1. And... we're back. You'll notice that all of your images are back as well, as are our beloved emoticons, including the infamous :foo: We have also worked with our server folks and developers to fix the issues that were slowing down the site.

    There is still work to be done - the images in existing sigs are not yet linked, for example, and we are working on a way to get the images to load faster - which will improve the performance of the site, especially on the pages with a ton of images, and we will continue to work diligently on that and keep you updated.

    Cheers,

    Fok on behalf of the entire Styleforum team
    Dismiss Notice

Hard to read, the fiction.

Discussion in 'Entertainment, Culture, and Sports' started by denimdestroyedmylife, Mar 12, 2008.

  1. topbroker

    topbroker Senior member

    Messages:
    710
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2006
    Location:
    Changwon, Republic of Korea
    Here are a few titles that no one has mentioned yet.

    These I haven't read all the way through myself, but based on my dipping into them, their reputation for difficulty (because of style, length, philosophy, whatever) is well-deserved:

    Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans
    Marguerite Young, Miss Macintosh My Darling
    William Hope Hodgson, The Night Land
    E.R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros
    Samuel Delany, Dhalgren
    Joseph McElroy, Lookout Cartridge
    D. Keith Mano, Take Five
    John Dos Passos, USA
    William Gass, The Tunnel
    John Barth, Letters
    Gilbert Sorrentino, Mulligan Stew
    Alexander Theroux, Darconville's Cat
    Harold Brodkey, The Runaway Soul
    Gil Orlovitz, Milkbottle H
    Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
    Hermann Broch, The Death of Virgil

    These I have read, and they are also challenging:

    Robert Coover, The Public Burning
    William Gass, Omensetter's Luck
    David Lindsay, A Voyage to Arcturus
    John Barth, Giles Goat-Boy
    Jan Potocki, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa
     
  2. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    16,118
    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2005
    Location:
    Tombstone
    I tried reading Moby Dick twice and never even got through to the point when the boat left, probably the only book I've never finished.

    My favorite book. But it's not about narrative, really, so much as a meditation on, well, everything. Best to get a good annotated edition and savor it like a fine meal. The goal isn't to get "full," but to enjoy the experience.

    It's also fun to read some of the crazier passages out loud. Ahab's very quotable:

    "I'll chase him 'round Good Hope, and 'round the Horn, and 'round the Norway maelstrom, and 'round perdition's flames before I give him up! And this is what ye have shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of Earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out. What say ye, men, will ye splice hands on it, now?"
     
  3. Tokyo Slim

    Tokyo Slim Senior member

    Messages:
    19,179
    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    Location:
    Where Eagles Dare!
    Plus, Queequeg is a badass.
     
  4. eg1

    eg1 Senior member

    Messages:
    5,601
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Location:
    Burlington, ON
    If that wasn't your cup of tea, I'd avoid the rest of Pynchon's stuff. Vineland is about as linear as he gets.

    Yeah, and at least The Crying of Lot 49 was short, unlike the rest of them. I notice that Pynchon is not getting a lot of love on this thread, eh? [​IMG]

    I tried reading Moby Dick twice and never even got through to the point when the boat left, probably the only book I've never finished.

    I forced my way through that one on the advice of a colleague. It was meh. [​IMG]
     
  5. Baron

    Baron Senior member Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    7,190
    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2004
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Once Nabokov came along, that stopped being an excuse for ANYONE writing in his(/her) second language.

    I'd say Conrad and Beckett beat Vlade to the punch on this.
     
  6. lawyerdad

    lawyerdad Senior member

    Messages:
    21,816
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2006
    The mountain-climbing metaphor is apt. I felt just exactly that way as I got closer to the end of William Gaddis's 1000 pages + The Recognitions -- like I had no oxygen left. I haven't had the nerve to tackle JR yet, although I'm sure I will do so eventually.

    Do. And it's very much a "pour yourself in" book. I enjoyed JR and Frolic much more than Recognitions.
     
  7. lawyerdad

    lawyerdad Senior member

    Messages:
    21,816
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2006
    I'd say Conrad and Beckett beat Vlade to the punch on this.

    Good point, although Beckett is sort of a different case. Writing in a second language was a conscious attempt to eschew the kind of verbal laziness that can come with the excessive comfort in writing's in one's native language.
     
  8. Saucemaster

    Saucemaster Senior member

    Messages:
    6,678
    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2006
    Location:
    San Francisco
    I'd say Conrad and Beckett beat Vlade to the punch on this.

    It's the sheer virtuousity of Nabokov's prose that blows me away. I actually like Beckett's prose more than Nabokov's, but since I don't speak or read French, I can't speak to how well he wrote in a second language. Conrad was brilliant, and a great prose stylist, but he doesn't leave my jaw on the floor like Nabokov does. You're right, though, he probably should get top billing on the ESL All Stars list. [​IMG]
     
  9. injung

    injung Senior member

    Messages:
    181
    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2007
    For me, I always finish a book, but my brain kind of goes on auto-pilot at some point if it's boring - I know I've read it, but I completely blank on what the book was about. I think the most extreme case of this was for Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man...I honestly can't remember a single thing about it.
     
