It has happened many times, of course, but now when I’ve actually published a novel it strikes me harder: the apparent lack of patience among readers.
“If the first twenty pages don’t get me hooked I put the book away.”
“When I don’t understand I give up.”
And the likes are in abundance out there. It’s painfully obvious that many (most?) readers are out to get easy kicks. The result is inevitable: books become more and more identical, a pattern for how a book should be written evolves that doesn’t allow for creative thinking or artistic experimentation. And so we end up with stream-lined heaps of paper written in a standard language, about standard subjects, presented in a standard way. And hordes of people who defend their best-selling favourites with almost religious fervor. I call it “Harlequinization”, and almost all genre-literature has fallen prey to it.
Personally it hit me on an internet forum for writers, where an individual spent a total of ten minutes reading the first two and a half pages of my novel AND writing a comment where he/she declared me a beginner and pointed out flaws that were only the result of him/her not reading just a little bit more.
Bitter? Of course I’m bloody bitter! Fucking morons read a fragment of what took me years to create and then complain when they don’t understand everything in the first couple of pages and are stupid enough to consider it a flaw in the text rather than a flaw in their own brain.
And there’s the rub: for when you don’t have the patience to actually read something, what you have to say about it becomes more or less irrelevant; the less you read, the more irrelevant your comment becomes. But in a context where lack of patience is the norm this simple connection seems to have been forgotten, almost as if criticizing something you know almost nothing about is proof of your intellectual ability.
And come to think of it: it is! Proof of intellectual IN-ability, that is.
The horrible thing in my personal experience was that his/her reading was a direct result of me being publicly happy and proud about having won third price in the Indie Book Awards. That, of course, makes the comment even more frustrating: Was it just jealousy? Or was it an honest reaction? Or was it honest jealousy?