Books I Loathed discussion

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message 1: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:44AM) (new)

Laura (kaparual) I know William Faulkner is supposed to be the "most important southern author", and all that... but I can't stand him. I've tried, I've TRIED to keep an open mind, but his work is just so tedious. Don't get me wrong, I think stream of consciousness is great, but when I was required to read "As I Lay Dying" I wanted to gouge my eyes out with a spoon. I can't be alone in this..


message 2: by Norman (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:44AM) (new)

Norman (normanince) | 48 comments Thanks so much to both of you! I agree wholeheartedly that Faulkner is tedious and "A Rose for Emily" seems to be all that one should try to manage of this writer. Have either of you tried James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake? Well...if you want Faulkner to seem fun, give it a whirl.


message 3: by Jennie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:45AM) (new)

Jennie | 7 comments When all my smart cool friends in high school liked reading Faulkner, I tried it too. I hated him. I tried again in college, grad school, and again after I was a "grown up". Enough already. I give up. I made myself finish Absolam, Absolam, but I'd rather read the dictionary -- at least I could learn something...


message 4: by Shannon (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:46AM) (new)

Shannon Every once in a while, often after a bad break up, I would come across a quote from or about Faulkner I would vow to read and understand him. It never seemed to work out. I wanted to like and appreciate experimental literature, and get past my slavish devotion to linear narrative and plot, but ultimately it was more satisfying to read a cereal box.

Joyce's short stories are fine, although I am not usually a fan of short stories. Even Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was bearable, as I recall from my English Major days.

There's a James Joyce pub in the tourist area here in Baltimore, and I always wonder if the patrons have ever read any Joyce. Maybe the bartenders lead discussions of Finnegan's Wake.


message 5: by Jordan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:46AM) (new)

Jordan | 10 comments I really disliked Faulkner at first, but having a professor (Faulkner expert) explain the basic narrative of Sound and the Fury helped a lot. Faulkner isn't among my favorites, but he can be great.

I find him sometimes unpleasant to read simply because of the atmosphere he evokes: that first page of Absalom Absalom with the glaring sunlight and the dust motes and the old lady perched on a chair, it all makes me feel hot and itchy. I suppose that's a bit of an achievement on Faulkner's part.


message 6: by Robin (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Robin | 4 comments I read the dictionary all the time.(sad realy)


message 7: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments Robin: I can't just "look up a word"...I always have to read a few entries just for fun.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I think our reading group once read The Light in August (is that the name?). Couldn't get past the first couple of chapters. Something about it felt... over ripe. I know this sounds bizarre but it felt squishy reading it - like any minute it burst open stuff would ooze out. Maybe it's the "southern-ness" of it. All that heat and humidity. I don't know but I won't touch Faulkner again.


message 9: by Chris (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Chris | 1 comments Faulkner is no one's favorite author, but the guy was brilliant and I think the first 20 pages or so of Absalom Absalom to be as good as writing gets.

Now, how about that piece of crap Snowcrash?


message 10: by Ann M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Ann M | 39 comments I read Sanctuary, As I Lay Dying, and A Rose for Emily. I think it is safe to say that you can go through life never reading Faulkner and be a happy, well-read person. I'm completely indifferent, although I got a kick out of A Rose for Emily -- Did anyone see the true news story just like it recently?


message 11: by Jammies (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Jammies Haven't seen that, Laura, but I'll admit to morbid curiosity.

I read "The Sound and the Fury" in a Master's level class and BLEAH. I enjoyed "A Rose for Emily," and agree with Sherri that brevity improves Faulkner.

But really, if I want Southern sturm und drang, I read Tennessee Williams. I find his plays more readable than Faulkner's novels.


message 12: by Christy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Christy (christymtidwell) | 4 comments I read As I Lay Dying as an undergraduate and, after forcing myself to get through the first couple of chapters, *loved* it.

Absalom, Absalom, on the other hand, I've never been able to finish. I've read most of it, but never all the way through. I was assigned it for two grad classes. I really liked the discussions we had about it and I enjoyed lots of pieces of it, but as a whole it was just too exhausting.

And I tried The Sound and the Fury on my own. I made it about 15 pages in and put it away forever.

