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Josh Hurst

Classic novels that I don't like.

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Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty. Again, the stream-of-consciousness thing.

And William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying made me feel like *I* was.

In college, one lit class had me reading Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, and the short stories of Eudora Welty. Faulkner is tough, tough reading, but I eventually came to appreciate his stream-of-consciousness style. Welty was another matter. I never found a single story of hers that didn't make me yawn and wonder "why?"

All Hemingway leaves me cold.

I went through a major Hemingway and Fitzgerald kick in my mid-20s. Something about all that manly drinking, bull-chasing, and world-weariness ... seriously, even though both authors are redundant and quite possibly overrated, I find The Sun Also Rises still holds up as a superbly constructed novel that reflects the nihilism and self-indulgence of its characters.

Back on topic, though ... Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise leaves me scratching my head.

IVirginia Woolf. I want a t-shirt with "I survived Mrs. Dalloway" on the front, and on the back, "I survived The Hours" :wink:

Ha!! I've never read The Hours, primarily because my hatred of Mrs. Dalloway runs deep. Ugh. If only I'd known the Vanessa Redgrave movie version existed, I would've chucked my copy of the book. But no, I read every last excruciating page .... (edit: actually I guess that movie didn't come out until '97, so it wouldn't have helped anyway)

Heny James can totally bite me.

Right on! Imagine my surprise when I read The Turn of the Screw in 10th grade. How can you make a deserted old haunted mansion, possessed children, and an uptight nanny a mind-numbing bore?? I don't know, but that was Henry James's gift.

OTOH, I'll add to the chorus of "Dickens ROCKS!" True, he was overly sentimental and long-winded. But oh, those characterizations and settings are vivid and evocative.

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I'm with those who can't stand Dickens, except that I do like Tale of Two Cities.

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Has anyone mentioned The Scarlet Letter? I hated that book and wasn't a big fan of the teacher who made us read it.

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Has anyone mentioned The Scarlet Letter? I hated that book and wasn't a big fan of the teacher who made us read it.

I read it in 11th grade. Didn't like it at all then. That was the year of high school english the teacher harped on symbolism like you wouldn't believe. I think that's all that year of Englis was about. So my perspective may be a little jaded.

But as I recall, my experience seems to very closely echo yours ;) My wife really liked it, however!

Of course, I really liked my honors English class the next year, as a senior. And while we read some really good books that year (Night by Elie Wiesel, One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest . . . ), we also still read some that I didn't like (A Separate Peace, for instance, which I found far more boring than A Scarlet Letter.)

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Love Dickens. All of 'em (and I think I read just about all of 'em, though would have to check a list). (Added this later...>>>) But hey, too many didn't like Steinbeck! I'm blown away by that.... I *loved* Steinbeck as a kid; read almost his entire collection in a month or two (yes, I was an odd kid). Grapes of Wrath is an absolute masterpiece, with one of the most beautiful, rending, and iconic endings I've ever encountered in literature. Steinbeck was, for me, a genius. Winter of Our Discontent (admittedly odd choice, but there it is) really got me as a kid, too... a moral man basically goes slowly to seed in a profoundly Christian (I think) narrative.

But as the ones I don't care for...

Ulysses by James Joyce... that was voted #1 novel of the twentieth century by some "official" group in the last little while... I own the thing but it is a pain to get through, unlike Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man which is good. (I haven't, to memory, read anything else of his.) Re 'U', I'll try again, likely.

Hemingway. I doggedly read a number of his books over one summer as a teen, and liked (as others have also) only one: The Old Man and the Sea. (Actually, that one I read in school as part of a very good English class.) Farewell to Arms disgusted me, and The Sun Also Rises did too. Heck, so did For Whom the Bell Tolls. Why? I honestly think, in retrospect, that I was unconsciously a feminist reacting to his non-feminist (!!!) streak. Read Toni Morrison's riff, called (I think) Blackness in the White Imagination, which gives ol' Ernie a paddlewhacking on other grounds.

Kafka's The Trial, but not because it wasn't good. It was too good at doing what the writer wanted it to do; I read it at only fourteen, and it helped make me a life-long Christian nihilist (that is, there is either Jesus or nothing). Betcha want me to explain. I can't. I gotta leave for supper!

(The below is NOT a novel! Duh, me! Oh, well. I'll leave it.)

