Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What Revered Book Did You Just Not Get?

We all have them. Beloved books that we just didn't get, that make us question the sanity of the world for liking said books in the first place. It inevitably goes something like this: "Clearly I'm not crazy, so the fact that so many people liked X book is a sign that the rest of the world is crazy."

But of course it's just a reflection of the subjectivity of books and the fact that no one will ever agree on one book. And also, I hope people will consider this subjectivity before they describe something as a "piece of trash" in an Amazon review. (You know who you are, nearly everyone in America.)

So You Tell Me: What revered/beloved/classic book did you just not get into? PLEASE RESTRICT YOUR ANSWERS TO DEAD AUTHORS, and let's even try and treat them with respect. I don't need to be haunted by the ghost of Edith Wharton this week.






217 comments:

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Josephine Damian said...

Good thing I read the part about only mentioning dead authors....

Off the top of my head CATCH-22 comes to mind. And A ROOM WITH A VIEW was another classic I was quite surprised not to be wowed by.

Anonymous said...

Wuthering Heights. I first tried reading it right after I fell in love with Jane Eyre at age 12. I just didn't get it, and haven't put much effort into trying to get it since.

The Bronte sisters were nothing alike!

Josephine Damian said...

Oh yeah, anything by James Joyce or William Faulkner. It shouldn't be a painful struggle just to read one sentence.

SL said...

Oooh, dead authors. My specialty.

I adore Victorian poetry and prose. It's more modern literature that I am not fond of.

In terms of my beloved Victoriana... I could not stand Thomas Hardy's TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES. What a horrible book. I couldn't even finish it because it annoyed me so much. I didn't like the prose, and the story itself was annoying - Hardy wanted to stir the pot by calling TESS the story of a virtuous woman, when Tess has premarital sex, gets pregnant, leaves the guy, then goes and pursues a minister's son.

Sounds like nothing out of the ordinary for our day. But for Hardy... sometimes I swear that man just liked generating conflict.

Josephine Damian said...

FYI: Just wanted to let everyone know there are a lot of new agent blogs now.

Here’s the links:

Word Serve Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner
http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/

Daisy Frost: heir to Snark’s throne
http://missdaisyfrost.blogspot.com/

Powerhouse agency Folio Literary Management
http://foliolit.blogspot.com/

Objective Entertainment Literary Agent Elizabeth Jote
http://elizabethjote.wordpress.com/

Josephine Damian said...

SL: Have you seen the movie of TESS? Directed by Roman Pulanski (sp?)? Spectacular. I've also been advised to watch the movie of A ROOM WITH A VIEW - sometimes these classic books are better known and appreciated as movies.

Gina Black said...

Lolita. Just. Didn't. Get. It.

I might try it again.

Brian said...

Two words: Umberto Eco.

Anonymous said...

SAVAGE DETECTIVES by Roberto Bolano. What did I miss? Should I have kept reading?

To Anon 11:58 am: try WUTHERING HEIGHTS again. It's a dark, dark book best read by adults, not children. Forget Laurence Olivier: Heathcliff is crazy scary!

Natalie said...

The Scarlet Letter. What would have been an awesome story became Hawthorne's personal goal to put symbolism into every single sentence. It makes me sad.

Adaora A. said...

I can't get into the highly revered LORD OF THE RINGS series. I'm sorry, I just can't. I love Harry Potter because when you deal with a genre like fantasy it really makes me head turn when so much filler is packed into it to make it seem more 'fantasy like.' JK kept it simple and she created clear and marked limitations to what magic can and can't do. I Think what turned me off with LORD OF THE RINGS was just it felt (to me) like too much. The writing was beautiful, it was just too much. I only love things that are very intricate when it's contemporary or SF.

Have you gotten around to finishing the Potter series yet Nathan?

Michelle Moran said...

I admit to being a total James Joyce reject. I just don't get it. My husband thinks the sun rises and sets on the man's literature. We even visited the turret (the rest of the castle wasn't standing) where he wrote in Ireland, and the beaten up door to his wife's old house, and still... nothing ... There's no connection for me.

sex scenes at starbucks said...
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Sam Hranac said...
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Taylor K. said...

LORD OF THE FLIES. Ya, I know it was full of symbolism and all that, but that didn't make it good. I thought it was just awful.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Sorry, I didn't read carefully. Feel free to trash my comment Nathan. (You don't have a trashcan thingy, so I can't.)

Dead authors, you say? I loved most everything I read in my lit classes. Hmm. I'm reading a story by HG Wells right now that hurts my brain. I'm apparently not smart enough to find the verbs and nouns among all the other...stuff.

Josephine Damian said...
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Anonymous said...

Gravity's Rainbow ...

One of the best first sentences in English literature, followed by 100,000 of the most confusing.

p.s., I know Pynchon's not dead, but doesn't being in semi-permanent hiding almost count?

LurkerMonkey

Jonathan Lyons said...

Just mentioning the name "Henry James" makes me sleepy.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

The trashcan thingy magically reappeared! (takes a minute I guess) Crisis averted...

Josephine Damian said...

Uh.... Nathan I'm totally with Sex Scenes on this one, but it looks some people missed the part about ONLY talking about dead authors.....

Is Umberto Eco dead? I don't think so...

Anonymous said...
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Nathan Bransford said...

Yes, please please restrict to dead authors, I don't really want this thread to turn into a rant against people who might be around to read it. I don't have the time today to police the thread, so I won't be deleting errors, but if someone makes a mistake and mentions someone living please just ignore it.

Nadine said...

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck.

I may be biased because we had to study it in school and therefore it is tainted with the "had to read it" as opposed to the "wanted to read it," but still, couldn't get into it.

Elyssa Papa said...

Great Expectations. My hatred of Dickens started with that book.

But on the opposite end, I love The Last of the Mohicans and that book doesn't nearly get the recognition it should.

Jillian said...

THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexander Dumas.

The only reason I finished reading it was because I was convalescing on the sofa after having broken 3 ribs, and I had nothing better to do. I forced myself to read it.

There were so many characters that I didn't give a hoot about any of them.

Aden Albert said...

Ayn Rand. Cultishly adored, even more feverishly worshipped and defended, but God could I not stand either The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. I probably shouldn't have read AS after I read The Fountainhead, but I wanted to give her a fair shake, which ultimately was a bigger waste of my time.

jjdebenedictis said...

I learned early on that my mother and I had seriously different tastes in books. Growing up, her two favourites were Anne of Green Gables and Little Women.

Never did get through Anne of Green Gables. Finished Little Women and hated it.

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned Lord of the Flies.
Well, I have this to comment. It is required reading in many high schools. I hated it. I thought it was so nihilistic. I am sensitive and think many teenagers who are sensitive have no map for how to deal with works that are so awful. So, when my daughter was directed to read this, I went to the literature teacher and asked her how she would deal with this and Coo Coo's Nest kind of scary/depressing works. And she said, she would (the truth) "give them stickers - to cheer them back up." So, since she had no plan for how to deal with all that stuff, we were able to get a waiver from her reading list. Our daughter read complex other titles that we discussed as a family who cares about literature. It was great fun and really great educationally. Today, our daughter is one of those rare avid readers who so loves books that she reads and rereads her own "great book" collections over and over and over.Being careful in the selection of some "classics" is helpful with some children.
I HATED "Sickness Unto Death" by Søren Kierkegaard too. I had to read it in college and it made me physically ill. I couldn't finish it.
I think -and this may be an esoteric take- that certain literature may be energetically and mentally toxic on subtle levels.

