Books I Loathed discussion

Books You Wished You Liked

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message 1: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) So, the ConstantReader group started this exact same topic, but I figured we could do it better! Plus, I don't like visiting all those friendly people too much, they make me depressed.

I'll start it out with Virginia Woolf. I wish I liked anything by her, but I don't think I've tried hard enough. Same with Joyce, really. Same with Faulkner. Hmm...are we noticing a pattern?

message 2: by Lori (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) I wished I had like Catch-22 enough to get more than 40 pages into it. I feel like a retard when people jump on me after they hear I didnt get it.
It was so awful I just admitted to defeat and shut it forever. (I very rarely ever do that!)

message 3: by Michelle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Michelle (literarilyspeaking1) In some ways, I wish I liked Hemingway and Steinbeck more. But then again, in other ways, such as when I realize they're American and I generally don't like American literature because I think it's unoriginal (with some exceptions), I don't really mind not liking them so much...

message 4: by Summer Rae (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Summer Rae Garcia | 45 comments I wish I liked Umberto Eco. He is fantastically snoberific and I love that.

message 5: by Lisa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Lisa Ponti | 12 comments I have tried several times to read Mrs. Dalloway and I cannot get through glad to hear I'm not the only one who struggles with Virginia Woolf. I haven't given up on it yet though....maybe between semesters this year I can try again.

message 6: by Nikki (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Nikki Boisture I'm glad I'm not the only one who couldn't get through Catch-22. I wish I had liked it more. Oh, also I had so much trouble getting into One hundred Years of Solitude and I wanted so badly to like it. Of course, I started that early in my pregnancy so I may have been a little bit distracted....I should probably try it again!

message 7: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) American literature is unoriginal? That strikes me as a rather sweeping and uninformed remark, to put it kindly. Precisely how much American literature (i.e. fiction) have you read, and from what periods? I'm guessing the answers are 1) not all that much; 2) mostly the period post-1970 or so.

message 8: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) Books I wished I had liked:

The Crimson Petal and the White, The Historian spring to mind.

It's terrible when you think a book is going to be great and its merely 'meh'.

message 9: by Chrystal714 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Chrystal714 | 47 comments I wish I liked Virginia Woolf.

message 10: by Emily (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Emily (emmy1066) | 4 comments "Confederacy of Dunces." So many friends seemed to love it, but I found it loathsome.

message 11: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) This American literature spin off is interesting. I await a definition of "unoriginal" since the english language has been recycling material for centuries, the wider written word for millenia.

Read "Foucault's Pendulum" and while I liked it, I'll have to agree. Trying to work my way up to Name of the Rose, but just don't see it happening. If you enjoy using a dictionary while reading (tedious, I know, but sometimes it's worth it), try Raymond Queneau. Even in translation, his works introduce me to more interesting and unusual words than any native writer.

message 12: by Michelle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Michelle (literarilyspeaking1) Actually, I've read a whole lot of American literature, which is why I feel I can make that sweeping remark. I find most of what I've read very uninspired and rather mundane, when compared to many of the things I've read from other countries. I've had to read things from all American periods, early, current, wartime, etc., and haven't liked the majority of it.

S.E. Hinton is juvenile lit, so I don't really count it in my list. Nathanael West was a very different experience, which is why I liked him. And, if you look more closely, I HATED McTeague. Terrible, horrible book I couldn't even finish.

I haven't read any Joyce Carol Oates since high school, so my opinion of Mulvaneys may have changed, but it kind of spoke to me at the time.

And, I just said I find American lit unoriginal in general, but some of my favorite authors are American, including Fitzgerald and Plath. I will read anything I think looks interesting, regardless of who wrote it, and a good portion of American lit just doesn't interest me from the get-go. Especially the Transcendentalists. Yuck.

message 13: by Michelle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Michelle (literarilyspeaking1) Basically, I think British literature is just better than American literature. But, it's my opinion, and it's certainly not uninformed...

message 14: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) Well, the fact that it's your opinion doesn't mean it doesn't have to be backed up by some facts for anyone to take it seriously. "I think British literature is just better than American literature" doesn't offer a thing to support your opinion that American literature is "unoriginal." Perhaps you could begin by clarifying what you mean by "unoriginal"?

message 15: by Dianna (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Dianna | 55 comments Another very interesting thread!

There are so many things I want to respond to.

1. Virginia Woolf does have a very difficult writing style. I just read To the Lighthouse and it was good but very different. Very original, I do say.

