Thursday, January 20, 2011

Literary Blog Hop Return

It's been a while, but I am happy to take part in the Blue Bookcase's weekly Literary Blog Hop today. This is a book blogging exploration and a great opportunity to hear other lit lovers' thoughts. I am always fascinated to read what you all think, and the variety in opinion is just remarkable.  This week is no exception. To check out the other bloggers, click the button below.

Literary Blog Hop

The prompt this week is: "Discuss a work of literary merit that you hated when you were made to read it in school or university. Why did you dislike it?"

I almost decided not to participate this week because I find this a tricky question.  Unfortunately, I won't give you a very direct answer, but please bear with me.  Naturally, I don't enjoy every book of Classic Literature I read.  However, the word "hate" has a particularly strong connotation that I don't attach very easily.  If I confessed some of the well-loved classics and authors I don't like, I imagine I would upset many of you.  Perhaps I will spill the beans about them one by one, but I'm certainly not going to list them all here without explanation.

Some books I don't like because I find them confusing, some I don't like because I find them dull, and some I don't like because I cannot find any meaningful significance in them.  If I experience all three of these reactions, perhaps that qualifies as "hate."  I mentioned in a previous blog hop that I hated reading Immanuel Kant, but that's because it requires incredibly slow reading and is very difficult for me to grasp.  I'm not sure it's fair for me to list him this week because I can see his significance... as long as someone explains it to me.  Occasionally, I have grown to appreciate literature that I initially disliked.  The first time I read Eliot's The Wasteland, I dismissed its merit because I didn't understand it.  But once I dug deeply into its meaning and studied critical analysis, I changed my mind.

Ok, ok, enough stalling - I'll tell you my "hated" book.  When I read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness in high school, I hated it.  There, I said it.  I was thoroughly confused, unable to distinguish the past from the present in the book's dizzying back-and-forth timeline.  I was also bored.  In fact, I began reading it in study hall when I wanted to take a nap because I knew it would have that effect on me.  I didn't care about what was happening, (partly because I didn't know what was happening), and the language lulled me to sleep.  And perhaps worst of all, I didn't even finish it.  I was an over-achiever in high school, and this was the only book in my entire high school career that I couldn't even bring myself to finish.  So yeah, I hated it.

I know that I should try reading the book again.  A number of years have passed since I first read it, and I have heard so many people I respect praise the book that I believe there is something of merit to be found in it.  However, my memory of hating it is still quite strong in my mind, and I struggle finding motivation to try again when there are so many other books I'm interested to read.  Anybody want to help convince me?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read Heart of Darkness last year for an English course and I can certainly admit that it's not the most exciting prose. Fortunately I had to read it two or three times for a term paper and I can honestly say it was one of the most rewarding reading experiences. The imagery is quite haunting. The best example is when Marlowe steps into the thick jungle for the first time and is startled to find the thin sunken faces of slaves looking back him. It's an otherworldly moment because the narrator never explicitly says that they are people. Rather he describes them as though they are ghosts and their humanity is only hinted at.

I highly recommend it. There is a series of books, I think they're called Interpretations, that compiles critical essays of various novels. The one on Heart of Darkness is quite good, I recommend that as a companion piece.

-Gabrielle (too lazy to sign into my blogger account)

Amy said...

Gabrielle, I really appreciate you taking the time to write that. It is pretty convincing! If I do read it again, I will definitely be interested in critical reviews. And I'll do my best to let you know what I think the second time around!

JoAnn said...

I've never read Conrad but, after reading the above comment, think I should give Heart of Darkness of try.

LifetimeReader said...

I haven't read it--but it is certainly a book written with political implications and at a very different time, so I am jotting down Gabrielle's suggestion. I'd love to be able to read this book in a class--but with a set of companion essays is the next best thing.

Listener said...

Heart of Darkness is a difficult book, due to the (literal and literary) jungle of metaphors and allusions that Conrad uses. It's a tough trip if you don't have a good guide. There's no shame in using a commentary or even Cliff's Notes to give you a clue to what's going on beneath the surface. I loved Heart of Darkness, but that's only because I had a great teacher leading the way.

Becky (Page Turners) said...

You're the second person I have seen give this answer - im almost pleased I haven't read this book

Amy said...

I do believe that I could grow to like Heart of Darkness, so I certainly hope that this post doesn't turn people away from it. Instead, it's turning out to be a good opportunity to get some encouragement and guidance for trying again. Thanks for all your advice and input.

parrish lantern said...

Give it a go. better still if you own a Kindle you can get for free.

Laura C. said...

I have grown to love Heart of Darkness, even though I don't think I liked it that much when I first read it. I used to teach it and have my students compare it to T.S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men" and to the film "Apocalypse Now," which was a really fun assignment and the more I read it (especially picturing Marlon Brando as Kurtz) the more the imagery (especially the color imagery) really came to life for me.

I hope you give it another shot, however, I definitely understand your reservations.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Heart of Darkness was not a fun trip for me. Nor did I like Billy Budd. Fuel to the fire inside me that says men should not be running the world. Let's let women have a go at it for a while.

Here's my post: http://readerbuzz.blogspot.com/2011/01/required-reading-dont-get-me-started.html

gautami tripathy said...

It is not an easy read but I did like Heart of Darkness on re-reading.

Some books are so difficult to get into. And those put us off that author too, for always.

And my teacher spoiled A Passage to India for me. But I did go back and loved it!

Here is my Literary Blog Hop: Disliked Book post!

Amy said...

Wow, this might turn out to be my favorite blog hop. I have to say that I feel very encouraged by all of you to try it again, and that's all I could want from this. I don't think it's ever useful to discuss something we "hate" just to complain or hear ourselves rant. But you are all using it to help me gain a better perspective, and I appreciate that.

Elizabeth said...

My read was STONEHENGE DECODED...uggh. Did anyone else have to suffer through it?

Stop by my blog if you like to see my full answer...I also have a giveaway that isn't very literary, but check it out.

http://silversolara.blogspot.com

steelsuzette said...

Amy, I hated "Heart of Darkness" too. I read it my junior year of high school, and had a strong visceral reaction to it, and haven't touched it since. But. It has stuck with me. It practically haunts me, but not in a bad way. It's as if the negative shock has worn away over time, leaving me with this unsettling feeling that there was something very profound that I didn't quite catch because the jungle darkness and confusion distracted me. So it is on my list to re-read. :-)