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Book Related Banter > What has been your most challenging read?

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message 1: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Now, I have not read Ulysses. I have not read Finnegan's Wake. I have not read any Proust. With that in mind, my two most challenging (but rewarding) reads have been:
1. The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch - stunningly artistic writing, but so complex I was often befuddled.
2. The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil - an experimental Novel that seemed plotless.
Be honest - what reads had you scratching your head?


message 2: by Rivera (new)

Rivera Sun | 7 comments Mourior by Breyten Beytenbach. It is also experimental, and I am still working on engaging with it. Part of me is glad these books are published, just to expand the mind. Another part of me scratches my head and wonders. Chaucer comes to mind as slightly impenetrable for me, too.


message 3: by Joel (last edited Sep 09, 2012 12:22PM) (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Rivera wrote: "Mourior by Breyten Beytenbach. It is also experimental, and I am still working on engaging with it. Part of me is glad these books are published, just to expand the mind. Another part of me scra..."

That made me laugh. I think for the most part I have avoided the "impenetrable" writers. And yes, you can certainly include Chaucer in that category.


message 4: by Dee (new)

Dee | 2 comments I just can't get into The Wheel of Time series or JRR Tolkien's writing and I've tried so hard! It's too tedious and descriptive for me but hey, I probably don't get it!


message 5: by Jessika (new)

Jessika (jessikareads) For me, when you say "the most challenging read," the book that immediately comes to mind is Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. It took me about two months to get through. I got through it, though, and I was proud of myself that I did! It was definitely a challenge, though.


message 6: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Dee wrote: "I just can't get into The Wheel of Time series or JRR Tolkien's writing and I've tried so hard! It's too tedious and descriptive for me but hey, I probably don't get it!"

I tried reading Fellowship of the Ring way back in my 20's and only made it halfway through the first book. However, I have read the entire series of Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books and loved them. Go figure.


message 7: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Jess wrote: "For me, when you say "the most challenging read," the book that immediately comes to mind is Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. It took me about two months to get through. I got through it, though, and ..."

Well, Moby Dick, yes. Jess, I am 62 and still have not tackled that one ... in comic book, yes ... but not the real thing. And I am not afraid ... I made it through War and Peace and Don Quixote ... just cannot get myself to get past: "Call me Ishmael." Okay, next time.


message 8: by Jessika (new)

Jessika (jessikareads) Joel R. wrote: "Jess wrote: "For me, when you say "the most challenging read," the book that immediately comes to mind is Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. It took me about two months to get through. I got through it,..."

Life is too short! I'm usually the type to give up on a book that I'm not really into, but I got to the point with Moby Dick where I thought, y'know what? I'm this far into it, I'll be darned if I don't finish it! I'm glad I stuck it out, but it's not a book I would go into again. The sea-faring tales have never really appealed to me anyway.

And you are a far braver soul than I am for tackling War and Peace!


message 9: by Yuliya (new)

Yuliya (Yuliyalovestoread) | 1685 comments Jess! I have the same feelings and struggling about Moby Dick. I made it too, but did not star to this book, because it deserves stars, but I don't want similar book recommendations base on this book, I also not a fun of sea stories...
War and Peace was in my school program, with millions compositions on different topic of this book, so I had to read it back in high school (Russia, of course) I liked a Peace part, but was devastated and bored with was part.....
And recently it was challenging for me to read Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie


message 10: by Karen M (last edited Sep 21, 2012 12:41PM) (new)

Karen M | 1853 comments Didn't make it through Don Quixote and currently I'm going for my record of how long it takes to read one book, namely The Royal Victorians: King Edward Vii, His Family And Friends, 3 months and counting and so close to finishing it's really stupid. Less than an hour or two and I could be done with it but there are so many other books I'm reading that are so much better.


message 11: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Karen M wrote: "Didn't make it through Don Quixote and currently I'm going for my record of how long it takes to read one book, namely The Royal Victorians: King Edward Vii, His Family And Friends, 3 months and co..."

That made me smile. Took me over a year for Don Quixote. Had to take a hiatus before finishing. Also, I think I'll pass on the Royal Victorians book. Someone else can discuss it with you. Any takers?


message 12: by Steph (last edited Sep 24, 2012 09:18AM) (new)

Steph Mulrine (smulrine) I would say that Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs was just too much for me. I was instantly attracted as it had a bit of a notorious history, having been initially banned, but I felt there was almost no plot and it was increasingly graphic in some of its descriptions which I felt added nothing. I definitely want to go back and try it again in the future, but not for a good few years yet!


message 13: by Riley (new)

Riley Dawson I'm in a class this semester called "The Development of Western Cultural Thought" and I'm really struggling through some of the stuff we're reading. Rousseau and Burke, especially, have been really dense and tough to get through.