2. I wish I liked Faust and I keep thinking that I must have gotten a bad translation. It took me 4 flipping years to read that stupid thing and I hated it the whole way.

3. I do not particularly care for some of American literature but I would not call it unoriginal. I think I might call some of it, like James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans for example, wordy and boring... I can see how people think Hawthorne is preachy...

But I'm not really sure you can put American literature in that broad of a category. Cooper, Twain, Hawthorne, to me, are so totally distinct from one another, yet they are all American.

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Actually, I rather agree with Michelle. Although American Literature certainly has it's high points, overall it doesn't do much for me either, especially contemporary fiction. (American genre fiction, on the other hand, is another matter.)

When compared to rest-of-the-world literature (as it were) American fiction can come off as navel gazing. Often it seems to only see the American experience as opposed to the universal human experience.

This doesn't mean it's necessarily bad, it's just not stimulating to me.

message 17: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) developing a good discussion here, let's try not to scare people off by attacking their rating system (though you have a point).

In a sort of vague, general, and completely inexplicable way I understand American literature not being "stimulating" but it's such a broad generalization that some further investigation would be fruitful, which might just be something I need to ponder.

Hmm...I feel that we're about to get into something that will sound like some introductory course about "the american style/vision."

Personally, I have this strange division in my mind between East Coast/West Coast american lit. The labels are arbitrary, just helping me judge and have nothing to do where a novel is set or where the author is from. East Coast are the hip, new, experimental, intelligent, demanding authors who are visibly TRYING to become "LITERATURE." Either that or they have very normal novels, borrowing from English traditions. Lots of times these deal with urban/suburban society, or complicated social issues. The West Coast ones are broader themed, more nature introspection, sort of continuing some modern vision of manifest destiny. This is hard to explain. East authors in my mind: DeLillo, Eggers, Franzen, Roth, Updike, Irving, Zadie Smith. West authors: Jim Harrison, Rick Bass, McCarthy, sometimes Boyle, William Eastlake. The critics like East coasters a lot more. Or at least, you read about them more.

I dunno. I probably sound insane and/or uninformed.

I just keep coming back to "unoriginal." What does that mean?

I wouldn't discount genre fiction with just an aside. That's a great point. So is the navel gazing, but isn't all literature navel gazing to some extent? Twain doesn't navel gaze. Neither does Poe or Hawthorne or a handful of the people I listed above. And the "American experience" is becoming more widely common, at least among cultures who buy and read books regularly. It seems like people are interested in the American experience.

We have very strong female writers it seems, too, though i didn't list any.

What a monster of a topic...this felt like a shit post. sorry.

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

You make good points and it's not a shit post ;-)

My distinction between American and rest-of-world fiction probably comes from the fact that I'm an American and much of American Experience Literature (if I may call it that) deals with experiences that I'm familiar with and therefore don't find original, in the sense that it presents me with something new to ponder.

Much of rest-of-world literature deals with, of course, different cultures and therefore with unique ways of looking at human experiences. This is what intrigues me and makes me seek it out. And this is what makes it, to me, more stimulating as well.

And you're right, much of the world is very interested in the American experience, perhaps for the same reason that I'm interested in theirs. It's what can make literature, especially good literature, so universal.

message 19: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) No, it's not a shit post at all. In fact, it's the only one so far in this discussion that actually has any substance, instead of simply making broad and unsupported statements like (here I paraphrase) "American literature is unoriginal" or "American literature is navel-gazing." Again, both these statements were made without a shred of any substance to back them up. There's no there there -- just retreads of the tired pseudo-intellectual, knee-jerk anti-American pontification that a lot of people (mostly Americans, quaintly enough) engage in when they're trying to sound more worldly than they really are.

I don't want to repeat the points that Jason made (although I will note that Zadie Smith is actually English), but please explain to me what's unoriginal about Pynchon, DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, Twain, Poe, Faulkner, Neil Stephenson, Philip K. Dick, Philip Roth, or Nabokov (yeah, I know he was Russian born, but you can scarcely point to a better example of "American Literature" than Lolita). You can certainly take issue with the quality of the writing, if you care to (I don't care for Pynchon at all, for example), but what leads to your statement that their work isn't original? I mean, Philip K. Dick, unoriginal? Huh?

And as for the statement that American literature doesn't talk about universal experience, I scarcely can respond to that statement, it's so bizarre. Again, I'll just point to the authors I just listed and hope that you can explain to me how The Sound and the Fury or The Road illuminate universal human experience less than Jane Eyre does.

