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  #1  
Old May 4th, 2010, 11:33 am
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Biweekly Book Thread #1

Welcome to the new series of special threads to discuss anything book-related!

Every two weeks, the staff will have a new topic up for discussion here. Forum Rules will apply as usual. Have fun

Our first topic:

Overrated Classics

Some basic questions to get you started:

1. What are the classics you've read that you think are overrated? Why do you think so?
2. Are you glad you read the classic, even if you didn't like it?
3. Have you observed any common themes in overrated classics? Like war, tragic love stories etc


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  #2  
Old May 4th, 2010, 12:11 pm
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

The main ones that pop to mind as you say 'overrated classics' are The Lord of the Rings and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Absolutely nothing connecting them though.

TLOTR I dislike because I found it unnecessarily long, unnecessarily tedious, and had large chunks in Elvish, a language made up by the author, and therefore unreadable. Tolkien also didn't seem to have much grasp of what was and was not interesting to read - he spent ages describing the land and the scenery (which I can understand him being a bit preoccupied with as a fantasy author) but then spent only a couple of pages on action before back to chapters of near monotony. I keep telling myself that I might have been too young/inexperienced when I read it the first time, but I simply cannot bring myself to pick it up again.

TPODG I dislike because it's so goddamned pretentious. Lord Henry is a cool character with a lot to say for the first couple of chapters, but then he gets old very quickly and becomes very tedious and annoying. The idea itself of a man's picture aging instead of him is brilliant, and the opening is carried out pretty well, but once it gets to the halfway mark it's just being dragged out with unnecessary things, like a chapter devoted entirely to describing his various affairs with Indian tea and other things of the sort. A very short book, but I was struggling to finish it.

All the same, I'm glad I've read these books, as I'm glad I've read any book (even trashy ones like Twilight) - I think a book is an invaluable and unique commodity in terms of the ideas, stories and information it presents, as well as the time, effort and labour gone into crafting the words on the page. I also think literature, particularly the classics, have a certain effect on popular culture and mainstream ideas and ways of thinking that sometimes we don't notice or recognise - and in this sense books are also invaluable.

Not sure if that precisely comes under this thread, but yeah...


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Old May 4th, 2010, 1:32 pm
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

Oh great idea for a series of threads!

The only books I can think of right now that is highly esteemed but I intensely disliked (as opposed to simply finding it boring) is A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway. It contains the most underdeveloped, empty, more of a presence than a character sort of literary character that I've ever come across - the protagonist's love interest. I found her ridiculously one-dimensional and basically existing merely for the sake of there being a love interest.

Are you glad you read the classic, even if you didn't like it?

I could have lived without it. But I'm not sorry either - it's not like it harmed me in any way. Also, I didn't really finish it...

Quote:
Originally Posted by moogirl View Post
TPODG I dislike because it's so goddamned pretentious. Lord Henry is a cool character with a lot to say for the first couple of chapters, but then he gets old very quickly and becomes very tedious and annoying. The idea itself of a man's picture aging instead of him is brilliant, and the opening is carried out pretty well, but once it gets to the halfway mark it's just being dragged out with unnecessary things, like a chapter devoted entirely to describing his various affairs with Indian tea and other things of the sort. A very short book, but I was struggling to finish it.
Pretentiousness is part of the book - this is the style Oscar Wilde writes in.


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Old May 4th, 2010, 2:34 pm
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

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Quote:
Originally Posted by moogirl
TLOTR I dislike because I found it unnecessarily long, unnecessarily tedious, and had large chunks in Elvish, a language made up by the author, and therefore unreadable. Tolkien also didn't seem to have much grasp of what was and was not interesting to read - he spent ages describing the land and the scenery (which I can understand him being a bit preoccupied with as a fantasy author) but then spent only a couple of pages on action before back to chapters of near monotony. I keep telling myself that I might have been too young/inexperienced when I read it the first time, but I simply cannot bring myself to pick it up again.
I think it was the effect of age. .
Personally, I saw the excess of describing nature in LotR, as the author's great ability to translate his imagination into words. It sometimes stretched a bit, but I love nature, so I didn't have much problem with it. Other than that, I'm fine with LotR; plot-wise, character-wise, everything. Its one of my most favourite books ever.

