Monday, May 10, 2010

Tales From the Bookshelf - Critically Acclaimed

This might spark some controversy, but I'm hoping it will encourage some great discussions!

(And I am visiting Jane’s Ride today with a piece on burnout! If you get a chance, please check it out.)

This tale from the bookshelf pertains to critically acclaimed and classic books. The deep, long, in-depth books we are all supposed to read.

I'll apologize now, but I find many of them to be... dull.

Go ahead and call me a simple reader, but I just can't get into these types of books. I equate them to the boring dramas that are nominated every year for an Oscar. Introspective and deep just doesn't appeal to me.

The Old Man and the Sea is one that bored me to tears. Yes, it's a classic that everyone needs to read! However, by the time I got to the end, I didn't care about the metaphors - I just wanted it to end.

Lord of the Rings is another set of books that are really good and contain a fantastic story - but contain way too much description for my tastes. After twenty pages of exposition, I'm ready for some action and dialogue. (I absolutely LOVED the movies.)

I couldn't get into Isaac Asimov, either. Overly technical books tax my brain.

Now, before everyone accuses me of having no appreciation for fine literature, there are some critically acclaimed books I do love. Watership Down is a fantastic story with just the right balance of elements. Bambi is also a wonderful story. (And I have the original first editions of both Bambi and Bambi's Children!)

I think that when it comes to reading, I want my fiction to provide an easy escape from reality. Non-fiction is where I prefer my introspective, detailed, and technical reading to reside. I can devour a long, intricate non-fiction book in no time. With fiction, I just want to go for a ride!

How does everyone else feel about their reading material? Do you enjoy critically acclaimed books? Do you just read to escape? And if you think Spunky is totally bonkers, feel free to say that as well!


Marvin D Wilson said...

I'll hop over to Jane's Ride in a bit, too. I enjoy some critically acclaimed books, I happen to like Asimov a lot.

The Old Silly

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I never liked Asimov, loved Watership Down and Bambi! Basically though I think the classics are like the moderns-- readers like different things!! There are some modern critically acclaimed books, like The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, that I could not stand. Same with The Time Traveler's Wife. So it's ok to not like some of the classics too. However, I think it's good for writers especially to keep trying and looking for those literary offerings that strike a chord, to expand our horizons. But we'll still come back to the genres we love the best, the ones that take us away from it all!

Jill said...

I'm with you on many of the critically acclaimed "classics" we were all supposed to have read in high school. Many are indeed beautifully written and in many cases said something of import for the time. However, many are dull to my senses now (perhaps they just don't age well?)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I like a mixture. I was an English major, but I definitely didn't like some of the classical material I read...there are plenty of engaging classics without having to drag ourselves down with the plodding ones, for sure!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Not a fan of the classics, either. I found Asimov painful to read. And like Karen, I've found some recent criticially acclaimed books unreadable.

Tara said...

Another non classic fan, here. I find them boring and tedious. I want action and tension.

Unknown said...

What a great topic for discussion! I find some of the classics hard to get through, for exactly the reason you mentioned: there wasn't the right balance of elements. I remember in The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne's description of the front door went on for two pages. I have to be in the right frame of mind to absorb the classics. It's for this reason that I often have several books going at once, and I pick up the one that matches my mood at that moment.

Mason Canyon said...

I have to admit, there are a few classics that I couldn't get through either.

Thoughts in Progress

Unknown said...

If I come across long parts of boring description, I skip it. That's why I keep long paragraphs out of my books. Why Would I torture someone else?


Karen Walker said...

Spunky is definitely not bonkers. Since I went back to college in my 50s, I have more recent memory of not enjoying some of the classics I had to read. However, as an aspiring writer at the time, I did learn a lot from reading the classics. In fact, I'd spent three years during my twenties, doing nothing but reading the classics. As with anything, some were wonderful. Some, not so much.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Marvin, I did say some of you would think I am bonkers.

Karen, I agree wholeheartedly!

Jill, perfect assessment - they are beautifully written, just not interesting.

Alex and Tara, you got it!

Nicole, I agree. It's like a deep. dramatic movie. I really have to be in the right frame of mind.

Clarissa, your readers applaud you!

Karen, thanks, although I still feel a little bonkers.

VR Barkowski said...

I read all kinds of books. Usually too much description bores me, but it depends on who's describing and what's being described. James Lee Burke's long drawn out descriptions of Southern Louisiana hypnotize me with their beauty, I could read forever. On the other hand I'm currently reading Angelology, and I have to beat my head against the wall every so often to keep awake. Not only too much description - all tell, no show.

I could take or leave The Lord of the Rings, but I adore The Hobbit.

CA Heaven said...

I think the Old Man and the Sea is a great book, but I Lord of the Rings was just boring. Most boring stuff I know are Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters (but I do like the movies based on the books). Buy the complete works of Dostoyevsky, and you'll never get bored >:)

Cold As Heaven

DL Hammons said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you about the 'Rings Trilogy'. An ardourous read indeed and the movies were so much better.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

VR, The Hobbit was the first one I ever read and thought it was tighter than the LOTR books. No wonder they are making two movies out of it!

DL, I thought the movies were perfect!

B. Miller said...

It's hard for me to get into "serious" literary fiction. Just a little dry. But I do enjoy Cormac McCarthy. Maybe it's because he writes about seriously bleak stuff (like in The Road). But I feel ya! My reading material is more towards the vein of Stephen King. :)

Arlee Bird said...