I mean, if I'm missing something here, I'd be curious to hear it. But all I've seen so far are statements about how European literature -- which of course has a longer history -- is somehow better or more or "more original" than American literature. Without a single example, I can only assume that these statements more or less encapsulate some sort of ineffable, unduly awed feelings about European literature.

message 20: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) Diana posted while I was writing.

So what you're saying isn't that American literature is less interesting *to you.* Kind of different from dismissing it as "navel-gazing," don't you think?

message 21: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 07, 2007 04:58PM) (new)

First, a couple of points:

1) Rest-of-world literature doesn't just mean European literature.

2) I'm not a pseudo-intellectual. Just an avid reader.

3) I'm a naturalized American, so have been on both sides of the fence, as it were. I'm actually quite happy to be American and don't dismiss American literature due to some sort of burning need to be a Pseudo-Sophisticate European. In fact, I don't dismiss it at all. I just don't care for it at the moment.

4) American literature can be navel-gazing, NOT is always navel-gazing.

I have nearly 50 years of reading experience, most of it consisting of American fiction. In the last 10 years or so, I've dug deeper into world literature and have discovered fresh perspectives which I enjoy much more than any current American fiction at this time. This isn't necessarily backed up with "hard facts." It's simply my reading experience, my emotional response to the thousands of books I've enjoyed, and not enjoyed, over these many years.

Whether personal opinions about literature must be backed up with hard facts is debatable, since reading is a subjective experience. Much of it is visceral and eludes pin-point scrutiny. Unless a reader is writing a professional review, his/her opinion, however ill-expressed is still valid. That's sort of the point of a personal opinion.

Whether anyone takes my opinion seriously, is irrelevent *to me*.

message 22: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) I can't understand how someone can say that Poe is unoriginal. Or Washington Irving. Or Emerson. Or Melville. Or Hawthorne. Or Twain. To whom would you compare them?

How can you think Fitzgerald unoriginal, when he wrote about an American era that was unlike anything ever experienced by Europe? I didn't care much for Gatsby, but I don't think it was unoriginal.

How can you call the simple style of Hemingway and Steinbeck unoriginal when compared to the wordiness of European and Russian literature?

I understand you're just stating your opinion; I am just disagreeing with you.

message 23: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) I wish I liked more nonfiction. I'm starting to read more of it, and some of it is very entertaining, but a lot of the time I find nonfiction dry and difficult to get through. Maybe if just depends on the author, because I've read some books about subjects that interest me, but the book bored me to tears.

Other than that, I don't "wish" I liked anything. I like what I like, and there is plenty of material out there for me to enjoy. I'm not ashamed to say I didn't like something just because it is popular.

message 24: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) I guess the problem is that the Twain and Fitzgerald and Hemingway copied Austen and Defoe by writing in English, and copied Goethe and Balzac by using subjects and predicates.

As for stating an opinion without backing it with some informed discourse other than "It's just my opinion" -- sure, you can do whatever you want, obviously. But an opinion that amounts to nothing more than, "Well, it's just how I feel" isn't likely to change anyone's mind, or to be very interesting to anyone who doesn't know you.

message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow, y'all fixate on that "unoriginal" thing, eh? :-)

After having spent most of my life reading many of the books/authors you're talking about, I decided to seek out books with a different perspective. Books with original, i.e. new and different, viewpoints. Viewpoints I had not encountered before. Viewpoints that I had not experienced personally. This makes them original - to me. They give me something new to consider and think about.

Why people think there exists Untouchable Literature Beyond Criticism baffles me. Nothing is perfect. Everything is open to criticism. It's all subjective, folks. That's part of what makes reading interesting. It affects us each uniquely. There is, believe it or not, no right and wrong.

message 26: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) Of course, Diana. All you say is true, though I would have italicized the "viewpoints" and not "new and different" ;) ........god, i cringe any time i use a any sort of face.......

All you say is true, and therefore--this is where it gets interesting--we can criticize (or critique/question) even a simple statement like yours made in an online forum. The walls are coming down. Or they already are and we're wading through the rubble trying to find something useful and inspiring.

Ultimately, I think I have to agree though. I'm drawn a lot more towards other cultures lately. True, most recently they're experimental European cultures, but I'm more excited about trying out Coetzee and Saramago than delving further into my national consciousness. The one exception is McCarthy for me right now. I really should make a point of it and get down to business...

message 27: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) We're not "fixated" on it. We're discussing it because the conversation began when someone said (again a paraphrase) "American literature is unoriginal." Say what you will about your own preferences and opinions, but making the sweeping statement that American literature is "unoriginal" is just kinda silly.

