Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Classic Not Taken

Which classic book have you never read and why?

I suspect the answer to "why" will be much the same for all of us. There will be THAT book that, for whatever reason, we felt we *should* read, made some kind of attempt at - maybe multiple ones - and finally gave up.

Mine is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

People, I have tried to read this book SO MANY TIMES. One thing about writing these sorts of posts is that you'll inevitably get someone who loved loved loved the book and is desperate for you to give it ONE MORE TRY. "Just get past page X," they say. Or, "but the payoff when..." they offer hopefully.

I ain't gonna.

I finally got rid of my copy, in fact, so absolve myself of its haunting presence and the guilt that I failed to love it. And don't remind me that it's in the common domain now and I can get it for free.

I DON'T CARE.

You couldn't pay me to read this book.

(Okay, maybe enough money would make me slog through it. $200K comes to mind. Give me that and I'll read the damn thing.)

*Anyway*

I first picked up a copy of this book in my mid-twenties, full of chipper excitement, because Anne Rice had it be the hero's favorite book in The Witching Hour. She made a persuasive case for the impact this book had on him, and The Witching Hour had an *enormous* impact on me, so I was all ready to be equally in love.

No. So, not.

(I did this all the time in those days, chained from book to book, like going from flower to flower in a lush garden. I still do it, to some extent, though I feel like I have less reading time for it.)


But I persevered! I loved Anne Rice so much, I figured I MUST love a book she loved. There's a transitive property of book loving involved there. Only writing this post, years later, does it occur to me that maybe Anne *doesn't* love Great Expectations. Maybe she simply picked it as a good classic for the hero to love. Back then I didn't know authors did this. (They totally do.) I'm friendly with her son, Christopher Rice - now I'm tempted to ask him to find out the truth here.

HMMM.

Anyway - I kept the book and, every year or so, I'd pick it up and try again. Then put it down again in boredom and disgust. Over time, I developed an active hatred for the story. I even watched the movies - both the 1998 and the 2012 versions, thinking maybe those would light me up.

Nope nope nope.

It's just not meant to be. And, for the record, I don't really care for any of Dickens except A Christmas Carol, which I'm sure makes me the literary equivalent of the Catholic who goes to mass only at Easter and Christmas.

Since I'm a Catholic-by-family only and never go to mass, this doesn't bother me greatly.

So, I'm begging you - don't tell me what a great book this is. I'm sure it must be. I just ... can't. Instead, tell me which classic YOU couldn't read!

21 comments:

  1. This is one (and, for the record, I adore Oliver Twist and David Copperfield). Madame Bovary pissed me off so bad that I never got past page 40 or so. I hated the character. I guess I'm a bit odd because I loved Silas Marner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is HopeT., since the blog doesn't recognize me.

      Delete
    2. the blog commenting has all been weird lately it seems! I couldn't get through Bovary either, and I really wanted to!

      Delete
  2. So many!
    I will confess only making it through Pride and Prejudice once zombies were added to the story.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I struggled through Pride and Prejudice but I made it! I can't make it through Sense and Sensibility though. Like you Jeffe, I tried and tried but can't make it through. There are so many other classics that I adore I gave up long ago and figured I'll get cultured with other books ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I loved S&S, but I absolutely understand why someone wouldn't. So many books to read!

      Delete
    2. Try to read Sense and Sensibiliy and Seamonsters. Worked for me ;-)

      Delete
    3. Sullivan I am so going to check that out!! ;)

      Delete
  4. A couple of years ago, I had a long conversation about literary "classics" versus popular taste. There is, in some sense, a certain inaccessibility to those works usually listed as classics. There is actually a reason for that. A sort of winnowing out effect - to relate to most of them, one must have been well educated, well read, and of a social class that understood who the author was writing for. The intent wasn't inclusion, but rather exclusion.
    The concept of the "great American novel" was actually a sort of mockery. To have a GAN, it would need to appeal to a broad spectrum. Appealing to a broad spectrum would exclude it from being a classic and instead lump it into popular - pop - culture.
    The things they tried to get us to read in high school are often completely detached from a teenagers experience and interest. Reading them again in college often made it easier. But I believe most classics shouldn't even been read before the age of 25 at this point - that is, if you want to understand no possibly enjoy them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very interesting points, Tia - thanks!

      Delete
  5. I loathe Jane Austen. Just listening to someone else read anything of hers out loud makes me want to run screaming from the room. ONCE I've sat through the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice. I want those five hours of my life back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's a lot of subtle nuance to Austen that's definitely not for everyone - and you've gotta love it for the 5-hr epic to be worthwhile. Totally understandable.

      Delete
  6. The book that comes to mind for me is 'Catcher in the Rye'. I did get through it, barely. I read it because I thought I should. I went into it with 'great expectations'. I kept reading because I thought, this has to get better, something has to happen soon. So many people love this book! What is wrong with me? Meh. I might as well have been reading 'Pilgrim's Progress' I was so bored.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that book was much more revolutionary at the time. These days it's pretty tame!

      Delete
  7. Funny, I hear Pride and Prejudice raved about. I checked it out of the local library a few years ago. I barely got through a few pages.. BORING! I hated it. I read Silas Marner in English Lit in high school and found it interesting. I have never read any of the Dickens books, that I remember. In high school and even junior high (we didn't have kindergarten, or Pre-k or middle school-it was 1-6 elementary, 7-9 junior high, 10-12 was high school) I was reading high above grade level. I was reading John Dickson Carr, Agatha Christie, and others in that genre. Didn't read romance books until the 1980's (I graduated high school in 1970, college in 1983 lol). I always read suspense and thrillers. I can't read a plain romance without some murder and mayhem in it. It bores me-lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No murder and mayhem in Pride and Prejudice for sure, so no surprise you were bored!

      Delete
  8. Thank goodness there are so many wonderful books, including classics, so we don't have to love all of them! But I suspect that many of us didn't love classics because we had second-rate English teachers, who couldn't bring those books alive for us.

    But mine is Moby Dick, which I finished only because I had a class to flog through it. Enough with killing whales already! They're way too cute and family-oriented to kill.... And that male revenge/ambition thing just doesn't resonate with me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A friend pointed out that I might love Spenser's Faerie Queene because we had such an amazing professor teach it in college, so that's a good point. Also the manly experiences. SO much not to relate to!

      Delete