Anonymous said...

Everybody who writes for children loves Charlotte's Web. Everybody but me.

Why?

Dee Carney said...
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Anonymous said...

My wonderful mother always confused me by giving me the most depressing titles like "Little Women"
too. (When a girlfriend asked me to see the movie with her as a girlfriend thing, I said no thanks, how about "Steel MAgnolias" or "The Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood" or something with some sass!)

hannah said...

I second OF MICE AND MEN...I could write subtler metaphors in grade school.

CATCHER IN THE RYE, too.

Sam said...

I agree with many already mentioned, and I'll add On the Road to the list. I didn't hate it, but I didn't enjoy it, nor could I figure out why it's considered so earth-shattering.

I had the same reaction to Slaughterhouse Five the first time I read it, but enjoyed it on a second read after I had learned more about Vonnegut.

Howard Shirley said...

Funny you should mention Edith Wharton. To this day, I cannot imagine a more dreary tome than Ethan Frome (which, if I misspelled the title name, I cannot even muster the interest to google for the correct spelling).

I'm not overly fond of Faulkner either, though my grandmother knew him (he painted her family home and used to tell her "wonderful" stories when she was a little girl).

Sometimes it takes two reads for me to appreciate a book. The first time around, I didn't care that much for Master and Commander. The second time, I fell in love with the series and read them all through to the end. But that would be one I "got."

ikmar said...

After reading 10,000 books to their good or bad end, I just couldn't finish Moby Dick.

160 pages into it and all that had happened was Ish had signed onto Ahab's ship.

There were many other's that I didn't enjoy, like The Horses Mouth and Brave New World, but I finished those.

Anonymous said...
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Michael said...

Brave New World is at the top of my list. Scarlet Letter is a close second. I just couldn't muddle through either of them, despite recommendations from friends to try.

Jennifer Hendren said...
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Suzan Harden said...

Metamorphosis - I know what is supposed to be about, but I've never been able to finish.

Give me Homer any day of the week.

Jennifer Hendren said...

Oh..and MOBY DICK! LOL. Had to read that for TWO classes straight...

Jennifer Hendren said...
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bunnygirl said...

WUTHERING HEIGHTS. I got the story just fine and I liked it as a tale of mad obsession, but love? I. Don't. Think. So. Why does everyone think it's a love story? I guess that explains the divorce rate!

THE STRANGER has got to be the only classic I truly, absolutely did not understand in any way. I've read it in three different translations, but no luck. I've read THE FALL and THE PLAGUE, so it's not Camus I have a problem with. It's THE STRANGER itself.

That's all I can think of, really. There are classics I didn't care for, whether for plot, characters or style. But for sheer "I don't get it" factor, I have to go with THE STRANGER.

Cafe au lait, anyone? Remember, it can and will be used against you!

Nathan Bransford said...

Jennifer-

You think someone is dead who isn't dead.

learningtoread said...
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Anonymous said...

The Bible.

Seriously. I tried it. It just didn't work for me.

Scott said...

The only way my friend and I managed to get through Portrait of a Lady in college lit class was to look for things that could be sexual innuendoes that probably really weren't.

She turned the door knob and entered the room. Uh huh. Door knob. Entered. Uh huh. That's some kinky stuff.

She sat. Yeah, I bet she did. Sat on what? No need to guess on THAT one...

There's one guy I wish I could mention, but apparently his heart's still beating, so I can't mention that his huge breakthrough novel was recommended to me by at least six friends, but I couldn't get past page 30 or so. It was the first book that came to mind, but, alas, rules and all that.

Of Mice And Men? What a wonderful little book that is! The Pearl, on the other hand...

Wes said...
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Niteowl said...

Obviously Nathan's tastes shouldn't taint your opinions, but ikcmar and Jennifer, you do know that Moby Dick is Mr. Bransford's favourite right?

Don Quixote. Unbelievably long. Really prurient sense of humour. It more or less consists of the following plots:
-somehow someone ends up telling the story of a fair maiden who get tricked into sleeping with a handsome rogue. Handsome rogue, even though he previously promised to marry them, buggers off. Repeat this story nine or so times.
-Don Quixote is crazy! He thinks things are as they aren't! Sancho gets beaten up, alot.

Atlas Shrugged : if you ever wondered what Art Deco would read like, this is your answer.

a cat of impossible colour said...

Catch 22. I have many friends who rave about it, and I'm afraid I just don't get all the reverence. And Wuthering Heights made me want to bang my head against a tree (like Heathcliff) - took me several attempts to plough through it.

Great question, Nathan!

Wes said...

Ooops. McCarthy is still alive writing Academy Award-winning screenplays, but why critics acclaim BLOOD MERIDIAN is a mystery to me.

Dave F. said...

You want dead authors?

BTW - Just because I didn't "get" and the author is alive, doesn't mean that someone else didn't enjoy the book. I always caution people about that. My likes are not your likes and vice versa. PLEASE, I give books as gifts that I know I would hate BUT the recipients love them. The latest gift I gave was "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See. I gave it to my Mother and she just called and said she loved it. I wouldn't read it if you paid me. But that doesn't make it a bad book.

I'm a Sci Fi fan and I won't read Jane Austin, or the Bronte's. It's not possible. Aliens, spaceships and planetary explorations are interesting. Boyfriends, love affairs and societal drama in the 19th century are uninteresting (that's a nice word.

Valley of the Dolls by J. Susan lasted ten pages. After Portnoy's Complaint, I wanted to sue for losing part of my life.

Red Badge of Courage just underwhelmed me into a coma. Recently Cold Mountain did the same thing. Curious coincidence.

I just adore Eco's "The Name of the Rose," but "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana" bites the big lollipop with pretension. I really hated saying that but it happens.

Steppenwolf was like - why? Who cares? So what? GIMME Doc Savage, Tarzan, Carter of Mars...

I giggled and snarked my way though "OUR TOWN" by Wilder. What silliness, I thought.

Now I have to go cook dinner.

ipgirl said...

All of William Faulkner's writing makes me want to scream....

Overly bombastic, posturing...all those annoying accents which are supposed to give the characters their own voices but just makes want murder old Will for being so hard to read and taking me out of the story....

Grr!

ipgirl said...

All of William Faulkner's writing makes me want to scream....

Overly bombastic, posturing...all those annoying accents which are supposed to give the characters their own voices but just makes want murder old Will for being so hard to read and taking me out of the story....

Grr!

Margaret Yang said...

This is fun. You could even have the flip side to this next week by asking, "What novel did you think was going to be totally lame but actually turned out to be really good?" We all have books that we think we "should" have read. Some we like, and some we don't.

For the first time ever, I am reading a Jane Austen novel. So far, so good.

Anonymous said...

Wow. This is really, really interesting because many of my favorite books are getting dinged. I'm probably the only person I know who truly loves MOBY DICK. I'm rereading it right now. So I'm a tad defensive, I admit it. But allow me to stick up for my some of dead friends and just say that I thought LORD OF THE FLIES, LOLITA, and THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO are wonderful. And GREAT EXPECTATIONS is, to me, a integral part of my personality.