And I know certainly never said (and don't believe) that there's "untouchable literature beyond criticism." Did someone else say that? I didn't notice it.

message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

No need to cringe when making "faces" online. It's positively necessary to make sure people get what you're saying, especially humor. I know it's hard to believe, but there are those who go out of their way to misunderstand pretty much anything ;-)

I honestly don't mind discussion or even criticism of my opinion. I know what I like and why I like it. I don't have a desire to change anyone's mind, although if anyone decides to check out an author I enjoy because of something I wrote, then I'm a happy little camper :-) Speaking of which, when you get around to Saramago, perhaps you can let me know what you think. He has a special place in my literary heart. He is, in my humble opinion - do I dare say it - original :-D

message 29: by Chrystal714 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Chrystal714 | 47 comments I have to wonder if his own country men find him as original as you do.

message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Laura: are you actually reading my posts? Just curious, 'cause I'm pretty sure I explained the "unoriginal" thing a couple of times now. If it still isn't clear, I can give it another shot.

No, no one here actually said in so many words that there is Untouchable Literature Beyond Criticism. But the tones of the posts certainly imply it - to me. If this is incorrect, my humblest apologies.

message 31: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 07, 2007 06:16PM) (new)

Chrystal714: It doesn't matter. It's original - to me. And to me, again, that's all that matters. It's my reading experience.

message 32: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) You were not the only one who made the remark -- the other person who made it (before you did, in fact), has yet to weigh in, so my remarks aren't actually addressed solely to you, believe it or not.

I don't use emoticons myself -- I think the need for them is obviated by clear and direct writing.

And I accept your apology, thank you.

message 33: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Maybe it would be helpful, Diana, if you were to give some examples of ideas, viewpoints, characters, etc. you found to be unoriginal, and then tell us where said idea etc. was previously expressed. I think that is why Laura (though I don't presume to speak for her) feels your statement was "sweeping"; because it is very general and not specific.

Are there American authors whose works are wholly unoriginal? Of course. This is true about any country's literature, though. To lump all American literature in that camp is just naive.

It would be different if you said, "I don't care for Steinbeck because I think he's rehashing ______."

message 34: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) You speak for me very well, Sarah. "I don't care for such and such because he _______" is informative, and probably interesting. On the other hand, "I don't care for such and such and I don't wish to discuss it because I don't care what anyone else thinks and my opinion is good enough for me" is not, and frankly, I don't understand the point of such a statement in a forum meant for discussion.

message 35: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Also, it's entirely possible that some of us might agree with your examples, or that we might be able to offer a suggestion of an author or book you haven't read. But it's hard to say without knowing which works and authors you object to.

message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Okay, one more time...

After having spent most of my life reading many of the books/authors you're talking about, I decided to seek out books with a different perspective. Books with original, i.e. new and different, viewpoints. Viewpoints I had not encountered before. Viewpoints that I had not experienced personally. This makes them original - to me. They give me something new to consider and think about.

This says nothing about objecting to American authors or finding their work unoriginal. It simply means I'm now looking for and reading books that have a different outlook on the world, a different way of expression that I have not yet encountered. I'm not sure what's unclear about this.

message 37: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 58 comments Xysea: Thanks for saying what I was thinking. I was beginning to wonder if there was a set of rules for participating which some posters (Laura, for instance) had access to, but which I was unaware of.

Sarah: For me, starting a sentence with "I can't understand how someone can say X..." seems non-conducive to a genuine exchange of opinions, as it more or less advertises that you have dismissed opinion X out of hand.

As far as weighing in on the question "American literature is ....", the only adjectives that seem to fit in the sentence are words like 'varied', 'diverse', 'idiosyncratic', so that generalization seems meaningless. Joyce Carol Oates, David Foster Wallace, Breece D'J Pancake, F.Scott Fitzgerald - not that much in common, except for the three-barreled names.

message 38: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) I don't know that I dismissed the opinion; I said I don't understand it. As I have said before, if someone were to say "I don't care for ______ because of ________," I would be able to understand the opinion, regardless if I shared it or not.

