Monday, June 23, 2008

You hate that book - but why?

There's a veritable feast of critic's names featuring in this article in yesterday's Sunday Times. They were asked what their most hated book was and why. The answers are interesting in that they highlight the usual considerations: good or bad writing, style and length, and genuine entertainment; as well as more personal ones.

For example, Bryan Appleyard isn't that keen on Henry James' 'The Awkward Age,' saying that although the behemoth of critics, F.R. Leavis might have loved it, it didn't mean that he had to and besides, 'Leavis was mad.' Good on ya, Brian, I often thought that meself.

I remember reading 'The Portrait of a Lady,' or rather wading through all the accumulated clauses, sub-clauses and gluts of psychological description and wondering if I was ever going to get to the end of it. Mind you, there was a good reason for me having to wade through it: it was part of my 19thc literature course.

Funny thing was, by the end of the course and the book, I had learned to love it - the slowness, the deliberation and the really rounded characters (plus I sped-read past the boring bits). The 19thc is a foreign land to us here in the 21stc - they did things differently then and probably didn't have a remote control to flip between things when they got bored. They even did bored differently. They called it 'ennui.'

So, I'm sure there must be books that you detest - why don't you tell me what they are, and why!

13 comments:

belle said...

Lord of the Flies - because it's terrifying

Colin Will said...

The list of Books I Have Started But Not Finished would be a terrifyingly long one, but to be frank, I've forgotten most of them. Maybe Joseph Heller's Something Happened - such a dissy after Catch 22. I read the first few pages and realised I knew how it was going to end, and that I didn't even care much how he was going to get there.

riverwillow said...

Perfume, its one I couldn't actually finish. I know so many people that love and adore this book that I have promised to re-read it at some point. Atonement, because its so overwritten and, like Henry James, I can read McEwan becoming so entranced by his own cleverness and I could go on and on ... but I won't

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Me, Henry James.
I had to read ALL his novels compulsorily at the Aglo-American course in Ca'Foscari Venice in the middle seventies, the main teacher there had been spending his whole life on H.James's work.
I only liked "The Turn of the Screw", the others were so boring I could die. I remember one "The Ambassadors", after rereading the start three times because I couldn't concentrate on it, I lost it in a motor boat and never bought it again...
I liked the Turn of the Screw being helped by a film based on it with Deborah Kerr...
Best wishes, Davide

Dick said...

Anything by Martin Amis. Slick, smug, clever and empty. Unlike Dad's 'Lucky Jim', which is possibly the funniest book in the English language.

john.g. said...

Anything by Shakespear because we were forced to read it at school! That is not the way to do things.

Kay said...

Ha! Ummm I don't know whether to confess this or not, but I'm also not too keen on Shakespeare - okay, so kill me! :) And Wordsworth is a little too .... twee? Flowery? (Oops, I'm in trouble now!)

apprentice said...

I'm with Riverwillow on Antonement, I've tried to read it twice, once on a post chemo steriod high when normally I could demolish a book in a day, and just hated it. Maybe it's my inverted snobbery but I really didn't like or care about the characters.

A S Byatt also sometimes feels like she's parading her knowledge before you.

And Carol Shields' Unless, I just couldn't buy the plot on the daughter at all.

Also agree with Dick about Martin Amis

belle said...

psst Competition and party over at mine!

Jon M said...

Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer...sorry read the first book and it struck me as a series of miniadventures sandwiched between little history lectures...maybe the next two books improved...

BarbaraS said...

Thanks very much everyone. It's been interesting reading what people have disliked and their reasons for that dislike. Taste is such a personal thing, at the end of the day!

Emerging Writer said...

Wuthering Heights - crap English school teacher and Kate Bush. overdone extreme emotions. Give me stiff upper lip a la Jane Austen anyday

BarbaraS said...

Ah the Brontes - they have a lot to answer for sometimes! Thanks EW :)