I started reading There But For The by Ali Smith because it's a book with a wonderful premise: a man has locked himself in an almost stranger's spare bedroom and he refuses to leave. The book description then does an excellent job selling the novel as the conversations between this man and the strangers who try to lure him out.
The book description is actually a lot better than the book itself. At the start of the novel, I was intrigued. I kind of liked the roundabout writing style, I kind of liked the odd character introductions, and I kind of liked the way nothing really made sense. But after one hundred pages of the same not-much, I realized I wouldn't be finishing There But For The.
Perhaps rightly so. I abandoned it only a few days ago (having begun it last week), and already I've lost it. I remember a vague sense of frustration with the novel, but the heart of my annoyance is gone. Nothing is left. The characters, who had a certain thin, slick quality to them, are all missing from my noggin. All I have is a strange aftertaste from the writing style - one I'm still not certain is either positive or negative.
A few years ago I would have done all I could to finish There But For The, ignoring other books I would have enjoyed more. Today, as I returned the book to the library, I was reminded of the three good books I've read in the days since I gave up on There But For The, and know that I made the right choice.
* Also, what is up with the cover? While somewhat striking, this has to be one of the least attractive covers I've seen in a very long time...