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Classics you haven't read......or couldn't get through


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#31 dirac

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 09:35 AM

I loved Tom Jones, every bit of it, but I was reading it at the same time as my husband, to whom I was newly married. :wink: He had to read it while at St. John's College. I think that was the motivation I needed to continue with the book. Because we were talking about it daily, I think it was easier to enjoy.


Greetings, vagansmom, it's good to hear from you. It's true, sometimes circumstances, especially romantic ones :), help. My attempts with Tom Jones took place outside an academic context, and maybe it would have helped if I had been forced to read it through to the end.

#32 dancesmith

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 12:36 PM

I'm pretty obsessive about finishing books I start, but after a number of attempts, I admit I've never made it though Joyce's Ulysses. And I really wanted to like it since I bought my copy at the Trinity College bookstore in Dublin. I just couldn't get into the rambling thing. Maybe it also had something to do with never being excited about The Odyssey, even after a couple of readings. But I have enjoyed Fagles translation of The Iliad very much.

The major classic I've never read is War and Peace. While I certainly didn't hate Anna Karenina, I found it got tiresome in places and have to admit that like Aurora, by the end of it I was sort of ready to shove her under the train myself. I decided that was enough Tolstoy for a while. Maybe someday I'll go back.

In a slightly different category, I think the hardest classic I've read that I still loved was The Brothers Karamazov by Dostovsky.

#33 kfw

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 05:41 PM

I'm pretty obsessive about finishing books I start, but after a number of attempts, I admit I've never made it though Joyce's Ulysses. And I really wanted to like it since I bought my copy at the Trinity College bookstore in Dublin. I just couldn't get into the rambling thing.

Ah, the sentimental impulse. :wink: I didn't read it myself till after visiting Ireland and the Martello Tower where the first chapter is set. Bloom's ramblings aside, it's not a rambling thing once you see what Joyce is doing, but for most of us to begin to understand that, we needs a good commentary. I bought or checked out a half dozen or so.

#34 carbro

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 07:24 PM

But how many have read (or, more challenging, RE-read) Tolsoy's long disquisitions on the meaning of history? I had to do so for a history class -- once! Since then, I flip past all those pages pages until I get back to the fictional characters.

The incredibly long sections on whaling in Moby Dick probably fit into this category as well.

You're allowed to do that? :yahoo: Who knew?

I'm too OCD-ish, must read every word :flowers: , but next time I encounter something that looks boring (I'll start with a paragraph), I'll try the skip-and-flip method. I'm more inclined to reread anything knotty, boring, or not "gotten." I'm getting the sense that it can be counterproductive.

#35 dirac

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 05:50 PM

I'm too OCD-ish, must read every word :( , but next time I encounter something that looks boring (I'll start with a paragraph), I'll try the skip-and-flip method. I'm more inclined to reread anything knotty, boring, or not "gotten." I'm getting the sense that it can be counterproductive.


As somebody said somewhere, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then, the hell with it.

I think that your M.O. is in fact the right way to go, although I don't always follow it myself.

#36 sidwich

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 04:08 PM

Brave sidwich. I wish I'd had similar courage. What did he or she do?


She was pretty cool with it, and took it with a shrug. I still took the exams and had to write on it to a limited extent, but it actually turned out to be one of my best classes. :)

I don't think I ever did particularly well with Dickens, though. I know I had to read "Little Dorrit" in college and I know I must have, but I don't actually remember any of it. ANY OF IT. Strangely enough, my college advisor who I adored was a Dickens scholar, though.

#37 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 04:50 PM

I'm pretty obsessive about finishing books I start, but after a number of attempts, I admit I've never made it though Joyce's Ulysses. And I really wanted to like it since I bought my copy at the Trinity College bookstore in Dublin. I just couldn't get into the rambling thing.

Ah, the sentimental impulse. :) I didn't read it myself till after visiting Ireland and the Martello Tower where the first chapter is set.

Count me in...so we make three.

#38 dirac

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 05:53 PM

I know I had to read "Little Dorrit" in college and I know I must have, but I don't actually remember any of it. ANY OF IT.


I've had that experience. Most unnerving.

I don't have any trouble with Dickens, myself, possibly because when I was in school I attended a summer getaway devoted to Dickens every year - pleasant locale, nice people -- and while I hadn't been a huge fan to begin with I grew to appreciate him.