This isn't to disparage people who included those books. I get it. Art is subjective, and my irrational love of that damned white whale is no more "correct" than someone else's irrational hatred of it.

But just in case there's haunting to be done, I wanted to put in a good word with the dead masters ...

LurkerMonkey

Anonymous said...

Great Gatsby

Blah.

Wes said...

Good question, Nathan!

Eric said...

What Howard said. Ethan Frome is absolutely awful.

Vonnegut is a genius.

Eric said...

*Was a genius. I refuse to forgive him for dying.

Jennifer J. Stewart said...

BLACK BEAUTY -- you keep hoping that there will be some redeeming and hopeful there, and it's all glue factory. Ugh!

Heidi the Hick said...

I didn't love Charlotte's Web. Here's why: I grew up on a pig farm. I knew where my dinner came from. I knew that no matter how much I wanted to keep a runty cute little pig for a pet, It wudn't gonna happen.

Cute piglets grow up to be 300lbs of PIG.

I would have been about 10 years old and it pissed me off that this unrealistic fantasy was influencing other kids' brains, and that we farmers would be called big meanies!

Or maybe I got that book all wrong.

(Anyways it's no wonder I was bit of a screwed up kid...)

Kylie said...

Jane Eyre. I know people who worship it, but I just couldn't get interested. I didn't finish the book, I left at page 50 when hearing EVEN MORE of her childhood that bored me to death. It just felt like so much backstory and too little plot... I was promised a romance by the friend who lent it to me, and ended up bogged down by endless details of Jane when she was ten or something.

Shelley said...

Anna Karenina. If Tolstoy wasn't a total mysoginist I'll eat my babushka. A mountain of pages with a protagonist who is simpering and uninteresting.
By page 600 I wanted to throw her under the train myself and be done with it.

Chris Redding said...

Somerset Maugham Of Human Bondage.
It was bondage without the safe word for me.
cmr

EAWhitt said...

THE AWAKENING by Kate Chopin.

I was nodding along with several of the others listed, but this is the one that sticks in my mind. If it wasn't so short, I'm sure I would have had to resort to Cliff's Notes.

SL said...

@Josephine: no, I haven't seen dramatised versions of TESS. I didn't find the story all that compelling so I just never cared to... hehe.

Poor Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charles Dickens! They are two of my favourites. Although... I really wasn`t that fond of Dickens` HARD TIMES. I have never been fond of blatant social commentary.

This is fun. Let`s add another non-favourite to the list - Byron`s DON JUAN. I could care less about the sexual exploits of dandy libtertines. Pity DON JUAN is reputed to be Byron`s best. I`m more fond of MANFRED.

scott jones said...

I thought I was attuned to the modernists, who were all dead before I started them. I loved Joyce, and even got along with Pound's Cantos. Then I hit T.S. Elliots' Wasteland. What a grim, conservative, self anointed ponce, whose smugness comes through on every page! And then Mr. Joyce betrayed me with the largest insider's joke in the world - Finnegans Wake, a puzzle that has guaranteed umpteen PhDs with no point. Perhaps worse, IMHO, are the books about the books I don't get. Richard Ellmann's biography of James Joyce could kill any joy you have in modernist fiction, and Joseph Campbell wrote a guide to Finnegans Wake shortly after marrying Sigmund Freud

150 said...

Oh boy, I just did not get Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN. Either it was packed with symbolism that I didn't understand, or the book actually had no plot.

Colorado Writer said...

Middlemarch
*shudder

Michelle Moran said...

Mr. Joyce betrayed me with the largest insider's joke in the world - Finnegans Wake, a puzzle that has guaranteed umpteen PhDs with no point.

I couldn't agree more, Scott. I get along with Dubliners just fine, but Finnegan's Wake just ruined Joyce for me. The Ph.Ds it's spawned is phenomenal.

Anonymous said...

I have a PhD in late Victorian literature...and my secret shame is that I cannot get through Tess of the D'Urbervilles. (Though I did read Jude the Obscure twice.)

Kristi said...

We had to read Billy Budd, Sailor instead of Moby Dick. I still don't actually remember the plot, or anything about it. I just remember not getting it at all. I don't remember liking Red Badge of Courage either--I was totally unsympathetic with the character. Some of the issue was with gender--as a 14 year old girl living in a house full of women (I am one of 5 sisters!), I just couldn't relate to those male-oriented characters and voices.

I was going to mention another fairly classic western that I just can't bring myself to finish, but I checked..and the author is still alive (in his 70's but wikipedia didn't show a death year). Darn the luck :)

I actually enjoyed many of the classics we had to read in high school, and have made a point of seeking out more of them on my own since then (more Dickens, Brontee sisters, Jane Austin, loved Portrait of a Lady, loved Count of Monte Cristo & Three Musketeers, etc).

I do think that educators should be choosing books that their students can relate to, not just the ones that are "classics", otherwise they turn folks off to reading. Eating your veggies can be really yummy, when they're prepared well, you know?

LeeAnn Flowers said...

I love the Tolkien's stories, but his choice of language is just something I've had difficulty getting into. Granted, it was written for a different generation than me, so that's probably part of it.

As for just not getting it, I simply can't understand why Lord of the Flies is considered such a work of art. I had to read it in English class and I thought it was horrible. It was probably the first book that I realized not all literature is good literature, and this comes from someone who read a lot of classics as a kid.

Tom Burchfield said...

I guess I'll say "The Turn of the Screw." I've enjoyed James's other ghostly work, but this one seemed to choke on it own detail. Couldn't finish it.l

Suzanne said...

Funny you should mention Wharton. The strain of trying to get through House of Mirth almost made me switch my Literary Studies major.

The other one that comes to mind is Pride and Prejudice. I have low tolerance for aristocratic angst, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you lurkermonkey.

I loved Tess--read it several times, love the Brontes--esp. Wuthering Heights, love Austen. Lord of the Flies and Lord of the Rings--genius.

I'm baffled at some of the names tossed here.

I do have to agree about Joyce and Faulkner though.

December/Stacia said...
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Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

The Little Prince. Cute story, have no idea why everyone oohs and ahhs over it though.

Adore Tolkein

December/Stacia said...

Oh, and I agree on Lord of the Rings--fantastic story; bad, bad, repetetive and bad writing. My brother and I still get irritated by that whole stupid Tom Bombadil interlude--what's the POINT? We never see him again!

Anonymous said...

Moby Dick. Call me bored, Ishmael. I couldn't eat at Red Lobster for weeks. I wanted to revolt against the ocean and everything in it.

superwench83 said...

Wow. I can't believe you mentioned Edith Wharton. Before I even got to that line, my mind was already screaming, "Ethan Frome!" Never, ever, ever have I hated a book so passionately. It wasn't boring at all. Just the most depressing thing I've ever read.

word verification: fauryt

Say it out loud. It's funny.

C.J. said...

scott jones- you didn't like ellmann's joyce bio? i'm usually not a biography fan, but i thought it was tremendously insightful. yes, no one will ever fully understand 'wake,' but what you can understand is pretty friggin' incredible, no? i can see it not being someone's taste - but inside joke... that seems a little harsh.
i'll admit that i have a hard time disliking classics so this isn't a good thread for me. i will say though that shakespeare is a bit overrated in my opinion. i'm not going to say, 'i didn't get' thus and such play, but they seem a little dead to me. i know there are plenty who would disagree, but i just haven't found much to relate to in his plays.

