Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bad Classics

Several weeks ago, I asked for suggestions on classic books that I hadn’t read. Thanks for everyone’s suggestions. (I ended up starting The Picture of Dorian Gray because it was shorter than the rest. Bad reason, but with everything going on I though short was better.)

In the midst of the comments, we started discussing what determines a classic, what makes a book a part of the canon of great literature. And, of course, we don’t always like “the classics.” So this is my question for you all today. What classics have you read that you haven’t enjoyed? And why?

Here are mine.

1. The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. (My least favorite book ever—I hate pronouns without referents.)

2. The Aeneid by Virgil (It seemed like a total rip-off of Homer’s Illiad)

3. Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy. (I’m pretty sure I read this in high school, but I don’t remember anything about the plot. All I remember is wanting to poke my eyes out.)

4. La Modification by Michel Butor. (I had to read this French modernist book in French. I had no idea if I understood the story. So I found an English translation and read them side by side. I still couldn’t figure out the story. The only thing I know is that some woman rode a train a lot.)

5. The poetry of a famous poet who shall not be named, lest you be tempted to look him up. (Why do I hate his work? Because he was a professor of mine and a wretched individual, who never seemed content unless someone was crying in class. His favorite technique was Xeroxing people’s papers, passing them out, and saying that it was the worst tripe he’d ever read—tenure protected him. He was an equal opportunity villain and did everyone’s paper, though he seemed to target sorority girls more than anyone else. Of course, it never seemed to occur to him that not everyone’s paper could be the worse thing he’d ever read. But logical fallacies weren’t strong suit. Being heinous was.

BTW, my mom’s showing signs of improvement. If all goes well, she may be home by the weekend. 


  1. #5: What an awful sounding man! This is one of the reasons I take issue with the tenure system. Just one.

    Hmmm...classics I didn't care for...despite my best efforts, I've never been a huge Dickens fan. I like his short stories/novellas, but the novels are just so much to slog through. Might be how I read them, though--perhaps if I try reading in serial format as they were originally printed it would go better.

  2. I haven't taken a second look at it to see if my opinion has changed since high school, but I loathed "Moby Dick."

  3. I just could not finish anything by Ernest Hemingway. I got halfway thru 'A Farewell to Arms' and it suddenly hit me that I did not have to finish this boring book. I never went back. Nana Keller

  4. Same with Movies...Gone with the Wind had me wanting to blow up Terra myself.

  5. I've only read one of those "classics," the Aeneid. I thought it was fine, but it was in Latin and I only read a page a day for a year.

    #5 isn't classic literature I think... I think classics are like wine. They have to have aged a while to be classics. Otherwise they're just grape juice. I'm sure this teacher of yours has only written grape juice.

  6. Hmm, good question. I couldn't get through any James Joyce. Maybe now, but not way back when.

  7. Glad to hear about your mom!

    #5 sounds horrible. Augh. Just reading that paragraph makes me want to punch him the nose. :P

    The only book I've ever been said to hate was A Separate Peace, but by a weird twist of fate, I've read it 4 times. (I'm not a re-reader of books usually, so most books I haven't read more than once.) The thing is, I think I might've been too young when I first read it because by the 4th reading, I found I didn't hate it as much (maybe it was familiarity breeding fondness?). I've moved it up to general dislike. :P

    I also really dislike King Lear, but I blame that more on my high school experience of it. We read sections of it aloud in class, and there were a few unnamed individuals who seemed to make it their GOAL to read it in the most annoying/boring way they could.

  8. Yay that your mom is feeling better!!!! I'm not a big Hemingway fan. Shhh.....

  9. Some classics I didn't like were 1984, Brave New World, anything by Hemingway, The Stranger.

    But, I can see why they are classics. They do have a way of sticking in your mind.

    Prayers for your mom.

  10. Glad your mom is getting better. Anything by Hemingway I have never been able to get through his work.

  11. I'm happy our discussion was able to move onto to something like this. I've always found it hard to pick my favorites and easy to say what I hate.

    But I'll admit I never made it through 1984. I seriously got through half the book, but simply lost interest. I just couldn't stomach it. :\

    But all the same, it's awesome to hear your mother is doing better!! (I hope there isn't much screaming anymore across the hall.)

  12. Too funny! Dorian Gray is on my list too. Let me know how you like it...

  13. p.s. Glad you're mom is feeling better!

    p.p.s. As for #5, I know people...

  14. I despised the movie of Gone with the Wind, so that's number 1.
    2. probably The Old Man and the Sea, no real plot line and awfully boring.
    3. Fahrenheit 451: hideously depressing and no real ending
    4. and 5. I don't really have anything here. Sir Walter Scott's books are interesting, but they take so long to get anywhere. I despised Ender's Game, but that's only a Sci-Fi classic.