I do love Flannery O'Connor, though. At least, I love what I've read. :-)


message 13: by Khover (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Khover | 5 comments I read The Sound and the Fury in a college lit class and the sheer fact that the other profs thought my prof was crazy for teaching it to an undergraduate class made me determined to read it and read it well. My prof was not only excited about the book but was also very knowledgeable and was open to various interpretations of the work, which made for much easier reading. That and the warning about the first section of the book--it does not make sense; do not try to make too much sense out of it; it is written from the viewpoint of a character with the metality of a 3 year old. Just plow thorough it. So I actually enjoyed it. [ducking flying copies of Faulkner's novels:] :\


message 14: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) You guys are down on Southern writers, I see. Williams, Capote, Faulkner, etc.

I'm feeling like my peeps are gettin' dissed. lol


message 15: by Kay (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Kay | 20 comments I'll take the beets, you can have my okra, but I can't quite manage either Faulkner or Tennessee Williams. I used to put it down to being British, but that can't be right really, as I read Welty and McCullers and Harper Lee and Cormac Mcarthy and Kingsolver.

That overripe feeling that Diana mentioned is what I get too, like the peach is too ripe and the faintest squeeze will make the skin slip off and leave me with a handful of sweet, rotting, brown goo.


message 16: by Michael (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Michael let's see ... Walker Percy, Robert Penn Warren, Flannery O'Connor, Pat Conroy, Tom Wolfe, just to throw some names out there.


message 17: by Michael (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Michael (michael_harmon) | 3 comments I am totally in agreement with you, Xysea, laughter and all. :)


message 18: by Michael (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Michael (michael_harmon) | 3 comments You're wrong about your first clause there, Chris! Of course, only your first clause. :D


message 19: by Misty (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Misty A great "new" Southern Writer is Ron Rash. He's from my area (near Clemson University - goooo Tigers!). I have read blogs where people don't like him because the "southerness" is forced. Some of the points are valid, but I still love his style!


message 20: by Misty (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Misty Oh, thanks, Michael! I love Pat Conroy. I used a quote from "Lords of Discipline" in my first job interview. I got the job :)


message 21: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 58 comments Well, I feel obliged to put in a good word for Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Lee Smith, Peter Taylor, Robert Penn Warren, Reynolds Price, Katharine Anne Porter, Anne Tyler, Carson McCullers & Mark Twain. Really, I do.

Barbara Kingsolver, Mary Lee Settle, Padgett Powell, Tom Wolfe and Harper Lee as well, for that matter. And make room for Fannie Flagg and Tom Robbins. And I'm kind of partial to James Lee Burke myself.

And what can I say about Steven Sherrill's wonderfully offbeat "The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break" except to urge you all to go out and read it for yourselves.


message 22: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments Sherri, I simply can't believe you've never read Capote. I think I've read everything he's ever written. As "Southern" writers go, Capote's atypical (imo) because he writes in a fairly concise style - not too overburdened with words or metaphor. I recommend A Christmas Memory to start.


message 23: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) Certainly not comprehensive, but here are some notables:

Truman Capote
Tennessee Williams
Harper Lee
Carson McCullers
Flannery O'Connor
William Faulkner
Eudora Welty
Margaret Mitchell
Mark Twain
Alice Walker
Thomas Wolfe
James Dickey
Pat Conroy
Erskine Caldwell
Olive Ann Burns
Cormac McCarthy
Harry Crews
Lee Smith
Barry Hannah
Lewis Nordan
William Gay
Dorothy Allison
Mitch Cullin
John Berendt
James Agee
Robert Penn Warren
Shelby Foote
Walker Percy
Katherine Anne Porter
Richard Wright
Jean Toomer
Zora Neale Hurston
Wilbur Cash
Ralph Ellison
John Kennedy Toole
Reynolds Price
John Grisham
Tom Robbins
Anne Rice
Barbara Kingsolver
Anne Tyler
Kaye Gibbons
William Styron
Bobbie Ann Mason

:)


message 24: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) Thank you to everyone who chimed in with their Southern faves! The South's not dead, it's just resting. ;) lol


message 25: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments Great list, Xy. Thanks.


message 26: by Ann M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Ann M | 39 comments Seems you prefer southern female writers (Kay). I don't really think of McCarthy as a Southerner, he seems more western to me, although I know some of his books are set in Tennessee. Speaking of Tennessee, I had a collection of Williams' stories, but they didn't really do it for me, though I liked Streetcar well enough.


message 27: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Rindis | 18 comments Okay, I'm going to have to ask what the deal is with Eudora Welty. I've read some of her short stories, and while she wasn't bad... putting her in a list of literary greats seemed like over-hyping to me. To me, she seemed to be pretty average with no especial 'spark' with plot, character or language.

