Sunday, August 05, 2012

I Dare You to Read These Books

Did anyone read the recent Publisher’s Weekly article about the ten most difficult books ever written? Those who follow my blog know that I love lists almost as much as I love stat, so I couldn’t resist this one. I’ve read only one on the list and am certainly not inspired to read more of them unless I’m feeling particularly masochistic. According to two curators, Emily Colette Wilkinson and Garth Risk Hallberg, here are the titles. By the way, the titles of some would keep me from picking up the book in the first place!

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (whom I’ve never heard of). Dylan Thomas said that in order to read this book you must first master its “tortuous gothic prose style”.

A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift. This book apparently has multiple problems, among them “superabundant references to obsolete cultural squabbles”. Oh, dear. There’s also a 100 footnotes for those who are particularly self-punishing.

The Phenomenology of the Spirit by G.F. Hegel. Apparently, Hegel’s refute of the “history of consciousness and the quintessential explanation of the process of dialectic” goes through you like lentils, according to one Stanford professor.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – I read this one and don’t remember a thing about it probably because it’s not only “hard to tell who’s who or who’s saying or thinking what, it is also disconcerting....”

Clarissa, Or the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson. Given that this was written by a man, you’d think it would be a relatively short book, but think again. It’s 1,500 pages. I guess Clarissa had a long history. And here’s the kicker, the novel apparently lacks a plot!

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce – Many of you won’t be surprised to see this one on this list. Happily, I’ve never even attempted to crack open the cover. According to the article, Joyce purposely set “traps” for the reader out of hostility born by years of frustration. Maybe he should have gone into the trades.

To keep this blog from becoming too long, I won’t go into detail over the last four, as the article does this beautifully anyway. Let me just say that these titles in particular make the content suspect for me.

Being & Time by Martin Heidegger

The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spencer. The spelling puts me off right there.

The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein.

Women & Men by James McElroy

I encourage you to read the PW article, and if you’ve read any of these books let me know. If you have more to add to the list, I’d love to hear them as well!


Julie H. Ferguson said...

Nary a one!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Nope, I haven't read any of these, but I'd probably like at least some of them. I do a lot of reading for entertainment, but I also find it exhilarating to read books that kick me in the gray matter.

Josh Karaczewski said...

I remember reading "To the Lighthouse" in college - just reading along - and then I stopped after I realized that one of the main characters might have just died. I had read right past it, barely understanding what was happening, and even after rereading the section I wasn't 100% sure. I like to think that if I reread it now I would understand a lot more, but maybe not...

Debra Purdy Kong said...

Thanks for your comments everyone. There is something to be said for reading to challenge yourself! And I agree, Josh. I didn't understand half of what's going on! People often marvel (and not in a good way) at what's being published today, but I have a feeling it's always been that way. :)