Books I Loathed discussion

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Loathed Titles > "Great Books" that you just don't get

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message 1: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (pezski) | 14 comments This is similar to the Bad Books you Read at School thread, but I just wondered what books that are considered classics people have read that left them going "huh? what IS the fuss about?"

Two that spring to mind for me are The Catcher in the Rye and The Turn of the Screw

Both left me hugely underwhelmed and with the feeling that I'd somehow missed something. The problem with the former that I only read it in my thirties, and it might be one of those books that grabs people when they are around the same age as Holden Caulfield. The Henry James book just didn't seem to say anything - I know the horror in it is supposed to be understated and more about what it doesn't say than what it does, but this seemed to me to have been taken so far that the object of the story was entirely removed. I have heard others refer to it as the most over-rated ghost story of all time.

Because both left me feeling that it was me that had missed something I planned to go back and re-read them - but did i only feel that way because the books are so lauded as classics? In neither case have I yet done so; there are so many other books to read and enjoy, and i lack the self-discipline to inflict on myself something I expect to be a chore.


message 2: by Randi (new)

Randi (The Artist Formerly known as Guitar Chick) (guitarchick) | 79 comments I'm still really young and haven't read a lot of classics yet, so I'm not quite there.
I never got Frankenstein as horror. It's a love story.
I also had a really hard time with Call of the Wild.


message 3: by Regine (new)

Regine I was really dissapointed with Wuthering Heights. When I was younger, my mother had an illustrated version of Wuthering Heights in her library, and I would stare at the illustrations, thinking how romantic, and beautiful the story would be. When I was old enough to read the book, I was soooo dissapointed. One word I use to describe the characters in this book: despicable. The narration: dry.


message 4: by Stuart (new)

Stuart (asfus) | 20 comments Guitar Chick-Dolly Dagger wrote: "I'm still really young and haven't read a lot of classics yet, so I'm not quite there.
I never got Frankenstein as horror. It's a love story.
I also had a really hard time with Call of the Wild."


I would agree about Frankenstein being more of a love than a horror story.


message 5: by John (new)

John | 20 comments Regine, I agree that Heathcliff and whatshername are despicable. There just weren't any likeable or sympathetic characters.

Paul - I have to agree with Catcher in the Rye, as well. They say to really appreciate it you need to read it when you're 14 or 17. I read it in my twenties, and maybe that's why I didn't like it. People always fawn over Holden or the incredible narration . . . Well, I found Holden and the narration incredibly annoying. After the first page, I wanted to reach into the book and smack him :-)


message 6: by Airi (new)

Airi  (master-of-nothing) | 12 comments Well, you're in luck--because I'm 16 and I thought Catcher in the Rye was..appalling. I think Holden is a huge, cynical hypocrite. To me, he has few redeeming qualities. It just made finishing it impossible; I couldn't stand to hear more of his weak excuses.

Also..I'll probably get a lot of backlash for this, but..To Kill a Mockingbird. I know it's supposed to be about innocence or something like that, and granted, I tend to take things a little too literally. (Must be my ignorant youth.) But..yeah..it just didn't gel for me. My teacher said he didn't like it much when he was young either, so maybe I just need to mature and then read it again. Any thoughts?


message 7: by Regine (new)

Regine Loved To Kill a Mockingbird. Stop not liking all the books I love! jk


message 8: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (pezski) | 14 comments Regine wrote: "Loved To Kill a Mockingbird. Stop not liking all the books I love! jk"

i'm with you Regine - but I think one of the strange joys of this group is glancing in and being horrified that people hate books and authors we adore!


Alia iloveBendtner (Jazzy_spazzy) | 7 comments i don't understand why THE GREAT GATSBY is a classic. the plot is pretty simple and hat's pretty much it. its kind of forgetable. i just dont get why its so "great" !!


message 10: by Ketutar (last edited Aug 31, 2010 05:36AM) (new)

Ketutar Jensen | 40 comments Alia iloveBendtner wrote: "i don't understand why THE GREAT GATSBY is a classic. the plot is pretty simple and hat's pretty much it. its kind of forgetable. i just dont get why its so "great" !!"