Diary of Anne Frank for similar reasons to Kafka; I was only twelve, and had gotten so wrapped into the book that when it ended as it had to I wept with a mixture of horror and rage. I remember wishing I'd never heard of Anne Frank! So the innocent / naive sentimentalism of childhood meets up with the inexorability and inexplicability of evil. It is a great book, of course, but one I would forewarn young tender-hearts about before setting them loose with it.

Edited by jon_trott

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And to get this thread back on track, I couldn't stand Grapes of Wrath. Rambling, pretentious, funny-accented prattle interspersed with desert tortoises. Never want to read another page of Steinbeck again in my life.

My thoughts exactly. I've started the book a good three times and can't get more than a little of the way through it. My wife keeps telling me how great it is, but I'm just not convinced.

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And to get this thread back on track, I couldn't stand Grapes of Wrath. Rambling, pretentious, funny-accented prattle interspersed with desert tortoises. Never want to read another page of Steinbeck again in my life.

My thoughts exactly. I've started the book a good three times and can't get more than a little of the way through it. My wife keeps telling me how great it is, but I'm just not convinced.

Ah, yes, well it was probably the pre- and post-natal hormones talking. ;)

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And to get this thread back on track, I couldn't stand Grapes of Wrath. Rambling, pretentious, funny-accented prattle interspersed with desert tortoises. Never want to read another page of Steinbeck again in my life.

That has to be one of the best few opening paragraphs ever. I will admit, however, that I have not completed the book. Right now Don Quixote is given me a run for my money. I even ended up reading a Mary Higgins Clark novel the other night because I needed a break from it. I like the book quite a bit, but just have a hard time plowing through it for some reason.

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And to get this thread back on track, I couldn't stand Grapes of Wrath. Rambling, pretentious, funny-accented prattle interspersed with desert tortoises. Never want to read another page of Steinbeck again in my life.

What is a "grape of wrath" anyway?

(Haven't read this book yet either ;) )

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I think it is about time for a flame war over Steinbeck. (JOKE!) But really, I think Grapes of Wrath is brilliant. It does cause me, though, to ponder one reality I've often run into with other books and movies that are heavily message-oriented. Sometimes, the medicinal qualities are so intense that it prevents the medicine from being taken. Like that great philosopher Mary Poppins said, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." A good lesson there for we evangelical types involved in the arts.

But please.... if you have not finished Grapes of Wrath, do it. You won't be sorry. And remember, Steinbeck was a younger member of that "lost generation" of writers where writing a "happy" ending was impossible. They had such dread of "sentimentalism" that they veered (IMO of course) to an opposite extreme -- a sort of literary nihilism. But Steinbeck's GofW actually did not do that. It was a socialist statement, which for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear at that time, looked pretty much like the only way to deal with what was happening to the American social fabric. In short, he did offer hope at the end...

Okay, I'll go ahead, but first...

:spoilers:

The ending of the book involves a woman, abandoned by her husband, whose breasts are full of milk due to just having had a baby (I think the baby dies earlier, but don't recall for sure--been a while since I read it). When the Joad family (her extended family) encounters a man who is literally starving to death, she offers him nourishment from her own breasts. I can't tell you how powerful this scene is in the book--it brings tears to my eyes when I read it.

Blessings,

jon

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I can't tell you how powerful this scene is in the book--it brings tears to my eyes when I read it.

Blessings,

jon

[unpleasantries directed at Mr. Steinbeck, not Mr. Trott] My fair warning: You have to wade through a lot of annoying twaddle to get there though. Go to the bookstore, pick it up, read the last page while thinking of all those brilliant Life photographs from the 1920s and you'll get 80% of the effect with 0% of the crap. [/unpleasantries directed at Mr. Steinbeck, not Mr. Trott]

@ Chashab--I had to read this book for my senior AP english class. Over the summer, we were instructed to find out what the title alluded to. My friend Sanjiv and I could not figure it out, but finally settled on Aesop's "Sour Grapes". Imagine my shock when we, having turned in the same obscure (and wrong) allusion, were marked down both for being wrong and cheating by colluding!

The actual source is biblical, I think, and is also referenced in the Battle Hymn of the Republic, where the Lord is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. ::ILoveLucy::

Edited by Buckeye Jones

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I kin see that me un Mr. Buckeye er gonna have a shoot-out! Hehehehehe...

The Wiki entry on Grapes of Wrath does a pretty good job (w/ spoilers, though).

