Thursday, November 11, 2010
Literary Blog Hop Week 2 - Most Difficult Literary Work
This week's question comes from Debbie Nance at Readerbuzz
What is the most difficult literary work you've ever read? What made it so difficult?
I imagine that since it asks "read," that implies actually finishing. Otherwise I'd be talking about how many times I have started-but-not-finished Ulysses by James Joyce. My only strategy with that one is to read it out loud, but I still end up putting it aside for something else. Nothing like a difficult book to get you to develop reader's ADD!
Some books that I've tackled that sometimes are considered difficult, such as Gravity's Rainbow, Les Miserables, and so on - these have been so enjoyable that it seemed completely worth it.
I'm going to choose Moby Dick for my answer to this question. Ah, Melville. I read this along with a group that was reading a chapter a day, and as Moby Dick has 365 chapters, it took a year. If I had read it on my own, I would surely have read it more quickly, so the process itself was a little tedious. I know this is supposed to be one of the great novels of life and death and obsession, and I definitely enjoyed the bits that had interesting characters and plot. Right when I would get into the story, Melville would go off on a tangent and talk about whale biology or the history of the shipping industry. Difficult books might give me reading ADD, but Melville clearly had writing ADD! Revenge, redemption, oh look, there's a pony! It was distracting and I wanted to abandon ship (har har) more than once, just on principle.
At the same time, I think of how many times reading one book has sent me off in search of more information about history or philosophies or people represented within it. Perhaps Melville was doing me a favor by providing all the possible context within the pages of one integrated novel!
As many difficult books as I have enjoyed, I still have several major ones I haven't gotten around to reading. I am trying to decide between War and Peace and Infinite Jest as the book I'll tackle during the winter holidays.