Lauren said...

NAKED LUNCH made me physically ill. Maybe that was the point...? I'm always up for a literary challenge, but that one went too far for me.

I can't deal with ON THE ROAD either. I've tried to make it through several times, but it's like the predecessor of self-indulgent Livejournals by college students who name-drop their cool friends and chronicle every drinking binge. Last week I was at City Lights Bookstore for the first time (the poetry room upstairs would have been Heaven for my 17-year-old self!) and took a peek at the original ON THE ROAD "scroll." Oh my. Hundreds of pages, and not a single paragraph break.

My man Faulkner is taking a beating in this comment trail, though. If you guys don't want to read THE SOUND AND THE FURY and ABSALOM, ABSALOM! and the rest, I'll read 'em all a hundred more times to make up for it.

Nancy Matson said...

Anything by Hemingway, and I don't care who knows it. Josephine, thanks for the new agent links!

Nikki said...

*delurking*

I really hated On the Road while I was reading it, but now I remember it as a great blaze of colour. I struggled through most of Ulysses, but there were enough passages that were utterly brilliant for me to kind of appreciate it (I'm a sucker for bits with a dog.) I found Anna Karenina difficult because all my sympathy was with Anna's husband.

Martin Chuzzlewit I never got into. Usually I start reading, and it's slow, and then the story takes over, and the reading speeds right up. Not with that book. 5 pages a day till the end, and I loathed every one of them. And all the characters. I read it last year and I couldn't tell you what it was about.

However I just HAVE to put in a good word for Henry James and Edith Wharton. Particularly The House of Mirth and The Portrait of a Lady. Reasons available on request so as not to bore endlessly on, but I'm certainly the only person I know who read The Portrait of a Lady in one sitting because the story was so compelling...

Love Jane Austen, too. Even Mansfield Park.

Sophie W. said...

The Scarlet Letter.

Mr. Hawthorne, please adopt the phrases "dappled forest light" and "babbling brook" and cut down 89.76% of all your unnecessary description.

When you do, I will be more than happy to read your book again.

kthxbai.

Nathan, I would LOVE to be haunted by the ghost of Edith Wharton. Her short stories are the only pieces from my summer reading assignments that I actually liked. Ethan Frome? Yes please.

Aerin said...

Ah, I ran this a week ago or so:

Books You Don't Like

Mine's Romeo & Juliet. And Wuthering Heights.

nfwbls said...

Dostoevsky. I may be the only person on this earth that just couldn't get into CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. And somehow, fittingly, that makes me feel like I'm a bad person.

Heather Harper said...

Where The Red Fern Grows.

Ripped my childhood heart out and shot it. I could have kicked Wilson Rawls...

Sophie W. said...

Aaand of these books mentioned, I love Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities got me through 9th grade, basically), Albert Camus, Antoine St.-Ex, and John Steinbeck.

Camus and St-Ex really need to be read in French, though. Most of the versions I've seen have been slighted through translation.

Michelle Moran said...

Well, even though I can't say I'm one of them, for the James Joyce fans that ARE here, I've just checked out CJ's webpage where you can download a a James Joyce font based on the author's handwriting, and it's pretty awesome.

http://www.iwritegood.com/

Melanie Avila said...

The only two books I've ever not finished are both already mentioned: Catch-22 and Anna Karenina. Finishing Anna is one of my goals in life but I can't seem to give away my copy of Catch. I got to page 50 and that took more time and effort than I was willing to give.

I also hated Confederacy of Dunces. I recently reread The Scarlet Letter and wanted to gouge my eyes out after the prolouge. Yes, I read those.

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

I just finish Titan, the Life of John D. Rockerfeller

Big book, slow to read, took me forever, had to stop for a day or two to digest what I'd read. But, God, was it great!

Finally, I understand the term corporate and understand that whole bit of history.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I can't believe you made your own font, CJ. Pretty cool!

Sara L

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

I actually DO speak English!

'I finished,' not 'I finish'

Annalee said...

Seconding THE AWAKENING.

There are plenty of classics where the prose just plain wasn't to my taste, but most of those had really worthwhile stories once I got past the style. THE AWAKENING had the opposite problem: the prose was fine; the story was problematic.

The main character's motivations were on holiday, and when they stopped in to pick up the mail they were on some form of LSD. Which is a problem because it's a character-driven story.

madison said...

WILLIAM FAULKNER (ARGH!) As I Lay Dying was AWFUL

Grapes of Wrath (ick)

anonymous (at beginning) you should go back to Wuthering Heights. It's not a 12 year old book (so I understand why you didn't like it) - but you might like it now. I LOVED it

Nathan Bransford said...

Have to chime in -- why do people get so dramatic when they describe why they don't like a book?

AS I LAY DYING is awful? Really? A book made you want to gouge your eyes out? Really?

Why isn't it enough to say you personally just don't like it? I've never understood this.

Tiffany Kenzie said...

Man, I'm late to comments.

Great topic. I'm a romance writer, I love and devour my romance novels of every time period and dimension. I cannot for the life of me read Jane Austen. It bores the heck out of me. I've tried countless times and don't make it more than a few pages. Everyone I know loves them--me not so much.

Now I'm off to read the comments.

Southern Writer said...

I tried to read Moby Dick while sitting in a rowboat on a mountain lake. Peering into the water in search of fish for ten hours was infinitely more interesting. I don't think I made it through five pages. (Sorry, Nathan. I know it's your favorite book, but I just couldn't ...)

I also agree with December/Stacia about one of her choices, but since the author is still living, I'll refrain from mentioning the title.

I read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged when I was fifteen (along with philosophical works by Nietzsche). Blech. I don't think either of those books were ever intended to be great fiction, but were written to promote Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. I prefer to be moved by a character's passion and emotions, of which Rand is the polar opposite. If I want to study philosophy, I'll read works by great philosophers. If I want to read great fiction, I'll read works by great writers.

Sophie W. said...

"Why isn't it enough to say you personally just don't like it? I've never understood this."

Because we have to give some kind of justification for why we don't like something, imo. It's one thing to say, "I didn't like it" and another to say "I didn't like it because..."

In any conversation when people are discussing their likes and dislikes, they're going to go into justification of their opinions and get dramatic. It's a chance to let off steam and justify your opinions.

Most people here have mentioned that they've had to slog through a book because they felt obligated to after a friend's reccommendation or because they were taking a class revolving around that book. In those situations, the only thing we can do (aside from arguing with a friend or flunking a class) is to rant about the books.

I think I'm getting unnecessarily verbose. I will summarize, especially since I've thought of a nifty analogy.

Nathan, you don't like rhetorical questions. Why not just say "I personally don't like rhetorical questions" instead of declaring "I WILL DEFEAT YOU YET, YOU NASTY RHETORICAL QUESTIONS, YOU?" (albeit jokingly).

It's because it's much more satisfying to do the latter.

But because this is your blog, I would be more than happy to delete my comment about The Scarlet Letter and repost it without the sarcasm.

Nathan Bransford said...

sophie-

I wasn't referring to your comment, but rather the more hyperbolically bad ones. I guess I don't understand why people call certain books "trash" or "awful" as if it's a fact rather than their own personal opinion. Heck, I'd even settle for some specificity.