I am not in any way trying to say Diane's (or anyone else's) opinions are wrong or unwelcome; I am just asking for an example so I can better understand the point made.

message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Sarah: But the point is that I didn't say I didn't care for American writers. Although there certainly are some I don't care for. The point of my original post (which, I admit was unclear, hence my attempt to clarify), was that after having spent so many years reading mostly American literature I was ready to read something new and different. This is what makes it "original" to me.

message 40: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Diana, my apologies. I read back in the thread and realized Michelle originally made the general statement that American literature was unoriginal. I believe that is the original post I was thinking of when I requested examples.

I can understand where you are coming from. I read mostly American and English literature, and I am ready to try some Russian and French. But that doesn't mean, for me, that I plan to stop reading American and English lit. My favorite authors are American and British.

message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Sarah: I did say in there somewhere that American Lit was unoriginal, I just meant it differently than perhaps Michelle did. It just took a while to get it all sorted out. Anyway, I haven't totally given up on American lit. No doubt, eventually I'll circle back to it. In the meantime, however, there's so much great literature out there I hate to miss any of it!

message 42: by ScottK (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

ScottK Wow where are Alexis C. Colby and Crystal Carrington when you need 'em huh .......How bout that reflecting pool scene ???...... Anyone ...anyone ..... OK so I wish I had liked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell Or whatever the #$%%$#@ it was called) ...even a little bit.
Thanks :)
( Emoticons Rock !!! )

message 43: by Norman (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Norman (normanince) | 48 comments I generally don't like dictionary definitions because I think they're so unoriginal!

Actually, I am with Laura and Sarah on wanting Michelle (way back on page 1 of this thread) to support her claim that American literature (with a few exceptions) is "unoriginal". American fast food, Hollywood movies, recent Presidential candidates...ok, all of THESE are truly unoriginal, but American literature? Ginsberg, Dick, Miller (Henry or Arthur, take your pick), Plath, O'Connor, and Vonnegut, Jr. (just to name a few) must be turning in their graves!

message 44: by Clare (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Clare | 53 comments I don't care who made the statement that American lit was original but I respectfully disagree. Could a wonderful book like To Kill A Mockingbird have been written in any other country? It was so much about American southern experience and problems with racism. In Cold Blood is another book that I feel was unique. I love reading and am now especially interested in current Norwegian crime fiction (how's that for an unusual genre?)and it is different and sometimes wonderful but no better than a terrific book I am now reading by James Lee Burke called the Tin Roof Blowdown. Tin Roof is a crime novel (fiction) about events during Hurrican Katrina in New Orleans. If that isn't a uniquely American experience, I don't know what is. I believe we have a rich selection of American literature available to us and the rest of the world.

message 45: by Chrystal714 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Chrystal714 | 47 comments I get so tired of "America", "American" bashing. Yes saying American Lit. in general is unoriginal is bashing. It is more then just a personal opinion, it is a statement. If I said right now I am finding American lit. unoriginal. Or if I said I just like Brit. Lit. better. Those would be opinions.

I just get sick of the Americans are rude, illiterate, stupid, selfish, ect comments. I said on a message board once that I found Parisians rude and snobish. I got jumped all over and told off. Yet just about anyone can put down Americans and it just gets sluffed off.

I am quite frankly sick of it.

message 46: by Summer Rae (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Summer Rae Garcia | 45 comments wow, so, anywho, anyone have any Books they wish they liked? That seemed like a good idea for a topic.

message 47: by Joey (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Joey (joeymporter) | 6 comments I truly wish I could have liked "Henderson the Rain King" by Saul Bellow.

I just couldn't get into this and I don't really know why. I think I would like to give it another try at some point though.

message 48: by Michelle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Michelle (literarilyspeaking1) I definitely did not give McTeague 3 stars. I gave it no stars...

It's actually on my "burn-for-firewood" shelf because I wanted to do just that, even though I think burning books is horrible.

And, I haven't had time to write a long post explaining my opinion because I'm busy, and I probably won't. So please stop calling for me to justify my opinion, because I won't have a lot of time for the next three weeks.

message 49: by Vanessa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Vanessa | 42 comments Chekov's plays - Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull. They are considered masterworks and I just couldn't stand any of them - either reading them or seeing them performed. What's wrong with me????

message 50: by Norman (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Norman (normanince) | 48 comments What a cop out! How long does it take to come up with an example to support an opinion?


Side note to Karen: You're unlikely to find Orwell on any shelf called 'American Lit'.

I wish I could like Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury - there's clearly something there but I need to take a course in Faulkner to be able to appreciate it. And that ain't gonna happen.

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