Saturday, May 12, 2012

Extraneous Information

Nancy Cato's Forefathers is 598 pages long.  I'm on page 446.  The book started getting interesting to me around page 400.

There's a guy named Vincent who races cars.  He's really into that.  His girlfriend Maggie is an Aboriginal writer. The two are in love, but they're facing difficulties. Vincent's mother is a racist, snobby bitch.  Then Vincent himself can be a jerk sometimes. Maggie is insecure about the whole relationship.  

Cato spent the prior hundreds of pages of the book to talk about Maggie and Vincent's ancestors. For the most part, it's stories of tragedies.  There was a tragic drowning, a death by throat cancer, and scariest of all, a young child dying from ice-cream food poisoning.

Cato spends very little time on each character.  You get a brief glimpse of a lot of people's lives.   As soon as I begin to understand who someone is, she has usually jumped to a new character.  

What I'm wondering is whether it was all necessary.

My vote would be no.

I think it was a waste of time.

I think Cato should have started with Maggie and Vincent. We don't need to know the life story of all their parents, siblings, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.

If Cato wanted that in the book, there could have been some flashbacks.

When we read Harry Potter we learn a bit about Harry's parents, aunt, grandparents, and some distant ancestors.  But imagine if Rowling started the book by telling the story of Harry's great grandparents, then grandparents, then parents, and then finally she got to Harry.  I think the book would have been MUCH less popular.

I do feel a bit torn in regards to complaining about extraneous information. I used to write posts that were horribly long. If you haven't noticed, I'm trying to do that less these days.

Writing is a great skill to have, but so is editing.   


FruitCake said...

Let me begin this by saying I admire your staying power. A book has 5 pages, tops, to grab me. Especially fiction. I'm also easily lost if there are too many characters. I'm easily annoyed if a story jumps all over the place and all the sub stories do not support a unifying theme. I need books to be written the way they should be because a) they are awfully expensive here, and b) I haven't written one myself and I rely on others to write well. If I could do it myself imagine how much money I would save?

I've never read a Nancy Cato book. But I think I can connect with part of your disappointment in this book. For the Term of His Natural Life is a fantastic book, but the first few chapters are all back story and they are just lumped there without any real literary glue or string to make it fit into the rest of the story. Even scriptwriters adapting the novel for film have dutifully plonked the back story in at the beginning, in the same ill-fitting way. Duh.

Yep, editing is as much an art as writing.

Maybe Nancy just had too many messages to deliver and did not know how to stick to one per novel.

Anyway, thanks for reading it for me. Now I can invest my time on something better.

PS your posts weren't too long, because they were not intended to be stories with a beginning, middle and end - they were lucky dips!

Dina said...


I'm going to respond to your comment by saying I admire your LEAVING power.

I keep telling myself to quit reading books when I'm bored by them; but I'm having a really hard time following that rule.

I did quit a book recently. I forgot what it was. But I've also completed a couple of books that I shouldn't have.

Life is too short to read books that bore us.

I'm glad you didn't think my posts were too long! I'm guessing your opinion might be in the minority, but I definitely appreciate it. Or maybe I appreciate it even more because it's in the minority!

Andrew said...

Your posts too long? Not at all. My skim reading skills improved immensely. :)

Dina said...