Friday, August 12, 2011

Which "great books" did you hate?

I enjoyed reading this column on Slate where the author asked a bunch of authors and literary types what their least favorite "great novel" is. If you can get past some of the self-infatuated posturing by the lesser writers (hello, Yale Review editor) the responses are pretty good.

My all-time least favorite "great book" is The Old Man and the Sea. It's the most mind-numbing book I've ever read, and I was an English major. We eat mind-numbing books for breakfast.

Hemingway in general doesn't do anything for me, and after slogging through that (thankfully short) book, I came away thinking he was probably hammered one day, maybe he'd just read Moby Dick, and wrote a bunch of crap, realized it wasn't long enough, added in several 3-page descriptions of unimportant items (jellyfish, for example), then decided to throw it at the publishing wall to see if it stuck.

And then nobody thought someone as great as Hemingway could possibly write such a boring and pointless novel, so they figured it must have Hidden Meaning. So they inflicted it on innocent 10th graders around the country.

So what about you? What's your least favorite "great book"?


Ashley said...

Ugh.. The Illiad!!

I'm Ashley, by the way.. I don't remember how I found you, but I love literature and English, so your blog intrigues me! =)

Tere Kirkland said...

Ugh, The Great Gatsby. The writing feels so forced and flowery, and I didn't care about any of the characters.

Fun post!

Tere Kirkland said...

Just read the article. Forgot how much I hated Tess of the D'Ubervilles and The Sound and the Fury.

Guess I'm not the only one. :)

Anna Claire said...

Tere - I really wanted to like The Sound & the Fury because I loved Absalom, Absalom! after studying it twice in HS and college. But I think I got maybe halfway through.

I actually do really like The Great Gatsby, but I see where you're coming from.

I loved that someone on the list chose Beowulf...that story was waaaaay too long and the only reason it's really a "great book" is because it's the earliest surviving book...

iheartkiwi said...

Ha! I actually love Hemingway. A Moveable Feast is one of my all time favorites!

However, I never really connected with To Kill a Mockingbird or The Grapes of Wrath :) You win some you lose some!

Lindsay @ Delighted Momma said...

What a great post...Hmmmm a classic that did not do much for me was Frankenstein..we read it in like 7th grade and I was so bored!

Russ said...

"We eat mind-numbing books for breakfast." Best line of the day!

For me it would be As I Lay Dying.

As and English Prof and I once said at the same time, "You should leave stream-of-consciousness to Faulkner, and then not read him."

Cerrissa said...

"Ethan Frome"...all that pickle dish talk-- ick.
My sister loves "Beowulf," but she's a funny one.

I think it also probably depends on how well the teacher taught the material (if it was read in school). I thought the Iliad was amazing(!!!) but that was probably because I was totally smitten with my lit professor :)

S.J.Kincaid said...

"A Fable" by William Faulkner.

I think I threw it down when he described in excruciating detail someone lighting a cigarette.

It won a Pulitzer Price and a National Book Award, but it bored me out of my mind.

Renee Jennifer said...

Maybe it was because I read this in high school, but I never cared for that classic, "Of Mice & Men." Cute blog btw, this is my first time here :).