So, what do you like about her writing?


message 28: by Merrin (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:12PM) (new)

Merrin | 9 comments I had to read Sound and the Fury in high school and it pretty much ruined my junior year. I loathe and despise that book. I've tried to read other things and it's just not happening. I've said before he's one of those that I'd build a time machine and go back in time just to stop him from ever penning a word.


message 29: by Clare (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new)

Clare | 53 comments Oh, I so agree with you, Laura. My book club picked a Faulkner book one time. I always, always read the choice even if it wasn't "my" type of book. I tried so hard to read the first few pages but God, it was awful, awful, awful. Nothing made sense and there was no beauty in the words. Incomprehensible.


message 30: by Clare (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new)

Clare | 53 comments If you need a "Faulkner expert" to understand his books, doesn't that say something about the writing? Shakespeare wrote in old English and I still understand his writing perfectly. Faulkner is just terrible (in my humble opinion - LOL).


message 31: by Jordan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new)

Jordan | 10 comments Clare, which Faulkner book did the club read? Some are a lot more readable than others from the start - a few are like being thrown into the deep end of murky high modernism.


message 32: by Tara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new)

Tara (tara_n) | 66 comments I think I'll have to agree that Faulkner is difficult. I read A Light in August in college and, once my prof really broke it down for me, I really enjoyed it. Now, is it sad that I needed a lit prof to explain the book to me? I don't know. I was so far off base with some of the characters that it completely threw off the story for me. Once I figured out the characters, it all fell into place.

Now I also read Sanctuary and As I Lay Dying. Didn't like them. I read them on my own cause I was hoping that I would enjoy them, the way I had enjoyed A Light in August. Well, no that didn't happen. My prof did say he wasn't going to teach The Sound and the Fury because he said that it was the kind of book that would make a reader hate Faulkner. He told us to read all of Faulkner before reading Sound. After reading Sanctuary and As I Lay Dying, I just don't think I am willing to try to make it through the rest of Faulkner's works.


message 33: by Ann M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new)

Ann M | 39 comments I read Sanctuary and As I Lay Dying, and both are too long-winded, although they're good, too. I hate when authors pad their work for the sake of verisimilitude. Southerners talk slowly, we know that, and southern authors won't cut forty pages out of sympathy for impatient Yanks. Well, they still lost the war.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

I can see why people would hate him. But when he's good("Sound and the Fury," "Light in August"), he's pretty good, but when he's bad ("A Fable," "The Bear," "The Hamlet") he's the worst.


message 35: by Clare (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:19PM) (new)

Clare | 53 comments It was quite a while ago, but I think it was The Sound and The Fury. It atarts out with a retarded man having thoughts that made absolutely no sense to the reader. One of my fellow book club members explained that it was stream of consciousness (did I spell that correctly?) but until she told me I had no clue. Just so you don't think I am illiterate, I do read constantly and love many southern writers. I don't enjoy books that are so difficult that I can't make head nor tail of them.


message 36: by Tracy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:21PM) (new)

Tracy | 5 comments wow. it really does take all kinds. because that squishiness of Light in August is exactly why i think it is amazing. it's a book about pathology. i dare say all of faulkner is about exploring the pathology of the south.


message 37: by Clare (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:23PM) (new)

Clare | 53 comments Tracey, what do you mean when you say "wow. it takes all kinds"? That sounds so elitist...as if those of us who hate Faulkner are not good enough or something. I don't think we should have to apologize if we don't like some books that are considered great literature. Pathology can be interesting but it doesn't have to be incomprehensible.


message 38: by Tsani (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:24PM) (new)

Tsani Jones | 2 comments I personally loved A Farewell To Arms. I just can't seem to get excited about anything else Hemingway except for mojitos and Mariel.

And black beans and rice.

Faulkner? Forget it. I am Southern. Give me Lewis Grizzard. Even reeking of liquor with a hangover. I'll take Celestine Sibley in a pinch.


message 39: by Tsani (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:24PM) (new)

Tsani Jones | 2 comments I hate Shakespeare with an ungodly, undying passion. Does that help? :)


message 40: by Jordan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:24PM) (new)

Jordan | 10 comments Calling it incomprehensible isn't really fair to Faulkner, though - difficult and fragmented, yes, but there's a story there, it just takes work to suss it out. Not wanting to put the work into it is fine - but, well, there's a reason these are considered some of the greatest novels.


message 41: by Mary Ann (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:04PM) (new)

