Monday, August 10, 2009

While we're on the subject...

Okay, so last week I blogged about a book I hated. And then I asked you to write a worst first line for this month's contest. Can I get some more thoughts from you on books you don't like?

What books do you hate that other people seem to love? And let's try to skip the popular titles like The DaVinci Code and/or John Grisham novels where, despite their bestsellerdom, I think there is a large and identifiable group of haters out there... is there any book that you hated or didn't "get" (I think these are two separate categories, actually, but I'm super busy today and will have to discuss that more tomorrow) where you seriously feel like you are the only person on the planet who sees that the book is, in fact, total garbage?

I hate The Great Gatsby. Hate it. I think every single character is irredeemably unlikeable, and I can't imagine why anyone would want to read more than five pages about them. I hated it in high school, tried to read it again as an adult, and couldn't even finish it. I don't care if there's some grand social commentary there -- American Psycho has horrible, selfish, evil characters as part of a social commentary construct, but I'm not supposed to like them, and that makes a world of difference. In Gatsby, I'm clearly supposed to like, admire, and/or sympathize with these people, and I refuse. I find them detestable. And I don't think there is anything remotely special about the language of the book. It's boring, and the parts that aren't boring make me angry, because these people are vile and don't deserve the attention they're getting.

How about you? What classic novel or critically acclaimed book is one that you can't stand?


  1. I hated The Unbearable Lightness of Being, of Milan Kundera. Too much forced intellectuality and lack of profound honesty, I thought.

  2. Love in the Time of Cholera. Awful, awful, offensive, awful.

  3. Two that I was forced to read in school come immediately to mind:

    The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne


    Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

    also thought I like everything else I read by Toni Morrison, I found The Bluest Eye to be nearly unreadable.

  4. Blindness, by Jose Saramago. Ugh. I know it's supposed to be this work of genius, and it was made into a movie that is supposed to be great (I reserve judgment on the movie, since I have not seen it), but I could not get through this book. The sentences are too long, the paragraphs are too long, and the dialogue is buried between commas instead of quotations.

    I have no real issue with experimenting with structure, but it needs to be readable. And I don't think this was. Too bad, because the concept is good. I think I'm alone in hating this book, but I stand by my BLECH.

    -Lisa P. (Carrie, for whatever reason, whenever I try anything else, like signing into AOL account to use the AIM name, for example, some error occurs...and I don't have a URL so the Name/URL also won't let me through...)

  5. (I'm testing the Name/URL option, which shouldn't actually require an URL...)

    I haven't tried to read Blindness, but my husband and I quit watching the movie after only a few minutes in... although I think we'll try it again eventually.

    There are a NUMBER of books that I've been unable to read because of experimental structure. Or because of heavy-handed, literally-transcribed dialect... Trainspotting, I'm looking at you! It's like a whole book full of Hagrids.

  6. Okay, that worked fine for me. Lisa, I officially have no idea why my blog hates you. I'm very sorry.

  7. Yes, I also can't handle too much literally transcribed dialect. It's distracting.

    (Now I'm experimenting again with the submission)

  8. Sorry to pepper this thread, but apparently I can't directly post a comment under anything but Anonymous. However, I *can* Preview and then post. How strange.

  9. Yay, we have a solution!

    Amy, I just read your post on "Cholera", which I have not read. And now I never will. EW.

  10. 'To Kill a Mockingbird' ... I'm a terrible person, I know. But seriously... *snoooore* Also 'The Stone Angel' by Margaret Lawrence. I actually told my distance ed instructor that afer reading it, I wanted to rip out its pages and burn it. She wrote back "thank you for your honest opinion"...

  11. "A Farewell to Arms" by Ernest Hemingway.

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! Boring.

  12. DING DING DING! I knew someone would eventually mention Hemingway. Awesome.

    (I, of course, love Hemingway, and A Farewell to Arms in particular.)

