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Qwertyasdfg
08-31-2001, 03:09 PM
My vote is for "To Kill a Mockingbird." Theres about 50 pages of decent writing, but the rest is garbage. I don't understand why it got all the praise, especially, winning a Pulitzer.

Ogre
08-31-2001, 03:15 PM
I love "To Kill A Mockingbird."

The all-time worst "classic" (if you can call it that) to me is James Joyce's Ulysses. Hundreds of pages of completely unreadable tripe. I've read Sartre, Faulkner, Camus, and a hundred other "dense" writers. For some reason, I've never been able to wade through Ulysses.

magdalene
08-31-2001, 03:17 PM
The Brothers Kamarazov. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

I think To Kill a Mockingbird got so much attention because while on the surface it was a child's coming-of-age story, it addressed uncomfortable questions of race and class in an honest, straightforward way. Lee took a very courageous step for the time, and managed to skillfully make it part of a story with interesting characters that grow and change.

Cap'n Crude
08-31-2001, 03:18 PM
I rather like TKaMB, but there's no accounting for taste. Let's agree to disagree. Here are two of my personal literary demons:

Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence. Utterly unreadable pap that still causes me pain whenever I think about having read it.

The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. A very good story, but it's about 200 pages too long. Should have been a short story.

Interrobang!?
08-31-2001, 03:24 PM
Originally posted by Cap'n Crude
The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. A very good story, but it's about 200 pages too long. Should have been a short story.

The Old Man and the Sea is about 120 pages long as is. Although personally, I think I would've preferred a -80 page version; I wish you'd been the one selecting my high school reading list.

Which reminds me of another "classic" that I loathe: John Steinbeck's The Pearl. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I had to read that three times in high school, and it got worse every time.

The Great Gatsby, on the other hand, improved every time I read it. I really disliked it the first time I read it, but when I read it for the third time my freshman year in college, I learned to love it.

Sofa King
08-31-2001, 03:28 PM
“Is Mr. Heathcliff a man? If so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil?”

Who cares?

Maeglin
08-31-2001, 03:29 PM
The Brothers Kamarazov. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

I am really surprised that you dislike this book, especially given your knwowledge and taste. ;) I forget...do you read Russian? If not, did you try to read the omnipresent translation by Constance Garnett?

If your answers are no and yes respectively, then I suggest you give the book another shit...with a different translator.

MR

Dinsdale
08-31-2001, 03:32 PM
Ulysses - yes!
Brothers K - YES, YES!

Don't know if I can improve upon those, but I'll add anything by Faulkner, and A Confederacy of Dunces.

magdalene
08-31-2001, 03:39 PM
Maeglin, I mostly love Dostoyevsky. I don't read Russian. I loved "The Idiot." I loved "Crime and Punishment." I even love "Notes from Underground." I read Franz Kafka for fun and groove on Bulgakov and Kundera and Skvorecky and Klima and Hrabal and Chekov, Tolstoy and Czeslaw Milosz and Miroslav Holub and Tadeusz Borowski, Arnost Lustig, Gogol....

But I hate, hate, HATE "The Brothers Kamarazov." I've never used Cliff Notes, but this is one book for which I'd consider them. I've tried to read 3 different translations, I get through the first 40 pages or so and I just give up. What a hateful, boring group of characters. Perhaps in trying to make every character illustrate some "type" or "principle" he's forgotten to make them lovable or human? I have no real explanation. But I hate it. Anyone wanting an intro to Dostoyevsky or this period in Russian literature should just stay away from this book.


I'm reading "The Great Gatsby" now. I'm not terribly impressed but I'm not hating it either - anyone want to tell me why they like it? Why is it such a big deal?

"A Confederacy of Dunces" is brilliant in some ways but not very much fun- the laughs are not worth the chore of reading.

Ogre
08-31-2001, 03:45 PM
Originally posted by Dinsdale
Ulysses - yes!
Brothers K - YES, YES!

Don't know if I can improve upon those, but I'll add anything by Faulkner, and A Confederacy of Dunces.

I reciprocate by disagreeing!

I love Faulkner, even at his long-winded worst. And Confederacy of Dunces is absolutely brilliant. I've never laughed out loud as often as when I was reading it.

bashere
08-31-2001, 03:52 PM
The Scarlett Letter. Very very very bad.


Regarding The Brothers Kamarazov
I get through the first 40 pages or so and I just give up.



I've got four or five different friends (and me )who love Dostoyevsky, but who can't make it past the christ-returns story about 100 pages into the book. This has no real bearing on the op, but I thought I'd mention it.

astorian
08-31-2001, 04:03 PM
Herman Melville is the pits.

"Bartleby the Scrivener" was about 40 pages, but read like 400. "Billy Budd" was about 75 pages, and read liike 7000. And "Moby Dick," well... I'll never forgive him for that one.

Attention schoolchildren: if your teacher EVER assigns you to read Herman Melville, tell her "I would prefer not to."

And James Fenimore Cooper is right behind Herman. I can only guess that the Frenchman and the Russian who translated "The Last of the Mohicans" must have been MUCH better writers than Cooper himself. A writer as bad as Cooper can only BENEFIT from translation.

pluto
08-31-2001, 04:08 PM
Hmmm. I was gonna stay out of this because it just sounds like a pissing contest but I can't let an insult to The Scarlet Letter go unchallenged. It's on my top five novels ever list, right after Pride and Prejudice. And I love Melville, particularly Billy Budd and Bartelby the Scrivener.

De gustibus non est disputandem.

p.s. My entry for this category is The Great Gatsby, which has already been praised by others here. See what I mean?

Ogre
08-31-2001, 04:14 PM
Originally posted by pluto
Hmmm. I was gonna stay out of this because it just sounds like a pissing contest but I can't let an insult to The Scarlet Letter go unchallenged. It's on my top five novels ever list, right after Pride and Prejudice. And I love Melville, particularly Billy Budd and Bartelby the Scrivener.

De gustibus non est disputandem.

p.s. My entry for this category is The Great Gatsby, which has already been praised by others here. See what I mean?

::shrug::

Hell, I don't see any flaming going on. All we're really proving is that people have different tastes.

I think it's pretty interesting to see what people have to say about it.

Loves me some F. Scott Fitzgerald, by the way. :)

Protesilaus
08-31-2001, 04:25 PM
I'll have to agree with bashere, The Scarlet Letter was very boring. I never had to read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school, though.

delphica
08-31-2001, 04:26 PM
Many of the books mentioned already are of course some of my favorite books :) .

I will however jump on the Down with A Confederacy of Dunces bandwagon. I have never picked up a book so eagerly only to suspect very strongly that somehow, someone had vandalized my copy of a Great American work by ripping out the actual good book and replacing it with page after page of dreck. At one point, I said "Hey, wait a minute, I am the dunce, because I am still reading this book!"

But by a landslide, my own personal I Would Never Burn A Book But I Might Look The Other Way If I Saw Some Sparks From A Nearby Bonfire Heading Its Way Or At Least Not Move Very Quickly To Jump Up And Get The Fire Extinguisher is The Heart of Darkness. Ooooh, oooooh, Africa is so scary, and black people are so scary, and boats are sort of scary, and ooooh oooooh isn't this shocking.

Atreyu
08-31-2001, 04:28 PM
Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I will light myself on fire before I read this again.

Last of the Mohicans. I wanted to crap on the head of the teacher who assigned this reading.

