Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stubbornness--I Has It

If you look up the word 'stubborn' in a dictionary, you probably will find my picture.  I really don''t know if it is because I'm Finn (the Finns I have known through my life are THE most stubborn people around); because of my family genetics (The Father is so stubborn that he didn't talk to his brother for over 20 years (long after he forgot exactly why he was mad at him--maybe)); or if it just comes with living here (you HAVE to be stubborn to continue to live where it is winter for much more of the time than it is summer).  Whatever the reason, I am quite a stubborn person.  And there is no more better example of my being stubborn than when it comes to books and movies.

Whenever I start reading a book or watching a movie, I feel compelled to finish it.  I can probably count on one hand how many movies or books I haven't finished after starting them.  I do know that I only watched about 10 minutes of 'Burn After Reading' before I had to turn it off and couldn't finish 'The Road' no matter how hard I tried.  I'm sure there are others that I couldn't continue with, but they are few and far between--just stubbornness keeps me going.  And I think I'm even more determined to finish a book that I start.  'Gulag Archipelago' is one book that I just couldn't get into--and I tried numerous times with it.  I haven't given up, though--I still may read the entire thing one of these days.  I guess I feel as if I don't want to completely waste the amount of time I have already put into a book or movie, so I keep plodding along--no matter how bad the thing might be.

The other day, I FINALLY finished a book that I had to force myself to read.  And at well more than 700 pages, it really was a grind.  My stubbornness was evident in this act, as the book was the final one in a series of six that began way back in 1980, the year the first book was published.  I just couldn't let all of the time and effort go to waste by NOT reading the final book.  I just hope that it really IS the last one, because I don't think I could do this again.

So, what exactly am I talking about?  The book I just read is called 'The Land of Painted Caves' and it was written by Jean Auel.  This was the last book of her 'Earth's Children' series, which began with 'The Clan of the Cave Bear' back in 1980.  Many people only know this title because of the movie by the same name, which starred Daryl Hannah. 

I really enjoyed 'The Clan of the Cave Bear.'  Now, I don't know if it was because it was so very different, or if my age had something to do with it.  (I really think it was a bit of both.)  And because I enjoyed it so much, I couldn't wait for the second book.   That book came only two years later and the third was published three years after that.  As far as books go, they came pretty quickly.  And considering the author is very much like JK Rowling (of 'Harry Potter' fame) and wouldn't write a book of reasonable length if she was paid to, that quick output is amazing.  Book number four, however, took five years to be published and then we waited for 12 full years for number five.  This last book took nine years to write.  All in all, I have been following the main character for over thirty years.  A long, long time.  And I am more than happy to say good-by to her.

Each of the books in this series is quite a 'brick.'  I don't believe any one of the books was less than 500 pages--and I can use a paragraph to explain the entire series.  Ayla--the main character--is a 'modern' human (Cro-Magnon).  She is orphaned and adopted by a Neanderthal woman.  She learns to be a medicine woman from her adopted mother and brings 'women's lib' to the tribe--she cannot understand why she isn't allowed to hunt, for example.  Of course, this doesn't sit too well with the male leaders, so she is pretty much drummed out of the tribe and has to leave her half-breed son behind for his own good.  After she goes off by herself, she continues to improve her hunting skills and along the way learns to make fire using flint and pyrite.  She sharpens her medicine woman skills and learns to domesticate animals.  Horses are trained to haul stuff and accept riders.  A cave lion and wolf become her substitute children.  At one point, she heals a man who has been mauled by a lion and they fall in love.  She goes off with him and joins his tribe, where she goes into training to be a spiritual leader and medicine woman.  Eventually, it is Ayla who brings the concept of monogamy into the world.  She also discovers how babies are made.  Through her experimentation of hallucinogenic plants--which she has access to with her training to--it seems as if she 'sees' the future and gets a hint of the amount of people that will eventually inhabit the world, highways, and the way humanity will abuse the earth.  And that pretty much sums up the series.

While there were quite a few interesting aspects of these books--there HAD to be or my stubbornness couldn't have compelled me to continue on--this last book could have been at least 350 pages shorter and it wouldn't have taken away from the storyline at all.  The author is VERY descriptive--to the point of absurdity.  And when she has described the exact same thing for the sixth time (plants, animals,) you want to poke your eyeballs out with a pointy stick!  And this is what the first 500 pages of this book was like.  One of the things that was completely absurd was the descriptions of the 'painted caves' that the title refers to.  I understand describing in minute detail one or two of the (supposedly) French caves with pre-historic paintings in them, but to belabor this with descriptions of cave after cave after cave--and I have no idea HOW many there were--is unbelievably painful to read.  As I said, I forced myself to get through this book and WON'T be re-reading this series again.  And that's too bad, because it could have become one of my favorite series of all time.  I'm just happy to move on.

So, do you finish books you start, even if they aren't interesting?  Or do you quickly decide to move on if it isn't your 'cup of tea?'  I'd be interested to hear how others are when it comes to books.


kristi noser said...

I used to be a voracious reader, mostly murder mysteries and cop novels with a little Stephen King thrown in for good measure.
Lately, since I can't stay awake more than 10 minutes after going to bed, reading has gone down the dumper.
The last book I actually finished was one we had to read for work!

Anonymous said...

Nope, I will give books a try and when I come to a point where I just can't stand it anymore, I give them up and move on to another book. I feel that time's short and there are lots and lots of books out there that I will enjoy reading. I'll admit that once or twice a friend will insist that I read a book, even sent me a book once, and I found it hard to get into but after a while I started to get interested in it. But those instances are few and far between.

p.s. I loved "Clan of the Cave Bear", was thinking about reading "Painted Caves" till I found out how long it was. I've always felt that if an author can't tell a story in 350-400 pages, it's overwritten.

cmk said...

kristi: I will read until I can't see straight for weeks, months, etc. Then I will back off and get into something else for a while. However, I never stop reading completely--a day doesn't go by that I don't read SOMETHING, even if it is JUST a hockey mag. ;)

janet: I think I will be getting a bit more discriminating with forcing myself to read a book. With the NOOK, I get a free book every week--and because it's free, I download the thing. However, I did try reading one of the freebies a couple of months back and didn't care for it, so it DID go on my started-but-didn't-finish 'shelf.' I think I'll be doing that more often.

And Auel wasn't too bad until the third book--that's when she REALLY started to overwrite. Plus, she decided to turn the 'romance' into some pre-historical soft porn--NOT something I pleased that she did. There wasn't quite so much of that in 'Painted Caves,' although that MIGHT HAVE livened the damn book up somewhat. ;)