And I’m wondering if my standards (for books, much less myself) have risen while the books themselves have dropped theirs (of course, I mean the authors of said crap and the publishers of the like).
Case in point: “The Quincunx” is an early ’90s novel set in early 1800s England and written in a Dickensian style. While the setting and tone is spot on, the writing has been left to the reader’s perseverence. After reading 166pp, I fired the book because: 1. every 3rd page the boy character pestered his mother to divulge family secrets, to which the mother said, “When you get older I’ll tell you all” … and which, of course, a bit of that secret was indeed exposed after another 1/2 page; 2. even the incredible coincidences of fictional conceits could not keep pace with this story’s amazing happenstance of a) emotional crisis, b) spiralling financial ruin, c) sinister beings jumping out left and right with each successive scene; and 3. the obviousness that all of these circumstances shall turn around for the boy by the end of the novel.
I jumped ahead, after I finally got fed up, and in fact on page 666 (a good number to jump to, always) the same sort of simpering dialogue, incredible turns of event, and character hand-wringing yelled at me from the page.
Finally: this book was a best seller. I don’t fucking get it.