My father was a golfer, at one point a scratch golfer, who loved the game. I played golf occasionally until I was in my late twenties and a few times after that with my father, but I never saw much point to it. The fewest strokes to get a small ball hundreds of yards into a small hole… and then do it again seventeen more times? Now, I can appreciate the considerable strength, skill, and concentration it takes to be good at golf, but for me it’s pointless.

On the other hand, I played tennis moderately well until I was in my fifties, and enjoyed it, but I have to admit that, on an intellectual level, tennis is as pointless as golf. You have to hit a ball over a net into a certain area and keep doing it until you or your opponent fails to keep the ball in the court. Then you start all over again. But it wasn’t pointless to me because I enjoyed it.

The “point” to all this is that for something not to be pointless, you have to understand whatever it is – a sport, a game, an occupation – and you have to like it and/or gain something from it.

The other day I saw a reader review of Isolate, calling it “Pointless,” and from what little the reviewer wrote, I’m sure the book seemed pointless and plotless to him, because he saw the descriptions and conversations as meaning nothing. For him, the “point” of a book is clearly action. That’s what he wants and likes.

But it was also clear that he had no understanding that the basis for “action” in the real world lies in the thoughts in the minds of people with power or people who wish to obtain power, wealth, or objects or people they covet – or possibly those who wish to deny, power, wealth, or objects… or even freedom.

The current war in Ukraine didn’t really start when Russian troops crossed the borders and started firing; it began when Vladimir Putin decided he wanted to “restore” the old USSR/Russian empire. World War II didn’t begin when Hitler invaded Poland; it began when the conservative German political aristocracy thought they could control Hitler and made him chancellor in an attempt to further their own ends.

To the action-lovers, the thoughts and conversations and political machinations that spur the actions are largely irrelevant and often “pointless.” For me, however, what’s pointless in a book are endless reactions to an undefined cause, or one not understood, possibly because I’ve seen how the failure to understand the “non-action” causes leads those reacting to make even worse mistakes.

5 thoughts on “Pointless?”

  1. KevinJ says:

    When the reader’s wants for the story are too divergent from what the writer is trying to deliver, any review is also pointless.

    1. Alan says:

      This is very true and something many people seem to fail to understand when it comes to many things in life. Readers need to understand what they’re choosing to read, people need to understand who they’re voting for, legislators need to understand what they’re legislating… The list is endless, but all too often people work from their own preconceived notions of what should be based on their preferences and not the full picture.

  2. Tom says:

    A written work may be pointless because:

    the author wrote incomprehensibly or indeed had no point to make.

    the reader had one of the two problems we have identified in our world – inability to comprehend or too short an attention span.

    1. Darcherd says:

      Well, the third possibility, and the one LEM actually alluded to in his blog, is that what that particular reader wanted in a book wasn’t there in “Isolate”. Just because something is not a particular reader’s cup of tea doesn’t necessarily mean they have a short attention span…it could simply mean that it’s not what they like.

      For example, I can appreciate that Rap music is a bona fide art form that requires great skill in manipulating words in rhyme and rhythm, especially when done extemporaneously. And yet, my tolerance when compelled to actually listen to it is measured in milliseconds. It’s not that I’m musically deficient, it’s simply that it’s not what I enjoy.

      1. Bill says:

        As you have implied and the point of the blog post and more importantly why give a negative review on personal preference. If a person who doesn’t like sushi, goes to a sushi restaurant, doesn’t like the food, then they shouldn’t write a review of the restaurant saying the food is bad. They are not qualified to give a review. They should simply vote with their feet and not go back. Giving this kind of review is more of a temper tantrum – saying “I am not getting what I want so I will complain until I get what I want.”
        Most reviews and rating systems don’t work because they are too easy to manipulate. A bad review hurts quality work especially when it comes from a “Karen” or someone just having a bad day.

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