Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Reader Round Up: TAB Syndrome

Upfront and personal: I am not a quitter.

I will gamely finish the less-than-savory pasta I paid for at the overrated restaurant, keep eating salad until the last of the holiday pounds melt away, and keep grading essays until my eyeballs roll around to the back of my head.

I stick to it. Just so you know.

That being said. I am struggling with my reading habits these days. I used to stick with a book, even if it took me days and weeks to soldier on, I would finish it, gritting teeth if necessary (Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady comes to mind). Lately, I give a book approximately five chapters, roughly a hundred pages, before I judge and jury it back into the library bag for prompt return. My dilemma is this: Would a true Book Booster succumb to TAB Syndrome? Is it acceptable that I wontly and willingly set aside a chosen read and it becomes The Abandoned Book?

Maybe it’s because I realize there are so many books out there waiting for me. Why should I commit to reading something that I really don’t like? Frank Zappa, of all people, is credited with saying:

I have dismissed the following books in the last couple of months.

Starlight on Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs.



My mom recommended this author. Often. Frequently. *sigh* Trying to be the good daughter,  I gave it go. Mom and I have different tastes in reading. I toss out titles to her. She tries them and politely responds how the book didn’t quite work for her. This time she tossed out an author to me.  Apparently Susan Wiggs is a popular, best selling author of over 35 books. I had no idea. A whole shelf is dedicated to her novels at our library, or at least ones that haven’t been checked out.

This particular plot focuses on a mother embittered by life since she is now a quadriplegic from a skiing accident that also killed her husband. Her three children are all successful and have aptly provided for her–she is at odds with the oldest son who would rather send a check than visit with mumsy. Mums burns through caretakers like bees flit through a garden. This is where the underdog caretaker is hired. There is also the cold, yet efficient assistant/fiancee to said distant son. I knew where this was going after I read the blurb. I would have hung in there, as I don’t mind the romantic trope of jerk-son-gets-bested-and-turned-around-by-single-mother-with-a-heart-of-gold-who-has- two-extremely-needy-daughters plot. I’m not terribly prudish, yet when everyone starting dropping profanity as if the educated 10% do so because it must be oh-so-cool, I thought “Five chapters–I’m out of here.” Sorry, Mom.

Next up was an AP recommended author I’ve been putting off reading because his writing style is so Joycian. I don’t mind creativity, but I do like commas and other regular punctuation. Emily D is an exception–dash it all, I can handle her penchant for pause for something as short as her poetry. An entire novel of creative punctuation is too much for this English teacher.  So I got Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses as an audio book. If I can’t see the punctuation misdemeanors I can simply focus on the story. Wrong.

I really like John Grady Cole. He reminds me a bit of a young Paul Newman in his cool, calm and collected approach to life. I even tolerated Lacey’s potty mouth because his colorful vernacular was such a part of who is. He probably couldn’t talk if a swear word wasn’t in there. Plus, the audio book reader was talented at creating distinctive characters. I hung with Horses until John Grady and Lacey get hired at the Mexican ranch. As soon as the boss’s daughter arrives on the scene I couldn’t bear the heartache of watching John go down as he fell for her. I became too attached. Maybe I’ll watch the movie. I can always fast forward Matt Damon’s pain.


 A student wanted to do David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas for his Author Spotlight and I try to check out what my students are reading. I tried to get involved in the book, the premise sounds fascinating; however, I couldn’t get past the guy sifting the rocks for cannibal teeth so he could make dentures for a high society lady and then tell her that she was chewing with said teeth. Too gruesome for me. I might give it go sometime, someday because the switched storyline style intrigues me. There is also the movie.

I have abandoned other books. Not often, but I do. I don’t feel this guilt out ejecting a movie from the DVD player. Somehow setting aside a book is like walking away from a conversation. It feels rather rude. I’m working on casting off this guilt. There are, after all, so many other conversations waiting for me out there.

Anyone else struggle with TAB Syndrome?



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11 thoughts on “Reader Round Up: TAB Syndrome

  1. Dave Quayle on said:

    I tell myself, Life is too short, but often find I can’t stick to my resolve once I’m so far in. Other times the first couple of pages are quite enough. Maybe because I book blog I might slog on to the end if I’ve got so far, knowing I can slag them off. I do try and keep faith with my Book Graoup too. Most annoying are the books of high reputation where you think there must be a fantastic conclusion that makes sense of the unsatisfactory … and it doesn’t. ‘All the pretty horses’ has been on my list for a while and what you say makes it all the more likely I’ll give it a try; I struggled with ‘The road’ but thought it was saved by those magnificent final pages. ‘Cloud atlas’ goes entertainingly from historical novel to science fiction and back again via a couple of other interesting literary genes; worth persevering with, I’d say.

  2. I don’t abandon books too often, but when I’m busy I tend to only choose books I know I’ll like. If I save experimenting for a break or long weekend, I’m more likely to power through.

  3. Yes! I no longer continue if I don’t find the book or story engaging. I abandon lengthy NYTimes magazine articles, short stories, novels, memoirs, etc. Perhaps because I’ve buried both my parents and my husband’s parents in recent years, but I’ve started to realize that life is too short to read things for pleasure that don’t fill up the pleasure cup. My son never feels guilty about abandoning a book early. Then he tears through others, re-reading them as many times as he wants. Because he LOVES them. I think I need to learn from his example. Not to say that I don’t “make” him read books that I think are “good for him,” ones that he wouldn’t have chosen to read, otherwise. He’s found that most of the “good for you” books have been enjoyable. For example, one of his school friends who’s a year older, told him that “A House on Mango Street” was pretty boring. My son had to read it for school this year and pronounced it “good, not boring.” Yay! Anyway, I digress. It’s what I do best. I’m supposed to be writing. Can you tell?

    I just abandoned Gaiman’s book of short stories called “Trigger Warning.” While there were a couple that I thought were truly magnificent, others just didn’t trigger any response at all. And when the scales starts tipping in that direction, the book goes back on the shelf. In this case, since all of my books are in boxes, it’s going back on top of my bedside table until the bookshelves are built. Perhaps I’ll be motivated to read more some other time. Perhaps not. But I refuse to feel guilty about it. I allow myself to feel guilty about other things. 😀

  4. I read a lot of esoteric nonfiction because I’m always on the lookout for stuff I’ve never heard of before. Well, sometimes I conclude that I’ve never head it before because the story ain’t worth hearing.

    And into the donation pile it goes!

  5. Me, me! I’m raising my hand. Thank you for speaking to a struggle I’ve had for some time. For one thing (and dare I say it may be the same for you) as an avid reader and long-time writer, I simply know too much. I know what is good writing, what is just shock value, what is true. I know about horses and the West, so a lot of what people write of that is out for me. I have begun coming back to reading happily by setting aside per-conceived notions and giving a book a quick try. On sparse occasions I’ve found some lovely reads. I rarely liked anything my mother liked. Just is. 🙂

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