Thursday, September 25, 2008

What kind of reader are YOU? Part 3

I remember the summer of 1981. It was the summer that my mother was reading "Cujo" by Stephen King. And her friend Patti “innocently” asks “did he die yet?” This has become the running joke in our family. That anytime you are in the middle of a book, someone MUST ask if the main character has died yet.

A few years after this, my 8th grade English class read “Oliver Twist.” We were assigned chapters to read. And I was sure to not read ahead. I didn’t want to confuse myself when quizzes were involved. But then there was a betrayl. And my teacher told us how it ended. BEFORE we were supposed to read the last chapters. I never finished that book. I didn’t see the point.

In 9th grade, we read “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I loved that book. I read my chapters as assigned. And it was so difficult to not plunge ahead as I was absorbed into Scout’s world. But it happened again. The teacher told us what happened to Tom Robinson. And I was just livid. I couldn’t continue with the story. I took notes in class, but I didn’t finish that book. And did not pick it up again for 20 years. Not until my book club decided to read it.

Then, in 1999, I started a book club at my church. I was so excited to have this forum. To talk with other readers about a book we had just completed. Our first book that we read was “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier. It was not light reading. I really enjoyed the book. And especially liked the parallels between Inman’s journey home to his love, Ada – with that of Odysseus and his long journey home after the Trojan war to his wife, Penelope. But then. I got to the end. And guess what happens at the end of “Cold Mountain?” He dies. After all the travails, our hero, WP Inman, is killed.

Did Homer kill Odysseus? Did he kill the hero of that epic poem? The guy that managed to survive the Trojan war, the Cyclops, the Sirens, the witch Circe, Scylla and Charybdis, and the will of the Gods? No, he didn’t. But Charles Frazier. Yes, he killed off his hero.

I don't need every story to have a neat tie up. A clear resolution. Or even a happy ending. BUT. That book, “Cold Mountain,” changed me as a reader. I am now one of those people who turns to the end of the story to see what happens before I read it. Invest my time in it. Escape my reality with it. I just have to make sure. Make sure that I know the answer to the question. "Did he die yet?"

So, what about you? Do you ever read the last page first? Do you NEED a happy ending? What book have you read – that you liked – until the ending ruined it for you?

post signature



What Kind of Reader are you? Part 1
What kind of reader are you? Part 2

36 comments:

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

I do tend to look in the back to see... if I'm right. Usually when I'm about 2 chapters into a book, I have a pretty good idea how it ends. So, I read the end... if I'm right, then I decide if I'm at all interested in reading it. If I'm wrong, then I'll go a head for sure and keep reading.

Pooh on those people who ruined those books for you. BAD BAD BAD

Rhea said...

I NEVER look in the back. Never ever.

I wouldn't leave my house or listen to the radio every time a Harry Potter book came out, because I was scared I would hear the ending before I read it. I wanted the reading experience to be PURE.

Now, that having been said, I think I have gone into some books knowing how things end, roughly, but never exactly...

Does that make sense?

I can't believe you had teacher ruin books for you TWICE. That's just wrong.

KimmyJ said...

I never, ever look at the end - it would spoil the whole thing for me. But I read really fast. I did not like the Memory Keeper's Daughter after the end. I really wanted more of a resolution or reunion of sorts, I guess. I do not need a happy ending, just a well written story.

scargosun said...

Nope. I don't need a happy ending. The only time I need to know is if I am watching a movie. With books, I just absorb it all.

That REALLY blows what your teachers did your class. I mean, didn't they WANT you guys to read? Idiots.

American in Norway said...

Ahh..man...I was right in the middle of "Cold Mountain" thanks a lot....

: )

Lauren W said...

I frequently read the last page (or even the last chapter) of a book, just in case. I really love a happy ending, it's not a totaly requirement, but it is a definite plus. I will often re-read happy-ending-books whereas I don't tend to re-read non-happy-ending-books. That's another thing, I'm a total re-reader. My enjoyment of a book will often grow with multiple readings. It doesn't bother me in the least to have a book spoiled for me. My enjoyment is in the journey, not so much the results, savvy? :D

Elena said...

I don't "read" the end of the book, but I do flip through those last pages and skim for characters names and make sure they're still being mentioned in a present form. I like to know if they're going to die. I get pretty attatched to my characters. And funny you should ask this question because I just finished The Time Traveler's Wife. LOVED the beginning so much, but the end was so sad. (And I hadn't peeked to prepare myself.)

sassy stephanie said...

I don't read, but flip fo sho. I'm a cheater.

Kat said...

Lizzy--It's rare that I'll put a book down. But, if on page 50 I am irritated...I give myself permission to throw it against the wall and move on.

