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Josh Hurst

Classic novels that I don't like.

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Seriously, though - I read East of Eden a good many years ago, and though it gripped me, the woman who's at the center of it seemed too evil to be true.

When I was a high-schooler first reading that novel, I had not encountered anyone that evil. Now that I'm forty, I've run into a few that qualify.

There was no real reason behind her malice. (I thought.)

She hated her husband because he represented religious propriety. She wanted money and power and her husband wanted family and harmony. Her resentment of her husband turned violent and she left him to pursue money and power the only way she could. Having reduced her life to the pursuit of her passions, her heart hardened into the evil person we encounter in the novel.

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Thanks, Will - but didn't she burn down her parents' house while she was still a teenager?

That seems right... But there were some other issues surrounding it. I must confess that I haven't read the book in 20 years, but I saw the movie with James Dean less than a year ago on DVD, so the events of the movie are much stronger in my memory.

(Reminded me of the old movie "The Bad Seed," somehow - a precursor of the utterly evil devil-child films that are so popular today.)

Yep. Good movie, BTW. The science teachers at my high school showed it every year during the last week of school for those classes that had completed the curriculum.

See, I'm half-embarrassed to admit how long it's been since I read this book

I'm in the same condition. :)

Maybe I should give it another go...

I'm planning to pick it up again soon. I just wanted the Oprah's Book Club excitement to die down a bit before I read it again.

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Although I'm in favor of reading great literature rather than dumbed-down or whatever's hot, I also must admit that a bad experience at an early age with an author or novel everyone tells you is "great" can leave a lifelong scar.

Even though I've always read books well above my "grade level," when Steinbeck's The Pearl and Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea were imposed on us in eighth grade, I hated them both. Thirteen is not an age that takes well to modernist tragic realism. There's plenty of time for that later, thank you very much.

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I don't know how "classic" Ayn Rand is considered, but I gave up Atlas Shrugged about 3/4s of the way through. It's the only book (fiction) I've ever stopped reading. It was ugly, disturbing and full of so much distasteful rhetoric it made me ill.

I totally agree--nowadays you couldn't pay me to read an A.R. novel--but I also recall finding her novels compellingly repellent when I read them in high school. This article may explain why Rand still has quite a following, especially among high-schoolers. I bet they don't know all the biographical details, though.

Edited by BethR

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I totally agree--nowadays you couldn't pay me to read an A.R. novel--but I also recall finding her novels compellingly repellent when I read them in high school. This article may explain why Rand still has quite a following, especially among high-schoolers. I bet they don't know all the biographical details, though.

I agree that there are flaws in both Rand's writing and her philosophy, but that is not unique among writers of classics. I found her work Atlas Shrugged compelling and certainly unique and original (as well as somewhat prophetic). It sits on my top shelf where I keep my favorite books.

As for Classic Novels I don't like, I still haven't been able to appreciate Dickens yet despite several tries. It is true I was disappointed with Cervantes Don Quixote, but I wouldn't classify it as anything worse than "acceptable" for a classic.

regards,

-Lance

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Not a novel, but a classic which I spent months flogging away at in two-or-so-paragraph bits before I'd fall asleep: Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War. I'd just romped through Homer and Herodotus and other stuff with such a hunger to catch up on classical literature which I'd studiously avoided all through school - and then I hit this wall of boredom. The man was telling the story of a war! It should have been full of excitement, but instead it's long tedious speeches on and on and on and . . . It was years before I again felt like picking up anything by ancient Greek gentlemen.

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I'm resurrecting a dead thread just to say, I'm glad I'm not the only one not inspired/impressed/moved by the Grapes of Wrath. It's why I'm posting on a lost thread--I'm stalling and don't want to read it right now. :D

I'm only a few chapters in and have the urge to say "Move on to California already!" =;

But, I shall persevere, because I must. I think what's really driving me nuts is the dialogue. Trying to decipher the almost phonetically written lines is annoying.

Maybe someday someone will be able to convince me why it should be considered a classic. But not today. ^_^

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I never much cared for JANE EYRE.

I'm resurrecting a dead thread just to say, I'm glad I'm not the only one not inspired/impressed/moved by the Grapes of Wrath. It's why I'm posting on a lost thread--I'm stalling and don't want to read it right now. :D

You should go for EAST OF EDEN instead.

Edited by Ryan H.

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You should go for EAST OF EDEN instead.

If only I could, but it's required reading for a class. I'll keep East of Eden in mind since I'm sure more Steinbeck is in my future. :) I've had several people say Of Mice and Men is a better read, so that's another one I'm keeping in mind.

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The Ambassadors - by Henry James

Atlas Shrugged - by Ayn Rand

The Catcher in the Rye - by J.D. Salinger

Ethan Frome - by Edith Wharton

Island - by Aldous Huxley

Madame Bovary - by Gustave Flaubert

Siddhartha - by Hermann Hesse

The Stranger - by Albert Camus

The Sun Also Rises - by Ernest Hemingway

The Trial - by Franz Kafka

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The Stranger - by Albert Camus

The Sun Also Rises - by Ernest Hemingway

The Trial - by Franz Kafka

Wow, those are three of my favourites.

