Thursday, November 11, 2010

Literary Blog Hop!

The Blue Bookcase is hosting a really neat "event" today called the Literary Blog Hop.  What happens is they post a question for the book bloggers out there to each answer on the same day.  It's a great way to network with fellow book lovers and hear about some interesting topics.  They kindly invited me to take part, and I'm excited to share in it.

You can check it out here.  (Sorry I couldn't get an image for you!)

This week's question is: What is the most difficult literary work you've ever read?  What made it so difficult?

This is a tough one because I've been challenged by a lot of reading.  I'm tempted to say The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot because I eventually had to spend hours breaking it down line by line to really grasp its significance.  I also think of Les Miserables because it's the longest book I've ever read, but I don't think it was actually the most difficult.  (If you're interested, I reviewed it here.)  The answer would definitely be Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals but that would not make for an interesting blog entry because I would basically just say, "I don't think I get it and that frustrates me."  So where does that leave me?  I'm going to go with The Waves by Virginia Woolf.

Woolf writes in a stream-of-consciousness style, which can be quite difficult to follow when you're not accustomed to it.  There's no strong direction of plot, and it's often unclear which character is the one in focus.  I found this difficult to follow at times in To the Lighthouse, but when someone simply classified it as "stream-of-consciousness" I suddenly grasped what she was trying to do and was able to work with it.  However, she pushes this even further in The Waves.  In this book, there are no characters and no plot.  The entire story is run by six different people's dramatic soliloquies.  At first, I found this extremely irritating and confusing.  I was not interested in the text nor appreciative of any skill involved in it.  The people do not really interact with each other, and the things they are saying do not fit together in any thematic or chronological order.  They spit out their random thoughts and emotions, often in short, uninteresting sentences or fragments.  No one responds to anyone else, and yet their speeches are so intertwined that it's difficult to discern who is supposed to be speaking.  It felt like nonsense to me.

So this was a difficult read because I struggled to understand what was going on and to grasp its purpose.  I didn't like what I was reading, which always makes it harder to get through it.  Ultimately, however, I grew to appreciate it as a representation of the relationship between Self and Other.  I think Woolf was trying illustrate that these two entities are not as disconnected as we like to think they are.  The Self cannot exist outside of relation to Others.  However, I still feel like it was a pretty obscure way to reach that point.

16 comments:

mel u said...

great review of The Waves-I am a relative Woolf neophyte-I read The Waves about two months ago-I decided just to love the language and what I understood I understood-I am now a follower of your blog and look forward to reading your future posts

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

I had a hard time with To the Lighthouse also, and The Waves was next on my list before I decided I needed a break from Woolf.

Like mel u, my approach to Woolf is to just enjoy the language.

JoAnn said...

My answer involved Woolf, too - Mrs. Dalloway. I'm still working my way up to To the Lighthouse and The Waves!

Kelly said...

I read another blog post mentioning Woolf. I've never read her so I can't really say anything. But this does make me want to read something by Virginia Woolf soon.

Someone else also mentioned Les Mis, and how she's had the whole thing for ages and hasn't finished it yet. I really want to read that someday in French.

IngridLola said...

Hi Amy! Stream-of-consciousness is definitely hard to read. Yikes. I really like your interpretation about the Self in relation to the Other. Very astute observation. I'm definitely going to consider that the next time I read Virginia Woolf

Amy said...

Thanks for all the feedback! Now that I've had a chance to look at the rest of the blog-hoppers, it looks like a couple people mentioned Woolf! She must be on our mind today! I hope this doesn't scare any of you away from her writing; she's a genius. I say, start with To the Lighthouse with "stream-of-consciousness" and patience in mind and you're all set. :)

Jillian said...

Oh, I've heard so many conflicting opinions about Woolf. I'm cuious, because I do tend to like the obscure, if done well. Really interesting thoughts on her here. I just bought Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours; I mean to come to understand her...

Great post. :-)

gautami tripathy said...

I have read a lot of classics in my school and college years. And some still remain my favorites. However, there are a few I could never get into..


Here is my Literary Blog Hop post!

leeswammes said...

Seems there are lots of people who struggle(d) with Woolf. Me too! I read her a long time ago and failed (DNF). I must try again. Or must I?

Amy said...

@leeswammes - Yes, you must try again! She really is brilliant. She made great strides expanding the possibilities of literature and has a lot to offer to readers. But it might be useful to read some blogs, reviews, or research about whichever book you try, (I recommend you start with To the Lighthouse), alongside the novel itself. It can really help you see things that are difficult to notice on our first reading.

toni said...

wow. that sounds reeaallyy difficult lol.

never read her work before, but I think I have to the lighthouse on my bookshelf. must give it a try.

new to your blog, I really like it! following :)

kinnareads said...

I love Woolf but The Waves is probably my least favorite of her books. Although I did enjoy it. Glad to have come across your blog through the hop.

parrish lantern said...

It seems Woolf has a large presence over the blog & that makes me curious, so will be checking her out in the near future.
Thanks for your write up
Parrish

bibliophiliac said...

Poor Virginia! I have read and loved Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, and love reading her diaries--but haven't read The Waves yet. It is interesting that her fiction is often so opaque, but Woolf's essays are very clear and logical.

Louise said...

I used Virginia Woolf in my answer also, Mrs Dalloway, but I have a somewhat more negative view of my experience of her work. I wish I did get it, but clearly I don't.

Brian Bither said...

There's no need to hate on Kant. :)