#39 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 08:23 PM

The two tops of my list are Don Quijote and War and Peace.
Then, there is some Proust, Joyce...and yes, Tom Jones also.

#40 Ostrich

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 04:08 AM

I know I had to read "Little Dorrit" in college and I know I must have, but I don't actually remember any of it. ANY OF IT.


'Little Dorrit' is the one and only Dickens that I couldn't finish - and I gave it my best. Funnily enough, I liked Dickens more when I was younger. I think the black-and-white characterisation didn't bother me as much then.

#41 bart

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 06:24 AM

... and while I hadn't been a huge fan to begin with I grew to appreciate him.

I have to confess that Dickens, of all the novelists mentioned so far, is the one I have never been able to "get." (On the other hand, I can understand his appeal to the Victorians -- British and American -- and why he was something of a superstar as writer and lecturer.)

Dirac, what are the elements of Dickens that attract you most -- and keep you going when you read him. Do you have any advice for those of us who have given up on Dickens?

#42 dirac

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 02:21 PM

I don't have much time today, but briefly, Dickens makes me laugh, and he can also inspire pity and terror. His powers of characterization are as good as anyone's.

#43 sandik

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 08:40 PM

The biggest heresy though is "Diary of Anne Frank." We had to read it in school and I admit after awhile I just used the Cliff Notes.


This made me giggle and twitch -- when I was in high school I was quite sick for a few months and did most of my work from home. My English class was reading Jude the Obscure, and the copy I had was one of those bargain school editions with two books bound in the same cover. Jude was paired with Pride and Prejudice, and for me Hardy just couldn't compete. I tried and failed so often with Jude that I finally had someone bring me a copy of the Cliff Notes and I forced myself to read each chapter of the Notes and then of the text, and find every dreary point the Notes brought up.

I read Ivanhoe when I was in junior high school (lots of free time) and liked it a great deal, but I've always been tickled by the comment from one of Vonnegut's characters: "Wuffo I gotta read no Ivanhoe? Wuffo?"

#44 Estelle

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 11:33 PM

Some of the monuments have had their day. I remember as a child finding around the house a book entitled something like The Hundred Greatest Novels. Eaach was summarized in quite some detail. Most were long and turgid books from the 19th century. Flaubert's Salammbo was one I remember. Another was Eugene Sue's Wandering Jew. I doubt that many of them are considered great by experts today.


Oh, I wouldn't have expected Sue's "Wandering Jew" to be in such a list ! :icon8:

I read it as a teen-ager and had found it very entertaining, as well as "Les mystères de Paris", but as other Sue books, it's a strange mix of melodrama and politics (just in the middle of sad stories of abandoned young women, orphans or starving works, wham, long paragraphes against death penalty or reforms of jails or independence of women...) If I remember correctly, most of his books were banned by the Catholic church for decades (well, the villain in "The Wandering Jew" is a Jesuit monk who is absolutely devilish, and kills dozens of people in order to finally become the head of the Jesuits and then the pope...)

I've never even tried "Salammbo"...

I had to read two Zola books when I was in junior high school and high school ("Germinal", which I unfortunately studied twice at school, and "La Curée") and I disliked it enough so that I never tried another one. I don't have a fond memory of Balzac's "La Peau de chagrin" (studied at school too) and admit I read almost nothing else from him.

On the other hand, I really loved "Great expectations", "David Copperfield", "Oliver Twist", "A tale of two cities" and "Hard times" when I read it as a teen-ager (but have started at least three times "Martin Chuzzlewit" later and never finished it...)

#45 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 06:47 AM

I had to read two Zola books when I was in junior high school and high school ("Germinal", which I unfortunately studied twice at school, and "La Curée") and I disliked it enough so that I never tried another one. I don't have a fond memory of Balzac's "La Peau de chagrin" (studied at school too) and admit I read almost nothing else from him.

On the other hand, I really loved "Great expectations", "David Copperfield", "Oliver Twist", "A tale of two cities" and "Hard times" when I read it as a teen-ager (but have started at least three times "Martin Chuzzlewit" later and never finished it...)


Interesting...I, on the other side, absolutely ADORED all of Zola's books, and devoured everything I found of him. including Germinal. Other favorites i found fascinating during my teen years were Stendhal and Balzac, both of whom i also extensively went trough. On the other side, i didn't find Dickens that appealing back then, so i basically flipped trough his works...


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