I agree with you. I hate Gatsby as well.

But I love Mockingbird. :-D I was over 40 when I first read it. The age, experience and life will change the way one reads the books, so read the books you hate in 10 or 20 years and see if they get any better by time :-D

P.S. I don't know what Mockingbird is supposed to be about, I think you, Airi, could just ignore such things. If you don't like something, you don't like it and that's that. :-D

I like the way how she manages to tell the story keeping it small and real while it is really enormous... "tactile brilliance", as they say ;-) I love the insight to the lifes and attitudes of the Southern people during the time when racism was normal, how we shouldn't be thinking things are obvious, or believing what we are told, but trust our own experience on things and our own heart and brains... and not to expect things to change too quickly. I was shocked to hear the result of the jury, and flabbergasted by the simple answer of how huge it was that they spent so much time to come to the "obvious" result... and so impressed by Atticus and his wisdom, kindness and courage...


Alia iloveBendtner (Jazzy_spazzy) | 7 comments Ketutar wrote: "Alia iloveBendtner wrote: "i don't understand why THE GREAT GATSBY is a classic. the plot is pretty simple and hat's pretty much it. its kind of forgetable. i just dont get why its so "great" !!"

..."


i've seen the film but i was like 10 when i watched it and i found it slightly disturbing, i do plan to read the book though! (Gatsby really was terrible wasn't it??)


message 12: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (pezski) | 14 comments Can open...worms... all over the place!

Gatsby is another of my all time faves!


message 13: by Regine (new)

Regine I can understand why people hate Gatsby. It certainly is a slow read. But I loved it. I loved the restlessness of the 20's, and the contempt between the old money and the new money.


message 14: by Laura (new)

Laura (Avid7Reader) | 60 comments Uggh. I have never detested a book as much as the Great Gatsby. I understand, and appreciate, the whole corrupted American dream angle, but that was about it. The only halfway decent character was Nick, and he was a coward and worse. I never would have finished it if it hadn't been assigned. Possibly the worst part: my teacher loved it. So you couldn't insult it. And it isn't that I dislike classics, I'm currently voluntarily reading the Scarlet Letter, I just couldn't stomach Gatsby.

On the other hand, TKAM got off to a slow start, but I ended up enjoying it.


message 15: by Airi (last edited Aug 31, 2010 08:58PM) (new)

Airi  (master-of-nothing) | 12 comments Regine wrote: "I can understand why people hate Gatsby. It certainly is a slow read. But I loved it. I loved the restlessness of the 20's, and the contempt between the old money and the new money."

Okay, haha, finally something we both enjoyed. :)
I loved The Great Gatsby. When I first read it, I thought "I HAVE to buy this." So I did.
I'll concede it's a bit slow, but the bitter homeless man in me loved seeing all those rich socialites fall to dust. And the future prospects of everyone just seemed so dismal at the end--I thought they deserved it. Yet I felt sympathy for the characters, for they never learned their lesson. (I'm one of those people who can totally relate to Gatsby's romanticism..loving someone and having them forget you..*sigh*)
Also, I thought it chock-full of excellent quotes. I'm a city girl, I guess, and I thought Fitzgerald offered a pretty accurate view of the darker aspects of urban life: the gentrification, the "haunting lonliness" in the hearts of the citizens, the wasteful spending on extravagance..yeah..real cheerful. But I ate it up.
I agree with you though, Laura. If Nick was a true compassionate human being, he would've at least spoken up.
And while all the characters in Gatsby are pretty pathetic, I found them much more appealing than those awful potrayals in Catcher in the Rye. *shudder*
I liked To Kill a Mockingbird well enough. I just, as the topic title says, "didn't get it."
Although maybe you're right, Ketutar, maybe I should respect my dislikes/likes...but that wouldn't be any fun for me. :)


message 16: by Regine (new)

Regine I might also get backlashed for this, but I really dislike Charles Dickens. I've only read two books from him, "The Old Curiousity Shop" and " A Christmas Carol". I guess right now, my main beef with the books i've read so far is how his morals are so black and white. I like being morally gray. lol.

