Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Boring Books

In response to Lindsey's latest post, asking the question whether or not there are certain books I feel pressure to enjoy because they are considered "classics" or because they are "best-sellers" but simply can't find it in myself to read:

I, too, find it difficult to get into A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. I started it, got a couple of chapters in, and just couldn't keep it going. It's so boring - at least in the beginning it is, and that's the part that needs to capture you. I figured if it started out this boring, it simply didn't deserve all the hype it received, and set it aside, never to pick it up again.

Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse. I started it in the fifth grade. Having read and liked some of Hesse's previous writings, and this particular book being on the recommended reading list for my grade - it was an award-winning book - I totally expected to enjoy it thoroughly. Ya know, I give books a pretty good run before I'll set them down. (I also have a rule that if I'm at least three-quarters of my way through the book, it has to turn pretty far down hill for me to not finish it.) I was probably a good third of my way through, when it just became too dry for me to finish. It was dusty alright, but nothing good was coming from it. I have since thought that perhaps I would pick it back up, but every time I see it in a library, I just find myself not attracted in the least sense of the word.

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I attribute this mainly to my lack of understanding. I started this book I think my freshman year of high school - it might have been 8th grade - and that's a pretty young age for anyone, even a well-read person like myself, to be delving into the dark and obviously troubled mind of Dostoevsky. If there's one thing I know about Eastern Europeans, it's that they don't do anything without a severe amount of passion; everything from their drinking to their writing is done with every fiber of their being. (The one excuse may be made for a few certain co-workers of mine, who felt that work required no passion, and therefore they got minimal hours.) I felt bad for setting this book down, but it was just too much for me. Maybe I'll give it another try - I'll probably have to for school some time soon anyway. My critiquing will be more accurate then.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Okay, these books are honestly, amazing. The highly detailed imagination that went into creating the world of Middle Earth, the creatures within it, and the languages that were involved is, in a word, baffling. They even include my all-time favorite, most-beloved character in all of literature, aside from Christ, Samwise Gamgee. But, unless you are big into literature, particularly of that time, or are interested in analyzing writing styles of early-1900's authors (call me weird, I like that stuff), than really I don't see any reason for you to read these books. Tolkien, as excellent a writer as he is, does tend to draw things out a little too long. This makes certain chapters long and dry. And although I don't normally suggest movies in place of books, I make this the exception. Peter Jackson followed the books very carefully, and quite frankly, the story is easier to watch than to read. You get the same feeling for the characters as you do from the books (the casting job was phenomenal), and the message, albeit not intended by Tolkien, is still there.

10 comments:

ave said...

I could never get into the Lord of the Rings until I listened to them on tape. The BBC does an awesome dramatized version of it on CD. I will forever love the movies, I think they are incredible and should have had more attention from the "Academy" people.

Mallory said...

Amen to that! I really don't know why they were ignored so. I have never been into books on tape. I need to feel it. Even when I have just a short talk or story I have to read online, I usually print it out.

kyledawn said...

3 things:
1. i love a tale of two cities. it definitely deserves the hype. i don't remember if it was hard to get into because i'm sure i read it because i had to, but the genius of the first paragraph is not to be overlooked plus it has an amazing ending. honestly, this is the one book i was assigned in high school that i still remember, think about randomly and love.
2. i admit the lord of the rings trilogy is dry at times but i loved it so so much that it was definitely worth getting through. the hobbit on the other hand, i never got into and only pushed myself through it so i could read the trilogy.
3. i didn't think i would like books on tape at all until my parents gave me the entire chronicles of narnia on cd this christmas. i listened to them as i drove across the country and it was totally awesome! now, i don't know if i would get into books on tape if i weren't going to be in the car for 5-10 hours at a time...

Mallory said...

Yeah, I must admit that if I were going to be driving that much at a time, I wouldn't mind a book on tape. I too loved the books of the Lord of the Rings, but like I said, I can totally understand why many people simply watch the movies and forget the books. A Tale of Two Cities - no. Sorry. I mean, I'm glad you like it so much, but I simply don't think it's that interesting and I don't really care for his writing style, at least not in this particular case. But that's just me.

Auntie Lee said...

I read Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was in high school and loved them. I think because I was sick and had to stay in bed for a week so I had nothing else to do. Once I got into them I couldn't put them down. I did have a hard time with the Cronicles of Narnia. I love Dostojevski but I only started reading him as an adult so I think that makes a difference.

Calandria said...

thanks for posting on this, Mal! Do you like other Dickens books? I really do, which is why I'm always suprised I do not like Tale of 2 Cities. I liked Brothers Karamazov but haven't tried Crime and Punishment.

I really like Lord of the Rings but yes, there are some dry parts for sure. The writing is not great by modern standards, but the world he created was/is amazing.

Auntie Lee said...

You know all of Dicken's books were written in serial form in magazines. There has been a lot of research done in the effect this has in the pleasure factor and popularity of books. The idea was to leave it as a cliff hanger every time. You can find which parts were printed when on the net. Maybe if you read Tale of Two Cities a chapter at a time then leave it a week it will be easier.
My favorite Dickens is Hard Times. I like the satirical comments on education, family, and philosophy of 19th century England.

Mallory said...

Yeah, the only problem with reading it a chapter at a time, is that after the first few chapters I never go back to pick it up again. I've tried the one-chapter-at-a-time thing, and it just doesn't work for me.

Auntie Lee said...

Bummer!

Calandria said...

i love hard times, too!