Uncle Tom's Cabin. Stunningly bad writing. Cardboard characters. Predictable plot. Reads almost like a parody of overblown melodrama. Almost.




But I liked To Kill a Mockingbird. :)

dropzone
08-31-2001, 04:29 PM
Originally posted by astorian
"Bartleby the Scrivener" was about 40 pages, but read like 400.... A writer as bad as Cooper can only BENEFIT from translation.
I like "Bartleby" because I know that guy. In 1850 he became a copyist. In 1970 he became a draftsman.

OTOH, the English editions of Cooper now available are "translations," too. Even those not intended for young readers. Apparently the original is nearly incomprehensible.

magdalene
08-31-2001, 04:31 PM
Originally posted by Atreyu
Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I will light myself on fire before I read this again.


Dear. God. Yes.

Crunchy Frog
08-31-2001, 04:42 PM
Another vote for A Confederacy of Dunces. I kept reading it, thinking, "Well, it's gotta get good sometime, it won a freakin' Pulitzer..."

It never got good IMHO.

I also (and I expect to get some flack for this) could not could not could NOT read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It was nearly physically impossble for me to read that book. I can't even begin to describe what about the book I didn't like, but I just couldn't read it.

Soda
08-31-2001, 04:44 PM
[i]The Turn of the Screw[/] by Henry James. Why, oh, why did they force us to read that as part of Brit. Lit.? It sucked.

Soda
08-31-2001, 04:47 PM
Oh, crap-a-doodle-doo. Stupid book even made me screw up my coding. I'll also add a vote for A Confederacy of Dunces. I never got it, was it supposed to be funny or what?

Milossarian
08-31-2001, 04:49 PM
The Great Gatsby, on the other hand, improved every time I read it. I really disliked it the first time I read it, but when I read it for the third time my freshman year in college, I learned to love it.
Funny you should say that, because I was going to say that I just finished reading "The Great Gatsby," and while I found it an overall good read, it did not strike me as a classic in the least.

It didn't reverberate with any profundity that I could discern. What's all the hype about?

cichlidiot
08-31-2001, 05:09 PM
I admit I like a lot of the books mentioned on this list. I can relate to the complaints about The Brothers Karamazov, it does start off slowly. I tried 4 times to get through the first 100 pages, before I actually read the entire book. I have to say I thought it became a page turner later on and was worth the read. My vote is for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, not so much the story itself, as the chapters of architectural descriptions. The cathedral sounds interesting, but pages and pages of structural minutiae, it was just too much.

Since a lot of posters mentioned they enjoy Dostoevsky, maybe someone could explain The Double. I understand it is about a split-personality (?), but I didn't understand the ending at all. "When he came to himself, he saw that the horses were taking him along an unfamiliar road. Dark woods wound to the right and the left of it; the place was desolate and deserted. Suddenly he almost swooned: two fiery eyes were staring at him in the darkness, and those two eyes were glittering malignant hellish glee. 'That's not Krestyan Ivanovich! Who is it? Or is it he? It is. It is Krestyan Ivanovich, but not the old Krestyan Ivanovich, it's another Krestyan Ivanovich! It's a terrible Krestyan Ivanovich!' "

I apologize if this is considered a hi-jack, strike me down if you must, but could you enlighten me first? Where was he being taken, had he been there before, how come?

scout1222
08-31-2001, 05:22 PM
<------------You can probably guess my stance on To Kill a Mockingbird.

I'll have to agree with Scarlett Letter, which I thought was kind of a snore. But what tops my "hated to have to read in school" was Red Badge of Courage. I don't remember much of the story, but I just remember trying SO hard not to fall asleep as I slogged through it.

Jeffro
08-31-2001, 05:40 PM
Silas Marner

I had to read this when I was a freshman in H.S. Please tell me they dont use crap like that any more.

OpalCat
08-31-2001, 06:19 PM
To Kill a Mockingbird was pretty horrid, but The Scarlet Letter was so boring it almost made me cry.

VarlosZ
08-31-2001, 06:58 PM
Worst classic? Boy, pick just about anything by Steinbeck. I didn't hate Of Mice and Men, and The Moon is Down wasn't terrible, but damn. The Red Pony? Blegh.

On the other hand, The Great Gatsby is the shit. The prose, in the first place, is second only to Nabakov's (IMO). I love that the narrator isn't the main character; it provides a certain detached subjectivism -- a slight unreliability that I love -- to the whole narrative. Mostly, though, I like Gatsby. The poor guy has so idealized his past that he can't enjoy the present, can't live in the moment. That kind of moral really appeals to a hedonist like myself. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Lionors
08-31-2001, 07:03 PM
Originally posted by delphica
But by a landslide, my own personal I Would Never Burn A Book But I Might Look The Other Way If I Saw Some Sparks From A Nearby Bonfire Heading Its Way Or At Least Not Move Very Quickly To Jump Up And Get The Fire Extinguisher is The Heart of Darkness

Amen. (In this case, couldn't we just conveniently forget where the fire extinguisher is, period?)

Right under that would have to be Daisy Miller and Uncle Tom's Cabin . I've yet to meet up with a Hemingway I like, either.

I do like most of those recommended previously, though.

BingoBurringo
08-31-2001, 07:06 PM
Come ON! No one hear thought HEART OF DARKNESS was an absolute effort to get through? A book that short has NEVER felt so long.

One of the most unenjoyable reads I've ever had.

TURN OF THE SCREW is a close second.

beegirl13
08-31-2001, 07:21 PM
I have enjoyed many of the books mentioned here, To Kill a Mockingbird and Tess to name a couple. I could not get through A Tale of Two Cities. It could have been that I was trying to read it on my own in 9th grade, but I am an avid reader and read way above my grade level. I just didn't get the book at all, and haven't tried again. It was the same with The Scarlet Letter.

Guinastasia
08-31-2001, 07:42 PM
John Knowles (Knoles? Knowls? Noles?) A Separate Peace is only good for toilet paper.

TheThill
08-31-2001, 07:59 PM
Worst I can think of at the moment was The Spire by William Golding if that counts as a "classic". Read about half of it for a discussion group and decided to do without both. Slow, medieval, pointless as far as I could tell.

As far as Gatsby is concerned, it just aged badly. Lots of dated references, etc., making it difficult to get through, but not impossible.

Huckleberry Finn, however, is great fun once you get into the flow of it (yes, I also had to start it twice) and a fine period piece. Just read it in fact, and would recommend it to anyone.

Jeannie
08-31-2001, 09:17 PM
I know that people will disagree with me on these, but these are the books that I absolutely hated.

The Scarlet Letter: I admit that my hatred may be linked to the fact that our English class spent a whole semester just on this book--and I am not exaggerating.

Catcher In the Rye: I hated the main character so much that it isn't even funny. I find it hard to like a book when I can't even remotely identify with the protagonist.

Great Expectations: It is obvious that Mr. Dickens was paid by the word. I hope I never have to read another book by this man.

Animal Farm: I would be willing to give this one another try, actually (it's one of my husband's favorites). But at the time I had to read it in high school, I just couldn't get into a book about farm animals that was really a book about politics.


I will admit that I am not really into "the classics." And I'm probably less cultured because of it. But no matter how hard I tried, I just simply hated the above books.

