Thursday, February 08, 2007

It's a Harvey

Harvey Wallbanger
1 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. Galliano
4 oz. Orange Juice

Did I get your attention? Only at the Riders' blog can you get your free drink recipes!

Er, but I'm not here to talk delicious alcoholic concoctions, today we're talking wallbangers. You know, those books that you just want to...! Yep, those books. But let's try something new. Harvey is my new euphemism for the wallbanger. I like that. Not as much as a tongue twister as wallbanger, and just, well, it's Harvey, ok?

So what makes a Harvey? Have you ever committed Harvey?
I've never gotten quite to the point where I've actually flung a book across the room with the wall as target. But I've had the urge to commit Harvey on more than a few occassions.

I recently read a book that was pleasant. I got about 3/4 of the way through and it was STILL PLEASANT. I had a realization. While well-written, and featuring mild characters with mild goals and mild dreams, I wasn't getting into this story. Why had I read so far into it? I spend a lot on books. I think it's that tightwad-cheapskate part of me that figures I'd better get all the words read I've paid for, so I should read all the way to the end. I'd only read $11.79 out of $14.95! But if it's simply mild? And pleasant? I had to set it down. The book was a Harvey.

I've got a huge TBR pile, and I'm determined to see the bottom of it this year. So I've become ruthless. Harvey-ness must be decided much earlier than 3/4 of the way through, and damn the expense! I had a first chapter Harvey the other day. I set it in the giveaway pile. I was so proud of myself. I've had a few 3 or 4 chapter Harveys since then. They were culled from the pile as well.

What makes it a Harvey for me may not make it a Harvey for you. Well-written stories abound, and yet if they don't feed my need for: adventure, romance, mystery, mild creepiness, or intriguing historical, then they're Harveys.
Do you see that maybe a Harvey isn't quite so offensive to our reading psyches as a wallbanger is? But all the same, we've got to learn to just let go. Set it aside. Give it away. Let's rid our TBRs of Harveys, America!
Okay, back to your normally scheduled blog.

But seriously, what makes it a Harvey for you?


Betina Krahn said...

Michele, you brilliant woman, you! We've needed a term for those books that keep luring us onward with the promise of reward but never deliver. So if I'm getting this right, Harvey's aren't quite the full wallbanger, right? Just unsatifying in some way? Hmmmm. I'd rather have Harvey be the full wallbanger-- books you spent good (big) money for and can't abide. Truly Pompous/offensive/moronic/infantile/insulting stuff.


I can't say if I have any of those in my TBR pile. Maybe that's why they're still TBR. . . something about the presentation says "potential Harvey" to me.

Things that make a book a Harvey-- the real wallbanger variety-- for me are:
Literary Pretentiousness: including inflated, pompous, or overly intellectualized writing. Numerous huge words that make me run to the dictionary when more common words would be just as effective.
No or little dialog. (Yes, they do publish them!) Also, books with unreadable dialogue (strange speech patterns and dialects too-faithfully rendered) that goes on and on.
Endless Descriptions of Places: which sound more like a travelog and make you suspect the author was determined to write off one or more European/Carribean vacations.

lois greiman said...

I know exactly what you mean. There are too many fabulous books out there to finish the so-so ones. I have a six foot stack beside my bed, but who knows which will prove to be Harvies and which will be Hunkies? Not I. But I do know that I hate characters that are too stupid to live. You know, the ones that need a good smack upside the head. But maybe I'm just cold and cranky today.

Michele said...

Yes, Harvey can be the real wallbanger. I just think different people have such varied versions of what a real wallbanger is. Boredom rates high on my wallbanger list, while endless decriptions (of Paris!) really do it for me.
I had an almost-Harvey the other day. The first chapter of a historical mystery almost exactly copies a famous classic adventure novel (the author was using the classic novel writers' characters). I was outraged! This deserved Harvey status. But you know, I gave it one more chapter, which wasn't at all like the classic, and then I could understand what the author was trying to do. I'm currently reading it, and LOVING it.

Helen Brenna said...

So much of it has to do with expectations, doesn't it?

I try not to expect much of anything from books these days because I know I'm hugely critical. But I don't HAVE to finish anything anymore either. That's been very liberating for me.

Harvey's for me have too much description or exposition. That's the biggest thing that'll kill a book for me.

Cindy Gerard said...

One of the things I miss most about being a reader as opposed to a writer who also loves to read, is that I find myself editing many of the books I pick up. Occupational hazard? Unfortunately, yes. Those books fall into the Harvey (thanks, Michele!!) category for me. If I become so engrossed in the book that I forget to edit, I know I've latched onto a good one :o) And I LOVE it when that happens.

Keri Ford said...

I'm with Betina on the big word thing. If I can't figure out the word from the sentence, then the author might as well written it in a foreign language. Call me lazy, but I'm not dragging myself off the couch for a dictionary (nor would I waste my time if I kept it handy)because the author refuses to use simple words.