Anonymous said...

I thought Les Liaisons Dangereuses was pretty silly. Loved the film adaptations though.

The Dan Ward said...

I didn't get The Great Gatsby - it was alright, but I really didn't see what the big deal was... clearly, I'm a barbarian (and the guy who wrote it is dead, right? F. Scott something?).

Sophie W. said...

Nathan-

I didn't think you were. You asked a question and since I'm feeling particularly clever today (I just epically defeated my Mock SAT) I decided I would answer.

Tia Nevitt said...

Wuthering Heights. Tried to read it at 16, and tried again many years later. I was unsuccessful both times. I have read Jane Eyre since then, but I admit I felt a bit of trepidation at first, given my unsuccessful efforts to read Emily. I breezed right through it.

Elyssa Papa said...

The reason I don't like Great Expectations was in part because how it was taught to me as a freshman in high school and because I thought Pip was a bit pompous. I never liked how he treated Joe after he became a gentleman when Joe had always been nice to him.

As to the teachers choosing their own books thing to students, I'm a teacher and really there's a set curriculum of books that you are supposed to teach students. For example, I teach 10th grade (American Lit) and 12th grade (Contemporary Lit), and there are only so many books that I can choose from. It would be great if I could pick and teach whatever books I wanted to; however, sadly that is not the case. And many times books that I loved and have taught haven't been well-received by students. So it depends.

Emily said...

Ooh, dead authors. How fun. Hmmm, what have I despised...?

I'm going to have to add yet another vote to Wuthering Heights. When I read it, I spent the first half of the book hating the main characters, and then during the second half, I actually wished those guys were back around because the second generation was even more moronic. Argh.

Now I'm probably going to wake up to Emily Bronte standing over my bed with a knife. Lol.

Eva Gale said...

Moby Dick. I know it's your fave, and I'm really sorry and I Tried to like it, I really did.

Karen said...

The Bostonians and Moby Dick, both of which I had to take in an early American lit course in university. Thankfully, not every book in that class was painful to read.

mkcbunny said...

It's amazing how some people's favorites are other people's bane. Love Gatsby, Wharton, James ...

I couldn't get through Ulysses. I will probably try again someday. I'm trying to think of other revered books that I started but could not finish. There aren't very many.

It's probably unfair to include books that my grumpy 10th grade English teacher abused her class over. That situation wasn't the best for fair assessment. That said, The Good Earth and Tale of Two Cities are two books that I feel no desire to revisit. Ever.

Confessions of a Serial Rebounder said...

War and Peace...it just never grabbed me. There's also something about having to read books for school that makes them less appetizing.

Anonymous said...

I thought about this when I first read the post earlier, and it occurred to me there isn't one single revered book I didn't get. Some I like better than others, but I can't say any were bad. I've never been a mystery fan, but the ones I've read I liked.

I could be wrong, but so many of the books (and authors: Henry James? :-o ) people despised are usually part of high school or undergrad reading lists. Could it be a few bad teachers and bad profs spoiled a few good books and good authors for some people? I'm sure that's not the case for everyone, but I'd bet it is for some people.

It might be interesting for people to go back and re-read these books now, at a different time in their lives, to see if they still feel the same way.

Literatus said...

Hi guys. Didn't like Pilgrim's Progress, Pamela, Paradise Lost, Anna Karenina, Ulysses. Want to stick up for Moby Dick, House of Mirth and the Scarlet Letter, though. What makes me dislike a book is moralizing that breaks the context instead of fitting into the story, or that is used instead of characterization and actual story. I'm sorry, you wanted fiction? But I have a sermon- that's close enough, right? Also thought Ulysses didn't have enough story. Yeah, it was a novel about how to write a novel, kind of, but I like stories about something other than how to write literature(with a significant and well-argued message). And really, if you haven't made it all the way through Moby Dick, do yourself a favor and try again. Ahab is one of the best characters in all of literature, and the ending is stupendous. Though if the ending's all you want, I suppose you could just rent Wrath of Khan.* *-JOKING...

Anonymous said...

Elyssa ... did you finish Great Expectations? 'Cause you're right, of course. Pip is more than a bit of pompous ass to Joe after he becomes a gentleman. He's a downright flagrant you-know-what. But that's the point ... and then the rug gets pulled out from underneath him ... and then Dickens completes one of the more lovely character arcs I can think of ... and then there is that awful moment in the end when (even in the revised end), Pip realizes that his arrogance may have cost him Estella and at least cost him his youth.

And is it true, what they say? Is Moby Dick really Nathan's most favorite book? It makes wish I could query you, but alas, I am elsewhere represented ...

LurkerMonkey

Anonymous said...

whoops.
seriously, sorry.
didn't realize my comments were about a still living guy until you removed them. Sorry.
didn't mean to break the rules.

Alison said...

I totally agree with bunnygirl about Wuthering Heights. Great novel, horrible love story.

The Red Badge of Courage and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea can pretty much slug it out for most painful reads ever, but the book that I really wanted to like and just couldn't get into was On the Road. I have tried no less than three times to read it in print and once to do the audiobook thing, and I just can't get into it. I have not idea why.

Anonymous said...

Everything James Joyce wrote; War and Peace; Moby Dick; Ethan Frome - I "got" the message, just don't know why anyone would care enough to wade through the rambling prose. On the opposite side, the big Southern writers are wonderful even when an individual story line isn't - I mean Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Conner, Carson McCullers, even Erskine Caldwell.

William Womack said...

A dozen years ago, I read Moby Dick while traveling in Italy. I thought my eyes would cross before I finished. My wife got really sick of me yelling "a whale is NOT A FISH!" at the poor, battered book.

I downed The Picture of Dorian Grey on the same trip and thoroughly enjoyed it.

JES said...

I'm with a number of commenters on this great question: a LOT of the names and titles being bruited about* just flat-out amaze me, and make me wonder what sort of crowd I have inadvertently fallen into. :)

Not that there aren't great books that I haven't "gotten." There are some; there are lots, actually. I might read only 25 pages of a classic and say to myself, OK, too many books, time to move on... But I honestly think I've never done that and thought to myself, "I HATED THAT." Instead, my reaction is more along the lines of, "I can understand why people think this is great -- why they value it. I've just got different things I value."

...All of which can be interpreted as making a big deal of how tolerant I am. I don't mean it that way. But I've felt the sting of critics' (and Amazon readers') lashes, and know how flat-out wrong readers can be about what I intended. (In a lot of cases, people object not to a book per se; they just wish the author had written the book which THEY would have written, if they only had the time, wit, etc.) I assume that's what's going on when I'm tempted to "hate" a book... especially one which has endured for decades, even centuries, as a Great Book.

*Gotta love a verb phrase like "being bruited about," which just seems to dangle in space. Are things ever flat-out bruited, or are they always bruited ABOUT?

Dharma Kelleher said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
A Paperback Writer said...

Literature I just really don't understand, even after reading several times, taking classes, etc.
1) Ulysses
2) The Waste Land
And I'm not even going to touch Finnegan's Wake. Forget it.
Books others seem to love and I have no clue why anyone thinks they're great:
1) Moby Dick (and I see I am far from being alone on this!)
2)Catcher in the Rye (I truly cannot see why some folks think this is a life-changing book.)
Books I could not finish because I found them stiflingly long in getting around to any kind of plot:
1) The Brothers Karamozov
2) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Authors whose style drives me nuts:
1) Faulkner (Intruder in the Dust has one sentence that is 4 1/2 pages long. Oh my.)
And a couple of non-dead folks who are really famous, and I haven't a clue why.....

