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paintybeard

Unreadable fiction

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Does anyone else find that there are well-known works of fiction that they just CANNOT read?

 

I pride myself on reading quite a lot of books and having at least a passing familiarity with most of the major works of English literature. I've even managed to stumble through some of James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon.

 

However there are a couple of books that I find I just cannot get through: "Gormenghast" by Mervyn Peake and "Moby Dick" by Melville. I've started each book at least four times, but on each occasion I get about a hundred pages in and just grind to a halt; can't face reading another sentence and put the book down. It's not that I think they are badly written, or even that the subject matter is uninteresting. I just seem to hit a wall with these particular titles. And I know it's not the author as I've read both "Mr Pye" and "Billy Budd" with no problems.

 

Do any of you have "good" books that defeat you, despite repeated attempts to read them?  

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Oh, yeah, I can't read Moby Dick either. Or, well, if I need to sleep it's a good way to accomplish that. 

 

Also Crime and Punishment. It was excessively bleak. 

 

Somehow, I was able to get through One Hundred Years of Solitude, though I consider it a collasal waste of time. I don't recommend it. 

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Hemmingway.  Frank Herbert.  Asmiov.  David Drake.   I'm sure there are more, but that is what comes to mind. 

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14 minutes ago, TheAuldGrump said:

Anything by Ayn Rand....

 

I swear, I have never felt more like burning a book.

 

The Auld Grump

 

Not sure that I think of Ayn Rands works as fiction.

 

Just examples of the mis-use of philosophy.

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30 minutes ago, Inarah said:

Hemmingway.  Frank Herbert.  Asmiov.  David Drake.   I'm sure there are more, but that is what comes to mind. 

Oof! With the exception of Drake, you've named three of my favorites! :poke:

 

... Although I will say both Asimov and Herbert can get veeeeery deep in the weeds. I actually came very close to putting Asimov's Pebble in the Sky series down.

 

I know there are some books I'll never read a second time... Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time comes to mind, as does Martin's ASoIaF. But I think the only things I've put down and not picked up again are all... Less than "good" quality.

 

I really enjoy Steinbeck, but only in a certain mood. If I'm not feeling it, I can't read him. Does that count?

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2 minutes ago, Sanael said:

 

I really enjoy Steinbeck, but only in a certain mood. If I'm not feeling it, I can't read him. Does that count?

 

It certainly does count, and I know what you mean. (I feel the same way about Hemmingway.)

 

Do you think that knowing about a writers private life affects your reactions to their books? (And is this, somehow, cheating?)

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Around here I'll probably get a lot of flak for this, but I get flak for it everywhere else too.

 

Tolkien.

 

Yes. That Tolkien.

 

The prose is wonderful. The man was an English professor at Oxford, so you'd expect he'd have a command of the language. And he builds a wonderful, rich, and storied world. There's no denying that.

 

But he's unreadable to me because of it. There's too many forays into stuff that I don't care about, and it kills the pacing of the book. He'll spend what feels like an eternity setting a scene, only for that scene to be "and then they sat down and ate lunch among the trees." Yes, learning that "the forest was created when Gonvalinon the Innumerable planted the seed of the Tree of Fulfilled Life into the fields of Mustershire, and then he nurtured it for 40 years until it bloomed forth with the ancestors of every plant in the forest, which I will now name in chronological order..." helps establish the world, but it has no real bearing on the story. The story would still work fine if we didn't know the history of this particular forest where they decided to eat lunch. Just tell us that they found a clearing and they ate lunch. They're going to be in this forest once, they'll never return to it, and it will have no bearing on the future plot.

 

And yes, I know I'm exaggerating, but it's not much of a stretch. I will never, ever attempt to read the Silmarillion because of this. I don't think it was never meant to be published as a novel. It was his personal world book. I think it was what he wrote to establish the setting for himself and lay a coherent base to his world. So it would be everything that I hate about his writing. It's like a D&D campaign bible that a DM writes - It's got all the stuff in there to make things fun and exciting - politics, history, religion - but it's meant to be used as a reference and not read as a book.

 

The Hobbit is the only book of his that I actually plowed through. I think I finished it in about 3 days when I was in eighth grade. When I tried to do Fellowship it took me about a month. Towers took me 6. Return took me almost 2 years. I've tried to go back to them since, thinking that maybe it was a case of being too young and having poor taste then, but I can't do it. I get a couple chapters in and I stop caring again.

