don’t like it.

I recently visited the D’Arcy Thompson Museum at the University of Dundee, where a young girl was being shown around by her mother. The collection is full of animal specimens from Sir D’Arcy’s work, but this girl was having none of it, constantly saying, “This is boring, there’s no dinosaurs.” There have been a couple of occasions recently where I’ve felt like doing this myself.

A genuine extract from my notebook upon seeing Jeanette Winterson
A genuine extract from my notebook upon seeing Jeanette Winterson

One of them was at a talk by Jeanette Winterson to promote her latest novel The Gap of Time. The majority of the event was spent showing videos about Shakespeare and speaking about his life. It wasn’t obvious at first that she was referring to the structure of her book, but even when it became clear, it felt rather disjointed and rambling. Thankfully, once Winterson began answering questions, her own personality shone through; much more engaging than the showmanship that had gone before it.

I also recently began reading E M Forster’s A Room with a View, one of the ten Penguin Classics I have on my shelves. However, I was soon overcome by some confusion. Much of the first couple of chapters is about the two sisters, then other characters appear, but it isn’t clear where they’ve come from or where in Italy they’re currently located.

My puzzle is what to do if I don’t like an event or a book, or what should I have done.

In the case of Jeanette Winterson, I probably would have left the room if I hadn’t been seated in the middle of a row of about two dozen people. By the same token, I would have missed the excellent question session if I’d gone. As for the book, I’m still reading it because I’ve been gripped by the dialogue, but the appearance and disappearance of characters is rather jarring and I’m debating whether or not to abandon it.

So my question this week is: what would you have done if you were at an event you couldn’t take to, or reading a book that didn’t fully engage you?

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6 thoughts on “When you simply don’t like it.

  1. I think I would hold out to the end. Even as a young kid I couldn’t understand my classmates who looked bored during assemblies – I always figured I may pick up one morsel; a fact, something to make me think. I was usually correct in this. Me not liking something doesn’t mean the thing doesn’t have value. We often think the opposite, which I think is a mistake. We seem to have lost a sense of ‘oughtness’ or duty. That said, currently I’m trying to read The Shock of the Fall. The voice is jarring to the character. I am trying to finish it. But I would far rather pick up either of the other two books I have on the go (John Knox’s History of the Reformation and John Byrne’s The History of Loneliness)

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    1. That’s very much the way I think, but I also have a nagging doubt I’m simply wasting my time persisting with something. Having read four more chapters of A Room with a View, I’ve decided to read on since the dialogue is excellent. Had it not been for that, I would probably have abandoned it.

      I should stress that its not very often I find something I don’t like.

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  2. I am glad that the Winterston talk improved with the Q&A session and that you stayed to hear it, even only because you were trapped there.

    I think it depends on how I am feeling as to whether I hang in there when I am not feeling engaged by a talk or a book. I know people who, having started reading a book, will finish it regardless of enjoyment. I believe, with books, sometimes we will return to something which was not ‘speaking to us’, years later, and it will be the right time for us.

    I also believe that life is short and there is much out there to explore 🙂

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    1. That’s a good point about coming back to something. I remember being impressed by neither Spaced nor Black Books when they were first on TV, but now they’re two of my favourite shows. Perhaps my sense of humour has matured?

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