I keep trying Moby Dick but as soon as I start it something way more exciting comes my way and I stop. Maybe someday....


message 14: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Steph wrote: "I would say that Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs was just too much for me. I was instantly attracted as it had a bit of a notorious history, having been initially banned, but I felt there was a..."

Oh hell Steph ... you oughta see the movie. Talk about "just too much for me"!!! I never even tried the book. I did read The Exterminator (right?) but that was the only one.


message 15: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Riley wrote: "I'm in a class this semester called "The Development of Western Cultural Thought" and I'm really struggling through some of the stuff we're reading. Rousseau and Burke, especially, have been really..."

"something way more exciting comes my way." I could not have put it better myself. And it usually comes my way right after the opening lines.


message 16: by Esther (new)

Esther (eshchory) | 546 comments I realised Moby Dick was too much for me when I couldn't even sit through the adaptation starring Jean-Luc Picard!!


message 17: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Esther wrote: "I realised Moby Dick was too much for me when I couldn't even sit through the adaptation starring Jean-Luc Picard!!"

Ha ha ... I fell asleep during the original Gregory Peck version (1956). Of course, I was only 6 years old and we were at the drive-in. Still, I missed the big scene with the whale.


message 18: by Nikks (new)

Nikks | 19 comments I read Hardys Jude the Obscure. It took me over 2 years to finish it, it wasn't that I didn't enjoy it, because I did, it just didn't hold my interest. There would be 100 pages of description and then a major event would occur, that lasted 2 pages ! I wierdly found that I could put it to one side, read some other stuff and then come back to it and easily pick up the story again. I wouldn't say it was the hardest thing I've ever read, but it certainly took the most time.


message 19: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Nikks wrote: "I read Hardys Jude the Obscure. It took me over 2 years to finish it, it wasn't that I didn't enjoy it, because I did, it just didn't hold my interest. There would be 100 pages of description and t..."

Nikks, looks like we have a reader! Everyone is shaming me with the many classics I have not read. In fact, I don't believe I have read anything by Hardy. Maybe my question was too revealing about my own "misses".


message 20: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (BrynHammond) Joel R. wrote: "...1. The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch - stunningly artistic writing, but so complex I was often befuddled...."

Thanks for the question, anyhow, Joel, as I got intrigued with this one, that I'd never heard of, and it's on its way to me, for my sins.


message 21: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Bryn wrote: "Joel R. wrote: "...1. The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch - stunningly artistic writing, but so complex I was often befuddled...."

Thanks for the question, anyhow, Joel, as I got intrigued with t..."


I hope you will share your thoughts after. The book is most amazing because it is written in 4 parts, 4 styles, each to reflect either water, air, earth, or fire. I've never seen that done, nor accomplished so well. Still, complex.


message 22: by Nikks (last edited Sep 26, 2012 09:39AM) (new)

Nikks | 19 comments Joel R. wrote: "Nikks wrote: "I read Hardys Jude the Obscure. It took me over 2 years to finish it, it wasn't that I didn't enjoy it, because I did, it just didn't hold my interest. There would be 100 pages of des..."
Even though it took me so long to read, the story has stayed with me for years, as many of the classics have. I think that's the sign of a good book. When I am in a bookstore I often pick up something I've read (probably because the cover caught my attention in the first place) and I have to check if I've read it or not. For me, that would never happen with a classic, or a complex book I had to work at. Perhaps its a different sort of investment in the book ? I dont know.


message 23: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Nikks wrote: "Joel R. wrote: "Nikks wrote: "I read Hardys Jude the Obscure. It took me over 2 years to finish it, it wasn't that I didn't enjoy it, because I did, it just didn't hold my interest. There would be ..."

I hate to admit: once I began reading a book a second time within months and did not realize it for 30 pages. I guess Classics are unique for a reason. You are right - you would never do that with a classic. BTW:I did see the movie version with Kate Winslet. What I remember was very dark.


message 24: by Nikks (new)

Nikks | 19 comments Thanks Joel, I hadn't realised there was a movie. I just watched the trailer - looks so depressing, and all about Sue/Kate Winslet as opposed to Jude himself. I dont think I will see the movie. I prefer my memories of it.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (SusannaG) | 1736 comments Most challenging read?

Absalom, Absalom!.

Which I loved and gave five stars, but was a very difficult read.


message 26: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Susanna wrote: "Most challenging read?