I will note that even if you do not like G of W, you may well like other Steinbeck fare, including East of Eden (the obvious source for the James Dean flick of that name), The Red Pony (begins with a hired hand blowing a booger out his nose; can't get better than that--wink), and The Pearl (one of the most beautifully tragic, and astonishingly short, exactly compacted tales among modern novels). I think the latter is the only serious competition against Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea for being the "perfect" mythic tale told by a 20th Century author.

But note how I've changed the subject from Grapes of Wrath....

Hehehehehe....

Blessings,

jon

Edited by jon_trott

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James Fenimore Cooper is awful. Lame pretentious writing. I understand his place in literary history and all, but cannot read him. I read one chapter of "The Deerslayer" in a lit class and from that decided to NEVER read the book.

Edited by Annelise

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James Fenimore Cooper is awful. Lame pretentious writing. I understand his place in literary history and all, but cannot read him. I read one chapter of "The Deerslayer" in a lit class and from that decided to NEVER read the book.

I highly recommend Mark Twain's hilarious essay on James Fenimore Cooper. I tend to like Cooper because he was vastly entertaining at the age of 15 or so, but I tremble to revisit his novels.

I like most of the classic novels I read. Perhaps I'm being unoriginal, but if enough intelligent people before me have found something useful or interesting, then I'm inclined to seek out that gem. If the author has interesting ambitions, or fulfills modest intentions, or invites me to enter a compelling perspective, then that's enough for me. As I like so many books, my favorites are decided by a matter of degree.

However, one exception is Walden by Thoreau. I thought it was fascinating and I'm glad I read it. But it shouldn't even be in this thread - it's offically non-fiction. Knowing how often he contacted civilization (yet did not mention such in the narrative) irritated me. Especially considering the brutal condescension of the book and his elevated attitude toward the whole freakin' experiment.

Edited by Sundered

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I highly recommend Mark Twain's hilarious essay on James Fenimore Cooper. I tend to like Cooper because he was vastly entertaining at the age of 15 or so, but I tremble to revisit his novels.

I encountered this critique of Twain's while standing around waiting for friends at The Huntington. I think it was Twain's original manuscript for this critique of Cooper. If I recall, it was open to a page criticizing Cooper's contradictory descriptions of a river landscape in The Deerslayer. Hilarious!

Edited by anglicanbeachparty

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Yes! Twain's essay on Cooper is right on! I must confess that I read it before actually reading Cooper, so I was a bit prejudiced from the start.

Here's an excerpt from Twain's essay:

There are nineteen rules governing literary art in domain of romantic fiction -- some say twenty-two. In "Deerslayer," Cooper violated eighteen of them. These eighteen require:

1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the "Deerslayer" tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in air.

2. They require that the episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it. But as the "Deerslayer" tale is not a tale, and accomplishes nothing and arrives nowhere, the episodes have no rightful place in the work, since there was nothing for them to develop.

3. They require that the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others. But this detail has often been overlooked in the "Deerslayer" tale.

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Another coming to mind as I re-peruse this thread:

Walden's Pond. Can't stand it. Duller than the hills.

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I just read "The Great Gatsby" for the first time (somehow never read it in school, don't know why...) and though it was a great story, I couldn't figure out what was so 'classic' about it.

I never liked "Emma" by Jane Austen, though I liked her other stuff. I found it tiresome and boring in parts, and it distracted from the story.

Now, "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" was a great book, written by Susanna Clarke in 2005, and it read very much like an Austen novel, and just as wordy, but I was sucked in for all 800+ pages. Go figure.

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I guess we win some and we loose some...I think it's about half-and-half split with like/hate for Dickens and Steinbeck.

  1. I suppose I can understand why people don't like The Grapes of Wrath...no, nevermind, I take that back. I CAN'T understand why people couldn't like The Grapes of Wrath, but I suppose that will have to be okay. I forgive you :D I love Steinbeck, and I can't help it. He seems to REAL to me.
  2. If you hated The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck gave you a wonderful chance to redeem your experience by writing Travels with Charley. Humourous in a dry sort of way, a tongue-in-cheek narrative of his journey accross the country with his dog. Insiteful. A pleasure. Highly recommended
  3. For the reason that I like Steinbeck, I don't like Dickens. Steinbeck seems steeped with understanding of life and characters. The stories in Dicken's works are way to coincidential and tale-ish for me. I have been told that I have read the "wrong ones", so this is not my final word. I shall try again. But so far, I have spent my reading time with Dickens fighting against my gut responses to all of his implausible coincidences.

