Books you didn't understand

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

jennontheisland

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Of Human Bondage.

I felt bound, alright. Trapped in that pointless story for pages. and pages and pages....
 

Kjbartolotta

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Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson by Gurdjieff is by far the most challenging book I can think of, since it was intentionally designed that way. YMMV if struggling with it lead to the goal Gurdjieff intended.

I really liked Anathem by Neal Stephenson and got a hell of a lot out of it, but there were big chunks that were waaaaaaay over my head.
 

cool pop

It's Cool, Miss Pop if You're Nasty
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Beloved! My god that book was horrible. I tried to read it because everyone kept saying it was so great and the movie had come out but I couldn't get through one chapter and neither could my mother. I tried to read something else by Toni Morrison and gave up on that too. I'm a fan of her accomplishments as a black female writer and that she tackles experiences from our culture others might shy from but not a fan of her writing. I'm sorry but her writing is an acquired taste I just don't get.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

You'll find a bunch of people on this thread have said the same thing about Beloved. I read Song of Solomon shortly after it came out, and loved it, but I've finished nothing I've attempted to read by Morrison since. I'm about to attempt reading Jazz. Wish me luck.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

gem1122

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Blood Meridian.

+1

I have a friend who swears on this book like it's holy. I don't get it.

In other news, this thread has inspired me to give Ulysses a second shot (20 pages in, and I'm already questioning my decision).
 

Conrad Adamson

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All the Light We Cannot See is considered a big deal but I feel like maybe I didn't get it. It had good elements but none of it blew me away.
 

pharm

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I’ve tried on at least three, maybe four occasions to read Infinite Jest and I always lose interest not long after the goofy government conspiracy plotline gets going. Also a lot of the endnotes are hilarious but flipping back and forth between the middle and appendix every sentence quickly becomes an exhausting way to read a book. I’ve read legal hornbooks that were less of a chore to follow.

e. I do love DFW’s essays though. Not denying he was a remarkable writer.
 
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Kjbartolotta

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Hey, this thread's back! Conflicted feelings on Wallace in general, though I generally like hysterical realism in all its messy glory. My co-workers are discussing Vollman as I type this, who's also an author I've DNF'nd many time due to excessive difficulty (should read The Rifles tho).

Other books that stumped my 'ol noggin:

Dhalgren- Huh?
Canopus in Argos- Whuh?
Godel, Escher, Bach- Brain leaks out of ears...
Sound and the Fury- Eh, not that bad really. I liked Quentin and Jason's portions.

ETA- Since Gene Wolfe passed away recently, I should mention the only book of his that left me really stumped was The Land Across. Finished and liked it, but made no sense whatsoever.
 
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yesandno

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Hey, this thread's back! Conflicted feelings on Wallace in general, though I generally like hysterical realism in all its messy glory. My co-workers are discussing Vollman as I type this, who's also an author I've DNF'nd many time due to excessive difficulty (should read The Rifles tho).

Other books that stumped my 'ol noggin:

Dhalgren- Huh?
Canopus in Argos- Whuh?
Godel, Escher, Bach- Brain leaks out of ears...
Sound and the Fury- Eh, not that bad really. I liked Quentin and Jason's portions.

ETA- Since Gene Wolfe passed away recently, I should mention the only book of his that left me really stumped was The Land Across. Finished and liked it, but made no sense whatsoever.

Loved Dhalgren. Didn't feel I needed to completely get it to enjoy it, but I have always wished I could figure out the structural framework. For a while I thought maybe it was based on a musical score, but could never figure out how to put that together. I read Delany's On Writing and he stressed structure as the most important element in writing.

I couldn't ever really connect with Gravity's Rainbow. So many people I know read it and loved it, but I could never get past the first 50 pages. Maybe I'm just dense.
 

PiaSophia

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Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. My mother loved the book and told me to try it. I finished it, but ended up baffled and looking like :e2shrug:.
I guess late 1950s/1960s writers aren't really my cup of tea most of the time. We're in a totally different head space.
 

Kjbartolotta

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I couldn't ever really connect with Gravity's Rainbow. So many people I know read it and loved it, but I could never get past the first 50 pages. Maybe I'm just dense.