FTR, I really loved To Kill a Mockingbird

Ferggie
08-31-2001, 10:29 PM
Ugh to Mockingbird, though 'twould have been a lesser ugh had I not been required to study it thrice. Ugh to Animal Farm, ugh to Gatsby, ugh to A Separate Peace, ugh to Bridge to Terabithia, and my most emphatic ugh to Faulkner. But that's just me.

I'll read anything by Dickens. Or Twain. Though I must say about the point where Huck dresses up like a girl that particular one gets tedious. Silas Marner is on my favorites list, though when I first read it I was sure was going to hate it.

Soup_du_jour
08-31-2001, 10:39 PM
Man, I LOVED [i]Ulysses[p/i]! I had a bonus, though. I was a part of about a dozen brilliant students that read the book after school as part of a reading group.

Man, that was good.

-Soup

Chocobo
09-01-2001, 01:41 AM
I couldn't stand Beowulf when we read it for our Hon. English class last year. I only read the first half, then picked up the rest from what we discussed briefly in class. I aced the test. When our teacher handed back the tests she told me that she re-read my test about 3 times just looking for places to dock me points because she knew that I hadn't read the book. She gave me kudos on being the best BSer she'd ever had.

Hmm...a lot of the books listed here are on our Honors English docket for this year... To Kill a Mockingbird is, as is The Old Man and the Sea. Moby Dick is in there somewhere, too, I think. So much to look forward to...

ruadh
09-01-2001, 01:46 AM
Originally posted by scout1222
But what tops my "hated to have to read in school" was Red Badge of Courage. I don't remember much of the story, but I just remember trying SO hard not to fall asleep as I slogged through it.

I was going to say Red Badge of Courage but I couldn't even remember what I hated about it. I just hated it from start to finish.

Milossarian
09-01-2001, 01:49 AM
I've yet to meet up with a Hemingway I like, either.
I used to be the same way - until I read "The Garden of Eden" last year. It's a pretty cool, and actually rather sensual, book.

I may feel more of an obligation than you to like Hemingway, however, given that I live in almost the exact place where he used to in Michigan ...

Cisco
09-01-2001, 01:53 AM
Worst - A Tale of Two Cities. Best - Shogun. I know you didn't ask for the best but Shogun doesn't get enough credit around here and damnit, I think it's a classic!

HP Ellison
09-01-2001, 01:56 AM
Yeah, the Scarlet Letter truly is awful. It's just that none of it works; I never developed any sympathy for either Esther or Dimmesdale. However, that's not what made the book awful; the metaphors were absolutely disgusting. Honest to god, if I ever find myself teaching a ninth grade english class, I'll give them Scarlet Letter as a how-to guide on the use of metaphor. Never have I seen any author actually come out and state when something was a metaphor for something else. I remember being about halfway through it, and reading the bit on how a comet falls in the night sky and looks surprisingly a lot like the letter "A" and truly questioning whether or not I cared about my grade enough to finish the book. Bleh.

Halfpint
09-01-2001, 02:04 AM
Originally posted by TheThill
Worst I can think of at the moment was The Spire by William Golding if that counts as a "classic". Read about half of it for a discussion group and decided to do without both. Slow, medieval, pointless as far as I could tell.


Oh yes! We had to read The Spire at school. I didn't. I gave up and pretended to turn the pages, then invented my essays on it. Appalling grades, but it was worth it!

And the one DH Lawrence book I hate more than Sons and Lovers and that's The Rainbow. Can anyone tell me what this book is meant to be about? Or better still, let's just tear it up and use it as hamster bedding.

warmgun
09-01-2001, 02:07 AM
Darn!, I though this was a movie thread. So I guess I won't say ' On the Waterfront".

:D

Lionors
09-01-2001, 02:12 AM
Originally posted by Milossarian
I used to be the same way - until I read "The Garden of Eden" last year. It's a pretty cool, and actually rather sensual, book.
[/B]

Thanks for the tip! I'll give it a shot. He's one of those authors I've tried hard to like just because so many people kept recommending him to me and I keep wondering what I'm missing. :)

Invisible Chimp
09-01-2001, 02:19 AM
I'll add my voice to the chorus against Gatsby. Also, I didn't particularly enjoy Catcher in the Rye I didn't hate either book, but I just can't understand why they are considered "classics." They left me indifferent. I desteted David Copperfield by Dickens, but I have to say A Tale of Two Cities wasn't bad.

ITR champion
09-01-2001, 02:41 AM
Check this thread" (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=82159) for my first response to that question. I found The Scarlet Letter to be boring as Hell, and don't even get me started on The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

I did like Catcher in the Rye, though, and Moby Dick isn't so bad once you figure out that you can safely skip every other chapter.

Qwertyasdfg
09-01-2001, 09:39 AM
Originally posted by Jeannie
Catcher In the Rye: I hated the main character so much that it isn't even funny. I find it hard to like a book when I can't even remotely identify with the protagonist.

Great Expectations: It is obvious that Mr. Dickens was paid by the word. I hope I never have to read another book by this man.


I'm with ya on both of those. I wanted to beat the shit out of Holden Caufield, and Pip.

WRT Animal Farm, I loved it, but even if you don't at least its written in plain English, and is short.

TroubleAgain
09-01-2001, 09:50 AM
I loved Tale of Two Cities! I hated, hated, hated Scarlett Letter, The Sound and the Fury, Great Expectations, and anything by Faulkener, Hemingway or Steinbeck. I loved anything by Dumas, or Austen. I loved Don Quixote, Jane Eyre, Gone with the Wind[i] (I know the problems with that book and I don't care). I hated [i]Wuthering Heights passionately.

TroubleAgain
09-01-2001, 09:52 AM
Darn it, I always preview, but didn't this time and screwed up my code. That's what I get for working on this while on the phone with a customer.

VarlosZ
09-01-2001, 10:10 AM
Darn it, I always preview, but didn't this time and screwed up my code. That's what I get for working on this while on the phone with a customer.
I could be worse. What if you had screwed up the customer's code? He would have had to walk around all slanty until a moderator got around to fixing him.

JessEnigma
09-01-2001, 10:17 AM
I hate Dickens. Well, not all of his books. I did like A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol, but the rest? Bleh. I even have a really nice copy of David Copperfield waiting to be read, but I just can't. (at least it looks pretty on my bookshelf) I don't like the man's writing style in the least. I don't like the feeling of drowning in type.

This isn't exactly a classic, but my 10th grade English teacher was going on about it being a "new American classic" when we read it: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Ugh. Double ugh. I hated the setting, hated the characters, hated the whole book. This is the only book that I would have gladly burned.



jessica

TV time
09-01-2001, 10:25 AM
I think a great many of us hated specific "classics" because we were introduced to them as teenagers (or younger) and simply put, we were (are) not prepared for many of their levels (in this way I think classics of music and lit are similar).

I tried to read the Brothers K when I was young and then again when I was older and it sure improved as I aged. The same happened with Heart of Darkness. I think for those two and many others the abstractness of their themes presented in concrete frameworks was extremely illusive as least to me when I was young but not the case when I was older.

As for books like the Scarlet Letter, Silas Marner and most of Dickens' works, we have to remember, for all practical purposes, they were the soap operas of their day. And when you read them with that thought in mind they can be extremely entertaining.

The Pearl, however...now that is painful. How could the man who created Cannery Row, Travels with Charlie and the Grapes of Wrath have produced the Pearl?

