Thursday, October 02, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Worst of the Best

This week's BTT topic:
What, in your opinion, is the best book that you haven’t liked? Mind you, I don’t mean your most-hated book–oh, no. I mean the most accomplished, skilled, well-written, impressive book that you just simply didn’t like.
Like, for movies–I can acknowledge that Citizen Kane is a tour de force and is all sorts of wonderful, cinematically speaking, but . . . I just don’t like it. I find it impressive and quite an accomplishment, but it’s not my cup of tea.
So . . . what book (or books) is your Citizen Kane?
Gee, this is a lot easier than I’d really like it to be. I can think of so many “great” books that I just don’t care for – it’s almost scary. But then I’ve never minded admitting that I’m a philistine, so here goes.

I guess if I had to pick just one book (and I think I’ve already blogged about this recently), it would have to be James Joyce’s Ulysses. Or possibly James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I didn’t care for either of those, although I recognize the artistry. I read Ulysses for a college English class and I’m glad now that I was forced to finish it. But at the time, it was really a struggle. And Portrait of the Artist I read because it’s one of my husband’s favorites and he kept recommending it. No accounting for taste, I guess.

Then there’s Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. But I suppose that wouldn’t really count because I’ve never actually managed to read it. I know, I know – everybody tells me it was post-modern before there was a modern for it to be post-. I’ve tried many times to get through it, but always give up somewhere around page 10. Just not my cuppa. But maybe someday something will snap and I’ll be able to zip right through it and love it. Stranger things have happened.

One I'm really embarrassed about (because, in general, Hawthorne is one of my favorite authors) is The Scarlet Letter. I know it's considered to be his masterpiece, but I just think it's an abominable book. The House of the Seven Gables is much more readable. Had to read The Scarlet Letter in high school and by the end of the term, my copy was in shreds from being thrown across the room. I think I actually dropped it in a toilet at one point. Appropriate.

And then, of course, there’s Faulkner. And this is something I really hate to admit, having lived in the South most of my life. But I’ve never really enjoyed Faulkner. Too gothic. Too much testosterone. Too much something. I don’t know what it is, but it’s just too much for me. OK, The Reivers wasn’t too bad, but that may just be because I was thinking of Steve McQueen in the movie the whole time I was reading it.

Which brings us back to movies. And “Citizen Kane.” How can you not love “Citizen Kane”?


  1. That picture of Faulkner says it all, doesn't it? Just look at those eyes daring you to read his stuff.

  2. I managed not to drop Hawthorne in the toilet...but it came *this* close!

  3. I was forced to finish Ulysses in college as well, but I just couldn't like it despite the artistry.

    I read through The Scarlet Letter but I just didn't like the story or the premise. I don't like Franny and Zooey and it was a mistake to have read it thinking I have liked The Catcher in the Rye.

    For the BTT I just picked two other books that sprang to my mind.

  4. I couldn't use Faulkner this week, because I HATED As I Lay Dying. I hate Faulkner by association. Yuck!

    I read half of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I didn't not like it, but I was yawning a little.

  5. I've managed to not read all of your choices (except for The Scarlet Letter...but I was in 10th grade at the time).

    I've also never seen Citizen Kane (scandalous, I know).

  6. I haven't read any of these, so maybe I won't bother. I do have Ulysses though, and I will give that one a go.

    I've never seen Citizen Kane either.

  7. I've only read Scarlet Letter from your list, and I agree *blech*. I prefer House of Seven Gables or Rappaccini's Daughter. They are so much better in my opinion.

  8. I want to add a pitch for Hawthorne's The Marble Faun, which I haven't read since high school, but thought then that it was his best novel. Of course, I also liked Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and most of Faulkner. The book I've never been able to get through, and I'm sure this is my failing, is Proust's Swann's Way. It sounds great when Anthony Powell or someone else describes it, but I just never can get up any momentum.

  9. I've only read The Scarlet Letter from your list. I struggled with it but in the end was glad I read it (and re-read it again last year.)

    I've never watched Citizen Kane either.


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