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What's not to love about THE TRIAL?

From what Jeremy has written in the past, I'm sure it's more a philosophical disagreement with Kafka than a shot at it's style or artistic merit.

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What's not to love about THE TRIAL?

From what Jeremy has written in the past, I'm sure it's more a philosophical disagreement with Kafka than a shot at it's style or artistic merit.

It's purely a matter of my own personal taste instead of any critique of Kafka's ability as a writer. I hate stories with main characters who are passive, apathetic, compliant, cowardly, incompetent ... and basically pacifists. Stories about Pacifism usually annoy me, regardless of whose side the author is on. For me to enjoy the story, the character can start out that way, but for there to actually be a story, he needs to change - it's called character development. Think the film Friendly Persuasion or Victor Hugo's novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The endings of these stories are all the same - evil/tyrant meets pacifist ... evil/tyrant kills pacifist ... the end ... and I've learned nothing because the character wasn't dying for anything in particular, and I've enjoyed nothing. Tyranny and evil oppress the weak.

This is a personal thing. But there were times when I was reading The Trial when I'm asking myself why K. isn't just punching this guy in the face instead of just sitting there taking it. And, yeah, yeah, I realize there are writers out there who say that there are supposed to be Christlike comparisons in these stories. But, there is a night and day difference between The Trial's Josef K. or The Island's Will Farnaby AND A Tale of Two Cities' Sydney Carton or Mr. Standfast's Peter Pienaar. I only see Christlike comparisons in the latter.

I understand that K.'s character development is stunted because Kafka is portraying the listlessness of being under a bureaucratic tyranny, but Huxley dealt with this sort of thing in a much more interesting way by his different contrasting characters in Brave New World. Maybe there is a book out there on this sort of thing that can challenge my prejudice on this, but The Trial was not it.

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I find Paradise Lost to get really talky and dull whenever the angels come around. There are a few fascinating, cinematic scenes but I can leave about 70% of it.

Dante's Divine Comedy-- I get that it's brilliant and huge in scope and has awesome wordplay, but the injection of personal politics into the Inferno seems somewhat vile, and I can't get past his obsessive childhood crush being our guide to Heaven.

Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" is standard college reading, and I just find it sullen and slow-- hopefully that isn't me being "Western."

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Die, Moby Dick, die! Despite my respect for Melville, I have conceived an Ahab-worthy hatred for that novel, which I had to read in three different classes and each time skipped/skimmed all the boring bits.

A blast from 2003! I'm not quite in Amanda's camp, but halfway through the 20-disc audiobook, I'm taking a break from it. I do think I'll return, sooner rather than later, but the story has so many digressions that I zone out waiting to get back to the main narrative thread.

 

I decided to read Moby Dick after devouring In the Heart of the Sea, which illuminates Nantucket whaling culture and tells a story that likely served as the basis for much of Melville's novel. But at this point, given the choice to read either book again -- with the caveat that I'm only halway through Moby Dick -- I'd eagerly return to In the Heart of the Sea and would (obviously) pause a long while before diving back into Moby Dick.

Edited by Christian

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Sacrilege!  I get Amanda's hatred due to the have to read a book for class factor (I hate the Grapes of Wrath and Pride and Prejudice to this day because of high school), but since you, Christian, have picked this up on your own---well, shiver my timbers, but your dislike is just disappointing!

 

ha!

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:) I do love some of it. I might even love much of it, but at this point, I can't be sure of the ratio. There are just too many digressions. I want a novel, not a textbook.

 

Maybe I'll recant once I've finished. Whenever that might be.

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Yeah, I think group study of the book would help my appreciation of it -- or, at least, of the parts of it I don't care for.

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I don't enjoy Moby-Dick either, but it's not because of the digressions. I love Les Miserables to pieces, and its digressions are far more extravagant. I think it's mostly just the writing style - many of the sentences just take too much effort to get through, with too little apparent payoff.

 

Meanwhile, a friend assures me that the crucial element I'm missing is the humor. I'll go back to it some time and try to figure this out, but I admit I'm not optimistic.

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I thought Moby Dick was laced with irony throughout.  A character is named QueegQueeg after all.  And there's a chapter about the folios of whales, like some 19th century librettist.

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The Stranger - by Albert Camus

 

Agreed, and this is coming from a Camus fan. I often wish The Fall got all the attention instead.

 

 

The Catcher in the Rye - by J.D. Salinger

 

Thank you. Holden's inability to consider the possibility that he may also be "phony" drove me up a wall even when I was 13. No, I was never immune from this kind of thinking as an adolescent, but...I have problems with Holden that I've never had with, say, Stephen Dedalus, who I've always felt closer to. (Hence my profile name.)

Edited by Kinch

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This discussion of Moby Dick is reminding me of the scene in Still Alice when Alice complains that she was reading Moby Dick and she kept losing her place and rereading the same passages, and her husband replied, "Moby Dick would do that to anyone."

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