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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Required Reading

For my day job, our boss wants us to read this business book. He bought us all a copy and we're supposed to read a number of chapters every week for discussion in our staff meetings. That might be torturous enough, but if it were written like a typical, non-fiction business book, I'd probably be able to get through it. This business book, however, is presented in a fictional way with dialogue and story and all that.

Now this is a problem for me because I can't make myself stop critiquing fiction, and while this might be a fine business book, I'm having issues with the fictional aspects.

First, it's written as first person which is a tense I really strongly dislike in fiction. Back in the day, I've been known to drive back to the bookstore to return books I discovered were written in first person after I'd gotten them home. But it gets worse. It's in PRESENT tense. I can't run away fast enough from fiction written in present tense. That is a total deal breaker for me.

Second, I've only read six chapters so far and there have been so many characters introduced, I can't keep them all straight. I can see already that most of these characters are unlikely to make a reappearance at any point in the book and yet almost all of them have names.

Third, the portrayal of the protagonist's wife. OMG, she's written as selfish and shallow and very much a whiner. She's very much a two-dimensional cardboard cutout character. It angers me that this woman is presented so unsympathetically. Now granted, the story is first person (PRESENT TENSE!) from the husband's point of view, but if he's married to her, you'd think there's be some positive things to be said about her.

Fourth, the pointless descriptions. Now, I'm not a huge fan of description to begin with, but if it's important for the reader to know (like what the character looks like) or if it advances the story in some way, that's necessary. As I'm reading many of the descriptions in the beginning of the book, I'm thinking, "Why do I need to know this?" Maybe I'll be proven wrong since I have a long way to go, but I'm pretty sure they serve no point other than to make word count.

Additional annoyances are a huge overuse of exclamation marks. !!!!! Gah!!!!! And the first names of the characters are overused in dialogue to the point it reads like a soap opera script. I will concede, though, that this book was written in the 1980s and even romance books from that time frame suffered an overuse of names in dialogue.

This book has excellent ratings and I'm sure it's a wonderful business book, but as a work of fiction, it's pretty weak. If the business guy had written the book by himself, this would be more understandable, but he had a co-writer. One would assume this other guy had some experience writing fiction and there wouldn't be this annoying conglomeration of issues. One would be wrong. There is no excuse for a professional writer putting out a book that looks like this.

Unfortunately, I must slog onward. Unfortunately, it's hard to grab the business lesson I'm supposed to be learning when all I can see are the issues with the fiction. :-/ There might be more rants ahead as I slog through this thing. I'll apologize in advance.