I read the whole darn thing and loved it, but I'm at an age where I don't need to idolize Pynchon to feel good about myself. It's probably not that you're dense.
 

Night_Writer

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I couldn't ever really connect with Gravity's Rainbow. So many people I know read it and loved it, but I could never get past the first 50 pages. Maybe I'm just dense.

Interesting. My ex-husband tried reading that book. And he read the whole thing except for the last 50 pages. Then he gave up. I asked why he didn't finish it, and he said he was just so confused, he couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. So he gave up when he only had a few pages left. And that was amazing cuz he was a major book person.

One book that I had trouble with was Nightshade, by Derek Marlowe. It was about voodoo in Haiti, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what the author was trying to do. If he was trying to be spooky and mysterious, I'd say he succeeded -- too well. I have no idea what happened at the end. I read another book by the same author called A Dandy in Aspic, which was the tightest spy story I've ever come across. I guess he should have stuck to the spy stuff and forgotten about occult suspense.
 

Kjbartolotta

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Interesting. My ex-husband tried reading that book. And he read the whole thing except for the last 50 pages. Then he gave up. I asked why he didn't finish it, and he said he was just so confused, he couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. So he gave up when he only had a few pages left. And that was amazing cuz he was a major book person.

But that's the best part! There's the kinky Nazi bondage involving V-2 rockets, long diatribes on Qlippoth, and then, after the universe is destroyed we cut to the Venice Freeway in the 1970's and the whole book is supposed to start over so really it never ends and you just keep reading and rereading...

Makes me remember this Onion article from way back in the day:

PHILADELPHIA–According to riders on the eastbound C bus, John Bolen, 23, made a conscious effort Monday to make the cover of Thomas Pynchon's The Crying Of Lot 49 visible to all on board. "Instead of resting the book on his lap or on the seat in front of him, he was holding it up in this really awkward, uncomfortable-looking way," rider Caryn Little said. "Then, every so often, he'd glance around to see if anyone was noticing what he was reading." Bolen vehemently denied the Pynchon-flaunting charges, insisting that "the light was bad" on the bus.

Almost twenty years later and I still​ feel so seen.
 

shortstorymachinist

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This Census-Taker by China Mieville. I have no idea what happened in that book.
Oooh, yeah, I love Mieville but at the end of that one I had only grasped the slightest hint of what had been going on. Like,
the first letters of some of the sentences in one of the final chapters spell out, "This Census-Taker is rogue,"
at which point I realized I would probably have to re-read the entire book looking for weird meta clues. I haven't gotten around to it yet.
Mieville is really hit-or-miss for me. I don't think I ever finished "Kraken"? Stopped reading him after that one. Pity, because he's really atmospheric when he's good.
It took me three tries to finish Kraken. After a while I'd forget why I stopped reading during previous attempts, only remembering that I really loved the first third-ish. I think he just threw in too many ideas with Kraken.
 
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thewonder

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A notable absurdity of my exploration of Critical Theory is that I read The Matrixial Borderspace, a post-Lacanian text that it completely reliant upon his terminology, without ever having read a single word written by Jacques Lacan. I got the thing about "laying down your arms to paint" and almost nothing else.

I also read the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein without any foreknowledge of Analytic Philosophy whatsoever and can safely say that I didn't understand a word, an admittance that I consider somewhat noble, as philosophers are likely to pretend to have understood the Tractatus within almost every given conversation.
 
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Kjbartolotta

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A notable absurdity of my exploration of Critical Theory is that I read The Matrixial Borderspace, a post-Lacanian text that it completely reliant upon his terminology, without ever having read a single word written by Jacques Lacan. I got the thing about "laying down your arms to paint" and almost nothing else.

I also read the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein without any foreknowledge of Analytic Philosophy whatsoever and can safely say that I didn't understand a word, an admittance that I consider somewhat noble, as philosophers are likely to pretend to have understood the Tractatus within almost every given conversation.
Hahaha, I tried with anything Lacan or post-Lacan and kinda get the feels but no, I actually like Critical Theory and play along best I can but I know my limits.

As for Wittengenstein I remember being intrigued by his ideas then actually picking him up and being like ‘imma bounce’.
 
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