Caroline said...

Both school books: CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (so wordy, took forever to get anything to happen, and I didn't even finish) and THE GREAT GATSBY. Unfortunately GATSBY was my English teacher's favorite book in the world. He's crazy, so I don't put too much stock in that, but I got some crap for loudly disparaging it in class.

Elyssa Papa said...

Anon @ 4:47:

I did finish reading Great Expectations and didn't like it. I could never get past Pip's characterization but to each her own.

sdailey said...

I'm going to go with Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. Wrote a paper on it, gave an oral presentation on it, got an A on both. The gift of BS came in handy on that day in college.

Icarus said...

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Everything by Joyce. Everything by Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Jane Austen.

On the other hand, I like a lot of the things put down here. I like all of Dickens but especially Great Expectations. I liked Moby Dick, The Scarlett Letter, Lolita, Catch-22, everything I've read by Steinbeck, Hemmingway, and many others dissed here.

I have a theory on the vehemence people have for revered books that they don't like. I majored in literature as an undergrad and as a grad student. I had good grades. I'm a smart guy. Not liking Joyce, Eliot, Yeats, etc makes me feel like an impostor. It makes me feel stupid. If I were truly someone who "got it," I would love these like every other English major. I take the unpleasantness I experience reading these revered books as a very personal affront. James Joyce routinely insults me, why isn't it okay for me to insult him?

--Joe

Faustus, M.D. said...

Does this mean that there are weeks you do need to be haunted by the ghost of Edith Wharton?

Sharon said...

I homeschooled my kids and we read a lot of the classics. My 12 year old loves Verne and Shakespeare, my 18 year old loves Tolkien and both love Poe. I can't get into any of them. Verne's books just aren't my style, I can't understand what Shakespeare and Tolkien are saying from page to page and Poe is just too dark for me. I do enjoy Shakespeare in modern English, though. We have some authors we all like, but I felt I needed to expose them to all sorts of literature, even if I didn't care for the stories or authors myself. Oh, and Nathan? My 12 year old loves Moby Dick but my 18 year old doesn't even care to finish reading it. I'll try to finish it again & see what I think.

Sarah said...

I'm reading all of these comments from people about how much they hated Moby Dick. I suspect this is because they tried to read it on their own, or had to read it for a class in which the teacher didn't like it or taught about it poorly. I really liked Moby Dick, but I think part of it was the class I took and the eye-opening discussions that went with it. I think taking a good class on Moby Dick (or Faulkner, for that matter) is a must for really appreciating them.

I will say, though, that I also didn't get into Lord of the Flies, Slaughterhouse Five, Brave New World, and the Scarlet Letter. First three were read for high school, last for college. By the same teacher who taught Moby Dick, actually.

Icarus said...

Just skim when you get a cetology lesson, and you'll discover an enjoyable tight little book.

DeadlyAccurate said...

The Grapes of Wrath. Well, really, anything by John Steinbeck. I didn't like Of Mice And Men either. It's simply a matter of taste. I know he's a talented writer; I simply don't like what he writes.

Tammie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Just_Me said...

You mean I can't admit I didn't buy the (name removed to meet publishers requirements) books everyone loved?
Pity.

The well loved books that never made my shelf are most of the "classics". Old Man and the Sea, Moby Dick, Oliver Twist, Wuthering Heights, Gone with the Wind.... there are very few dead authors I enjoy reading. I love Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Ovid but there entire generations of authors that have been praised and petted and that I just can't be bothered with.

I love sci-fi books. I love action and comedy and so many of the older books are morbidly depressing. They're heavy with symbolisim. They shove opinions in your face- I can think for myself, thanks, please don't tell me what to think.

I did like 1984. I will read (some) Jane Austen. Not all of those older books are terribly written just the ones college professors seem to think are wonderful. We need to pay college professors better, then they could go out and buy *real* books.

:) And an advanced apology to those of you who love the old-style books. :)

Julia said...

I taught Moby Dick in summer school. Summer school. Moby Dick. Summer school.

And yet, more than half of the students said it was their favorite. So go fig. Moby Dick is the anchovy of literature; the people who love it (like me) love it to pieces, and the people who don't like it really don't understand how anyone can even tolerate it.

My unfavorite revered book by a dead person is A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I know many other people like it a lot, but I couldn't get into it.

And Ayn Rand in general. I can't get past the length and preachiness and flat characters.

And Clarissa squicks me, but that's my personal loathing of books that are really, really creepy about rape.

mlh said...

Lord of the Flies. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

Elyssa ... me again. Fair enough. To each their own. I thought that maybe if you had set the book down in disgust halfway through, then perhaps I could entice you back.

But in disliking Great Expectations you join good company: my wife.

LurkerMonkey

Colleen said...

Madame Bovary. After about 100 pages I was calling her Madame Bovine and after 250 pages I threw the damned book against the wall.

Afterward, I picked up Les Miserables, which I LOVED and have since read five times.

Go figure.

Can we talk about "wow" movies we didn't get next? Cos I have a few choice ones...

ORION said...

Proust.
Remembrance of things Past
It might just be the translation but I have no desire to brush up on my french and find out...
Proust is one of those authors that many people pretend they've read all the way through - like James Joyce...

Colleen said...

And, um, cos technically Salinger isn't dead yet, I won't post my own opinion of Catcher in the Rye but instead will point you with glee to this 2004 column by Jonathan Yardley about said classic. Enjoy!

Sarah Garrigues said...

See I disagree...my husband and I love CATCH-22, anything Jane Austen, and ATLAS SHRUGGED/FOUNTAINHEAD. Ayn Rand may not have described passionate emotion, but her characters did display great passion.

There you go, Subjectivity.

I will second the previous mentions of ETHAN FROME and the works of H. G. Wells.

Personally, I tried reading THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY by Oscar Wilde and could not get past the paragraph long sentences.

Adaora A. said...

@Patricia - LOL! Isn't that the truth. There is a list of authors who people pretend they read but haven't even got half past.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but this whole discussion smacks of television-addled idiocy or pervasive ADHD. H.P. Lovecraft would roll over in his grave if he heard such nonsense.

Sorry, to use words this group would understand, that Lovecraft dude would totally, like, freak and stuff.

To write off great literature because the reader is too dense or lazy to read a lengthy sentence or figure out a plot is simply unconscionable. Regardless of your genre of choice, a basic command of the English language and its historic usage is essential to good writing.

Good day, sir, I say, good day!

Diana said...

I guess I'll say "The Turn of the Screw." I've enjoyed James's other ghostly work, but this one seemed to choke on it own detail. Couldn't finish it.

I empathize. I love the idea of this book. I love the storyline. And I consider myself intelligent and patient. But I just don't seem to have what it takes to stick with this book long enough to finish it.

Renee Collins said...

Huck Finn.
I know, I know, Mark Twain is an American icon.
Even so, I disliked most of what I have read of his.

Anonymous said...

Um... who mentioned Lovecraft Anon 9:08???