That being said, I will eventually want to start reading Dickens again, but for now, I'm pushing him to the back of my list.


message 17: by Ketutar (new)

Ketutar Jensen | 40 comments Regine wrote: "I might also get backlashed for this, but I really dislike Charles Dickens."

LOL I actually like Dickens a lot :-D

I don't like Gatsby because it is so insane. Nothing makes sense, people have no reason to behave the way they do, their choices have no logic, and nobody seems to care about anything. The whole book is just a big "what ever". I suppose I mostly hate it because it has such a potential! The story COULD be great, the characters COULD be wonderful... but they are not, because... who cares. What ever.


message 18: by Regine (new)

Regine It is a big "what ever". I'm not even going to deny that. I just love the portrayal of the people with "old money" . They have more money than they can spend, so they become restless and bored, and their decisions really reflect their ennui with life. I guess this is why we hear about so many modern day socialites making sex tapes and going in and out of rehab--boredom.


message 19: by John (new)

John | 20 comments My feelings about Gatsby have evolved over time: When I first read it with a professor who loved it, I really enjoyed the book. When I had to re-read it in order to teach it, I felt like there was a wall erected between the characters/story and the reader. Every writer has to balance how much is revealed versus how much is suggested (between the lines, if you will) -- The more I return to Gatsby, the more I feel there's not enough revealed -- And like Wuthering Heights, most of the characters are unlikeable -- I never felt for Gatsby, only for Carroway, and he was so damned gutless. Daisy and Tom should be taken to the shed and shot. At least the book gets a reaction out of me. Some books don't even make me care.


message 20: by Airi (new)

Airi  (master-of-nothing) | 12 comments The only problem I have with Dickens is I feel he's too descriptive, and my attention wanes.


message 21: by Tiffany (last edited Sep 04, 2010 01:50AM) (new)

Tiffany | 7 comments I loved Catcher in the Rye in high school, but I can see why not everyone did. There was a movie that I didn't really like but was watching on TV and it had the absolute best synopsis of the book and of Holden Caulfield. The movie was Six Degrees of Separation and while I don't know that I recommend the movie (definitely didn't watch the whole thing), I thought his commentary on Catcher in the Rye was excellent (granted this was years and years ago so I barely remember much of it). It discusses how Holden didn't like fake people and thus was fake to those around him, etc. He became everything he despised.


message 22: by Matt (new)

Matt | 11 comments I didn't get Don Quixote. Since reading it, I've looked for commentary on it, read others reviews of it, even considered rereading parts of it if or when the mood struck me. I guess the mood has never really struck me.

It was just a painful read for me. I enjoyed the first "sally" of Quixote and Sancho. It was fun reading about the real character. (Up until then, my biggest impression was the Saturday morning info where he tries to impress upon kids the importance of taking care of their teeth. "Teeth are meant to last a lifetime!".) However, the first "sally" is only a quarter of the book. The second was much longer, literally. And the games and torment that was subjected upon our hero grew more and more boring with each page. And poor Sancho, I really did like him for his devotion, but even him, I just wanted him to go home because I was tired of his blind devotion to a madman.

I'm probably not viewing the characters in the proper light and I'm not giving proper credit to the work of the author. I get that "Don Quixote" was the original satire/humor written for the sake of it (with its message saying that feudal tradition was silly). But it was all mostly lost on me.

At this point, I should probably say that many of my favorite authors and books are Russian, so it is no surprise that I didn't appreciate the satire of this great book. I do think that it is one of the great books.


message 23: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 32 comments The Secret History by Donna Tartt - just plain boring!


message 24: by Airi (new)

Airi  (master-of-nothing) | 12 comments Don Quixote is one of my favorite books, though it is a bit rough on 21st century ears.


message 25: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa | 84 comments Oh, tragedy. I loved The Secret History. It's one of my faves. It seems to be a love/hate book though.

A book I really hated that everyone swoons over is The Prince of Tides. I thought it was so maudlin and unlikely. Pat Conroy gets love from all kinds of reviewers and readers so I really don't get it.

I also hated Stranger in a Strange Land which is lauded as a scifi classic but I thought was racist, sexist crap. And orgy as a religion? Really?

