Runners Who Read

Who knew? A bunch of runners who enjoy reading and discussing what they read.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

A Do Not Read Warning (If I May Offer Advice)

I just finished reading a book entitled The Third Translation. It's sort of about an Egyptologist, so book stores over here in Cairo are pushing it. I'm not sure how large its debut will be in the states. It looked intriguing, and it was about Egyptology, so I picked it up. The author is a professor who worked at the British Museum and has won awards for his writing.

I was willing to look past some conventions that I think are intended to come off as modern liberties that I didn't care for, like the fact that he never uses quotation marks to set off dialogue (you just have to pick up contextually what is dialogue), or the lengthy, trance-like and often drug-addled dream scenes that serve no artistic purpose as far as I could tell and take away from the plot. I couldn't look past the myriad mistakes the book makes. I know I'm an oversensitive reader, since the book is ostensibly written from the perspective of an Egyptian philologist. But not only did he make Egyptological mistakes (he certainly didn't consult any Egyptologists, which was obvious, but I also don't think he did any research, since everything he says about Egypt is completely unreliable), but the book was poorly edited on top of that. There were spelling mistakes. The internal chronology was completely inconsistent: on one page he'd mention that his daughter was a junior in college in 1991; a few pages later she was 21 in 1994; a few pages after that she was 16 in 1989. Etc.

Oh, and the book barely had a plot, on top of it. But mostly I'm just fuming about the ridiculous Egyptological mistakes. I'd be curious to hear the opinion of anyone who reads this and disagrees with me and enjoyed this book.

PS -- if you're interested in reading a well-written and historically sound book about Egyptology, try Arthur Phillips' "The Egyptologist." Very very good.


Blogger k said...

Thanks for the heads up on a stinker of a book! This brings up something I've gone back and forth on - what do you do when you find yourself reading something that you really don't enjoy?

It used to be I would finish any book that I started, it just didn't feel right not to. Over the last twenty years or so I've gone the other way, if I'm getting nothing out of a book after reading the first quarter or so I have no problem dropping it and moving on to something else.


9:40 AM  
Blogger T said...

Good question: that was something I debated as I was reading this book. Usually I'll try to finish the book, unless it's really dense and reading it is keeping me from reading other things. Even then I'll usually just put the book aside, knowing that I won't come back to it but thinking that I could -- why do I feel guilty not finishing books that I'm not enjoying?

8:50 PM  
Blogger RWR said...

Is it a bad thing to chuck a book that stinks? No! I also try to churn through the first 1/4 of the book and, if it simply doesn't interest me, I chuck it. Why waste your time on something you simply don't enjoy? Many moons ago, I was told that I simply must read "The Hobbit" and it was all the rage--which has returned, I understand. I started that dog three times and could never understand the interest. I chucked it each time, and moved on at last...with great delight! The Hobbit taught me that some things are better left for others!


8:17 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

I used to consider finishing a book a duty. Now that I'm older and less tolerant of things I don't like, I will chuck a book within a few chapters if I find I'm just not getting into it ... too many books, too little time these days.

Sometimes, I'll give an unfinished book a second chance months or even years later, if the concept behind the book was intriguing enough ... maybe my timing just wasn't right. More often than not, however, I don't finish it the second try either.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Nels Nelson said...

Pretty common, isn't it, the feeling that one needs to finish a book one's started, even if it blows. It's pretty recent that I'll allow myself to shelve a stinker, or a book I just can't get myself into, too. Weird, that guilt.

On the one Tracy reviewed, I can embrace modern/post-modern liberties with stylistic convention, but a badly done book, off facts and poor editing, no dice. I checked some reviews after reading Tracy's remarks, and read that this is compared to The DaVinci Code. Well, nuff said there. For fun, here's a link to some litblog bits on why Dan Brown is a bad writer...

1:38 PM  
Blogger T said...

Nels, your link doesn't work. You're teasing me. I saw that the book was being advertised as such, but I excitedly thought it was just a publicity ploy to get a good book more press. The DaVinci Code was better written!

10:57 PM  

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