I haven't read much classics. A few works of Shakespear, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. I like all of their works I've read. I find Shakespear's stories really enjoyable, but I can't say I have 'favourite' characters in his works. . I like Charles Dickens' characters, though. With Jane Austen, I think she has a very good grasp on both, characters and plots. Can't say I find any of these works 'overrated'. On the contrary, I think we don't do them justice.

The only classic I had problems reading and I still do, is Wuthering Heights. I never managed to get into that one. I'd like to pick it up again, there has to be something good about it.


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Old May 4th, 2010, 2:35 pm
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

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Originally Posted by Yoana View Post
Pretentiousness is part of the book - this is the style Oscar Wilde writes in.
I know it was the point, but it was still very annoying and irritating to read. After the original novelty wore off and Lord Henry started saying women were useless and did nothing but ruin men's lives, I started being a little less thrilled. Or maybe I just preferred reading of his slow corruption, and once it got to him realising he was horrible but still spiralling to the eventual denouement I lost interest.

The preface, however, was pure brilliance.

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Originally Posted by bellatrix93 View Post
I think it was the effect of age. .
Haha, I was actually going to mention that it did not have this on it's side like so many other classics. Believe it or not, that thing that sounds like it's from the 18th century was written during World War II.

Shocking, I know. I kinda hated it more after that - it's not like it was the style of the time or something.

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Originally Posted by bellatrix93 View Post
Personally, I saw the excess of describing nature in LotR, as the author's great ability to translate his imagination into words. It sometimes stretched a bit, but I love nature, so I didn't have much problem with it. Other than that, I'm fine with LotR; plot-wise, character-wise, everything. Its one of my most favourite books ever.
I always thought LotR was a book of 'parts' - good parts, at that - but that it never added up right. Maybe it's a personal thing. Nowadays I find books where some people give up from too much description, I am totally enthralled, so maybe I should give it another shot, given that was my turn-off.

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Originally Posted by bellatrix93 View Post
I haven't read much classics. A few works of Shakespear, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. I like all of their works I've read. I find Shakespear's stories really enjoyable, but I can't say I have 'favourite' characters in his works. . I like Charles Dickens' characters, though. With Jane Austen, I think she has a very good grasp on both, characters and plots. Can't say I find any of these works 'overrated'. On the contrary, I think we don't do them justice.
I love Dickens and Austen! They're so hilarious and witty.

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Originally Posted by bellatrix93 View Post
The only classic I had problems reading and I still do, is Wuthering Heights. I never managed to get into that one. I'd like to pick it up again, there has to be something good about it.
I feel similarly. I still enjoy it, and will read it again, but certain parts of the book are just a bit difficult to get through. I guess it is a bit 'overrated'.


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Old May 4th, 2010, 2:49 pm
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

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Originally Posted by moogirl View Post
I know it was the point, but it was still very annoying and irritating to read. After the original novelty wore off and Lord Henry started saying women were useless and did nothing but ruin men's lives, I started being a little less thrilled. Or maybe I just preferred reading of his slow corruption, and once it got to him realising he was horrible but still spiralling to the eventual denouement I lost interest.

The preface, however, was pure brilliance.
I read it a long time ago but I remember enjoying it very much - of course, as with any work of literature, it's mainly a matter of taste. But I was very much enamoured with Oscar Wilde after having read his fairy tales (first book I ever read in English, and they struck me as immensely beautiful in style), so maybe that facilitated my enjoyment. I'm still an Oscar Wilde fan, and his plays in particular are a delight to read, in my opinion.