Laughing Lagomorph
09-01-2001, 10:44 AM
Daisy Miller: Check. Hideous.
A Separate Peace: Check. Characters whose motivations made no sense to me.
But the winner is: Great Expectations. Words. More words. Great, indigestible chunks of...words. And more words. And more words. If ever a book needed a laxative, this one is it.
Never liked Hemmingway until I read "In Our Time", which is more a collection of short stories, but some of them do have a continuous narrative running through them. It is my reccomendation for anyone who has been unable to get into Hemmingway, but would still like to.
Faulkner: Read "Go Down, Moses" as part of a class, with much discussion. I liked it in that setting, but I can see where it might be hard to enjoy if reading it on one's own.
I don't remember "The Scarlet Letter" as being as painful as G.E., but maybe I'm blocking it out.

Milossarian
09-01-2001, 10:59 AM
Never liked Hemmingway until I read "In Our Time", which is more a collection of short stories, but some of them do have a continuous narrative running through them. It is my reccomendation for anyone who has been unable to get into Hemmingway, but would still like to.
I would echo the recommendation for Faulkner. He is infinitely easier to get into if you can find some of his short stories.

The Sound and the Fury? I shudder at the memory of trying to read that.

phartizan
09-01-2001, 11:16 AM
It makes you wonder what the definition of a classic is. Often it was something that once seemed "new"--Ulysses--or courageous for the time--"To Kill a Mockingbird." (Do teachers seriously assign "Uncle Tom's Cabin" as literature?).

Sometimes they want students to read a book by a big name writer & choose a shorter one--The Old Man and the Sea. I'm pretty sure I read it, but didn't think much of it, even though I liked Hemingway.

George Eliot's "Middlemarch" is one of my favorite books but I've never even picked up "Silas Marner". (Scared away by someone who told me it was awful about 30 yrs. ago. Maybe it's time to try it.)

I think students are expected to identify with the protagonists in many of these books--"Catcher In the Rye," "Huckleberry Finn," "Great Expectations," "To Kill a Mockingbird". Which shows how out of touch the teachers are. I feel "Catcher In the Rye" & "To Kill a Mockingbird" are OK, but I don't see what makes them great.

I reread "Huckleberry Finn" recently when I heard about criticisms that it was racist. Not so much racist--aside from the dreaded n-word--but assuming it's supposed to be about blacks, the only insight into the life of black Americans of the time is how whites felt about them, not about what it was like from the black perspective. Otherwise it's OK, but fairly silly. Twain's shorter stuff is much better.

I like everything I've read by Conrad, including "Heart of Darkness," even though a lot of it seems pretty dated. I liked "Bartleby" but thought I had to read every chapter of "Moby Dick", so I hated it.

"Wuthering Heights" used to be one of my favorites.

I've always liked Dickens, in fact I reread Great Expectations recently after seeing the movie. But it's true he was paid by the word. I understand it's considered a classic because it goes against the conventions of the genre. (Like students with minimal background are going to grasp that.)

Then are authors that I can't stand like D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Henry James. "The Turn of the Screw" is the only James I ever was able to finish, and it's the last time I'll even try to read him.

For awhile, some people seemed to think Kurt Vonnegut was great, but thankfully that seems to have past. ("And so it goes.")

My nominations:
"Jude the Obscure" and "Under the Volcano". The similarity is the self-pity. Dunno, maybe teenagers would like 'em.

BUT I have my reservations about lists like this. We should really be recommending things instead of scaring each other away.

Laughing Lagomorph
09-01-2001, 01:37 PM
Great Expectations considered a classic because it goes against the conventions of the genre? Oh, I see, the conventions of the genre must be to write a book that doesn't SUCK!

PookahMacPhellimey
09-01-2001, 02:09 PM
I would have to agree that Mockingbird isn't very good. A bit simpistic in my view.

BTW hopefully the OP and everyone else agreeing do not live in Chicago. I just heard on the radio here in England that there are trying to make the whole town read that one.

My personal worst was Elizabeth Barrett-Browning's
Aurora Lee. Pseudo-poetic deep& meaningful nonsense, IMHO.

Lionors
09-01-2001, 05:52 PM
Good deal, two Hemingway suggestions! Thanks! I'll second, btw, the suggestion that whoever hated Faulkner's novel-length works try his short stories -- I don't really care for his longer stuff but "A Rose for Emily" is one of my favorite short stories.

I've noticed two things that consistently beat me back from some of the books that made this list: (1) some 19th century writing in the fullness of its "if it's verbose, it's got to be good [paying]" stage (some Dickens works hit me like that) and (2) not being able to get everything out of the story because of a lack of either personal experience or general knowledge that prevents me from really understanding what is going on.

For example: while I love TKaM, I readily admit that that could be because my parents are Southern, and being a Navy brat, the 'home towns' I have to identify with are the little hole-in-the-wall places where my relatives lived. To me, Lee did a great job at giving a sense of place and in characterization; I can read it and almost smell the honeysuckle on my great-grandmother's porch again. But, if I didn't have that to draw on, I don't know how I'd like the book. On a slightly different note, I hated, loathed and despised The Scarlet Letter when first forced to read it. Composting was too good for my copy. Then I went on a kick some years later and started really reading up on the history and politics of the times, and ended up re-reading it. It didn't make Hawthorne's prose style any easier to plow through, but it did bring to light nuances and symbolism that I'd overlooked before.

Does anyone else think it's ironic that some writers were considered the next thing to hacks in their time, but they're considered classics in our time? If memory serves, Melville's works scandalized people for their descriptions of the Polynesian women, and while people actually waited on piers to get the next installment of some of Dickens' works, he was also derided as a muckraker in some circles. Makes you wonder what will be considered classic from our time a century from now, huh?

BTW, didn't intend to hijack -- please go on with the regularly scheduled classic jumping. :)

Guinastasia
09-01-2001, 06:29 PM
Oh god, the Left Behind books could become classics?

MOMMY!!!!!!!

Lionors
09-01-2001, 08:33 PM
Geezusgoozlypleazums, NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

furryman
09-01-2001, 09:35 PM
I'm not sure if this is considered a classic but I thought "The Third Policeman" By Flan O'Brien was highly overrated. One reveiwer called it "the funniest book I ever read." Please! I thought it was vaugely humorous, and the ending was downright depressing.
I liked "Moby Dick" But my advise to anyone that reads it is to skip over all the "soliliquies" in the middle.

bafaa
09-01-2001, 09:49 PM
I think I hated every classic I had to read in school, except for Huck Finn.
Moby Dick, The Last of the Mohicans, A Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Letter etc. I found them all utterly boring and ponderous and just could not finish them.

Dangerosa
09-01-2001, 10:01 PM
Originally posted by magdalene
Originally posted by Atreyu
Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I will light myself on fire before I read this again.


Dear. God. Yes.

Make it a bonfire. They'll have to light me on fire, too.

God, that book was horrible. And the worst thing about it was it kept getting worse.

King Rat
09-01-2001, 10:05 PM
Well, no mention of Sir Walter Scott so I will. I loved the movie "Rob Roy" so I was licking my chops over the book but it SUCKED and is UNREADABLE. I bet "Ivanhoe" isn't any better.

dropzone
09-01-2001, 10:09 PM
Perhaps another problem, besides having to read them, is that you people had to read them by a specific date AND write a paper or take a test on them. Lazing through Moby Dick as I have been doing for months leaves it as quite enjoyable and we haven't even got to sea yet. Or, judging by the earlier comment about solliloquies, BECAUSE we haven't got to sea. I'm wallowing in the atmospherics.