Absalom, Absalom!.

Which I loved and gave five stars, but was a very difficult read."


Okay, I admit it everyone. I haven't read anything. Especially not the classics. If you call yourself a reader, how could you not have touched Faulkner? I bet my brother has! His writing style looks like a bi..., sorry, you know.


message 27: by Jessika (new)

Jessika (jessikareads) Oh dear, Faulkner is just not for me. I read Light in August in high school and just could not get through it. I read Go Down, Moses in college and enjoyed it slightly better, but I think the stream-of-consciousness really does me in. I would like to attempt Go Down, Moses again someday, but maybe not just yet.


message 28: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Jess wrote: "Oh dear, Faulkner is just not for me. I read Light in August in high school and just could not get through it. I read Go Down, Moses in college and enjoyed it slightly better, but I think the strea..."

Yeah, maybe not just yet. Maybe later. Someday. Maybe.


message 29: by Jessika (new)

Jessika (jessikareads) Joel R. wrote: "Jess wrote: "Oh dear, Faulkner is just not for me. I read Light in August in high school and just could not get through it. I read Go Down, Moses in college and enjoyed it slightly better, but I th..."

Exactly!


message 30: by Jessie (new)

Jessie Smith (postdesrapides) | 4 comments The Inheritance Quadrology (is that a word?). I was half finished with the third volume, looking forward to the climax, when I found out that there was to be a fouth. I left my bookmark in it and stopped reading it two years ago. I am going to try to finsih that and the fourth volume now that I am over my mad.


message 31: by Venuskitten (new)

Venuskitten | 26 comments I have tried several times to read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and failed every time. I cannot get beyond about page 30. I just can't get into it.


message 32: by Nikks (new)

Nikks | 19 comments Venuskitten wrote: "I have tried several times to read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and failed every time. I cannot get beyond about page 30. I just can't get into it."

Maybe watch the trailer for the movie that is being released, it looks really good. I just bought the book, and am excited to start. It has such mixed reviews, but mostly people say the beginning is hard going.


message 33: by Mercedes (new)

Mercedes (MercysBookishMusings) | 3 comments I've read cloud atlas and it is in my top ten books - I can't recommend it enough. I tried to read it years ago and like you Venuskitten gave up in the first section as I found the writing style hard going and not to my taste. Then last year I saw it sitting on my book shelf and thought i'd give it another go - and god it was worth it! Each section is told in totally contrasting styles so everyone will find at least one they like/love. All I can say is if you can persevere through the first section you won't regret it!!


message 34: by Nikks (new)

Nikks | 19 comments Mercedes wrote: "I've read cloud atlas and it is in my top ten books - I can't recommend it enough. I tried to read it years ago and like you Venuskitten gave up in the first section as I found the writing style ha..."

Now I am even more exceited to read it - I am hoping to share your experience. Will you see the movie Mercedes ?


message 35: by Venuskitten (new)

Venuskitten | 26 comments Mercedes wrote: "I've read cloud atlas and it is in my top ten books - I can't recommend it enough. I tried to read it years ago and like you Venuskitten gave up in the first section as I found the writing style ha..."

Thank you Mercedes and Nikki for your comments.

I think I'll give it another try. It seems that I have to get past the first section.


message 36: by Nikks (new)

Nikks | 19 comments Good luck Venuskitten - hope you enjoy it more this time around :) I am about to start .....


message 37: by Emily (new)

Emily (emilyknap) | 6 comments I went through a phase when I read a lot of classics. The top three hardest for me were War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and The Brothers Karamazov. It took me the longest to read Brothers and that's because I couldn't get into it and got side tracked with other books. My favorite parts of these books were the ones that described russian society and all of the interactions the characters had with each other. Some parts were not very entertaining, like the whole war half of War and Peace...


message 38: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Emily wrote: "I went through a phase when I read a lot of classics. The top three hardest for me were War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and The Brothers Karamazov. It took me the longest to read Brothers and that's ..."

I love the Russian literature, Russian history being my minor in college. The only problem is in the names. Like a minimum of five per character. I have enough trouble remembering individual characters, so reading a Russian novel for me includes five times the number of characters of any other novel. Dostoevsky is always worth the grief though.


message 39: by Brianne (new)

Brianne Silva | 11 comments Finnigan's Wake by far. I got so frustrated with that book that I threw it accross the room!


message 40: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Brianne wrote: "Finnigan's Wake by far. I got so frustrated with that book that I threw it accross the room!"