Rhea--I have so many double standards. I didn't read the end of Harry. I just *knew* it would be okay. And I don't think I would have been livid if he had died. I really thought she would honor her character. Actually, I was kind of disappointed that there were not more sacrifices to get to that happy ending.

And then with "Breaking Dawn" - I broke down and bought it rather than waiting for it at the library so that I could read it before I heard about how it ends. See...I am so contradictory.

And yes, two different teachers told me the end. So freakin' annoying!

KimmyJ--You say it well. A well written story is great. And I would say that Cold Mountain was well written. But...Inman did not have to die to be true to the story. Did.Not.Have.to.die.

Scargosun--I know! They really discouraged me from doing the assigned reading. I mean, I love to read - and even liked most of my assigned reading in school. But they made me sooo hesitant.

AIN--Ooooo...I was sooo waiting to see who would say that. And part of me wanted to post a spoiler warning. But if I prevent someone from being as disappointed as I was, it was worth the trouble :-)

Lauren--I like the journey, too. Especially if I know we are going to arrive at the appropriate destination.

Elena--Oh, I wish I had remembered to mention that book in my post. I LOVE that book! And you are right...it does not have a traditional happy ending. But it worked. And I was not disappointed.

SS--My husband says I cheat, too :-) But, flipping is necessary!

Tam said...

NO I never read the end and I stick with a book to the end even if I am not in love with the book.
I also have to read the book before I see the MOVIES. Movies ruin it most of the time for me...so I read first then I rent the movie and compare. ALMOST 90 percent of the time I love the book and hate the MOVIE which drives my friends and book club friends insane!

Tam said...

ALso ....some drivel but I really stalk your blog more than comment but I do enjoy your BLOG!

KimmyDarling said...

Okay, taking Cold Mountain out of the To-Read pile... (nah, just kiddin. I saw the movie.)

I don't ever read the last page first-- ever. I'm a super-fast reader, so if I need to know, I just push through until I'm finished with the book. I do not need a happy ending. Can't think of anything I enjoyed till it was spoiled by the ending!

I want to know who you had for 8th and 9th grade English! >=O

KimmyDarling said...

And I agree with Tam in that I enjoy most books more than movies, with the exception of "Atonement." I loved the movie, but didn't even like the book enough to get half-way through.

I definitely am not one to finish something I'm not enjoying. Life's to short to read crummy books!

texcindy said...

this is so hilarious because of all the times I've heard you rant about Cold Mountain since 1999. And Patti's did he die yet? lead-in. I remember this as well. and Patti's hipwaders. but that's for another entry.

texcindy said...

i only read books recommended by people who know me well enough to not lead me astray. except someone told me I'd like Outlander. ugh

Jeanine said...

I will peek if the story seems to be dragging to me, otherwise I will just read through to the end.

I don't remember any book that I hated because it did not turn out how I wanted it to.... I didn't even like Cold Mountain in the beginning, even though I have a signed copy..LOL .

The movie Perfect Storm though just tee'd me off. I mean I walked out of the theater saying " I can't believe I just paid $10+ to watch George Clooney die!" I mean come on, what a complete letdown.

Even the Titanic had a few survivors...

SKELLER said...

Good, thought-provoking questions, Kat.

I used to be the type reader that would read to the end of every book no. matter. what. I'd already invested "x" amount of time and I was going to find out where the book went.

Now, my time is short. And I'm much much better at recognizing crap earlier in the game. Now, when I've read just a little bit, and decided the book is crap, I'll go ahead and peek at the end and call it quits. No need to prolong the pain and waste my time.

Now, if a book is really a GOOD/GREAT book, even if someone lets the ending slip, I'll still read to the end. Because a good book is a good book and well worth the journey.

And now, if you don't mind, Twilight just arrived and I need to go read my new brain candy twaddle... :-D

Oh yeah, and I like happy endings. I just do.

And nothing makes me madder ... NOTHING ... than a mystery story without any of the mystery resolved at the end. ptooey. blech.

Weeksie50 said...

I give the book 3 chapters. If it is doing nothing for me .. I move on. I tend to look in the back of the book.. but I always get mad at myself for doing so..

I noticed on your side bar.. you have read books by Susan Mallery. I just love her books..

Karen said...

I have 'Cold Mountain' in my reading pile !!

But you're escused, because I have seen the movie :-)

I looked at the ending of a book once and it ruined the whole book for me. So now I never peek. I went to great lengths to avoid anything Harry Potter related, when I was reading those books, as I didn't want the ending spoiled. I'm doing the same thing now with the Twilight series, as I don't want that ending spoiled !!!