A friend of mine hates Gatsby because no one went to jail for the hit and run. He is so hung up on why the police never found out who did it and why Nick didn't tell them what really happened. I told him that the book isn't a whodunnit. He's been reading too much Sue Grafton :)

We read Gatsby in my book club last year and it was interesting the divergence of opinion and how some people liked it better when they read it in high school. I liked it both times but I definitely got angrier when I read it the second time. Nick, say something! (and by the way, are you gay? That party scene flew right by me when I was 16.) Jay, you are a stalker. Daisy, you are a waste of carbon. Myrtle, why would you cheat on your husband with a married man who hits you? Also, you do not know how to take care of a dog.


message 26: by Airi (new)

Airi  (master-of-nothing) | 12 comments Haha!! Oooh, that's so true about Gatsby. :D Still love it though.


message 27: by Wildbriar (new)

Wildbriar Regine wrote: "I might also get backlashed for this, but I really dislike Charles Dickens. I've only read two books from him, "The Old Curiousity Shop" and " A Christmas Carol". I guess right now, my main beef wi..."

Regine, you said it all: "I like being morally gray." Brilliant!


message 28: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (pezski) | 14 comments Vanessa wrote: "Nick, say something! (and by the way, are you gay? That party scene flew right by me when I was 16.) Jay, you are a stalker. Daisy, you are a waste of carbon. Myrtle, why would you cheat on your husband with a married man who hits you? Also, you do not know how to take care of a dog. "

I think that's part of what makes Gatsby a great book - the characters are so very flawed.

Vanessa, you make Heinlein sound like some misogynistic, right wing lunatic. Oh, hang on...


message 29: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa | 84 comments Paul wrote: Vanessa, you make Heinlein sound like some misogynistic, right wing lunatic. Oh, hang on...

HAHAHAHAHA.

Someone told me that I should try The Moon is a Harsh Mistress instead but sometimes one book is enough to sour me on an author. Likewise, I decided I should try Ian McEwan and picked The Comfort of Strangers because it was short and that book was so offputting and strange. I didn't originally list it as it's not considered in the top of his canon so it would be slightly bending the premise of this thread.

Agreed, it's a lot trickier to write a book with flawed characters and still make you care. Gatsby is either a lot deeper because of it or maybe Fitzgerald is just fooling some of the people all of the time. I can't decide which but I can't get that book out of my head.


message 30: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 2 comments I read Catcher in the Rye when I was about 19 and HATED it. I couldn't understand how anyone could find anything to like with that loathsome, childish narrator. I think Holden Caufield should be locked up--or at least in therapy.

In college I tried to read A Handmaid's Tale and I believe I ended up throwing the book across the room. I remember hating it but I not have a hard time remembering exactly why. (I think I blocked it out.)

And most recently, I have been trying very, very hard to listen to Wuthering Heights in audiobook format. I keep thinking that something interesting will happen. But as far as I can tell, the author has put several unpleasant and melodramatic characters together in close proximity, allowed them to do things evidently not in their best interest and now I'm 5 hours into listening to the results of their stupidity. Oh, and there's a random guy to whom this tale is being told.


message 31: by Regine (new)

Regine Yep, Margaret Atwood in general has that type of effect on me.


message 32: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 32 comments I have read and really liked some Margaret Atwood, e.g. The Handmaids Tale (loved that), Lady Oracle, Cats Eye - but when it came to Oryx and Crake and The Blind Assassin oh no! Just couldn't get my head round them. I also have Alias Grace and which I started but put back on the shelf will try and go back to one day. The other two though I gave away!


message 33: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa | 84 comments I read The Handmaid's Tale and I loved it although it did make me angry. But at repressive patriarchies (is there another kind?) rather than at Atwood. I also liked her short story collection Bluebeard's Egg. There was one story about a woman who gets mad at her boyfriend and puts his cat in an alley garbage can, then she feels bad and walks back and can't remember where the alley is. It probably sounds like a horrible story but the images and pathos of it really stuck in my head. I haven't tackled anything else of Atwood's partly because her books are gigantic.

