Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Anticipation

Thanks to everyone who took the time to weigh in about the books they have most eagerly anticipated. Lots of diversity and some real surprises to go along with the titles I expected to see.

And yeah, I'm giving suck-up points to both Stephen Parrish and David Cranmer for stroking my ego. I think the three of us men are secure enough for me to use the words suck and stroke in the same sentence.

My curiosity about highly anticipated books stemmed from a conversation about the Harry potter series. And yes Book 7 makes my own personal list. I didn't start reading the series until the hullabaloo surrounding book 4, but once I caught up with the frenzy and finished Goblet of Fire I was already anticipating and speculating about the finale of the series.

I'll just come out and say it. I was disappointed with the actual book. (SPOILER ALERT -- Read no further if you have yet to read the end of the series, but think you might.) All that time in that damn tent and the ease with which Voldemort went down in the end. Matter of fact I can't even recall the exact scene know that how unmemorable it was for me. Seems like some spell bounced off a shield or something. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong. And that epilogue. I understand Ms. Rowling didn't want to leave the door open for someone to later pull a Sherlock Holmes and resurrect her characters but the whole thing was a bit too tide for me taste.

Maybe my disappointed stemmed from the fact I was wrong. I always guessed that Harry would remain a tragic hero right to the very end. I didn't necessarily think he'd die, but I thought he would be forever changed in some way. Maybe lose his magical abilities for example. In the end I felt as if Ms. Rowling changed her direction. Gave into pressure and gave the world the Disney-esque happy ending. I recall an earlier interview in which she said, and I'm paraphrasing People will be shocked and quit likely angered by the ending. Frankly there was very little in the ending that could be confused for shocking or angering.

But having said that, I wondered if myself and the entire world had built the series up to the point that there was no way for her to write it that wouldn't be disappointing. Maybe the mere fact the phenomenon was over would have made the ending anti-climactic.

So that got me to thinking ... what other books have I anticipated.

EVENTIDE by Kent Haruf -- I loved PLAINSONG so when I heard about the novel's sequel, EVENTIDE I was stoked. And guess what? Despite my eagerness I liked the sequel even more than the original. Critics didn't give it as high a kudos, but I literally grieved when one of the principal characters died. I felt that last breath leave him and I was saddened by the loss just as if a friend from my real life had died. I didn't just read that highly anticipated sequel I felt it. I can only hope that once again Mr. Haruf takes me to their world with another novel.

Richard Russo is my favorite contemporary author so when Bridge of Sighs came out I was at the bookstore when it opened that morning. And? I wasn't exactly disappointed but his latest novel didn't stack up with my Russo faves. The Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool, or Empire Falls. Now I hear he is working on a sequel to Nobody's Fool and I am salivating at the thought of reading about those characters again. But will the book measure up.

So here's my questions. How have the books you waited on the most measured up? Do you think anticipation puts unfair pressure on an author, or is that kind of eagerness from readers the very thing every writer should hope for? Do you holed a disappoint book against the author or do you easily forgive and get just as excited about their next book?

20 comments:

Monnik said...

I had similar thoughts about the final installment of Harry Potter, but really enjoyed the series nonetheless, mostly because it gave me something really fun to bond with my son over.

I totally agree with you - I thought HP was going to die right up until the end. And then I was like, Really? He lives and Voldemort really dies? That's, well, ok... I guess.

Nerd Goddess said...

I think the hardest part about anticipating a new book, or just by reading a lot of books by an author, is that writing styles change over time. Sometimes you expect an author to write something one way, and they throw you off by writing it entirely different. I've been trying to be more understanding of this as I've watched my own writing change and grow over time and with different projects.

jjdebenedictis said...

Harry Potter 6, the one I was really slavering for, left me...unsatisfied? I mean, THAT scene happened, and it was big, but unlike the other books in the series, Half-Blood Prince didn't have a self-contained story that wrapped up by the last page.

HP 7 was therefore a relief, and I enjoyed it (and was delighted to be right about a few things), even though I still don't quite understand how Voldemort died.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Once a favorite author hits his/her stride, I'm rarely disappointed. Now, comparing movies to their books...almost always disappointing.

(Come cruise the interview with Harvey today if you get your head above water.) :)

mrsb said...

I did think, in the end, that Harry *should* have died, but I can see why it wasn't put out that way.

I'm sure some 12 year old girl would have ended up putting a hit out on poor JK.

In the end, of course, we have to remember that it really was a children's book, no matter how many adults read it, and breaking the hearts of that many kids is just never a good idea.

It was hard enough for me when she killed off George (or was it Fred?) and Dobby. I think I cried harder over Dobby than Dumbledore.

Mystery Robin said...

The only time I've really had it fall flat for me is in series mystery where it seems like the author runs out of gas. I hate to say this, but I LOVED the first 4 Stephanie Plum books, and really liked the next four and then it just got repetitive. I've had other series take a turn like this too, and then I'm just over the author.