Funny, I can't think of any other classics (beside A Farewell To Arms) that I didn't like


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Old May 4th, 2010, 3:10 pm
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

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Originally Posted by Yoana View Post
I read it a long time ago but I remember enjoying it very much - of course, as with any work of literature, it's mainly a matter of taste. But I was very much enamoured with Oscar Wilde after having read his fairy tales (first book I ever read in English, and they struck me as immensely beautiful in style), so maybe that facilitated my enjoyment. I'm still an Oscar Wilde fan, and his plays in particular are a delight to read, in my opinion.
The funny thing is, I love his plays! Maybe I just can't take it in concentrated doses (i.e. books). My mind is a total mystery to me.

I should probably get my hands on his fairy stories at some point...


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Old May 4th, 2010, 4:14 pm
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

I never liked Romeo and Juliet. The warring families part was mildly interesting, but I could not stand the romantic plot. It was just so silly!

And Death of a Salesman is another I found overrated. I found the characters to be either pathetic or plain unlikeable.

I've heard Dickens is fantastic, but I have up on A Tale of Two Cities two pages in. Talk about tedious! It's a shame, because I read the Cliffs Notes of it and the story was actually really interesting.


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Old May 4th, 2010, 4:48 pm
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

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I've heard Dickens is fantastic, but I have up on A Tale of Two Cities two pages in. Talk about tedious! It's a shame, because I read the Cliffs Notes of it and the story was actually really interesting.
Dickens was paid by the word and imo it shows. Having said that the actual story is interesting which is why he adapts so well.

One author that surprised me was Trollope - I started reading one of the Barchester novels because I thought I should and was absolutely caught up by them. Usually I find it difficult to read anything written before the 20th century

And I'm almost embarrassed to say I find Austen unreadable


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Old May 5th, 2010, 12:50 am
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

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Originally Posted by bellatrix93 View Post
The only classic I had problems reading and I still do, is Wuthering Heights. I never managed to get into that one. I'd like to pick it up again, there has to be something good about it.
*gasp!* *falls off chair* Wuthering Heights is an amazing book. In my opinion, it gives Jane Austen a huge run for her money and I'm not sure she wins it.
Seriously, though, I'll admit I disliked it the first time I read it but I've reread it a week or so ago and I was very into it the second time. I think it's one of the greatest love stories ever written and very original. People struggle with it because they think the characters are so unlikeable (which they are) but when you read it the second time you appreciate it more. So I advise you to reread it if not now then in a few years or so. Or see the movie. One of them.

Overrated classics... let's see.
The first that comes to mind is Don Quijote. I understand that it was the first modern novel and that it was original but really, it's just too long. After reading about Quijote making a fool of himself three or four times you sort of get the point and the remaining 700 pages feel tedious. And many literary critics agree with me on this one actually. Cervantes intended to write a short story about Don Quijote which then turned into a mega novel of almost 1000 pages. I also don't think it's fair that people call Cervantes the greatest writer ever. He is good but that's rather unfair towards many other authors. I don't think anyone should be called the greatest writer ever.


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Old May 5th, 2010, 5:56 am
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

I always thought that The Great Gatsby was an overrated classic. Sure, it is a good story, but I never could figure out why something like this would be required reading on so many school book lists. It is just a book, nothing special. There are wild parties, bored rich people, social climbers, marital infidelity, murder and suicide. I've always wondered what made it a classic.

The only reason I am glad that I read the book is so that I know what the book is about when people talk about it. Otherwise, it didn't do much more than broaden my knowledge of the social life in 1922.


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Old May 5th, 2010, 8:51 am
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

I think the value to The Great Gatsby is its deconstruction of the American Dream - the self-made man. It makes incisions in the society and values of its day with a surgeon's precision and they still ring true today, and in fact they speak to non-Americans, too, because the book deals with the universal theme of dreams, possibilities and what you can - and can't - achieve on your own, and where that ultimately gets you. Just my opinion though, and I should say it's based on not exactly the sharpest memory of the book, as it's been 8 or 9 years since I read it.


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Old May 5th, 2010, 9:30 am
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

I disliked Wuthering Heights when I read it some years ago. I couldn't get into the book, but it's one I've wanted to reread for a while.