  13. I'm probably not alone on this but I hated beyond belief both The Scarlet Letter and Lolita (although for different reasons.) Both of which I picked up to read on my own and forced myself to finish.
    The Scarlet Letter was so dragging and dumb, although I was in high school when I read it, which may have had something to do with it. It was on the recommended reading list for my English class though, so maybe not.
    Before I read Lolita I read Reading Lolita in Tehran, which I loved. But it references Lolita a lot (duh) and I thought it might improve my, already huge, like of Reading Lolita. It did not and I HATED it. It was written from the point of view of the bad guy as if he didn't realize what he was doing was wrong (and well) but I couldn't stand that point of view. I recognize how hard it is to write a book sympathetic to the bad guy and can respect it for that, even though I hate it.

  14. I loathed "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis. I read it for a class where the professor let students put it down if the couldn't handle the violence. I made it through the first murder just to prove a point, but then I put it down for a totally different reason.

    It was very, very boring. A two page list about what designers each character wears is boring. Honestly even the violence was boring, although its possible that I'd reached a point where I was so dulled by its relentless, meaningless lists of labels that I started to snooze as soon as the book was opened.

    And the big concept that being shallow and unconcerned about other people's feelings is a bit like being a serial killer... yeah, no its not Bret! The bloody axe in someone's hand makes a big difference.

    15 years later and I'm still angry about the hours wasted reading it. Its just that boring.

  15. Well, I'm sure I'm the only one who things this because people rave on and on and on and on...about how it tapped into their inner thoughts and teen angst, blah blah blah. BUT, Catcher in the Rye SO did not do it for me in high school. I'll have to try it again as an adult to see if it means more to me now. I think I was pretty mainstream and had a good life, so the struggle just seemed stupid to me.

    That or I'm dumb, which is what I figured at the time.

  16. I rather dislike Pudd'nHead Wilson and I hated Bartleby, the Scrivener (though I guess Bartleby is a short story).

    I rather dislike Mark Twain in general. He's too smug.

    I also don't like A Room of One's Own.

  17. I might have mentioned this book before on your blog, but I fell asleep in the middle of 'Fishing for Stars' by Bryce Courtenay. I happen to love all his other works, but this one had a middle more sagging then some old woman's belly. I just got lost. Then bored, and then decided it wouldn't be a crime if I skipped half of it. The beginning and endings were okay. But seriously, how many rabbit holes can an author duck down before his readers wonder where the hell he has gone, AGAIN, and what possible relevance to the story this new rabbit hole could be. Sorry for all those who love the book, I got over the stars and the fishing and the whole dang thing!

  18. Tandia by Bryce Courtney was just a horrible book. After The Power of One I was expecting something epic and awesome and it was just... well...suck.

    The Lovely Bones was beautifully written and amazingly boring.

    Can I mention Twilight? Or does that count as hated enough?

  19. Vacuum Queen, you beat me to the punch! I detested Catcher in the Rye. Whine, whine, whine was all I got out of it. And anything by Bret Easton Ellis. Blech. Was not a Gatsby fan, either, which was heresy in my hometown of Montgomery, AL, since Zelda was from there.

    I've also had a very hard time reading anything endorsed by Oprah. Not so much that I seek or avoid Oprah books, but more than one have been passed along by a friend. I find them all preachy. I read to enjoy myself. If I want to develop character I'll go work at a soup kitchen, thanks.

  20. Interesting question! I'm not sure I hated any, though I'll agree that THe Great Gatsby left me shaking my head in puzzlement. I just didn't get it. Also, I wanted to like Catcher in the Rye but ended up being unmoved.
    That's the most I can think of right now. I haven't hated any so much as I've been bored by them.

  21. In terms of new & popular books - a friend of mine knows my love of chick lit, and highly recommended Sophie Kinsella's books. I bought one of them and got 76 pages in before I just gave it it up altogether.
    Flaky, twitty protagonists really tick me off.

    And I totally agree with The Great Gatsby. Reading it was work! Though I'll probably be scorned for this, I felt the same way about Pride & Predjudice.

  22. Th Red Badge of Courage. Leaves me cold.

  23. Haha, well this is what I get for not reading your posts in chronological order. Glad I'm not the only Gatsby skeptic.