You also had to try to see the books from your teachers' standpoints so you could get a decent grade. College Anecdote: Friend's obnoxious roommate had to write an interpretation of Bob Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands." Friend and I got high and dictated the paper to him, interpreting the Lady as a metaphor for the Virgin Mary. Roommate's teacher "F"ed the paper, saying, "She isn't Mary! She's a prostitute!"

Funny. I always though she was Joan Baez.

dropzone
09-01-2001, 10:11 PM
Originally posted by Dangerosa
Make it a bonfire. They'll have to light me on fire, too.
Wife says to add her, too. And she LIKES Hardy.

dropzone
09-01-2001, 10:14 PM
Originally posted by JessEnigma
I hate Dickens. I don't like the feeling of drowning in type.
If you were paid by the word and expected to drag the stories out over months of serialization you might write more like that, yourself.

CalMeacham
09-01-2001, 10:55 PM
I think we've done this before. Either that, or I've got a powerful feeling of deja vu.

I agree with many on this board who submitted Turn of the Screw by Henry James, but I submit that The Beast in the Jungle by the verbose Mr. James is far worse. The whole point of that book is that nothing happens, but it takes an awful long time to not happen.

I also agree with John Knowles' A Separate Piece. I had to read that book twice, and it didn't improve on second reading.

James Agee's A Death in the Family was reportedly an award-winning novel, but you couldn't prove it by me.

dropzone
09-01-2001, 11:03 PM
Originally posted by CalMeacham
John Knowles' A Separate Piece
Isn't that the pornographic parody of A Separate Peace?

TN*hippie
09-01-2001, 11:38 PM
Loved Mockingbird, Huckleberry, Dunces, Catcher.

But any hater of James Fenimore Cooper is a friend of mine.
Mark Twain wrote at least 2 essays on Cooper that are viciously funny. Recommended Reading!

Chronos
09-02-2001, 12:52 AM
Y'know, I actually enjoyed Huck Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the Leatherstocking Tales. My nominations for worst? Number one would have to be The Sun Also Rises, by Hemingway. Plot summary: There's some people. The end.

Runners-up:
A Doll's House, by Ibsen. There's nothing so dated as yesterday's controversy. I mean, a woman actually (gasp!) divorces her jerk of a husband! How shocking!
Lord of the Flies: Using bad writing to convey a flawed message. Great combo :rolleyes:. By the way, for anyone who's forced to suffer through it, I find that Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky makes an excellent antidote.
Speaking of Heinlein, it's been remarked that everyone who reads Stranger in a Strange Land either loves it or hates it. I'm in the latter category.

And to all of the folks who mentioned Steinbeck, I used to think that he was the most hopelessly depressing author on the face of the planet, until I started reading Bradbury. Or rather, tried to start reading Bradbury. There are very few books which I simply cannot finish, but The Martian Chronicles was one of them.

According to Twain, by the way, the definition of a classic is "Something that everyone wants to have read, and nobody wants to read".

Cisco
09-02-2001, 03:12 AM
Originally posted by Chronos
Number one would have to be The Sun Also Rises, by Hemingway. Plot summary: There's some people. The end.



Haha. I'm still laughing outloud from that. :D

And while we're still classic-bashing...No matter how hard I try I can't get through The Divine Comedy

The Big Cheese
09-02-2001, 11:01 AM
I had to read 'Wuthering Heights' in freshman college, and it was awful. I finished it and said, now what was that about?? Yes, I was in an alcohol-induced stupor for most of the year, but still, I couldn't keep my mind from wandering.

gobear
09-02-2001, 11:55 AM
One thing I can tell from this thread is that the collective English departments of our high schools and universities are destroying great literature. Nothing kills a good story more than having to look for Metaphors, Meaning, and Symbolism, not to mention having to Compare and Contrast anything.

A teacher can't expect a teenager with no experience of the world or adult emotions to understand, let alone like, a book like The Brothers Karamazov or Middlemarch. Teachers also should stop sacrificing enjoyment for analysis. After all, Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre to be read for pleasure, not to be dissected like a dead frog in a classroom of bored teenagers. When teachers turn what should be a pleasure into a chore, they guarantee that they will produce students who hate to read.

Some books are also just plain bad. Uncle Tom's Cabin is a boring book with an obvious theme (Slavery is BAD) and 1-dimensional characters (Uncle Tom is a Saint, Simon Legree is Evil, and Topsy is just fuckin' weird). I also agree with the general verdict that The Scarlet Letter is painful to read: stilted writing, characters as Types, and a forced, melodramatic climax.

Dicken's novels are overwritten and include more grotesque caricatures than real characters, although I do have a soft spot for a couple of his books, like Nicholas Nickleby and Bleak House.

Other books require a basic level of education and effort from the reader. Ulysses is one of my all-time favorite books, but to the general reader who is unfamiliar with Irish history, Irish mythology, or Homer's Odyssey, which Joyce used as a template for his book, Ulysses is completely baffling. In addition, Joyce abandoned the "he said/she said" dialogue structure in favor of the infamous "stream of consciousness" narrative, mixing both internal monologue with external action, thereby adding yet another hindrance to reading Ulysses as casual entertainment.

elfkin477
09-02-2001, 09:56 PM
I will now silently berate the world for the following works not being universally love, as forementioned in this thread : To Kill A Mocking Bird; Uncle Tom's Cabin; Catcher in the Rye; Animal Farm; Great Expectations; Bridge to Terabithia; David Copperfield.
< > </ >

I thought, in high school, that the worst piece of trash I would ever be required to read would be The Scarlet Letter, a book I hate with a burning passion. Even then I thought it could have been an ok story if he didn't drag it out so long; it was not a great surprise to me that I later found some of his short stories decent.

But I was wrong back in high school; there was to be a far worse book in my future. That book is Don Quixote. If someone told me I'd either had to read it again, or have it put where the sun doesn't shine, I'd be hard pressed to decide which would be a crueler fate. I'm not sure what sort of sadistic streak compells a teacher or professor to asign this book, but it should be a punishable offense. Why oh why is this book a classic? An idiot gets drunk, gets into a fight, gets his butt kicked, and is baled out by a bigger idiot, then gets into another fight, gets his butt kicked...and so on for over 800 pages. And he's not even brutally murdered by one of his victims, which is how I hoped the story would conclude, so not even the ending is anything like satifying. Suffice to say, every page of this book was a battle to get through.

Guinastasia
09-02-2001, 10:42 PM
Originally posted by dropzone
Originally posted by Dangerosa
Make it a bonfire. They'll have to light me on fire, too.
Wife says to add her, too. And she LIKES Hardy.

I liked Far from the Madding Crowd-I never did read Tess.

Guinastasia
09-02-2001, 10:46 PM
I do have to say though, reading Great Expectations is almost worth it if you get to watch a movie version. It's definitely worth it if you get to watch the scene where Miss Havisham runs around in a giant fireball.

LonesomePolecat
09-02-2001, 11:51 PM
There's something you have to remember about nineteenth century novels. Print was the only mass medium which existed in those days (unless maybe you count stage plays as a mass medium). People (or the middle and upper classes, anyway) depended a lot more on books for entertainment back then. There wasn't any competition for the reader's attention from radio, sound recordings, films, television and computer games, so perhaps it was only natural that books would tend to be wordy and sprawling. After all, on a dull winter's afternoon or evening when the crops were all harvested or the business of the day was all done and there was nothing really worthwhile to do, a reader probably appreciated a book that took some time to read. So those of you who are particularly hard on books published before the appearance of films and radio are perhaps judging them by standards they were never intended to meet.

