Problems finishing great books

TalkAnal-retentives

Join LibraryThing to post.

Problems finishing great books

This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

1RickHarsch
Nov 3, 2019, 2:50pm

This has got to be common.

I am looking at two of them right now:

1. Magic Prague
2. The French Revolution

I've loved every page of both books and still have near half of 1 and a third of 2 left to go.

I also see Desert Solitaire but I never actually committed to that one, so I am less desperate.

2baswood
Nov 3, 2019, 4:27pm

Who says they are great books? If its you why can't you finish them? don't you want to get to the end? If its other people that say they are great books then you might not agree and then it becomes a struggle.
My wife has spent 4 years trying to get through The Magic Mountain I tell her its worth it for the twist at the end.

Which French revolution book? is it the one by Thomas Carlyle? Thats been on my shelf for ages.

3RickHarsch
Nov 3, 2019, 6:46pm

Magic Prague was a gift from Macumbeira and I took to it right away and it's an extraordinary book. At times I think I need to read more to appreciate it. In fact, one time I stopped to read the novel The Golem, but I never finished the Golem--the problem is having too many books open at once and reading toward novels at times...So I say it is a great book.
The French revolution book is indeed Carlyle, and it's extraordinary. Sometimes I stop to find context, but I really never should have stopped. I should have worried about understanding what I was reading later.

4Macumbeira
Nov 11, 2019, 12:20am

Magic Prague is an extraordinary book.
However I am not sure you need to finish it.
Only shelve it not too far away, so you can dip in it every now and then.
But again, the book is something unique.

I cannot finish The Magic Mountain either. Every time I read the last line, I'll start all over again. : )

5RickHarsch
Nov 11, 2019, 6:04am

Magic Prage is always within arm's reach. So is Carlyle. The funny thing about Carlyle is that when I first started reading it, someone who had read the first 100 or so pages of my novel The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas unintentionally insulted me by remarking, 'It'll be interesting to see how Carlyle influences your writing.' I guess I'm in a strange state these days, recalling author insults left and right. I was cleaning out my desk two days ago and found some keepsakes from my days at the Iowa Writers Workshop. I kept the funniest, and most disgusting, analyses of my works. I found them hilarious then, and I found them just as funny today. In fact, I shared a few with a young writer whose first novel is coming out from River Boat Books, George Salis, who declined the opportunity to get an MFA, just so he would know what he is missing.

6Macumbeira
Nov 11, 2019, 8:14am

I don't dare to imagine how many times I have unintentionally insulted people

7Crypto-Willobie
Edited: Nov 11, 2019, 8:16am

Maybe this is the place for this-- I did finish them, but...

Classics I didn’t care for

Moby-dick

Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness

Crime and Punishment, Notes from Underground

Look Homeward Angel

Tess of the Dubervilles

8Macumbeira
Nov 11, 2019, 8:19am

Let's banish Crypto to treasure island

9Macumbeira
Nov 11, 2019, 8:32am

Not showing absolute awe towards the accomplishment of authors like Melville, Conrad or Dostoyevski says more about you than about these masters.

10Crypto-Willobie
Nov 11, 2019, 9:11am

Bite me.

11baswood
Edited: Nov 11, 2019, 10:40am

Looking forward to more abuse from Mac and Rick: Classics that I didn't care for:

Ulysses - James Joyce

Tristram Shandy - Lawrence Sterne

The Lord of the Rings - Tolkein

How to win friends and influence people Dale Carnegie

The Bible (couldn't finish it)

And I am sure I would not like anything by Cormac McCarthy

12Macumbeira
Nov 11, 2019, 11:02am

Hark hark, Bas has an iconoclastic streak, we did not detect earlier !

13RickHarsch
Nov 11, 2019, 11:18am

Great! The real wrasslin has started.

Didn't like Moby Dick or Lord Jim!

I found a piece of paper from 25 to 30 years ago in a box the other day that had a great quote from Notes from Underground on it. Crime and Punishment, I remember not liking the way it ended.

Look Homeward Angel I loved, but I think Wolfe is polarizing, the nature of his writing, I mean. I tried to restart Of Time and the River, but though I enjoyed it, I think I still haven't reached page 100.

I can't read anything by Hardy.

Ulysses is a great writer's read, at least that much seems true.

I never read Sterne.

No interest in Tolkien creatures.

I have always had my own way of making friends, and fear influencing anyone but my kids. Even with them I think I should be done by now.

The Bible...didn't start it, but certainly read passages now and then.

McCarthy: I loved Suttree. Of the rest, I liked Outer Dark and Blood Meridian, but less than other folk I know did.

Most English language books of the 20th century failed to grip me. But I have read Moby Dick at least 3 times, probably more.

14Crypto-Willobie
Nov 11, 2019, 12:17pm

Well!

The first three no-no's from Bas
Ulysses - James Joyce
Tristram Shandy - Lawrence Sterne
The Lord of the Rings - Tolkien
are all books I love.

Chacun a son gout (sp?) said the man as he kissed the horse.

Btw, Mac, my bitemarks seem to be healing...

15RickHarsch
Nov 11, 2019, 12:34pm

The only way to deal with the situation is a good old-fashioned living room paperback fight, CW armed with three fat ones (the Tolkien has to be a one-volume). But what would Bas bring to the fight?