Get off your high horse and realize the whole POINT of the discussion is to talk about books we secretly (or not so secretly now) can't get through. It's not a moral failing, or an English failing, it's simply PERSONAL PREFERENCE. We are allowed to have those, right dude?

Kristin Laughtin said...

A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Hemingway. Catherine's choices ultimately frustrated me.

Although I rather liked ANTHEM, I couldn't get into any of Rand's other works. Her philosophy was rather at odds with my own, which doesn't necessarily make a book bad, but I felt that her writing was smug and pretentious on top of it.

THE HOBBIT. I love Tolkien's stories; I just don't love the way he writes them. I appreciate detail, but I didn't need five pages to figure out that Bilbo Baggins' door was green. This is one I'd like to give another try, though.

Kelly Guentner said...

Lord of the Flies. I get that it's a commentary on the horribleness of human nature, but I guess I prefer my books with less torture and brutal pig murdering.

Oh, and Slaughterhouse Five. I really hated that book because the main character just accepted every bad thing that came his way. To me, he seemed like a weak willed character because he just lived through all these terrible events and never tried to change them.

Though I did really enjoy the unique idea that time could be viewed simultaneously and is not fluid and moving forward.

Both are books I had to read in high school, so I suppose being pushed to read them might have something to do with not enjoying them as much. Maybe if I read them again, I would really enjoy them. Maybe.

Icarus said...

::points to Anon 9:08::

See what I mean? I can read a complex sentence just fine, thank you. I've got the pieces of paper that prove it hanging on my wall. ::rolls eyes::

People are passionate about the highly regarded art they dislike because there is always some snob around hoping to use it to browbeat them.

--Joe

annerallen said...

Henry James has lots of votes, but nobody's mentioned The Golden Bowl--my candidate for the best example of an author running away from his own plot--if there was one. I forget now. I wouldn't have read the whole thing except I was stuck on a Greek beach with nothing else in English to read.

Jessica said...

The first book I can think of that I ever didn't finish (I ALWAYS finish books, no matter how slow or difficult I might find them) is The Sun Also Rises. I don't even remember why. I haven't been able to bring myself to touch another Hemingway since.

David de Beer said...

James Joyce - Ulysses.

(longest) most pointless book I ever read.
Whatever is so brilliant about it that makes people rave generation in and out, it's not for me.

Vanessa said...

While I love the Victorians (and Wuthering Heights is one of my favourite books) I simply cannot read Jane Austin. And, well, Lord of the Rings left me underwhelmed.

beth said...

*dodges Nathan's sputtering protests*

I hate Moby Dick. It is number one on my worst books ever list. I remember with pain the weeks wasted in high school, reading about a stupid whale.

And Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury is number two on the list.

scott jones said...

To Anonymous 4:49. In singing the praises of the big Southern writers, you did not mention William Styron?

Jessica said...

Anything by James Joyce. I know I'm not alone on that one.

scott jones said...

Mr. Bradford asked a different question than perhaps many of us answered --- "what book didn't we get?" not "what didn't we like?"
The first is more like asking us for our literary judgement, not our emotive taste as readers. We shouldn't be afraid to make judgments unless we buy into the total relativism of current literary criticism. Maybe the criteria are:
1. What was wrong about the plot?
2. What was untrue about the characterisation?
3. What was bad about the purpose of the book?
4. What was false about the values presented?

For me, Finnegans Wake loses on 3 above, because it wasn't a book as much as a demonstration of how deeply you could layer cross references to culture and myth and make sly linkages that few could access.

As for not liking a book, surely we've all got a twitch about one book or another that just rubbed us wrong, but that really is relative, and, as some posters have pointed out, personal rather than general.

Southern Writer said...

I'm not Anon @4:49, but I'd like to say I LOVE Styron. There aren't too many novels out there (Lonesome Dove, maybe) more beautiful and gut-wrenching than Sophie's Choice.

debiwrites said...

Moby Dick.

Even thinking of that book makes the idea of watching grass grow sound exciting!

This was also the only time I ever purchased Cliffs Notes, and I couldn't read those either!

Kendall Hanson said...

Sometimes you just need a bit of distance to try a book again. When I first read Heart of Darkness, its incomprehensibility flunked me out of English 102--and into the draft. Seven years and one war later, it became the centerpiece of my Master's study of Joseph Conrad because I had learned to keep my attention on the rivets as well as the jungle.

Indu Nair said...

Ulysses, couldn't even browse through it. But I liked a collection of Joyce's short stories and found parts of 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young man' inspiring.

Also 'A Room of one's own' by Virginia Woolf is one of my favourite books. But I put away 'To the lighthouse' and 'Mrs Dalloway' after exactly 2 pages. Found the prose very dense and complex to keep reading.

Lisa said...

Love The Hobbit (and reread it every once in awhile) but I cannot get through the rest of the books in the series. Another one I could never get beyond the first page: Silas Marner.

Chro said...

Heart of Darkness.

I COULD NOT get into that book. Even though it was less than 200 pages, to this day it remains the only book that I fell asleep reading, on a day when I wasn't even tired. Even was was when I had to go into AP English class the next week and try to find the underlying meaning in a book I couldn't stand.

I've never seen Apocalypse Now, either; I'm afraid it will bore me to tears.

Anonymous said...

What a great post!! Mr. Bradford?

Anonymous said...

Anything by SHAKESPEARE! - Great stories, but far too much confusing waffle!!!

LORD OF THE RINGS - Again, great story, but too waffly!

WUTHERING HEIGHTS - Dull dull dull

JANE AUSTEN - Cut the cr*p, woman, and stop waffling!

I choose to remain anon!

Carolyn said...

Madam Bovary by Flaubert. I hated that book and found it insulting, too.

Brian Jay Jones said...

Ulysses, I tried. I really did. I just couldn't do it.

Anonymous said...

I majored in English, so I had to read a lot of classics.

I really didn't like LORD OF THE FLIES. It just wasn't my style of story (I prefer at least some humor and/or happiness). Also, I'm not fond of ROMEO & JULIET and pretty much all of Shakespeare (I can tolerate A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, though).

Ulysses said...

Someone mention me?
Strangely enough, I've never even tried to read Joyce's tome.

My personal bane is the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (recent, yes, but he passed away a short time ago, and so qualifies under Nathan's terms and conditions). It has been a best-seller and has many fans (thus, "revered"). I gave up after reading book 6: a thousand pages of dense prose punctuated by a single plot development that occurs in the last fifty pages.

I don't get the hype that surrounds most classics. I enjoy Hemingway and Dickens, Faulkner and Fitzgerald, but what sends literary critics into paroxysms of joy leaves me only entertained, not enlightened. I've tried to read Don Quixote twice so far.

Bryan said...

um, Gabriel Marquez, can anyone say lost in translation.

Hanakoalways said...

Lord of the Flies.

I couldn't get past the intro because i didn't like, or care about what happened to any of the characters.

Perhaps it is also that i sort of knew what was going to happen.

that is the biggest problem with popular fiction, every one knows the story, and they just want to warp to the good parts instead of politely taking the road.

I think i must also add "Pride and Prejudice" to the list. In fact I would even be so bold as to add all of Jane Austin. I respect her work, and even enjoy certain paragraphs of it. But over all i find her plots too flat, her heroines too stupid and her heroes to feminine.

pero es mi opinion sola.

-lillian

wonderer said...

