Authors Hate Him! Local Blogger Discovers Amazing List Of Things To Do Besides Reading. Number 12 Will Blow Your Mind!

Recently we had a behind-the-scenes discussion about pacing in books, the merits of a slower pace versus a faster pace and all that fun stuff. At the time I was reading The Train from Pittsburgh by Julian Farren and didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation. I’ve mentioned before that I have issues with reading during the summer months so pacing is almost a non-issue. But that’s the great thing about books; they never go away.

The Train from Pittsburgh is one book that I wish would have gone away.

I came upon it on an unremarkable day. I was browsing Facebook, as I am wont to do, when it showed up in a post from The Odd, Mysterious & Fascinating History of Pittsburgh, a great page that definitely lives up to its name. Anyway, I thought, “Oh, it’s got Pittsburgh in the title. I must read it!”

“His wife liked his friends… too much!”
The Train From Pittsburgh from 1952

Posted by The Odd, Mysterious & Fascinating History of Pittsburgh on Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Looking at that cover, I was hoping for a cheesy, pulpy, noir-y book set in 1950s Pittsburgh. What I got was a book originally published in 1948 about white people drinking in excess and whining about their problems with a sometimes not-so-subtle undercurrent of antisemitism and anticommunism. Like if Archie Bunker had been on Cheers and if it wasn’t hilarious.

The main character, Tom Bridges, is an alcoholic who is cheating on his wife, Ellen, but that’s all right because she’s cheating on him, too. Tom is trying to get a man named Mike Myers (no, not that Mike Myers) a job, but Tom’s boss doesn’t want to hire him because Mike is Jewish. Poor Mike is bringing his entire family on the eponymous train from Pittsburgh to New York because Tom practically guaranteed him a job.

Tom gets lit the same night Ellen throws a big party in their New York home and—sixty-seven-year-spoiler-alert—after all the guests leave, Tom decides he’s going to kill Ellen and then himself. His plan is thwarted when Ellen decides she wants to try to get pregnant again.

In the morning he wakes up with a massive hangover and realizes he’s missed the titular train’s arrival. We’re left with no murder-suicide and the presumption that Mike and his family are wandering the streets of New York City.

Pictured: Tom, or me trying to trudge through this book.

Pictured: Tom, or me trudging through this book.

Sometimes unlikable characters can be endearing, as Irene pointed out, but these characters were a waste. Their awfulness compounded with the protracted chapters (I’m sorry, but no chapter ever needs to be sixty pages) filled me with dread each time I picked the book up.

It was so awful that I came up with a list of things that I could have been doing instead of reading:

  1. Finally watch Pink Flamingos
  2. Watch someone Whip and/or Nae Nae
  3. Set the time on a VCR
  4. Find a VCR
  5. Convince myself I like sports
  6. Shop for some sweet Affliction deep V-neck shirts
  7. Finally start a quinoa blog
  8. Have a conversation online using only Tom Hiddleston .gifs
  9. Fill myself with delight reading the Common Misconceptions page on Wikipedia
  10. Picture the actor Mike Myers as Wayne from Wayne’s World as the Mike Myers in the book
  11. Wonder what it would take for our Port Authority to make a cat its stationmaster
  12. Come up with an inane list of activities and publish it on a blog with a readership of about one metric ton [citation needed]

I didn’t do any of those things. I stuck it out because I knew that by reading I was at least engaging my brain. When I finished this book, I didn’t feel like I needed a moment of silence; I felt like I needed to excise the book from me. The next time I get a hankering to read about Pittsburgh in the early part of the last century, I’ll just reread Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood.

So, dear readers, I now ask you, how does the pacing of a book affect your desire to read it? Do you prefer a quick pace or a pace where things take their time to unfold? Have you ever wanted to throw a book across the room in frustration of its banality? Let us know in the comments below!



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20 responses to “Authors Hate Him! Local Blogger Discovers Amazing List Of Things To Do Besides Reading. Number 12 Will Blow Your Mind!

  1. As long as the book is interesting I don’t mind if a book is slow or fast paced. Either way I’m guilty of flipping to the back and seeing if the book is worth finishing…

  2. Violence against books is not my solution to frustration, lack of pace or plausibility and utter mindless monotony. I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a book across the room. I have put it down though or hidden it well, in the garage.

  3. I have a large enough TBR list that if I don’t like a book, I simply cross it off the list and start reading the next book on the list, and never look back. You can’t look back. They will get you if you look back. Remember what happened to Lot’s wife.

  4. Oh goodness, I cannot stop laughing. I am so sorry you had to endure that. I guess that book was the 1948 version of MMP commercial fiction… To answer your question though, I prefer slightly quicker paced books. I read Lori Moore’s “A Gate at the Stairs” and not only was the pace meh, but the premise of the book was just ridiculous. I wish I hadn’t read that book at all.

  5. Serena

    Slowly paced books, for me, is about the equivalent of somebody telling me that they absolutely must tell me something…..and then not telling me. Probably one of my biggest reading pet peeves. Depending on the book I might try to force myself to keep reading, but if not able to I simply close it and never open it again.

  6. I don’t typically keep reading a book if it gets too boring or is poorly written. I move on to something with better writing. I used to prefer books with fast pacing, but now I can appreciate slower books, too. For me, it’s about good writing and the ability of the author to suspend my disbelief.

  7. Regardless of the pacing, the cover art on The Train from Pittsburgh is great!

  8. feanishdream

    I like fast-paced books for a kind of a cheap thrill – ‘entertain me, and do it quickly!’- but if a book is interesting, well-planned and well-executed, and has enough substance as well as style, it’s like finding ambrosia. I’ve become accustomed to reading mainly fast-paced books, too, so the times when I find a slower story to really sink my teeth into and devour is my version of heaven.

    I do agree with RoseReadsNovels, though, the cover art is superb.

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