Mary Ann | 19 comments I had to read "The Bear" for a class in college. The entire time I was reading it I kept thinking, "This SOB had to be dead drunk when he wrote this." On the night our class met to discuss the book, only five people (of a class of around 20) showed up. I do have "Light in August," and one day I will get up enough courage to try it.


message 42: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:04PM) (new)

Mark I feel like reading Faulkner is like eating steak. I do it about twice a year, and I love it, but it takes considerable attention. I respect the fact that a lot of people hate his writing, and that's their prerogative.


message 43: by Susan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:07PM) (new)

Susan Lantz (susanlantz) | 4 comments Well said, Mark. It is like steak. I took a Faulkner seminar once (all Falkner, all the time) and nearly died from over eating. It took me a long time to pick 'em back up again. . . but when I did, I was happy.

I think it is because I am from the south. I don't hate the south, I don't hate it, I don't. . .


message 44: by Skylar (new)

Skylar Burris (skylarburris) | 32 comments I read Sound and the Fury my first year of college, and it is the only book for which I have EVER resorted to the cliff notes. I did not appreciate it or get it. I read As I Lay Dying in graduate school, and although I found it to be quite a lot of "work," once I got into it, I felt...rewarded. I felt there was a greatness there that requires effort, but I'm not sure it was entirely worth the effort. Reading Faulkner is like cracking nuts; it's quite satisfying to get at the kernel and consume it, but it takes you an awful lot of time an energy to get a satisfying number of nuts, and it's so much easier just to buy the shelled package. That's why I always give up cracking nuts after the first two or three.

I also read Go Down Moses, but I didn't get much out of that.


message 45: by Zoe (new)

Zoe Rider (ZoeXRider) | 6 comments I loved the tragic comedy (or comic tragedy?) of AS I LAY DYING. It's one of my favorite books.

THE SOUND AND THE FURY, on the other hand.... I tried it to read several times over a period of twenty years, always thinking if I could just get past the Benjy section maybe it would be okay.

Last year I made it past the Benjy section. It didn't get okay. At some point in Quentin's section, I poked around on SparkNotes to find out what the crap was going on--and I found out what happens to Quentin. At least I had THAT to look forward to! So I muddled my way through his section, and then discovered that the NEXT section was from the point of view of my least-liked character in the whole book.

And I gave up.


message 46: by Norman (new)

Norman (normanince) | 48 comments I love the comparisons to eating and reading in this thread, and want to add my own.

Reading Faulkner, for me, is like trying to eat a really bony fish...it is annoying and tedious, and what should have been an enjoyable experience very quickly loses its flavour.


message 47: by Victoria (new)

Victoria (athenanike01) | 5 comments You made me remember my stellar moment in American Lit in college when I managed to ace the Melville segment by reading the abridged version of Moby Dick. And, I didn't even read all of that! That really was a crashing bore... and I have to admit that I like George Elliot, some of the Brontes and have read Bleak House. So, the length of the novel was not a problem...

I have read Faulkner's The Hamlet, which seemed to me a strange journey through a tortured South.

Someone else mentioned Flannery O'Conner - Try Eudora Welty. Her short stories are gems.


message 48: by krystal (new)

krystal | 1 comments (I'm so glad this group exists!)
I hated hated hated The Sound and the Fury - had to read it for high school English class and it was one of the few books (ever) to actually make me mad. But it was the easiest book to write a paper on.


message 49: by ROSALIE (new)

ROSALIE (justmerosalie) I won't have time for anymore Faulkner. I just finished As I Lay Dying. And I hated it. It drove me crazy that it was never clear what most of the narratives were thinking about. They would just be talking about something that was completely out of the blue. Had there been no notes to look up or my daughter to explain some of it, I would have given it up entirely, although it did finally pull out of itself toward the end. I finished thinking, yes it's a good book, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. The dispair and "insufferable heat" just goes on and on and on. Yup, too ripe!!!


message 50: by Amanda (new)

Amanda "As I Lay Dying" was an excellent title for that book--that pretty much sums up how I felt about it as I drug myself through it for Studies of the 20th century novel. I also had an American literature course with a professor who said "Faulkner" pretty much every time she drew breath and, while I loved her dearly, I could not identify with the obsession. She was so obsessed that our final essay was to "explain why William Faulkner was the greatest writer of the 20th century." I couldn't do it, so I gave her the truth.

I do appreciate that much of Faulkner's language is poetic, but his sentences become so convoluted in their rambling that I find it tedious to try and untangle all of the meanings that I'm sure are hidden deep--really deep--in them.


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