  10. romafan

    romafan Senior member

    Messages:
    8,916
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2004
    Location:
    NYC
    As a fan of Italy, have you read Donna Leon, Michael Dibdin, or Gianrico Carofiglio? I read a lot of murder mystery/police procedural stuff for relaxation, and over the past year or two I've been mining the Italian or at least set in Italy vein.

    What about Andrea Camilleri? On a Scottish note, I'm slowly working through to the end of the Rebus stories....

    My favorite book. But it's not about narrative, really, so much as a meditation on, well, everything. Best to get a good annotated edition and savor it like a fine meal. The goal isn't to get "full," but to enjoy the experience.

    It's also fun to read some of the crazier passages out loud. Ahab's very quotable:

    "I'll chase him 'round Good Hope, and 'round the Horn, and 'round the Norway maelstrom, and 'round perdition's flames before I give him up! And this is what ye have shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of Earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out. What say ye, men, will ye splice hands on it, now?"


    Freakin' decent movie, too. I can just hear G. Peck bellowing those words! You speak the truth re: the book - there are enntire chapters that can be skipped and you'll miss nothing of the narrative....

    "The Sound and the Fury" [​IMG]
     
  11. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    41,568
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2002
    Location:
    In Hiding
    I think Proust is not really meant to be read. It is meant to be had on the shelf, for when the beautiful no-make-up-ever wispy blond graduate student comes over, in jeans, t-shirt and lime green cardigan, and she hasn't read it either, but needs to pretend that she has over a bottle (or two) of wine, and you skillfully prevent the conversation from making absolutely obvious your joint igornance, and the rest you trust to luck, and the wine.
     
  12. robin

    robin Senior member

    Messages:
    12,416
    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2006
    I think Proust is not really meant to be read. It is meant to be had on the shelf, for when the beautiful no-make-up-ever wispy blond graduate student comes over, in jeans, t-shirt and lime green cardigan, and she hasn't read it either, but needs to pretend that she has over a bottle (or two) of wine, and you skillfully prevent the conversation from making absolutely obvious your joint igornance, and the rest you trust to luck, and the wine.
    I was waiting for you to add to this thread. You do not disappoint. [​IMG]
     
  13. dopey

    dopey Senior member Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    14,577
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2006
    I think he is already a bottle deep.
     
  14. dusty

    dusty Senior member

    Messages:
    4,859
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2005
    Location:
    ohio
    Fine work Manton.
     
  15. EnglishGent

    EnglishGent Senior member

    Messages:
    629
    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2007
    Location:
    Somewhere in my own mind
    I tried reading War and Peace when I was about 10, made it to the end of chapter 1 and gave up. It's sitting on my shelf ever since and I keep telling myself to try it again.
     
  16. tiger02

    tiger02 Senior member

    Messages:
    3,799
    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
    Location:
    NYC
    I tried reading Moby Dick twice and never even got through to the point when the boat left, probably the only book I've never finished.

    I am so going to get through Moby Dick in the next couple of weeks. Took a couple weeks off but momentum is back, and I think they're about to find the whale. Also just finished another one that's been daunting me for several years, Naked Lunch. Took some...life experience...before I could really dig into it. I think V is going to be the next one on the list, been on my shelf since college and I also loved Crying of Lot 49, and finished and enjoyed Vineland. Foucault's Pendulum was the most rewarding book I've ever finished.

    Haven't yet made it through: Casanova (got to his mid 30s and can no longer relate), any of the Russians, and embarrassingly, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
     
  17. gvibes

    gvibes Senior member

    Messages:
    316
    Joined:
    May 14, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago
    I know there is another well known, highly regarded author that I found unreadable but I must have blocked his or her name out of my mind.
    Pynchon kills me (other than the Crying of Lot 49).
    I thought that was always more of a joke book - are you saying that people actually try to read it?
    I loved Cryptonomicon.
    Dune. I don't understand why it's such a popular science fiction piece when the writing is so horrible.
    Most Fantasy/sci-fi writing is horrible. It's not fiction, but Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid has stumped me about five times.
     
  18. IDirector

    IDirector Senior member

    Messages:
    205
    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2007
    Conrad has a terrible style and I got through it, but hated every moment of it.
     
  19. Fade to Black

    Fade to Black Senior member

    Messages:
    2,798
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2006
    i'm reading William Burroughs' Naked Lunch now and based on how far i've gotten i'd say this is the quintessential 'hard to read' novel. The imagery and descriptive language he uses is nothing short of brilliant though.
     
  20. Journeyman

    Journeyman Senior member

    Messages:
    6,774
    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2005
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    I read a lot of "hard" books whilst at uni - usually whilst sitting in the library instead of studying economics.

    I really enjoyed Burroughs' "The Naked Lunch", and I also enjoyed Conrad, Nabokov, Kozinski, Pynchon, De Lillo and many others.

    I must admit, though, that having really enjoyed "The Crying of Lot 49" and "Vineland", I only got a couple of chapters into "Gravity's Rainbow" before giving it away.

    I never really enjoyed James Joyce, either. Whilst I could intellectually appreciate the verbal games he employed in works such as Finnegan's Wake, I just didn't like his style and found the books quite torturous to read. I haven't managed to finish one of his books yet.
     

Share This Page

Styleforum is proudly sponsored by