Literary Blog Hop – Holy Cow that was hard to read

Posted 12 November, 2010 by Trish in Reading Nook / 25 Comments


Literary Blog Hop

Since this week has been pretty slow–and things aren’t looking up unless I can write some posts this weekend–I thought today would be a perfect day to participate in the Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase. The hop is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion. A small note that I don’t feel I need to discuss further–I do not agree with the exclusionary definition The Blue Bookcase provides for “literary”. /endrant

Today’s topic comes from Debbie Nance from Readerbuzz (who I met last month at the Texas Book Festival!).  She asks:

What is the most difficult literary work you’ve ever read? What made it so difficult?

I’ve always kind of prided myself on enjoying a good challenge when it comes to reading.  Sure I like the mindless stuff as well, but I need to be mentally stimulated and reading is one of the avenues I choose to acheive this.  There have been several books I’ve read that are pretty difficult, but I think you guys probably know my answer…

Brothers Karamazov.  Hands down.  I just posted my review last week in which I admitted I just didn’t really get the book.  Do I need to explain why?  Take a look at Dostoevsky’s outlining for Brothers Karamazov below. 

Dostoevsky’s scrawlings (from wikipedia)

Other books that come to mind are Zorba the Greek, Middlemarch, and Les MiserablesZorba because I never really understood what was going on–the writing was beautiful but…Greek.  Ha!  Middlemarch because of the length as well as some life timing as well as not fully understanding the social climate in which the book was written (political things).  Les Miserables sheerly because of the length and some passages that were incredibly long and dry.  I ended up really liking Middlemarch and loving Les Miserables.  Wish I could say the same for Zorba and Brothers K!

What’s the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

25 Responses to “Literary Blog Hop – Holy Cow that was hard to read”

  1. I can say that none of those books are ones I’ve read and probably never will read! Silas Marner was short, but it was hard enough to make me never want to read another Elliott book! And I even liked Silas in the end!

  2. Well, at least one good thing came from reading the book…you had an answer to this question!

    My top three would be K Bros, Moby Dick (which I couldn’t finish, so it probably doesn’t count) and Lolita.

  3. I agree with Les Miserables. I think I got about halfway and never finished it. I don’t remember it being difficult but it was so long. I enjoyed the story but I read it during the summer in college and I just didn’t have the time to read it once the semester started up.

  4. *Guatami – :)

    *Amanda – No, you should read Les Miserables. It is a wonderful wonderful book. Maybe just read the abridged version.

    *Softdrink – I read Moby Dick as an undergrad and it was really hard–probably wouldn’t have finished on my own. Did you finish Lolita? It was a tough one but really good.

    *Rose City Reader – Whew–I’d love to know more about why you enjoyed Brothers Karamazov! I guess you read in college with class? As I was reading I kept thinking this one would be best discussed with a class and professor. Congrats on finishing! ;)

    *Kristi – Oh no, you have to go back. It is long and tough, but it’s such a beautiful book! Maybe pick up the abridged version of Les Mis. I know that’s what I’ll be doing next time!

    *Ingrid – It isn’t necessarily the definition of “literary”–a term that is pretty vague and nebulous. It is more the exclusionary definition–I don’t think whole genres can be excluded from being “literary.” There are certainly literary fantasy books, literary romance novels, even literary crime fiction! YA isn’t a genre, so I can’t really comment there. I hope I didn’t offend. Like I said, I don’t want to make a big deal about it, just felt I needed to mention it.

  5. middlemarch! really, really, really want to read that one! I remember hating Adam Bede while reading it but loving it in retrospect, so I have high hopes for middlemarch :)

    I’ll have to check out your review for the brothers karamazov, it’s one book I’ve given up on over the years and I’m keen to tackle it again.

    Anyway, nice to meet you on the hop! I’m a new follower :D

  6. Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov. While the story was very interesting, knowing that he supposedly stole the manuscript made the story not that interesting. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn didn’t exaclty enamor me either. I think it had to do with the fact that I really couldn’t tell at what point in the day one was. Every thing seemed to run together.

    Oh, and I read half of Les Miserables in Grade 8 and I do plan on reading it, in a copy with lots of end notes.

  7. cj

    So, I’m not part of the blog hop and from your explanation of what it entails, I will never be.

    See, I rarely ever read ‘literary’ fiction. Mainly because I find it boring and needlessly difficult to read.

    I read for fun. For escape. For distraction. Occassionally I will read something deep and meaningful, like The Book Thief, but for the most part I don’t like books that make me cry. For me, it’s a ‘what’s the point’ question.

    I get enough of the bad stuff in my real life. Don’t need it when I read.

