Friday, January 29, 2010

Unfinished Friday -a double header

Marie, the Boston Bibliophile started this very useful meme so we can blog about books that for whatever reason just don't work. This time I had two that hit the 'Let it Go" Pile. The first was  "The Hemingses of Monticello" by Annette Gordon Reed.

I've been working on this one for almost three weeks.  It is ponderous, tedious, learned, well-researched, and I've certainly learned a lot.  It really isn't for any specific challenge, although I thought it would be good background material for my participation in the US Presidents challenge.  It is not a bad book, it won the National Book Award.  It's just a really slow, and very detailed (probably way too detailed) read.

I'm putting it aside for now.  I've had it as an audio, and it's not working.  I think it might work better in print, and will look for it.  I'm just finding that I'm tiring of the author's constant speculation based on 'we really have no positive proof.'  I seem to be hearing the same theories over and over, and after 4 discs that's enough.  I realize that historians have to make assumptions.  For that reason, I try to read non-fiction written only by well-vetted authors.  I felt that winning a National Book Award was plenty of vetting, but  I also feel let down.

This book is 31 discs in audio and 816 pages in print, so the investment of time is substantial. Let's hope a different format will remedy my indifference toward this one, because my brain is not ready to soak up 800 pages of repetition right now.

On the other hand, the second abandoned book The Broken Road To Disaster Recovery by Keifer Bonvillain is an ARC I got late last summer self-published by the author. It is poorly written, surreptiously researched, and not vetted by anyone except the author. Billed as the undercover whistle blowing story of corruption in Louisiana and FEMA, the author sets out to prove he has the scoop.I couldn't finish this one. I felt like I was in the supermarket line reading the National Enquirer.

It smacked of overblown self-importance--the author seemed to be the only person in the US who knew corruption and was qualified to report on it. If it hadn't been his 2nd such work (he is the author of Ruthless: A Tell-All Book about Oprah Winfrey), I'd have had more inclination to pay attention. The writing was bombastic, snarky, overblown, and in need of good editing. After 50+ pages, I decided life is too short. If there's truly a scandal to be reported, then I'll wait til it's reported by legitimate and vettable journalists.


  1. Great meme!
    Here is my Unfinished Friday:

  2. I'm definitely interested in Sally Hemings/Thomas Jefferson, but have always been slightly intimidated by this one's length. Perhaps I should find a slightly smaller introduction to this topic...

  3. I love the idea of Unfinished Friday...but my problem is I hate to admit defeat. I put a book aside with the idea that someday I will finish it and am not sure I ever admit I absolutely will not finish it.

  4. Ah Caite! You've given me the inspiration for a whole new post. Stay tuned.


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