It's a stupid prejudice I have about books over 500 pages. I have no excuse.


message 34: by Laura (new)

Laura (Avid7Reader) | 60 comments Paul wrote: "Vanessa wrote: "Nick, say something! (and by the way, are you gay? That party scene flew right by me when I was 16.) Jay, you are a stalker. Daisy, you are a waste of carbon. Myrtle, why would you ..."

Regarding Gatsby being good because the characters are flawed, I see your point. I hate books where the characters aren't. The reason I detested this quality in Gatsby is because they are ALL flaws. None of the characters have a single redeeming factor, and real people are deeper than that. I feel that to make a character realistic they have to have both flaws, and compensating positive qualities.


message 35: by Regine (new)

Regine Vanessa wrote: "I read The Handmaid's Tale and I loved it although it did make me angry. But at repressive patriarchies (is there another kind?) rather than at Atwood. I also liked her short story col..."

I actually bought Bluebeard's Egg. Although I do hate certain authors, I completely believe in second chances. Especially if the author is Canadian lol.


message 36: by Poppy (new)

Poppy (poppy_of_the_valley) | 1 comments Regine wrote: "I might also get backlashed for this, but I really dislike Charles Dickens. I've only read two books from him, "The Old Curiousity Shop" and " A Christmas Carol". I guess right now, my main beef wi..."

I haven't read either of those, but you may enjoy Oliver Twist- there is definitely a dichotomy of the 'good' people and the 'bad' people and it is hard to define who should be put in what category by social status or appearance! I first read it when I was in Jr High and loved it.


message 37: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Sulzby Jolene wrote: "Regine wrote: "I might also get backlashed for this, but I really dislike Charles Dickens. I've only read two books from him, "The Old Curiousity Shop" and " A Christmas Carol". I guess right now, ..."

Jolene wrote: "Regine wrote: "I might also get backlashed for this, but I really dislike Charles Dickens. I've only read two books from him, "The Old Curiousity Shop" and " A Christmas Carol". I guess right now, ..."

Paul wrote: "Regine wrote: "Loved To Kill a Mockingbird. Stop not liking all the books I love! jk"

i'm with you Regine - but I think one of the strange joys of this group is glancing in and being horrified tha..."


Loving and hating particular books or authors is a great freedom, in my view. Sometimes other people have encouraged me to read a book again and I changed my mind--sometimes I just hated it more.

BIG OLD HATE: High School teachers who assign books that they found life-changing in COLLEGE and then they assign it to high school students who just aren't there yet.

And assigning reading, how horrible, yet some of us have to do that. I try to have a "you choose" section and urge my students that it's OK to read schlock and try to illustrate with a schlocky book I've read recently. A lot of students comment on hating to have to read assigned books. I also let them know books I hated in high school (Great Expections, anyone). Thanks for all your rants and raves.


message 38: by Seddy (new)

Seddy  (seddybear) | 6 comments I am glad to see I am not the only one who dislikes The Catcher in the Rye. I have a degree in Literature, and have spent years going really? Also, I dislike The Fountainhead. I cannot chalk this up to a distaste for Rand, because Anthem I rather enjoyed. I have not yet read Atlas Shrugged and do not see myself doing so any time soon! I also have a general distaste for all Austen with exception of "Lady Susan" which I found a rather redeemable work for Miss Austen.


message 39: by Jann (new)

Jann (jannabanana33) | 6 comments I have a hard time understanding why most of Charles Dickens' books are considered "classics." He seems to be some type of sadist to me. It appears that his favorite theme is the utter depths and dregs to which mankind can sink.

I also think that if you relish reading Dickens, you may wish to ponder your latent masochism. I myself have no wish to drag myself through the darker aspects of life.

I would welcome any comments either way.


message 40: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (pezski) | 14 comments Jann wrote:"I also think that if you relish reading Dickens, you may wish to ponder your latent masochism. I myself have no wish to drag myself through the darker aspects of life."

Well, life isn't all fluffy bunnies and brotherly love. I guess a lot of it comes down to why you read, what you want to get out of it. Dickens was passionate about highlighting the hardships, inequalities and unfairness of his society. Just about all his work is crusading in some way. Yes, he piles on the misery sometimes, but melodrama was very much the style of his day.