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I guess we win some and we loose some...I think it's about half-and-half split with like/hate for Dickens and Steinbeck.

  1. I suppose I can understand why people don't like The Grapes of Wrath...no, nevermind, I take that back. I CAN'T understand why people couldn't like The Grapes of Wrath, but I suppose that will have to be okay. I forgive you :D I love Steinbeck, and I can't help it. He seems to REAL to me.

You're a better person than me Ruthie. This is one point that, if I ever met the Grapes of Wrath dissenters, I would never let go of until I had succesfully changed their minds. She's a true shining beauty of a novel that brims with life in every word.

Dickens however...

:P

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I can't tell you how powerful this scene is in the book--it brings tears to my eyes when I read it.

I guess we win some and we loose some...I think it's about half-and-half split with like/hate for Dickens and Steinbeck.

  1. I suppose I can understand why people don't like The Grapes of Wrath...no, nevermind, I take that back. I CAN'T understand why people couldn't like The Grapes of Wrath, but I suppose that will have to be okay. I forgive you :D I love Steinbeck, and I can't help it. He seems to REAL to me.

You're a better person than me Ruthie. This is one point that, if I ever met the Grapes of Wrath dissenters, I would never let go of until I had succesfully changed their minds. She's a true shining beauty of a novel that brims with life in every word.

Dickens however...

:P

Yes. This last scene in Grapes is so powerfully full of redemption, forgiveness, humanity, and hope...I think it touches on a bit of the conversation going on in one of the art threads. There is something transcendent in it.

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The stories in Dicken's works are way to coincidential and tale-ish for me.

Hi, Ruthie. I think you've probably read the "right ones" as you've sampled Dickens. I've read Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. I was surprised how similar Twist, an early work, was to Expectations, a late work, in respect to the phenomenal coincidences for which you criticize his books. Copperfield and Tale similarly abound in coincidence. It is a bit much for me to swallow. Of course, Dickens believes in God, but I can remember neither character nor narrator interpreting the coincidences according to God's providence. (Perhaps they do: I'll have to watch for that in the future.) If I could meet Dickens in his youth, I might counsel him not to enlist coincidences so exclusively for a gimmicking of dramatic force. Even so, Dickens is my favorite novelist. Get by his plot quirks and you hear a voice of compassion and morality. Oliver Twist is about charity, Great Expectations about reclamation (of the lost), A Tale of Two Cities about salvation, and Great Expectations about redemption. A Tale of Two Cities, presenting warring cultures, is today a very timely book.

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Erich D. Schwartz:

Even so, Dickens is my favorite novelist. Get by his plot quirks and you hear a voice of compassion and morality. Oliver Twist is about charity, Great Expectations about reclamation (of the lost), A Tale of Two Cities about salvation, and Great Expectations about redemption. A Tale of Two Cities, presenting warring cultures, is today a very timely book.

Of all the authors I had to read back in high school (OK, I think it was actually middle school) Dickens was far and away my favorite, and A Tale of Two Cities was my favorite of his books. In fact, I wouldn't mind reading that one again which is something I almost never do (a distinction only currently held by Tolkien's novels and one day, I plan, Eco's Foulcault's Pendulum).

I do recall being a bit jolted by his use of coincidences, but I enjoyed his writing so much I can easily forgive them. In fact, I think there is a certain charm there.

But I am surprised Erich, that Great Expectations (my least favorite of his novels) is about two things... :P

Edited by Darryl A. Armstrong

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Jason Panella wrote: "Chopin's the Awakening is probably the worst thing I've ever read. Just talking about it makes me cry in terror. See, sniff, there I go."

WORD! Everytime I think of this book it makes me angry. I can't believe what a ridiculous peice of femenist garbage it is. And I'm a woman!

I don't like The Scarlet Letter either. I had to fight with myself to finish it in High School.

I didn't like Faulkner at first but after I read As I Lay Dying again I couldn't help but appreciate some of his weird style. I haven't read a lot by him though and for the most part, I can't understand how he ever got published in the first place though because usually people expect your sentences to make sense and have correct punctuation and capitalization.

Anyone else ever read The Scarlet Pimpernel by Orczy? It is the most exciting classic I ever read. (Aside form Jane Eyre of course.) I highly reccomend it.

Ooh, I forgot to say how much I love Shakespeare! Shame on you who don't! (Well, I didn't either until I had a teacher who took the plays more as performance pieces than literature. That's the problem, read them out loud and act them. That's where it makes more sense and becomes fun.)

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