I don't know if William Burroughs' Naked Lunch is a considered a classic, but it was certainly the worst "great book" I ever read. I somehow struggled all the way to the end, but when I was done I wanted to burn the book, burn the clothes I'd worn while reading the book, take a very long, very hot shower with lots of soap, and go to the doctor to make sure I'd had all my inoculations. The man was vile. I realize this thing is supposed to be black humor. Shucks, I even have a taste for black humor myself. But this is just too much. Am I the only person who's ever noticed that William Burroughs was apparently a sociopath?

I also can't stand James Joyce. Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake were a colossal waste of time to write and are an equally colossal waste of time to read.

I wonder when someone's going to get around to bashing Atlas Shrugged?

UncaStuart
09-03-2001, 12:14 AM
Of the 18th century "classics," the one that killed me was Clarissa, which-- if I can work my way around the callouses built up to keep those memory cells separate from the rest of my brain--went like this: a notorious rake kidnaps a virtuous beauty, she escapes, she is recaptured, she escapes, she is recaptured, she escapes, she is recaptured . . . and finally he "has his way with her." She then spends the last 2/3s of a very long book dying of shame. My faith in the 18th century was restored by reading Tom Jones and Moll Flanders, but Clarissa still gives me the willies.

magdalene
09-03-2001, 09:52 AM
I think one can glean the finer points of Uncle Tom's Cabin from a viewing of The King and I.

I want to defend Ibsen's A Doll's House - yes, the "issue" at hand might seem quite dated, but all the little ways that Henrik tears Nora down and her fear of displeasing him are still reflective of abusive and controlling relationships.

I've never read Dostoyevsky's The Double, so can't answer the question.

I'm on a classics-reading kick right now. My public library has a whole shelf of them in the front and I pick up a few every time I go. I just finished Gatsby - Fitzgerald's use of language and the way he creates his characters has its own beauty, but really my overarching reaction was "yawn."

I read 100 pages of Great Expectations on my flight from hell Friday night and found myself really liking it and laughing at his comic portraits - I yawned through Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist in high school ("Master Bates! Master Bates!") but I'm enjoying it.

Gobear, I was a very fortunate high school English pupil. My teacher taught us to Compare and Contrast and find Symbol and Metaphor and Allegory and all that shit because he knew it would be expected of us on the AP English Exam and in our academic futures. He was very up front with us about the value of reading books from a Lit Crit perspective and being able to tell the difference from an author who is spinning a yarn and an author who Has A Point . But mostly he wanted us to learn to understand and love (or hate) the books and be able to describe and back up our reactions to them.

He was a part-time actor who frequently read things aloud to us. He wanted us to find the hidden kink or subversiveness in the works (In Hamlet, Gertrude describes Ophelia's death with such detail and precision that you realize that she stood, watched the entire thing, and never called for help or tried to intervene).

I apologize for the eulogy/hijack, but the most important thing he taught me was that it's absolutely okay to dislike books that other people think are great or that have risen as "Great Works" from their time. Read them, try to understand what was new about them and why they might have touched people and what new things they brought to the language, and then treasure them or cast them aside as you choose. His simultaneous love of and irreverence toward literature is one of the greatest gifts I've ever received, and I need to write him a letter immediately and thank him.

That said, I'll add:

The Dead...er,The Red Pony by John Steinbeck. Ditto The Pearl
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Who gives a fuck about this self-centered social climber and her boring bourgois love affairs? Please.
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair Revolutionary in its expose of the conditions of industrial servitude and immigrant life, it's still an overwrought and basically horrid read.
The Bridge, Hart Crane
Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe. Dickens may have been paid by the word, Wolfe had so such excuse. And didn't he write sequels?
Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton. Apparently the deep sexual frustrations of we Puritanical New Englanders can only be released through daredevil sledding stunts.
A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo. Just go see the musical, okay? If you are masochist enough to read the book, any time they start talking about Napoleon it is safe to skip the next 200 pages. You will miss nothing of the story.
The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The house is a metaphor for something, I'm sure of it!


Oh, and what's that book by Emile Zola about the young woman who has children and her life is just one tragedy after another? She works as a laundress in Paris for a while? It's supposed to be the precurwsor to the existentialist tradition of Sartre and Camus? Ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh. My mind has blocked out the title.

In closing, I share Dorothy Parker's sentiments about any and all works by Theodore Dreiser.

hegel
09-03-2001, 12:22 PM
vanity fair sucked.

elfkin477
09-03-2001, 12:34 PM
Originally posted by cichlidiot


Since a lot of posters mentioned they enjoy Dostoevsky, maybe someone could explain The Double. I understand it is about a split-personality (?), but I didn't understand the ending at all. "When he came to himself, he saw that the horses were taking him along an unfamiliar road. Dark woods wound to the right and the left of it; the place was desolate and deserted. Suddenly he almost swooned: two fiery eyes were staring at him in the darkness, and those two eyes were glittering malignant hellish glee. 'That's not Krestyan Ivanovich! Who is it? Or is it he? It is. It is Krestyan Ivanovich, but not the old Krestyan Ivanovich, it's another Krestyan Ivanovich! It's a terrible Krestyan Ivanovich!' "

I apologize if this is considered a hi-jack, strike me down if you must, but could you enlighten me first? Where was he being taken, had he been there before, how come?

Well, I don't enjoy Dostoevsky, but I have read The Double. We discussed this story in my Madness in Literature class, and we were never able to fully resolve the ending, at least not as a group. There are two takes on it: either it's really an imposter like Ivanovich says and he's being taken away so the double can have his life; or Ivanovich is totally off the deep end of a mental illness, probably something in the delusional schizophrenic family, and the scene is his warped perspective of what happens when they drag him off to the asylum. Most of us thought it was the latter, but a few die-hards believed that there really was someone trying to destroy him and take over his life.

frock75
09-03-2001, 12:53 PM
Originally posted by Guinastasia
John Knowles (Knoles? Knowls? Noles?) A Separate Peace is only good for toilet paper.

You understand the dread that suddenly came over me when I read this post? I have tried for years to suppress the memory of this book. Please lord have mercy on me.

Daowajan
09-03-2001, 01:01 PM
I am about to say something that will get my ass kicked multiple times:

I liked The Scarlet Letter.

I have weird taste in books. I also liked The Name of the Rose - did anybody here ever read that? It strikes me as a book that would have quite a throng of haters connected with it. And in an objective light, Crime and Punishment is not THAT bad, really.

My votes for the worst:
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Was there a point to this book? All the symbolism was so digustingly blatant - "all beauty is made up of three components" - I actually beat my head on the table when I read that. I spent 200 pages hoping it would get good.
A Separate Peace. I have never stopped hating this book. It's bad on every level.
My dislike for To Kill a Mockingbird is well known, so I'll leave it alone for now. I used to live in Chicago, and they were trying to use the book as a way to fix the city's deep racial divide. Yeah, 150 years of segregation and discrimination and oppression is gonna stop after everyone in the city is subjected to a PoS book.
Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen Must Die. This is the only book I have ever stopped reading halfway through.
I didn't care for Huckleberry Finn either. [Comic Book Guy]Worst ending ever![/Comic Book Guy]

DPWhite
09-03-2001, 01:31 PM
I haven't read the Russians, but I did slough all the way through Ulysses, and only the first chapter was worth it. (The first chapter was brilliant, unfortunately the rest of the book is about someone infinitely more boring). This was the worst thing I have ever worked my way through.

