On changing tastes and unfinished reads

I was halfway into a book called The Game by an author I was thrilled to find in my university library: A.S. Byatt, when it suddenly struck me how awfully pretentious the writing was. I realized I was struggling with every line and at one point I just went, “Oh, shut up.” Both the female leads were too self involved and it was infested with the silliest plot lines and the lewdest “symbols”: basically, it was a yawn. So I stopped reading it. With so little time on my hands, I can’t afford to stick to my finish-every-book rule. It was a stupid rule, anyway.
What has shocked me is that, in retrospect, all her books, at least her short story collections, sound just like The Game. Possession, I still like. But The Children’s Book had similar characters and it is unthinkable now that I loved it. I have also been reading a book on Norse mythology, and I now feel her book Ragnarok: The End of the Gods, a child’s perspective on the Norse apocalypse, was almost idiotically overdone.
But I suppose it is only natural. Fourteen year old me was an Ayn Rand fanatic, and while I no longer relate to that self, I do love that I went through that obsessive phase in my life. It played a part, certainly, in making me who I am today. So my point is this: somewhere on this blog, there is a rave review of Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by A.S. Byatt. Is it wrong of me to keep it as it is or do I edit all my reviews with my changing tastes?

10 thoughts on “On changing tastes and unfinished reads”

  1. I think you should leave that review as is, and maybe add a P.S. with a link to this post.

    I liked Possession, The Matisse Stories and Babel Tower but can't now remember much about them. I thought Ragnarok was fascinating in the view it provided of her perspective of her childhood, but I'd never re-read it.


  2. I have thought of this myself, as I often change my mind about books. I agree that you should leave the review as is and just add a note. Actually a whole post about books you've changed your mind about could be quite interesting …


  3. Divers and Sundry -I guess I was more fascinated by the myths than her writing. Or it may just be that I've read too much of her writing and just had enough! The Game has too many allusions and symbols and I was annoyed that the plot would probably fall without them…if that makes any sense! If I did add a note, though, I'd have to add why I didn't like Ragnarok here!


  4. I had the exact same experience with Byatt, but I thought it was due to poor command of English at the time, so I switched to Swedish when I couldn´t get through the prose. I got through the book, but now I can´t for the life of me recollect which one it was, so I might as well not have read it.

    I think changing tastes is inevitable. If you could re-read every book you ever read, you would write something completely or at least slightly different about it the second time. Don´t worry about it. The younger you had an opinion and it is still valid for the person you were when you wrote it – all your reviews are dated, after all. If your reviews were printed in a newspaper, you couldn´t even worry about it. If you feel you need to make a statement about not agreeing with everything you wrote in your misguided youth 😉 then consider adding a few lines to your About page.


  5. I wouldn't worry about it. The way we feel about things change, and that may include books as well. Your glowing review was a representation of how you felt back then, so there's no point in changing that. You could add an "update" with a link to this article, if you really feel like you should do something about it.

    I've enjoyed Possession although it wasn't easy to get through it. I felt the style was quite "academic" and while I can appreciate great writing, at the end of the day what I really want is a great story. Still, I've always wanted to try more of her books.


  6. Viktoria – 😀 You're right. It's just this change is very unexpected. I thought I liked her writing last year, possibly because I thought I "got" it – I knew all her books were thick with allusions and what Delia calls academic writing, but I read them anyway. So it's probably just my suddenly busy schedule that makes Byatt seem like a bore now. But you've made me wonder how many of my current favourite authors I'll eventually grow out of!

    Delia – So I guess it happens to everyone, then. 🙂 You know, I always thought writing mattered most to me, but that's just not true – what I really want is a great story, too.


  7. Aah you know now that I look back there's so many books I've yawned through and if I happen to read them again I actually find them quite the read! 🙂 changing preferences perhaps or moods? I've been on a reading roll lately 🙂


  8. Midnight scribbles – Changing moods! That might be it. Though I have to tell you, the other way around – liking a book I hated the second time around – hasn't really happened to me! I wonder why…


  9. There may be some element of the book that appeals still? Anyway, I think it's ok for you to leave the review as is, after all that's what you felt when you read the book at that time.


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