    And I have no idea why I thought I needed to add my two cents…

    Have a wonderful weekend, Trish! Get plenty of rest and take care of yourself!


  8. I’ve not read any of your picks, nor are they on my TBR list! I hated reading “hard” books for school, so I’ve been pretty lax about reading them since I’ve been reading for pleasure. I’m in the process of assembling a project to change that, though!

  9. I’d probably say that the most difficult literary work I ever read was Moby Dick. It wasn’t like reading a simple blog post (ahem ;). However, I did enjoy it. I’ve tried reading Brothers K several times and just couldn’t get through it any of the times. I did like Crime and Punishment, though.

  10. Somehow I knew what your answer to this question would be ;-) My answer was Mrs. Dalloway, but Les Mis was a close second.

  11. Wow, well compared to everyone else, I would say the hardest book I ever read seems a little shallow. I couldn’t stand A Million Little Pieces. I haven’t really tried to tackle hard core reading. Tess of the D’urbervilles was difficult because I wasn’t familiar with the language so mich bit I loved the story so I wouldn’t count that. Anyway, I have rambled enough. Love ya!!

  12. I am currently reading The Brothers Karamazov in a group-read and enjoying it immensely. I have to agree though that it is a deep, dark, and damned bleak novel. And there aren’t any likable characters so far, with the exception of perhaps Alyosha. The other thing that is driving me crazy is the completely unreliable narrator. The reader really has no idea what to believe at all.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, and the Wikipedia reproduction of Dostoevsky’s diagram is more than fascinating! Cheers! Chris

  13. Middlemarch and BK are favorites of mine. Somehow, I’m not intrigued enough by Les Mis to pick it up and read. Wonderful response.

  14. The first one that comes to mind is Henry James’ The Golden Bowl. I wanted to read it before the movie was released (a few years ago) and had to read each sentence several times to understand it. Or at least come close to understanding it. (I’m limiting this to books I’ve finished)

    All the comments on Middlemarch reminds me I bought it years ago and haven’t even moved it to the to be read stack. I can’t resist a good challenge…

  15. Yep, I knew as soon as I scrolled to your post next on my reader what your answer would be! But then look at those notes–clearly Dostoevsky couldn’t read his own notes resulting in a book that was ridiculously complicated!

  16. *Toni – Middlemarch is good but I recommend having a guide close with some of the political happenings in Eliot’s time. Gets confusing! ;) Brothers K? Bleh. Thanks for visiting.

    *Melissa – Eeep! I haven’t heard of any of the authors you mention…guess I better look it up! And yes, do read Les Mis–fantastic book. I think Middlemarch is basically a very (very) long social commentary. ;)

    *CJ – I appreciate your two cents–and while I do think you read more literary works that you think (though according to the original definition provided last week…The Book Thief would be excluded), I don’t think we should have to feel like we need to be literary all the time. I’m certainly not. And while I have my favorite types of books, I love a variety. It’s what makes the world go round. ;)

    *Erin – Reading for pleasure is certainly important and as I read some of these books I wonder “what’s the point”…see CJ’s comment above. Les Miserables isn’t hard…just really really long. ;)

    *Unfinishedperson – Moby Dick. I read that one with class and wonder now if I would have gotten through it on my own (probably not). Brothers K was a pain in the ass. ;) But I’ve heard good things about C&P, so one day…just not soon day…

    *JoAnn – Mrs. Dalloway. Also another one I read with class. It’s amazing to me how much more can be gleaned from a text when discussed with others!

    *Michelle – Tess IS definitely a difficult book! I struggled with the language–especially the landscape descriptions. Million Little Pieces. Ick. ;)

    *Christopher – Oh just wait until Book IV…I could have kicked the narrator. ;) I might have to sneak in and eavesdrop on your group read–I’d love to understand why people enjoy this one. Thanks for coming by.

    *Kinnareads – Ok, you gotta tell me what you liked about Brothers K! I struggled so terribly with it. Les Miserables is just a fantastic story. Thanks for visiting.

    *Dwight – I ended up enjoying Middlemarch but it was a bit of work. Henry James? Yuck. He’s not a favorite of mine. ;)

    *Parrish lantern – I must have just totally missed what everyone liked about Brothers K. ;) Would love to know your thoughts. Perhaps it was the translation I read–I don’t read in Russian.

    *Lisa – Oh I know–no wonder his book is such a mess, huh? ;) Too bad because with a little tightening I think the book could have been much more accessible and widely enjoyed.

  17. For me, I loved The Brothers Karamazov, but I realize a lot of it is about translation and mood. Plus, I have an affinity for Russian literature. Middlemarch, however, I found just plain boring. Boring with a capital B. Ick. ;)