Lolita, Nabokov’s prized yet controversial story about an aging man’s journey of lust and heartbreak for a young girl, pushed me to the brink. My history with the book started slippery, and like many book dragons, I watched the film first for years before attempting to read the story. I could not help my fascination with the tale via Stanley Kubrick’s directorial vision. In fact, along with A Clockwork Orange and, dare I say so, Eyes Wide Shut, Lolita completes my favorite Kubrick film trifecta. Sorry, The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but a woman requires her special set of particulars.
Sad to say, but the film spoiled the book for me. By page fifty, our relationship would end. Perhaps, I’ll return. Perhaps, not as long as the film’s available. In the bookshelf, Nabokov settled among the books I loved and desire to love.
One of a chosen few in my lifetime I DNF’d.
DNF (Acronym for Did Not Finish): The act of not completing a book, for various reasons, and moving on to the next.
The act’s unbelievably controversial between two camps: Those that do and Those that abhor the thought. To DNF Books or Not To DNF Books and DNF’ing Makes Me Feel Dirty. Those that do, like me, feel time’s precious; so, why bother wasting those moments on a plodding book. On the other hand, some feel books need a good chance to “warm up” for the inevitable feast laying ahead. Like the printed book vs. e-book debate, Why E-Books are Better and Why Printed Books Are Better, blood can shed (just kidding!)
While I respect the latter camp, I firmly place my membership in the former and with prerequisites. I tend to give a book fifty – even one hundred – pages before I DNF, if a book falls into one of the following six pitfalls:
- No Plot. Do no meander. Get to the point. Illustrate the five Ws (who, what, why, when, and where) and one h (how) by page 50 (100). If an author leaves me wondering about any of these by then, I’m out on the last train to Clarksville. Gone. Having said that, I have a love and hate relationship with literary fiction for this very reason.
- Boring Characters. Give me a damn good unlikable character and I’m putty in your hands. But, if I’m following a story where I honestly do not care about any of the characters and we’re not connecting, goodbye to you.
- Terrible Writing. I’m a sucker for good dialogue. It’s a big draw for my fascination with Quentin Tarantino movies. He’s a master of dialogue. I count exposition and backstory as part of the narrator’s talk with me as we venture through a story. Do not ask me to edit a story as I read. Louse the story with lackluster dialogue and writing, all I can say is hello, goodbye.
- Reading Slumps. They happen and those bad boys hurt the potential for a good reading experience. Sometimes, it’s not the book. It’s really you. (This is a DNF notion that leads me to return to a book I set aside.)
- I Lost Interest. I stress the importance of reading a book within two months of purchasing to avoid losing interest. If I’m hot on a book, I must read it soon or else I risk not caring. Some books require a hot and heavy one-night stand and not a relationship you see enduring for months. After a while I check my TBR to see if I still care, which helps in the long run, by keeping the list at a reasonable pace.
- Over-hype. A bit ago, I wrote about “Must Read Books” (RANT: Keep Your Books To Read Before Lists to Yourself) and how one’s experiences does not warrant the same for another’s. Well, the problem with over-hyped books is that some readers make you feel as though you have to share the same experience or else you should check your own emotions as if they’re broken. I’ve finished books rated 5-stars only to find them 2 stars at best. I’ve DNF’d 4 and 5-star books, even 3-star books. Reading experiences differ greatly and they are personal. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me. Burn me three times and that stove’s getting tossed on the midnight train to Georgia.
Well, there you have it, six valid reasons why I adhere to the DNF clique like a beast. Time’s precious. Why waste it on a bad connection? As of 2017, I DNF’d seven books. With possible nuclear and civil war upon us, if #45 has another tantrum (Ugh!), I seek enthralling opportunities for my time.
Do you DNF? Or, are you in for the long run? Share below.