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.