DPWhite
09-03-2001, 01:35 PM
Whoever didn't finish Huckleberry Finn up there is cheating themselves. Of all the great classics it is the easist read and has the most wonderful insights on America.

Cyn
09-03-2001, 02:23 PM
Hated Madame Bovary and wanted to throw Anna Karanina in front of a train.

Lionors
09-03-2001, 04:25 PM
Incidentally, I'm about to tackle War and Peace...again. I'll see if I can make it through this time.

Theobroma
09-03-2001, 09:51 PM
I read "The Scarlet Letter" in high school, and kind of got into it. I even wrote a looong essay for the AP English exam based on "protagonists who flout society's norms and expectations" (or something like that--it's been a long time). The sample character was Jean Valjean, but I felt for Hester Prynne even more.

"Confederacy of Dunces" was hysterical!! I went to my freakin' junior prom with that guy...I thought it was so funny, I loaned it to a co-worker last week. Don't know if I would have appreciated it in high school, though.

Also read "Name of the Rose" as an adult, and liked it very much, but don't know if I would have gone for it in my teens.

Now that I have defended my faves, I will actually respond to the OP with the ones I hated most.

"The Sound and the Fury"--relied on Cliffs notes to pass. That thing was so obscure, I didn't realize Quentin had committed suicide--and he was NARRATING at the time!! Also, anything else by Faulkner--jeez louise, am I the only one who can't stand ploughing through impenetrable prose about white trash?? I don't know how the Pulitzer committee made it through.

"Grapes of Wrath" was less awful if you skipped the every-other-chapter weather report. That and "The Pearl" weren't horribly written, just horribly depressing.

Can't come up with a third choice that I hated as much, so I will end the post with--Hi Opal!

Freudian Slit
09-03-2001, 10:07 PM
I think maybe The Eighth Day by Thorton Wilder. At least with all the other books I've read, I can think of reasons why they might be good. Language, symbolism, I guess. This book is so dull. AND it had the capability to be a good novel but it went horribly wrong. A main character as described as doing his profession mainly to get money. The main, main dude, John Ashley, looks for a wife by making sure she'll have no outside interests or ambitions. (Okay, okay, I know it's another time.) Really it's just the lack of passion. Even Tale of Two Cities had passion- the revolution and whatnot. I can't possibly see how this book that is just so dull, so detached could be a classic. I literally can't comprehend how anyone could have emotion for it. The characters are wooden, the speech is so like words out of a can....Horrible thing.

Kyla
09-03-2001, 10:15 PM
Okay, I haven't read a lot of the older stuff mentioned, as my high school English teachers generally taught newer classics. So I have little to comment, except that anyone who didn't like the Brothers K needs to reread it, because they missed something important. (My coworker and I have a running joke about how everyone should act like characters in TBK - it involves lots of shrieking, mock tears of joy, threats to commit suicide, etc. Really, wouldn't the world be more interesting if we all emulated Dostoevsky characters?)

Anyway, the only books I hated in high school were Of Mice and Men and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Not a lot of people seem to agree with me on the latter, but it was boring and I hated McMurphy.

OxyMoron
09-03-2001, 11:20 PM
Hum, this is interesting. We'll need quite an oven for all of us about to burn for Tess, I've a feeling everyone just wanted her to go the fuck hwome already and leave us alone!

I adored Heart of Darkness, really. I compared the experience to wading through peanut butter - indeed, it's the longest short book around. But that just made it more fun to savor.

Perhaps having seen Apocalypse Now a couple of years earlier helped.

Wuthering Heights didn't bother me nearly as much as Tess. Still melodramatic, but I seem to remember enough "writerly" things going on to make it tolerable. Oh, and I credit Madame Bovary (and her hateful accomplice, Eugenie Grandet with killing my interest in the French language - it was beyond all the Camus and Ann

So many people hated A Separate Peace, which I find surprising. I don't remember it all that well at all, just a vague sense that I liked it but found it a bit fluffy.

And paws off Terabithia, which I read on my own. What a brilliant little novel, disturbing in the right way.

I agree that the problem is that H.S. English teachers haven't the foggiest idea of how to pick literature for teenagers - and too often fail to place works in an historical context. Ibsen makes no sense if you don't know exactly what the consequences of divorce were for a "respectable" woman at the turn of the century.

Goldeneldon
09-04-2001, 12:02 AM
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery.

Even thinking about this book makes me wan...ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Badtz Maru
09-04-2001, 02:13 AM
Originally posted by Guinastasia
Oh god, the Left Behind books could become classics?

MOMMY!!!!!!!

I can actually see that happening - people in the future may find those books useful for understanding what was going on in the minds of Christian Fundamentalists in the early 21st century.

Globe-trotter
09-04-2001, 08:52 AM
I've actually enjoyed a lot of the books in this thread... :o

However, I simply loathe Henry James. Good thing the movies are better than his prose. ;) I have thrown a few of his books out of sheer disgust (you would have thought that I would have figured it out after one book!). Bleh.

Great Expectations is horrible... and this from a Dickens lover. It took me four tries to finally finish the novel (I'm stubborn, what can I say?) and while I will gladly reread some of his other novels, this one ain't one of them.

I didn't hate The Great Gatsby but I did think, "That's it?" I was rather underwhelmed by it.

Virginia Woolf makes me want to stab my eyeballs with a fork. 'nuff said.

Maeglin
09-04-2001, 09:40 AM
I have a pretty virulent distaste for most late 19th century to early twentieth century American literature. Naturalism? Blech. Stephen Crane? Hurl. Spoon River Anthology? Great Gatsby? All awful.

Oh, and there is a special place in hell for JD Salinger. If you didn't like Catcher, then by all means read Franny and Zooey. Consider it an experiment to see just how insane you can drive yourself by reading.

On the other hand, Heart of Darkness is one of my favorite books of all time. I think I am going to weep in the corner now...

And while I never agree with astorian politically, he is dead bloody on regarding Melville. Billy Budd reads like a swift kick to the solar plexus.

Ellen Cherry
09-04-2001, 11:57 AM
To the Moby Dick haters, I recommend Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund. I made my tortured way through Moby Dick in my college American literature course and feel confident in saying that Ahab's Wife is the book Moby Dick should have been. It's far more interesting, the language is more accessible (but with a definite 19th century feel). It's sweeping, engrossing. And like the work is springs from, it's got a great opening line. (I remember liking Bartleby and appreciated the memory-jogging reference!)

Oh, you To Kill a Mockingbird haters! I love everything about this book. And, I grew up in a small town and my daddy was a lawyer. When everyone in the balcony stands up and Scout is chided to her feet as well for "your father's passin'," I get tears every single time.

More Southern fiction: I really liked Cold Mountain. Until Ahab's Wife, I felt it was the best book I'd read in 10 years! I'd stayed completely away from the book's hype, however, and feel sure that soured many of its detractors.

I tried to read Heart of Darkness about a year ago. It had never been forced upon me and I was looking forward to it, really, if only to more clearly understand the Apocalypse Now parallels. Blek ick pooey. I skipped ahead to "the horror! the horror!" just to see what "the horror" was. Underwhelmed, I was.