Melissa Marsh said...

Confession. I've never read Harry Potter. And what's more, I have no desire to change that. *gasp*

I just found a new author (Christine Blevins) and I'm completely stoked that the book I'm reading now is the first in a trilogy. I can't wait until the other two come out.

Chris Eldin said...

I am so mad at myself because I keep wanting to read the Potter series. I think I might. That'll be my next project. I haven't seen the movies either, just bits and pieces of the first one. But I'm disappointed if the bad guy went out with a whimper. Oh well...

ddusty said...

Yeah, Stephanie Plum. Loved the first couple, then got irked when Miss Plum still kept leaving her gun in the cookie jar when she went looking for perps.

The worst anticipation/disappointment for me was a collaboration of two writers of quite varied styles. Their first book together had been a lot of fun, but the second--which I bought in Hard Cover, that's how much I thought I'd like it--was a slog. The heroine was annoying, the story world was irritating. There was some pretty good shooting and blowing up of things, but sadly, that was minor to the book.
Oh, and Message in a Bottle. Page after page, it just never got better, so I skipped to the end, which was appropriately stupid.

Eric S. said...

I haven't read the Harry Potter series, even though I know I would love it. I skipped past your spoiler alert because of it. But I did catch the last chapter also.

I have to say that on certain series, my anticipation places an unrealistic expectation on the finished product. However, there are certain authors who never disappoint me. WEB Griffin being one of them.

Melanie Avila said...

When books get a lot of hype, quite often I'll lose interest in them. It always seems like when SO many people rave about it, my expectations get so high that I'm bound to be disappointed. If I do get around to reading it, usually my expectations have been lowered so much that I'm pleasantly surprised. Works for me.

Melanie Avila said...

Oh, and I'm with Merry and Chris on Harry Potter.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I really disliked the last book in the series. It's the only one I'll never bother reading again. And not one whit of it surprised me, down to the "deaths" and how the whole thing was resolved. Yawn. At that point the editors had long since given up doing their job.

I've read three books in Stirling's CHANGE series, and while a lot of it is fun, they killed off my FAVORITE CHARACTER at the end. It's a multi-pov series, so it's not against the rules or anything. But I swore it all off from now on. I felt it was a really nasty trick because it actually came out of nowhere.

Miriam S.Forster said...

My husband and I were talking with a friend the other day, and I suddenly asked them how Harry defeated Voldemort. I honestly never understood that. Turns out neither did they. In fact, I have yet to talk to anyone who can tell me in clear terms how Harry won.

Sad.

dizzblnd said...

"I think the three of us men are secure enough for me to use the words suck and stroke in the same sentence." Still laughing.

I never really got into HP.

There is only one disappointment from one of my fav authors Patricia Cornwell. That was Isle of Dogs. I thought it was truly horrible. Dean Koontz has also been known to disappoint me.

I think there IS a lot of pressure on authors to produce best sellers for their fans.. but when they cave to that pressure.. you get disappointing books.

Cloudia said...

I love attending your litterary cocktail party, Travis!

(We're secure enough to use cock and tail in the same word, eh?)

Aloha-

Comfort Spiral

Barbara Martin said...

I am waiting to see how the Robert Jordon series of The Wheel of Time ends, considering it's being put together by another author based on notes and assorted material.

Sometimes authors when they have a series of books write to the dictates of publishers. Ernst Hemingway had to change the words in his books, despite his protests, just to get published.

Charles Gramlich said...

I thought the ending of the last book worked pretty well, because the books were never really about action sequences. Yes, VOldemort went down fairly easily but from the other books I really wasn't expecting it to be a horrific struggle. I thought the epilog was a bit Tidy, though. I enjoyed it well enough but I'm not sure it really needed to be there.

Bina said...

Well, there was really only ONE book I just HATED having to wait for, and that was SCARPETTA by Patricia Cornwell. I can't even begin to tell you how dissapointed I was in that book. I read all her others and just KNEW this was going to be great, but it wasn't. It was all I could do to even finish.

Never read the Potter books, and only saw the first movie. I'm just not into them.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I think there was little way JKR could "win" and I'm sure she was pressured into things she didn't want to do, and talked out of things she did and decided on things herself that didn't work - and on it goes; I can' imagine it's hard to write a series as large as that in such big demand! dang!

But, we don't always have control over our books and the content and covers and titles, and I imagine once Hollyweird gets ahold of it - well, then that's an entirely different thing.

I haven't read but the very first HP book - they aren't my style, but I did watch some of the movies, including the one just out -I'll not comment on it, but to say I walked out of the theater puzzled.

I have been disappointed in books I've waited for, but I wouldn't give up on the author if I have enjoyed his/her work in the past- unless the author kept on that spiral of writing what I didn't enjoy, and even then, I'd probably hang on for old times sake if I could stand it (Like Robin Cook's books - I haven't read him in years and I used to love his books - now, well, not so sure if my taste has changed, or his - probably mine).