I don't think I've read a book that the ending ruined it for me. I don't mind an unhappy ending or an ending that leaves me hanging. That's not a bad thing, in that it lets me use my imagination to wonder what will come next or to continue the story on ...

Shannon said...

Most of the time I won't peek... but I have done so on occasion. It just depends on the book and how the story is going.

I don't necessarily have to have happy endings in books... but I do want one in movies. Haven't read Cold Mountain but saw the movie... ticked me off that Inman died. Same thing with The Painted Veil.

Shannon said...

Oh, crap... hope I just didn't ruin that for anyone!!!!

Tanya said...

Hate it when the main character just dies without more to the book. ugh I hated Cold Mountain. IF they have someone die, then I expect more to the book to show how it affected the other characters lives. I am talking like have at least half the book left to tie up the ends. But I don't look ahead -for me it is like ruining Christmas.

Britt said...

I hate an unhappy ending .. I hate a loose ending with no sequel. And I hate knowing what's gonna happen.

But, there are sometimes when I'm really into what I'm reading, the plot get's so intense, but it's not moving fast enough. I'm reading faster than it's happening and I just have to know what's going on in the future.

Then, and only then, do I peek.

Jenny said...

My mum reads the last page before finishing a book. I CAN'T do it. I don't understand. It would ruin the whole experience for me.

I loved 'Cold Mountain'. Fantastic book.
I actually liked the movie too.
The kiss made my knees go weak.

Gina said...

The worst book I was ever assigned to read was The Red Badge Of Courage. I am a voracious reader- and I barely manged a "c" out of that one. It was miserable!
I recently found a book at my house- I think my dad tucked it into my kids' clothes when he brought them home (he does that sometimes if he is done with it)- It was a non-fiction piece about the fringe Mormon Fundamentalists- and it was horrid. I think I threw it under my bed about 100 pages into it. The only other book that was a bit of a let down recently was the middlish-endish part of A Thousand Splendid Suns.
I am so not a peaker, though. It ruins the story for me, too.

Leslie said...

Nope, never look at the end. I just can't do it. I like to absorb it bit by bit.

Tiffany said...

So I never allow myself to look at the end of the book unless it seems to be getting a little *dry* then I might skip to the back to see if it looks like it regained it's juice again, so to speak. There are some books that I have simply put down, half way through, and never picked back up again because of they got boring but never because someone blurted the end to me. However, I don't recall anyone ever blurting the end to me; IF they did, I would do as you did and put the book down. That would definitely ruin it. How lousy that two different teachers did that.

My grandmother was an avid reader of mysteries, especially the Agatha Christie series and I remember that the last chapter of her books was always sealed shut when she bought them. No peeking allowed! And if she borrowed a book from someone with the last chapter free to look at, she would tape the last chapter shut to prevent from peeking. hee hee

Rhea said...

I do like happy endings...or at least non-super-tragic ones.

Rhea said...

I've never read Cold Mountain.

storyteller said...

When I read, I do so to be entertained and/or informed. With fiction … I suspend disbelief and enter the world of the characters as silent observer, occasionally cheerleader, worried loved one, and find myself swept into the events of the story … moving along with the characters at the pace the author intended … and I never, never, never, read the last page first. When books end I’m often sad to part with ‘friends’ and ‘foe’ alike … and I often wait a bit before picking up another book (though I sometimes rush right in to another story as time permits).
Hugs and blessings,

Lula! said...

Did you read the ending of Breaking Dawn before you started it? You are so dead meat. I'm breaking up with you, Kat.

Girl.

I never read ahead. NEVER.

Go read "The Hunger Games." Suzanne Collins. Good stuff.

Merrie said...

Interesting topic because I LOVE to read. I never skip to or read the end UNLESS I am hating a book and don't want to waste my time anymore. I just did that this weekend with a Dean Koontz book. It. Was. Killing. Me. And I'm usually able to hang on. So I found out who lived and put it away.

As for your teachers -- HELLO! Wtf? Who tells the ending? Bad form!

Angie's Spot said...

I never read the ending first. I hate movies that string me along and then dash my hopes at the end, but I let books slide with this treatment. Not sure why. However, if a book can't hold my attention within the first 2 chapters, well, I'm DONE. I don't hesitate to put it in the donation pile quickly at that point.

Rhea said...

I'm reading HOST now. Did you read it? Did you like it? I'm still sort of undecided, but I'm not very far into it.

Rhea said...

I think I do need happy endings. I guess I'm scared I won't end up having one myself. :o(

Sugar said...

WHY MUST THE GOOD DIE YOUNG?!? OK, Whitestorm was about to be an elder anyway, but why did it happen?!? but, Graystripe became deputy, so I was happy! this is warriors, by the way.