Long on-going descriptions of places and such don't bug me. I just skim those paragraphs if the storyline interests me. And that usually makes me chuckle, because I know the author went through a lot of time describing the fog, and then here I go and barely glance at it.

As long as I like one of the main characters (say hero), then I'll stick it out to see what in the heck he found so attractive in the heroine (even if she is TSTL).

Unless it has big words-cause I don't know any to use in my own writing :o)-I won't put down a crap book (my term for a Harvey). That way when I do finish the book and return to my writing, I'll be less likely do those things that irritate me.

Betina Krahn said...

There's a lesson to be learned in every book. Good philosophy, Keri!

I have always prided myself on giving authors a fighting chance. In that way, I'm probably the ideal reader. I stick with a book through thick(headed characters)and thin(plotlines). I keep trying to make sense of plot and stay in the moment to give the author the benefit of the doubt. But like Michele, sometimes it just gets to be too much.

But I've discovered as I get-- ahem-- older, I have less patience with stupidity, shoddiness and just plain ignorance. I paid the six to twenty dollars-- I get to read it or not, as I see fit. If I decide it's not worth my time finishing the book, nobody's going to charge into my study or bedroom, filled with artistic outrage, and bash me with the NYT Book Review section.

If it's not working half the way through the story, why should I punish myself to keep reading?

"Harvey" it. Chuck the sucker.

Thanks, Michele!

ellie said...

When a book is worth dumping it has to be a big bore, repetitive and extremely dull. I have had plenty of those and promise myself not to waste time on them. Cardboard characters, situations that are stagnant and keep on happening and no development of any kind.

Debra Dixon said...

Michelle-- That's brilliant! Harveys. Yep. That's what they will be forever more.

TBR's are big sink holes of guilt and with the Harvey concept the TBR pile is not something to be feared anymore. :) Yay!

Life's short. Stick with the good stuff. You'll never regret it.

Michele said...

Hmm, I wonder if I should apologize to all the actual Harveys out there? I'm sorry, it's not you! We like our menfolk named Harvey.


Kathleen Eagle said...

Harvey it is, Michele!

I have to read after I go to bed and before I go to sleep. The amount of time spent reading varies, but I have to read at least some.

In many ways I'm pretty critical, but I'm also forgiving. All it takes is getting sucked in. With fiction, it's the characters. Lately I've started a couple of books by writers I've enjoyed in the past, so I gave them 50 pages to suck me in. I couldn't get past 30 on one because the characters didn't come alive at all, the opening was pretty same-old, dialogue had no sparkle--I mean none--and then along comes a really stupid premise on which the conflict promised (threatened) to be based. The book went into the TBD (to be donated) pile.

I gave the next one 50 pages. By page 10 I really didn't like the protagonists. The book (hardcover, but fortunately I didn't pay for it) had to do with a serious issue, one very close to my heart, and I decided that I really didn't want to go there with these two characters. I didn't care whether they suffered and eventually had an epiphany. They didn't deserve my attention.

I'm reading a big fat historical right now by a first-time author, and there's a lot about it that usually turns me off--first-person viewpoint, lots of description, not my favorite setting, guess you'd call it a cozy mystery, which isn't my usual fare, BUT... when I pick it up at night, I lose track of time and I keep reading because I'm hooked into the characters. PLUS the writing is very good.

I can skip over descriptions when they go on too long, but if the characters don't interest me, I'm saying so-long Harvey.

Michele said...

I'm a bedtime reader, too, Kathy. I always think one of these days I'm going to spoil myself and just read all day, but it never happens. I envy those that can do an entire reading day. We need to find out when everyone likes to read. That's interesting to me. :-)


Keri Ford said...


I read when I get the book out of the mailbox :). If I'm picking up a something to re-read, then it's whenever I'm in the mood to revisit some characters. Morning, afternoon, night (though this time usually involves often on in the morning.)

Often I do the cover-to-cover thing and follow it up with another book or two. I've learned its a good dieting method- I forget to eat when I'm reading. Once, I read ALL day, I mean ALL day, didn't put a bite in my mouth and didn't think about it again until the next morning when I passed out on the floor due to my blood sugar suddenly bottoming out. (and no, I don't normally have blood sugar problems, so you can imagine my surprise)

And while I enjoy reading books back-to-back like that. It makes my eyes itchy. You know that feeling of opening your eyes for a while in swimming pool? Just like that.

So reading all day long isn't always so great.

Helen Brenna said...

I love to read any time of day, but it seems the only time available is at night. The ultimate in decadence to me is spending an entire day reading. Hasn't happened since before kids!

Joyce said...

A LONG time ago I read the Bad Seed for high school. I like happy endings and did NOT like the ending of it. And yes I did a harvey with it.

Debby said...

I think I could use one of those right now.