Liked ULYSSES, enjoyed PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN, but had a peek into FINNEGAN'S WAKE and didn't even try. There's a limit to how much cleverness and linguistic/cultural in-jokes I'll tolerate.

My dirty little secret is that I'm underwhelmed by Shakespeare. Sure, he's good, but is he really that good? I can't get into any of his comedies, either on paper or on film or even onstage. I love some of the tragedies, though.

Didn't appreciate:

Lord of the Flies. Talk about depressing.

Eye of the World. For the length, there's far too little happening and too little change in the characters. (I do like Tolkien, though, mostly for the worldbuilding rather than the prose.)

For an English major, it's sad how many of the classics mentioned I've never studied....

Kate H said...

For Whom the Bell Tolls and anything else by Hemingway. I just can't take his misogynism.

mkcbunny said...

Oh, Pilgrim's Progress. How could I forget?

One summer when I was young, my mother insisted we read a chapter of it aloud after dinner every night. Now this is not the ideal way to experience a book, being forced as a teen.

I found these "dessert" sessions excruciating. Like forced bible lessons.

C.J. said...

hey michelle, thanks for the props on the font!

what an interesting thread. i'd like to point anyone who mentioned a hemingway book to 'a moveable feast.' i've never met anyone who didn't love that book, even after swearing off hemingway after 'old man.'

ooo, yes, slaughterhouse five is a good choice. i remember being so sure i'd love it. i need to read it again i suppose 'cause almost nothing stuck with me from the first read.

there seem to be several people who are intending to give 'ulysses' a shot here - if you do, i highly recommend finding a copy of 'the new bloomsday book' to read simultaneously.

Kathryn Harris said...

I'm going to get in trouble for this, I'm sure, but I never could get into C.S. Lewis.
I never understood everyone's fascination with anything that had to do with "The Chronicles of Narnia."
I'm also less than enthused about L. Ron Hubbard's writings.

Redzilla said...

To avoid finishing Moby Dick, I took a calculated risk on my MA lit exam. I decided 100 pages in that I would essentially prepare myself for every other piece of work on the master list rather than finish a book dead certain to appear on the exam. I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't have to answer 6 of 10 questions. I would have to answer 6 of 9.

Anonymous said...

Pride and Prejudice. Because women with jobs are so much more interesting to read about than unemployed chicks who sit around yippity-yapping for hundreds of pages.

-Sarah T.

RED STICK WRITER said...

The Great Gatsby sucked as a book. The only movie version I've seen is the 1974 one starring Redford and Farrow. It sucked, too. I would like to have Redford's collection of shirts from the movie. It has a scene of its own, which unfortunately was one of the best in the flick.

nancorbett said...

I know her fans will want to burl me alive for saying this, so many people just love her. I have never been able to get through any of Jane Austen's books.

Jared X said...

A word in defense of BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, herein earlier dissed. It was written in Russian and as a serial. I've read it in its original tongue and it really loses something in translation.

Also, I'd defend the oft-mentioned-here SCARLET LETTER, which I rather liked. My classic-that-I-don't-get is Hawthorne's next: HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES. Could be because my modern eyes tripped every time I saw the name Hepzibah.

Anonymous said...

Anything by William Faulkner. Swear to dog - I. Just. Don't. Get. It. Started one of his novels once, put it down, never went back, wouldn't buy another one. Nobel Laureate???!!

Thanks for asking. :)

Hanakoalways said...

Yes, Wonderer,

I totally agree. Shakespeare has some great stuff, don't get me wrong. But hes not the God every one says he is. In my opinion good art is readily apparent, not just after you dig threw it in English class.

though i would disagree with you, i think his comedies are top notch, his tragedies are just ok.

nancorbett said...

Aw. I love william faulkner and the brontes. And I thought Turn of the Screw was great. I've never even tried to read Moby Dick. Somehow, I just know...

I've never made it through Ulysses, though I've tried several times. I even locked myself in my car with the audio version and a 1200 mile road trip and had to stop because I was hitting the replay button so often it was impairing my driving.

http://jerzegurl.livejournal.com said...

The Great Gatsby. I hated the characters. I tried reading it, but to me they were just a bunch of whinning people feeling sorry for themselves and looking for opportunity.

I also did not like of Mice and Men. I didn't like most of the characters. I know that Lenny was mentally challenged, but the puppy thing got me.

Mark Terry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nathan Bransford said...

Repeat after me:

J.D. Salinger is alive....
J.D. Salinger is alive....
J.D. Salinger is alive....
J.D. Salinger is alive....
J.D. Salinger is alive....
J.D. Salinger is alive....
J.D. Salinger is alive....
J.D. Salinger is alive....

writtenwyrdd said...

Mill on the Floss. Anything George Eliot was too painful and slow for me.

Anonymous said...

nacorbett: Shakespeare was written for the plebs - the average man - and WAS readily apparent 400 years ago. Ir's not his fault the language changed over time.

Anonymous said...

Sorry... I meant to address the last post to Hanakoalways

Anonymous said...

Too late to add MARBLE FAUN by N. Hawthorne? (He's definitely dead.)

Adaora A. said...

@Nathan - ! ^_^

I don't understand why people are anti-Salinger. Or Hawthorne for that matter. SCARLETT LETTER is one of my favorites of all time. Ironically, my favorite classics happen to be manditory reads from high school. Go figure!

R.J. Keller said...

"J.D. Salinger is alive..."

Nathan's gotta catch us before we start to go over the cliff.

Anonymous said...

Thankfully, I don't think JD Salinger really gives a crap what people think of him.

For the record, I enjoyed Catcher in the Rye and bought a copy at a garage sale for 25 cents just so I could have it on my shelf! ; D

Jennifer Hendren said...

Nathan,

OH NO!! So sorry. (sheepish grin)

Nathan said...

I just didn't get Naked Lunch. I realize he was going for a whole "attack on the word" kind of thing, but really...come on.

Eva Gale said...

"Sarah said...
I'm reading all of these comments from people about how much they hated Moby Dick. I suspect this is because they tried to read it on their own, or had to read it for a class in which the teacher didn't like it or taught about it poorly. I really liked Moby Dick, but I think part of it was the class I took and the eye-opening discussions that went with it. I think taking a good class on Moby Dick (or Faulkner, for that matter) is a must for really appreciating them.

I will say, though, that I also didn't get into Lord of the Flies, Slaughterhouse Five, Brave New World, and the Scarlet Letter. First three were read for high school, last for college. By the same teacher who taught Moby Dick, actually.

APRIL 23, 2008 6:45 PM"


Lol-I loved every book you mentioned but hated Moby Dick. :-)

Anonymous said...

LEAVE SHAKESPEARE ALONE!

And yes, he is that brilliant.

A knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear, and I guess great poetry may as well.

pdtoler said...

Love Hawthorne, but Mark Twain?

Sarah said...

From anon at 10:24 a.m.:
Pride and Prejudice. Because women with jobs are so much more interesting to read about than unemployed chicks who sit around yippity-yapping for hundreds of pages.

-Sarah T.

Now wait, books about women with jobs are more interesting than books about women without jobs? Women with jobs don't have time to do anything interesting. I've got a job, and my life is three times more boring than it was when I was unemployed. Think of all the interesting things I could do were I an aristocrat living off the fam's money. Just sayin'.

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