16Macumbeira
Nov 11, 2019, 12:45pm

Where is my hardcover Proust ?

17Crypto-Willobie
Nov 11, 2019, 12:56pm

Proust -- now there's one I was enjoying but only got about 2/3 of the way thru vol 1...

I often find that doorstops are easier to get thru listening on unabridged audio...

18RickHarsch
Nov 11, 2019, 2:34pm

You really want to do this hardcover, Mac? My Gibbon is just sitting up there waiting for you.

19baswood
Nov 11, 2019, 5:01pm

>15 RickHarsch: The collected poems of D H Lawrence or the collected letters.

20blackdogbooks
Nov 11, 2019, 6:20pm

I’m a Wolfe fanatic and defender. And Crypto had like three of my all time favorite books up there he didn’t like.

21RickHarsch
Nov 11, 2019, 6:43pm

>19 baswood: Is that one weapon or three?

22RickHarsch
Nov 11, 2019, 6:44pm

I would bring a one volume Braudel Mediterranean as one of my three in a living room book brawl.

23lriley
Edited: Nov 11, 2019, 9:30pm

Finnegan's Wake. I was like What the Fuck? throughout. I finished it but I could not get my head around it. Don't ask me what it's about.

24blackdogbooks
Nov 11, 2019, 9:54pm

A wake for Finnegan? I guess not.

25Crypto-Willobie
Nov 12, 2019, 12:58am

>20 blackdogbooks:
To clarify, some of those had their moments but over all they did not please me.

>23 lriley:
Finnegans Wake does not have an apostrophe. And I would not place it with Joyce's masterpieces, but regard it as a failed experiment.

27RickHarsch
Nov 12, 2019, 6:13am

Love that trilogy, yes
I am behind in my Faulkner and that the first when I return (I read the other most famous ones and Intruder in the Dust, but have been longing for Absalom...)

Flan: I love At Swim, but I think you get more great writing from 3rd Policeman and more good jokes

Invisible Man, a lonely book

To the Lighthouse, yes

Master and Marge--still not done, but I can pick it up after two years off and be right back where I was

I read Barth when I was a poor reader and thus have missed a lot and should but...

Nabokov--Lolita...many reads...should have read Pale Fire by now, I remain far from ardor

Ford M Ford...failed to read the big quartet

Freddy? Can my heart stand more exciting novelty?

28RickHarsch
Nov 12, 2019, 6:19am

Finnegans Wake...As I have said many a time: best bathroom book ever written. Extremely funny. To verify whether the experiment failed I would say I would need to read it with line by line accompaniment. I've done that for various pages and in each case I would say the experiment seemed to be working. The problem is that the experiment REQUIRES the close commentary.
I put it in my gray hordes, or gray hundred, particularly because of all the reasons the Iowa Writers Workshop Tsar would not: one must meet the reader on that continuummodious arc between author and reader. He would say that Ulysses does the required though he likely never read it and leave this one off. The main problem is that he used his reader-writer arc to discourage writers. So even if FW is a failure, it is grand and encouraging enough that it makes my 100.

29Crypto-Willobie
Edited: Jan 2, 2020, 3:59pm

"The problem is that the experiment REQUIRES the close commentary."

That's where it fails. It more or less drives readers away. I don't mean to say it's worthless, or that it can't be enjoyed, just that it fails at being a masterpiece as Dubliners Portrait Ulysses are.

30baswood
Nov 12, 2019, 11:32am

>26 Crypto-Willobie: Only read three of those - got some catching up to do.

31RickHarsch
Nov 12, 2019, 1:28pm

>29 Crypto-Willobie: That's why the list needs asterisks. I definitely would not think less of anyone for not reading FW, but I am grateful to Joyce the way I am for any artist who provides me a masterpiece.

32baswood
Jan 2, 2020, 11:34am

The Beckett Trilogy: Molloy . Malone Dies . The Unnamable
An example of a classic that I could not finish. I managed two out of the three and in the words of the song "two out of three ain't bad" (Meatloaf)
Perhaps it was a mistake to try and read all three one after the other. I certainly enjoyed Molloy and once I had got used to the stream of conscience style as used by Beckett I could appreciate what he was doing. It also helped that the novel was in two parts with Moran the subject of the second part seemingly on a mission to find Molloy. However as the book progresses (I hesitate to call it a story) Moran increasingly becomes Molloy until you can hardly tell the difference. Of course the reader knows that he will never find Molloy, it's a bit like Godot arriving. Within this novel i felt the style matched pretty well the content and this was the case also with the second novel Malone Dies.

In Malone dies what was particularly impressive was the shrinking world of Malone as attempts to write a journal during the last weeks of his life. Similarly with Molloy there is confusion of people and names as memory perhaps even dementia plays tricks with the mind. The third novel The Unnamable was the one that has defeated me. My impression of it is that it is all style over content. After reading through the previous two novels that style was wearing thin and every time I tried to read it I felt my eyes closing and my attention wandering. I have put the trilogy back on the shelf with a thought that I need a space of time before I try that last novel again.

33Crypto-Willobie
Jan 2, 2020, 4:02pm

I agree that the third is less welcoming (if that's the word) than the previous two. In fact, the first time I did the trilogy I also gave up Unnamable partway through.