When you think of yourself as a Reader, you want to read all the "important" works of literature. Or maybe that's just me being pretentious. Some of my effort to read the classics has gone well...Moby-Dick is better than you think it'll be and surprisingly modern in structure, I loved Anna Karenina with my whole heart, and getting into Jane Austen has been a joy. Some of it has gone...less well. Here (in no particular order) are seven classics that I have read and completely failed to understand why I'm supposed to care
- The Catcher In The Rye: I think I read this at entirely the wrong time in my life. I read this when I was 23, during my second year of law school. This is really a book that should be read around 16, or whatever age you are when you start deriding everyone who isn't exactly what they appear to be on the surface as "fake". Because that's basically what it's about: the disillusionment of realizing that the world isn't always what it seems to be, and a longing to go back to a time when it was. If you've emotionally progressed past this stage, this is probably going to be more irritating than anything else, but if you're right in the middle of it, you probably will love it for the rest of your life. I'm in the former camp.
- Don Quixote: I feel like this is probably a weird comparison, but Don Quixote reminds me of what I liked least about "The Office" on TV. Don Quixote is basically Michael Scott, all cripplingly awkward delusion. Which makes Sancho Panza the Dwight figure, which works surprisingly well, but I digress. What I'm trying to say is that this is a book that consists essentially entirely of awkward humor, which is my least favorite kind of humor. It was really long and I just wanted it to be over
- The Grapes of Wrath: Either this or Of Mice and Men could have gone here, honestly, but I hated Grapes more. Just heavy-handed metaphors about misery and despair, and then long passages about misery and despair. I will rewrite the book in one sentence: the Dust Bowl and Great Depression super sucked for everyone, but especially Great Plains farmers. The end.
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: I read this in either 11th or 12th grade English in high school and I can remember very little about it except an overwhelming feeling of "do not want" whenever I opened the book. I remember that Huck and Jim go down the river together, but I can't recall a single other thing that happens. The fact that I don't have the slightest recall of the plot tells you I just completely didn't connect with it, because that's really unusual. I don't remember this being bad, per se, just that I found the exercise of reading it to be, well, exercise rather than enjoyment.
- Love In The Time of Cholera: A sprawling epic about the power of true love to last a lifetime...or a five alarm snorefest? I'm in the latter camp. Dude falls in love with lady, lady ultimately rejects him, and he bangs everything in sight while thinking about how much he loves the lady that rejected him. Meanwhile, lady marries someone else and they stay married, more or less happily, until he dies. Dude comes back in the picture (this is when everyone is old) and he and the lady finally rekindle their romance. I found the plot ridiculous and the language excessively flowery. I'd heard great things about it and was really disappointed a
- The Sun Also Rises: This could have been any Hemingway that I've read (besides the short story The Snows of Kilamanjaro, which I actually rather like), but this one was my least favorite of his. Bullfighting and humans fighting and drinking and thwarted, doomed love affairs and precious few adjectives. Reading Hemingway, to me, feels like watching Scorcese. Stories about men and violence and the women in their lives who aren't people, really, but objects and symbols. While I can appreciate Scorcese movies (even though I usually don't like them), I can't get there with Hemingway. He's just the worst.
- Crime and Punishment: I'm normally not one to pitch a fit about books where nothing happens. The Virgin Suicides is my favorite book of all time and not much happens in that one. But this one? White dude thinks he's better than everyone else and could get away with murder without feeling guilty. He commits murder. He feels guilty. That is essentially the entire plot, and it goes on for eons.