The 50 Page Rule [redux]

So, I titled this post [redux] because of some timely events. I originally was going to scribble about how I have a hard time sticking with my 50 Page Rule. A few years ago, I half-way allowed myself to put down a book if I was unable to “get in to it” around page 50. I know, it’s a hard rule to follow but it allowed me to feel less guilty when I had to put a book aside instead of remaining with it till its final page.

Yesterday, I was on NPR’s website when I ran across a review of Roberto Bolaño‘s The Third Reich. I was thinking to myself whether I would attempt the book or not. I read 2666 in its entirety when it came out in English and a large portion of The Savage Detectives. I started with the latter because the synopsis sounded so interesting. In layman’s terms, I just couldn’t get in to it. When 2666 came out in English, there was a huge hoopla. It had such an intriguing premise (which is altogether too complicated to try to sum up in a sentence or two). The monster of a novel (912 pages according to Amazon) did have its really compelling portions that intensified the mystery (the part about the critics and especially, the part about the crimes), but ultimately, I was terribly disappointed.

When I read the previously mentioned review, I couldn’t help but be the tiniest bit interested. I briefly remembered when the Paris Review was publishing excerpts and I couldn’t help myself. I’ve always had an interest in World War II history and the research concerning my novel-in-progress is heavily saturated in historical events from Nazi Germany. So, I was torn between skipping it altogether based on my previous opinions of Bolaño’s fiction or just utilizing the 50 Page Rule. I had not come to a conclusion and was still on the fence about the whole thing.

BUT, I spent Thursday evening with a few of my writerly friends–one who is an editor at Words Without Borders. When I was in Europe in October, he had contacted me about writing book reviews for WWB because of my interest in translation. We played email tag for the next few weeks until last night. He has a galley copy of The Third Reich for me to review.

The 50 Page Rule is going to have to be benched for this book but hopefully, I won’t regret it. Third times a charm, right?


  1. I used to be a firm believer in finishing a book once I’d started it, despite whatever tortures or horrors might await. I don’t do that any longer, although for some authors, 50 pages just isn’t enough (Eco is one of them). Maybe I follow more of a 150 page rule.

  2. Definitely. 50 pages is not a hard and fast rule but generally I give it between 50-80 pages before I throw in the towel.

    Just got the Bolano book today. It is on the shorter side for him so hopefully, this will be an easier situation.

  3. I get most of my books from the public library. If I can’t get into it by its due date plus one renewal, back it goes. It doesn’t happen often because I usually force myself to finish it.

  4. I don’t have a 50 page rule, per se. But I do know that once I pass the 65 page mark with some momentum, I’ll most likely be finishing it. That being said….made it through the first two and a half “volumes” of 2666 and then finally gave up. I’ll have to revisit it at some point….maybe.

    1. I did feel like I accomplished something unique when I finished 2666, but ultimately I didn’t like it. Right now, I’m reading Bolano’s newest book (release date December 2011) and it has a much more manageable page count.

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