Or the introduction — or the preface of a novel?
The short answer is yes.
The honest answer is not always.
I’ll admit that I often skim the foreword, introduction, preface (let’s just say the FIP) if they run too long. I’ve come across a good 30 – 40 page FIP before. So, I probably skim at least half of it — but only if I’m not as interested in the details of a novel before I read it.
Sometimes I’ll read a novel and then go back to read the FIP because it will help clear some confusion I may have.
My favorite FIPs are short, informative, and have just enough information about the text not to make me feel like I need to read the novel to understand what they’re talking about.
The worst FIPs are way, way too lengthy and talk so much about the text that you feel like you no longer need to read it.
Ah, I’m being picky, I know. Really, there are no ‘worst’ FIPs, but ones that I’m personally more likely to skim through.
The only times I skip the FIP all together is when I started falling asleep while reading it. Which has happened a few times. I feel a little guilty, but would rather not struggle to read through a boring FIP when I can just read the novel instead.
Okay, okay – but should you read the FIP? How important are they?
It’s the snob in me that says, yes you should and yes they are important. There’s a reason for them. Whether it’s to share insight into the author and therefore insight into the novel, or to help understand why a novel is written a certain way.
Most of the time the FIP will give me a good foundation to start with, especially before tackling a classic novel.
Do you read the FIP? Why or why not?