This is one of those writing rules you hear all the time: You have to grab your reader by the collar and shake the fuck out of them or they're going to give up and go back to watching Celebrity Apprentice.
In a novel, it's allegedly got to be in the first page. In a short story, it's supposed to be sooner than that--in the first paragraph or even in the first sentence. Because we have attention spans equivalent to that of fish or, um, another animal with a short attention span.
To me, if you haven't already guessed, this is all a bit nutty. I'll read at least two pages of a short story before deciding it's not worth it. With a novel, if I'm not into it by page 50 or so, then it's probably not happening.
In those first few pages of a short story, there's got to be something that sets the story apart from all the others--an interesting voice, a quirky character, a strange setting, or just old-fashioned suspense. So maybe I do want a hook but have a very liberal interpretation of what that means.
But this isn't carte blanche. I (started to) read a story the other day at some esteemed literary journal and the first two pages were all setting. And the setting was a coffee shop. Not a single character or even a hint of what it would actually be about. Some nice turns of phrase and amusing observations, but I gave up on this "story." Why the editors liked it I'm not entirely sure.
Guess I should stick with reading genre fiction.
Do you give up on a story and do you plow through? Do you think hooks are necessary or just another stupid rule?