 

 

A Song of Ice and Fire is sort of the same way, except in Martin's case he just jumps around too much and you lose track of who's who and what's what.

Edited by Unruly
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Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey. I couldn't get interested in McCaffrey's style or characters, and Lackey wrote about frilly dresses and disappointment. 

 

Tad Williams. He can't even write half a female character. If they exist, they may as well be a talking box.

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My first try of reading the Lord of the Rings was back in elementary school when I had the flu (and already read all my more age appropriate books). I dragged myself all the way through the swamp parts with Frodo and Sam, but when they got caught and dragged back by Faramir, I stopped. I was afraid he would do the swamp bit all over again.

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3 hours ago, Unruly said:

Tolkien.

 

Yes. That Tolkien.

 

The prose is wonderful. The man was an English professor at Oxford, so you'd expect he'd have a command of the language. And he builds a wonderful, rich, and storied world. There's no denying that.

 

But he's unreadable to me because of it. There's too many forays into stuff that I don't care about, and it kills the pacing of the book. He'll spend what feels like an eternity setting a scene, only for that scene to be "and then they sat down and ate lunch among the trees." Yes, learning that "the forest was created when Gonvalinon the Innumerable planted the seed of the Tree of Fulfilled Life into the fields of Mustershire, and then he nurtured it for 40 years until it bloomed forth with the ancestors of every plant in the forest, which I will now name in chronological order..." helps establish the world, but it has no real bearing on the story. The story would still work fine if we didn't know the history of this particular forest where they decided to eat lunch. Just tell us that they found a clearing and they ate lunch. They're going to be in this forest once, they'll never return to it, and it will have no bearing on the future plot.

 

And yes, I know I'm exaggerating, but it's not much of a stretch. I will never, ever attempt to read the Silmarillion because of this. I don't think it was never meant to be published as a novel. It was his personal world book. I think it was what he wrote to establish the setting for himself and lay a coherent base to his world. So it would be everything that I hate about his writing. It's like a D&D campaign bible that a DM writes - It's got all the stuff in there to make things fun and exciting - politics, history, religion - but it's meant to be used as a reference and not read as a book.

 

The Hobbit is the only book of his that I actually plowed through. I think I finished it in about 3 days when I was in eighth grade. When I tried to do Fellowship it took me about a month. Towers took me 6. Return took me almost 2 years. I've tried to go back to them since, thinking that maybe it was a case of being too young and having poor taste then, but I can't do it. I get a couple chapters in and I stop caring again.

 

 

I find LotR very readable and have gone cover-to-cover four times.

BUT, considering the author meant it to be new mythology far too much of it sounds like a romanticized 1930's Middle England.

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It happens, I love most books written by Tanith Lee, but once I had a copy of Delirium's Mistress and I got so confused about it all I stopped reading it.

 

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Robert heinlein. I've only ever been able to get through one of his books and I didn't find it very good at all. I don't even remember which one it is. 

 

5 hours ago, paintybeard said:

Do you think that knowing about a writers private life affects your reactions to their books? (And is this, somehow, cheating?)

Sometimes. If I find out about something later it will certainly reduce my desire to read more or read it again. And some things I don't read simply because of who wrote it. Like, I know all I need to know Fredrick Nietzsche. Dude was scum and his books wouldn't even make good mulch.

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Managed to force myself thru "Good Omens", but it was such a hard drag and I came out of it bewildered on why anyone would think it was remotely good. LotR was a lost cause, and I couldn't even get thru it. Had to skip a lot, reading the opening of every other page or so. War and Peace was done for a high school book report, but I wound up halfway thru with no chance of finishing so I only read the chapter titles and called it done. Got an A on it, so I don't think I missed much.

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50 minutes ago, redambrosia said:

Robert heinlein. I've only ever been able to get through one of his books and I didn't find it very good at all. I don't even remember which one it is. 

 

 

Not keen on the pseudo-fascism of a lot of his novels either. But "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" is a great little novella.

 

11 minutes ago, Pegazus said:

 War and Peace was done for a high school book report, but I wound up halfway thru with no chance of finishing so I only read the chapter titles and called it done. Got an A on it, so I don't think I missed much.

 

I fought my way through "War and Peace" too, On the whole I quite liked it. Except for the last 50 pages of depressing Russian Mysticism, where Tolstoy tells you that everything in life is futile and pointless... so why did he write the bleeping book then?

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