And I agree with TV about 19th century novels as soap operas. If you read Hardy's Return of the Native with this in mind, it's actually pretty good. Dickens: I liked Oliver Twist. Speaking of long-windedness, UncaStuart (and others) -- have you read Fanny: Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones: A Novel by Erica Jong? It's sort of a Candide on acid; it lovingly lampoons the whole genre. (At least that's how I remember it!)

Daowajan -- I was considering answering the OP with The Name of the Rose, but thought better of it since I didn't actually finish. I enjoyed the movie and thought the book would provide more of the same sinister intricacies. Maybe it did, but they were incomprehensible to me. (Though of course we're now mortal enemies, now that I know your aberrant Mockingbird opinions :D )

My nomination? The Sound and the Fury. It's incomprehensible, even in a literature class, even with Cliff notes. Even 20 years hence it's thoroughly unreadable; I know, I tried. Is there ANYONE who gets it?

Daowajan
09-04-2001, 01:15 PM
It appears I've just met my doppelganger.

Cool!

PookahMacPhellimey
09-04-2001, 01:28 PM
Originally posted by furryman
I'm not sure if this is considered a classic but I thought "The Third Policeman" By Flan O'Brien was highly overrated. One reveiwer called it "the funniest book I ever read." Please! I thought it was vaugely humorous, and the ending was downright depressing.


Oh well. At least someone's even read Flann O'Brien. He s one of my personal favourites as my (misspelled) handle will show (same author, different book).
Half man, half bicycle. Hehehehehe, roar, heheheheh. And that's not even mentioning the surreal conversation.

Sorry, I know this thread was meant to be more of a poll than a discussion, but I think in the case of someone er...mildy criticising the author from who you get your handle, you should be able to stand up and defend them.

Interrobang!?
09-04-2001, 01:51 PM
Originally posted by Ellen
My nomination? The Sound and the Fury. It's incomprehensible, even in a literature class, even with Cliff notes. Even 20 years hence it's thoroughly unreadable; I know, I tried. Is there ANYONE who gets it?

I love it, but I don't claim to get it. But to me, it's less a book about "getting" than about experiencing -- and much as I enjoyed the experience, I can easily understand why other people wouldn't enjoy it at all. (It does get a lot easier after the Benjy section, though.)

I love Faulkner in general, though -- whenever I read him, I feel like I'm immersing myself in a comfy whirlpool of lit'ry genius. Absalom, Absalom! is my favorite book.

Hijack over. Let's see -- I slammed The Pearl earlier. Another of my well-loathed books would be The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway's come in for a lot of abuse on this thread, but that book's easily the worst of his that I've read. In fact, I was surprised when I sort of enjoyed The Sun Also Rises -- after Old Man, I was bracing for the worst.

Nausicaa
09-04-2001, 03:04 PM
I'm surprised no one has mentioned "Bleak House" - I would describe it but it makes me nauseous just thinking about it.

I also have to mention "The Ambassadors" by Henry James - literally nothing happens in this story.


Also - Dylan says in "Sara" that he wrote "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" for his wife - Sara.

Qwertyasdfg
09-04-2001, 03:28 PM
Wow, my first thread to go into a 3rd page ever. :D

As for TKaM, I think that Lee could have made a good book, but screwed herself by using the civil rights as a background for boring plots like the Radleys, the old lady Scout has to visit and Dill (who seemed to serve no purpose.)

Then you have the trite cliched ending you could see coming a mile away...

Ellen Cherry
09-04-2001, 03:43 PM
Congrats, Qwertyasdfg. (I hope I am never called upon to pronounce you.) I can't get anyone to even post in my threads. Sob.

ndorward
09-04-2001, 04:20 PM
Well, not sure I'm entirely in sympathy with the thread (having taught the odd lit course, an experience I've not enjoyed very much: hard not to remember some of the more aggressively lazy readers from the class, & it's hard not to get depressed about people saying God Bless Cliff's Notes)--but I'd perhaps nonetheless vary the pace here by naming a few poets who have continually failed to interest me despite my having read a fair bit of them--this isn't so much a matter of hating the work as finding it completely passes me by.

John Clare. Very interesting story (a labourer-poet who eventually went mad) but the voluminous poetry has often struck me as mostly unvaried.

Edmund Spenser.

H.D.

Jack Spicer.

Michael Palmer.

DaveX
09-04-2001, 04:21 PM
The Illiad...

I absolutely love "The Odyssey", but I can't seem to keep up with the lineage in "The Illiad". It reads like the damn bible. I know it is probably a function of the translation, but I gave up halfway through.

Cichlidiot mentioned another pet peeve of mine, the architectural sidetracks in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". Cluttered up an otherwise good novel.

On an ending note, it's good to see all the slags on "Great Expectations". I've only read two Dickens novels; "David Copperfield" first (which I adored), and then "Great Expectations" (which I never finished). I figured maybe Copperfield was the exception rather than the rule, but now I think I'll go back and give a few of the others a whirl.

gigi
09-04-2001, 04:36 PM
While it wasn't hard going like some of the aforementioned works, I thought Frankenstein was a piece of junk. Narrations by different characters all sound like the same voice, etc. I guess Mary Shelley wrote it in some sort of contest with her friends but it should have stayed there.

Mekhazzio
09-04-2001, 11:47 PM
Worst 'classic'? Anything by Steinbeck. I have no idea what people see in his books. "Grapes of Wrath" was the most mind-numbingly dull collection of pages that I've ever had to slog through.

Tamex
09-05-2001, 01:11 AM
Aw, c'mon! I can't believe that no one has mentioned Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome! Ugh. This book was the very first book assigned in my senior year AP English class. Upon finishing it, I seem to recall writing in my journal something like, "The only useful thing I have learned from this book is that a sled is a quite ineffective suicide weapon." That scene where Ethan is getting all excited by touching the same piece of cloth that Mattie is touching is a bit contrived, too. And all that analysis about the significance of the broken pickle dish! And, why the heck is this narrator (who is forgotten about for most of the book) so interested in this old man, anyway? The interest borders on the pathological, IMO. Ethan should have the guy arrested for stalking.

This was not a book that was meant for serious analysis. Our teacher may as well have assigned a Danielle Steele novel. I have no idea why this book is considered to be "literature". Is it just because it's old? Is it just because the school happens to own copies of it, so it's cheaper to assign it that to buy new copies of a good book?

This book was probably inflicted upon a new group of students at my alma mater this very day. I will shed a tear for those brave students. May their sanity be preserved in this trying time.

aegypt
09-05-2001, 07:48 AM
Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy. Or Tess or the D'Urbervilles, by the same author. The horror, the horror!

Mr. Billy
09-05-2001, 08:47 AM
Emma.

I enjoyed the movie, however.

That blonde girl is a spicy little number.

magdalene
09-05-2001, 09:01 AM
Tamex, I mentioned Ethan Frome!

"Look how sexually repressed we New Englanders are! Let's act this out through daredevil sledding stunts!"

Tamex
09-05-2001, 09:13 AM
Originally posted by magdalene
Tamex, I mentioned Ethan Frome!

"Look how sexually repressed we New Englanders are! Let's act this out through daredevil sledding stunts!"

So you did! (I looked...really!) You sum up the book quite nicely. :)

Qwertyasdfg
09-05-2001, 03:21 PM
The Grapes of Wrath was the most powerful book I ever read. But lets just agree to disagree.

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