Monday, June 25, 2012

Keep the Introduction Short, Please

Recently I’ve  read a book which I’m not going to name here, because the problem I’ll talk about does not appear in this one book only. And the problem is: the introduction was way too long and way too boring.

The book is an anthology, and the subject is such that it should be a fun book and mostly a light read. There are two editors, and each one of them wrote an introduction. Each of the introductions goes on and on about what they liked to read when they were kids, and how much they liked it, and how they found some other likable stuff to read and watch, and how those various things could actually go pretty well together, and how much they liked all that, and... Each of the introductions was about 10 pages long. In both of them, the editors mostly talked about themselves and what they liked and how it led to this particular anthology, but failed to say much about the anthology itself.

It was pretty late at the time I was reading these introductions and I was tired, but couldn’t sleep because it was too darn hot. I doubt that it improved either my mood or my patience. Still, I find it difficult to imagine I’d enjoy reading them no matter the time and the weather.

I almost gave up on the entire book because of the introductions; it’s highly unlikely that’s what the editors tried to achieve, and it’s not like they’re new to the business. The only reason I didn’t give up on the book was that I expected the stories to entertain me quite a bit (sadly, it didn’t happen, the stories were, except for one, ineptly written, or childish, or too much down the anything goes alley, or all of it).

An introduction to an anthology, as far as I can tell, doesn’t need to be longer than 2 pages; if the editor or whoever wants to talk some more about certain details of the book, that can be put in the afterword and, also important, it should be interesting to read and to the point (there should also be a point). I don’t mind learning how a particular book came to be; what I do mind is reading meandering and long-winded introductions (or meandering and long-winded anything), unless it is done in such a way that it is really fun/interesting/informative to read. I don’t count every little thing you liked as a kid informative, sorry. I’m aware that I can just skip the introduction, but why putting in a book something so boring a reader would want to skip?

This was the first time that the introduction to a book made me want to give up on the entire thing (and not even because of something it said about the anthology!); normally I enjoy them. How do you feel about introductions? Do you skip them, or read them? Has an introduction ever made you want to give up on the book? 


Kelly Hashway said...

I never even read the introductions. I would've skipped it.

Beverly Diehl said...

I usually do read the introductions, because it's gotta be important or they wouldn't put it in there, right? *rolls eyes*

When it's an anthology introduction, I don't mind a long one if it's a teaser for the stories to come: "You wouldn't normally think of using ants as a murder weapon, yet Annabella..." with perhaps one short paragraph per story.

As I am writing more, I am getting over the idea that EVERY good idea I have ever had has to be crammed into THIS book or story. I figure that some of it can go in the next one, or the one after that... likewise the autobiographical detail. That intro would've driven me nuts, too.

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

I do read them, or shall I say, I usually skim them. If they are interesting, I will focus more attention on them. If not, I continue skimming.

Kiersi said...

I usually skip them, too. But "keep it short and interesting" is a piece of advice that applies to all writing, even introductions. Nice post.

angel011 said...

@Kelly: you would've been so right with this one.

@Beverly: I agree. If it's a teaser, it could be a bit longer -- if it's really a teaser, not some barely relevant childhood memories.

@Karen: unfortunately, if it's in the book I'm reading, i feel like I should focus on it.

@Kiersi: with some rare exceptions, I'm a fan of "keep it short and interesting". Thanks for dropping by!

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