You made me laugh out loud with that one! I have heard such sentiments before, and I have never even opened the pages to look inside. Maybe I just knew something subconsciously. P.S. I'm not sure I ever threw a book across the room ... sounds kinda fun ... for the right book, anyway.


message 41: by Deonna (new)

Deonna | 6 comments Reading The Odyssey to help my high school student understand it. It's a difficult read for him.


message 42: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Smith (wiresmith) Definitely Finnegans Wake. Hard to complain, though, given that the introduction to my Penguin edition actually declares 'Finnegans Wake is, in a very important sense, unreadable...'! You know what, though, it provided insights into storytelling which ended up being key to my own most recent book. Most of us would be pretty upset if someone described our own books as 'unreadable', mind. ; )


message 43: by Mercedes (new)

Mercedes (MercysBookishMusings) | 3 comments Now I am even more exceited to read it - I am hoping to share your experience. Will you see the movie Mercedes

Well the trailer looks amazing so i'm definitely going to go to the cinema to see it but I hear its getting mixed reviews so not sure how its going to turn out. Its a shame really, its a great concept but maybe too complex to be made into a movie :/


message 44: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Smith (wiresmith) Agree with you Joel and Emily about Dostoesvsky. Hard work at first, but every now and again I try to imagine never reading Karamazov or Crime and Punishment again, and I always break out into a cold sweat. Same as when I think about reading them! (but I will, soon)


message 45: by Emily (new)

Emily (emilyknap) | 6 comments Andrew wrote: "Agree with you Joel and Emily about Dostoesvsky. Hard work at first, but every now and again I try to imagine never reading Karamazov or Crime and Punishment again, and I always break out into a co..."

Oh, Crime and Punishment is definitely on my to-read list!


message 46: by Yuliya (new)

Yuliya (Yuliyalovestoread) | 1685 comments "Crime and Punishment" - And we read it in school (always to nowadays in school program in Russia) :)
It's much easy to read in Russian. I saw translation and it was so hard for me to look at this book in English version. It was not challenging for me at my 15 years old, but maybe because I'm Russian and read it in Russian
"War and Peace" that also in school program in Russia was challenging because it was too much long and I didn't like war part and couldn’t skip it because of compositions we have to write based on book.


message 47: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Emily wrote: "Andrew wrote: "Agree with you Joel and Emily about Dostoesvsky. Hard work at first, but every now and again I try to imagine never reading Karamazov or Crime and Punishment again, and I always brea..."

Andrew & Emily: One of his reads is intense and short but spellbinding -- The House of the Dead. Have you read it?


message 48: by Joel (new)

Joel Dennstedt (joeldennstedtymailcom) Yuliya wrote: ""Crime and Punishment" - And we read it in school (always to nowadays in school program in Russia) :)
It's much easy to read in Russian. I saw translation and it was so hard for me to look at this ..."


Yulia, I think we readers of English must always regret not being able to read Russian literature in Russian. I believe that I found some master translators for The Brothers Karamazov, but my earlier readings suffered some for the translation. But even with master translators, something irreplaceable is lost through translation. And thank you for posting. It is delightful to hear your Russian accent (yes, we can hear it)AND your authentic perspective. So ... not the place to ask, but still, I wonder what your thoughts are on Nabokov.


message 49: by Emily (new)

Emily (emilyknap) | 6 comments Joel R. wrote: "Emily wrote: "Andrew wrote: "Agree with you Joel and Emily about Dostoesvsky. Hard work at first, but every now and again I try to imagine never reading Karamazov or Crime and Punishment again, and..."

No, but I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!


message 50: by Yuliya (last edited Oct 04, 2012 02:59PM) (new)

Yuliya (Yuliyalovestoread) | 1685 comments Joel R. wrote: "Yuliya wrote: ""Crime and Punishment" - And we read it in school (always to nowadays in school program in Russia) :)
It's much easy to read in Russian. I saw translation and it was so hard for me t..."


First book that I read of Nabokov was Lolita, and I was 16-17 years old. I was shocked, but the good way. I was amused how so much disgusting and ugly scenes and situation Nabokov can so genially turn in lyrical story about love, even so inappropriate for common humanity sense.
I read his other stories much more lately and always love his language style, literary technique, a deep analysis of the emotional state of the characters. I never try to read him in English and wonder how translators may catch and bring to English his virtuoso’s style. But I also know that he was fluent in English and French and did a lot of literature translation works, so maybe he himself translated his works in English? Or wrote Lolita in English and translated to Russian later? Then he knew that he did in any way, and in any way it must be good.
It’s also a pleasure to know we are originally from the same city – St Petersburg!


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