James Joyce's Ulysses was terrible to read and I'll admit I was too bored to even bother finishing the book.

I'm always glad when I read a classic, regardless of how I like it, if just for the reason that I'd like to know for myself what's so great about the book or not. And I've found some great books and amazing authors that way


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Old May 5th, 2010, 10:14 am
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James Joyce's Ulysses was terrible to read and I'll admit I was too bored to even bother finishing the book.
I'm pretty sure this book will be the death of me. I've read about 400 pages and nothing happened. I also just found out nothing will ever happen so that's quite tragic seeing how I have 500 pages left. I liked The Portrait of the artist as a young man, though. That one was quite alright. However, I'm not sure how Joyce fits into this thread since most people dislike him so for that reason he cannot be overrated. I don't even think scholars have much enjoyment from reading Ulysses but it's one of those books you have to read if you want to work with literature. I feel sorry for the translators who get stuck with Joyce too. As far as I know, no one ever translated Finnegan's wake. Most parts of the book are gibberish.


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Old May 5th, 2010, 10:35 am
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

Oh Joyce can be overrated all right. He's considered one of the collossi of literature - he (and a few others of his time, most notably Proust and Virginia Woolf) were the pioneers of Modernism which is a whole new epoch in literature whose influence extends to the present day. He's not just big, he's a gigantic figure in the history of literature.

And I haven't heard of anyone who's finished Ulysses Except for one of my professors but I suspect it was a matter of honour for her


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Old May 5th, 2010, 10:38 am
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

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I'm pretty sure this book will be the death of me. I've read about 400 pages and nothing happened.
Congrats on persisting with it more than I did. I couldn't go past 200 odd pages.

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And I haven't heard of anyone who's finished Ulysses
That's good to know

I've heard Joyce's short story collection Dubliners is better than Ulysses, but I haven't really wanted to try reading it


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Old May 5th, 2010, 12:26 pm
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

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I've heard Joyce's short story collection Dubliners is better than Ulysses, but I haven't really wanted to try reading it
I've been reading it on and off when occasionally go back to my hometown, and I like it very much. But that may be because I generally love the short story genre better than any other.


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Old May 6th, 2010, 5:56 am
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

I read Hard times by Charles Dickens , truth be said, I really did not like it. I know it his work was often meant to criticize society and he tried to accomplish this by the use of satire making his work often kind of comic. I did not enjoy reading it.I found it very depressing and unlike Oliver Twist which did make a nice reading despite its sad topic too, this one did not made want to continue reading. If I did finish it was due to the fact I had to read it for class work. Other wise this one and the Grapes of wrath would have had hit the bookshelf never to be opended once again. I must be such an ignorant git. But I did no like either one of these books.


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Old May 7th, 2010, 8:26 am
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

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Oh Joyce can be overrated all right. He's considered one of the collossi of literature - he (and a few others of his time, most notably Proust and Virginia Woolf) were the pioneers of Modernism which is a whole new epoch in literature whose influence extends to the present day. He's not just big, he's a gigantic figure in the history of literature.
Yep, he is. I was thinking more of popular opinion when I said he wasn't overrated. So far I haven't met anyone who has Joyce as their favourite author. The scholars are basically crazy about all clasics.

Quote:
And I haven't heard of anyone who's finished Ulysses
Finished it last night. Yay! I had plenty of time to read in the last few days. I didn't hate the book at all, I was quite fascinated by it. Sure, I didn't understand everything but no one expects me to succeed where T.S. Eliot failed. I think I should get an A in the Modernism class just for this.
All I have to read now are some critical essays about it. Next year, it's Finnegan's wake (there most be at least an year's gap between them).


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Old May 7th, 2010, 11:04 am
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Re: Biweekly Book Thread #1

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Finished it last night. Yay! I had plenty of time to read in the last few days. I didn't hate the book at all, I was quite fascinated by it. Sure, I didn't understand everything but no one expects me to succeed where T.S. Eliot failed. I think I should get an A in the Modernism class just for this.
You should!


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