Likewise, fiction helps many of us think about aspects of humanity - morality, ethics, whatever - that we either do not come across in our everyday lives (often thankfully), or perhaps from a different perspective. This is one of the things that defines literature.

There's nothing wrong with reading for pure escapism, of course, although most great writers manage to combine entertainment with analysis or philosophy. I don't think Stephanie Meyer, Tim LeHaye or Dan Brown will ever be considered great literature.


message 41: by Ketutar (new)

Ketutar Jensen | 40 comments Jann wrote: "I also think that if you relish reading Dickens, you may wish to ponder your latent masochism."

Ouch! :-D
Shouldn't it be sadism, as we like to read about people who have horrible things happening to them?
I don't necessarily identify myself with the characters in books I read and like. (Not that I "relish" reading Dickens, I just don't mind reading Dickens.)

I think one of the good things with books is that it's often a story of how a person can live through more or less horrible things and come out from the other side to have a life worth living... even though it was hard, tough, painful... Dickens seldom leaves his people in the hardship.

In Harry Potter the child was harassed, abused, forced to live in a closet, forced to work as an unpaid servant, not fed properly, bullied, teased, harassed, abused - nothing I ENJOY reading, but something that made the finish - him finding himself a family, place in life, love and appreciation - even better.


message 42: by NancyL (new)

NancyL Luckey | 21 comments Well said, Paul. I like Dickins and Austin for the style and intelligence in their writings, besides the story line which is (like it or not) CLASSIC!


message 43: by Deborah (last edited Sep 25, 2010 11:31AM) (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 11 comments I'll tell you one of the Great books authors I don't get--Kurt Vonnegut. I read and just thought "Cat's Cradle" was godawful! I tried another of his books and thought it was at best, ridiculous. The only thing I could come up with in his literary exhaultations is that he wrote during the '60's when so many of the literary critics were doing major LSD and other recreational drugs and were raving idiots!! LOL I have strong feelings, evidently, about Vonnegut. :O Btw, I was/am a "child of the 60's," and still didn't think he was cool!


message 44: by stormhawk (new)

stormhawk I happen to like early Vonnegut over late Vonnegut (which I define as anything after Breakfast of Champions). His work is both simple and absurd, occasionally absurdly simple.

(yes, I know we're supposed to support each other in our loathing, but I find Vonnegut entertaining, even if he didn't actually advise us to "Wear Sunscreen.")


message 45: by Regine (new)

Regine @ Jann

I was going to respond to your comment about Dickens, but Paul and Ketutar said everything for me:)

I loathe Dickens, but is he a sadist? Far from it. He was just writing about the harsh reality of his time.


message 46: by Randi (new)

Randi (The Artist Formerly known as Guitar Chick) (guitarchick) | 79 comments I have only read adaptions of Dickens, so I can't really have a say here.


message 47: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 11 comments Still think Vonnegut is exactly as you've defined it, Stormhawk.."simple and absurd....absurdly simple," in spades!!! I'd rather read a Superman comic book.


message 48: by Jann (new)

Jann (jannabanana33) | 6 comments Paul wrote: "Jann wrote:"I also think that if you relish reading Dickens, you may wish to ponder your latent masochism. I myself have no wish to drag myself through the darker aspects of life."

Well, life isn'..."


Well said. I don't disagree completely, but personally I don't wish to read fiction which continually evokes feelings of angst and despair.

There is certainly enough non-fiction that I feel I must read in order to be a responsible human, which fulfills that task.

Also, in case it wasn't obvious, my masochism comment was tongue-in-cheek. Have a lovely day! :-)


message 49: by Navah (new)

Navah Kennedy | 1 comments In the same vein, my list includes "The adventures of Huckleberry finn", " The Grapes of Wrath", i'm sure that there are others, but none i can think of off the top of my head


message 50: by Leigh (new)

Leigh (leighb) I thought Wuthering Heights was the most overrated stuff ever. Both main characters were self absorbed weirdos and needed meds. :)


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