I think getting through acclaimed classics can be very rewarding, but the problem is getting through them. Last year I finally read Pride and Prejudice and literally had to force myself through the first 150 pages. Then I started feeling the rhythm of the writing and getting into the story. In the end I loved it.

There is a combination of forces at work in getting through and enjoying some of these works: a persistent will to finish, a proper mindset and reading mood, the willingness to invest the time, and enjoyment of the genre.

I often have had a problem with Cormac McCarthy's books and he is one of my favorite authors. Once I start reading I just have to adapt to his quirky style and once I'm in the zone of his rhythm he's got me hooked.

But yeah, just to pick up a book to start reading and immediately get into it, give me some quality (or even not that great of quality) pop fiction and let the book practically read itself.

May 17th Fifteen Fantasy Island Favorites

JournoMich said...

I think you are free to say what you think whenever you think it! And I think that's what books are all about.

I love some classics--Jane Eyre,Wuthering Heights, The Moonstone. But others fall short for me. I could NOT get through Scarlett Letter (but loved House of Seven Gables). Nor did I like Moby Dick (though Billy Budd was much better).

To each his own. But I do think a good taste of the classics is good for all.

Southern City Mysteries

Helen Ginger said...

I read the "major" books in high school and college. Not so much anymore. I, too, loved Watership Down, but it's been ages since I read it. I think I'm going to find it and read it again.

Straight From Hel

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I read to escape, too, and it’s hard to escape if I have to work too hard at it. I don't want to wade through too much description or plod through pages of exposition to escape - whether the book is a classic or a recent release.

It’s been fun having you as a guest on my blog today.

Jemi Fraser said...

There are quite a few of the classics I find dull as well. Never could get into many of them. That includes Hemingway & Jane Eyre and their ilk. If I read them when I was younger, there's a better chance of me liking them. I've less patience now! :)

LotR is one of my fave reads though!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thanks, B. Miller.

Arlee, me too - I just want to get into it immediately.

Michele, Moby Dick was okay. LOL As you said, we all have different tastes!

Helen, you should - still my most favorite book.

Thanks, Jane.

Jemi, I still like LOTR - they are just tough to read.

Kitten said...

I feel the same way you do about the classics...whenever I read some of them, I think, "So what exactly makes these CLASSIC?" Hemingway is one. Totally with you on Asimov. Loathed Steinbeck and Dickens when I was in high school, but will probably give them another shot...

Anonymous said...

I agree that with fiction I want to go for a ride. I want thrilss, chills, and spills. I want to know there are serious consequences for not keeping my arms, legs, and head inside at all times.

Stephen Tremp

Laura S. said...

A couple weeks ago I posted five books I want to like but don't! They're all considered classics or some of the best books ever written. But it is hard getting into books written in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. And you know what, people from that time probably wouldn't like what we read and write today!

Watership Down is so great! I didn't like it when I was little, but when I re-read it as a teen, I loved it!

Janet said...

I'm not into classics. I write children's books and those books are mostly what I read. I don't really have time to read long books, although I have read Gone With the Wind and Christy numerous times.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Kitten, I totally get you.

Stephen, that's it!! I want a ride. I want to forget all I know or think I know. (Wait, I think that was the tagline for "Willow.")

Laura, I think the time period has so much to do with it.
And I'm glad you gave Watership Down a seconnd chance.

Debbie's World of Books said...

There are a bunch of critically acclaimed, classics, etc that I never found that great. I disliked The Sound and Fury, The Memory Keeper's Daughter and I found the Lord of the Rings books too boring to get into. I'm not into analyzing how great the writing is or the techniques used in a book. I'm more looking for a fun or interesting story.

CA Heaven said...

I hated most of the books we had to read in high school, simply because someone else decided that I had to read them.

Later I have read many classics because I wanted to, some of them are fantastic. You will find some good examples in the list I posted some time ago:

My little list of favorite books

Give the classics another chance. Without a high school teacher forcing you to read, I'm sure you will enjoy it >:)

Cold As Heaven

Natasha said...

Asimov, I love, but I have often been disappointed by the books I know I am supposed to read. Some, I read before I was ready for them, some I read when I was not in the right frame of mind, but I do know that had the books really been that good, they could have cut through the crap.
No, you are not bonkers - you are just honest.

Anonymous said...

AAAHHH!!! Really? You couldn't get through The Old Man and the Sea? It's a novella, for crying out loud! It's only, like, my favorite book I've read this past YEAR! *sigh*

Okay, I'll forgive you. Different strokes, and all that. Hemingway's not for everyone. As long as you can handle me saying it's unlikely I'll ever read Bambi or Bambi's Children. ;)

(And I love the classics of 20th century lit. Even Virginia Woolf.)

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Diane, tastes have changed. In fact, so much so that if many of those books were submitted to a thousand top agents today, they wouldn't get a nibble.

Having said that, when I make an effort I usually find that when I close the cover I have been reminded of something important or learned of something new.

My own nomination for literary is "This Is the Place." It is experiemental but about tolerance. Thus, my hope is that people will read it, even if they prefer REALLY light stuff. (-:

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

notesfromnadir said...

Not everyone loves all the classics. Hemingway doesn't appeal to everyone, nor does Asimov, Tolkien or Twain. It's refreshing to read that someone doesn't go nutso over every single work that critics deem classic.

But many classics are wonderful reads, no matter how many centuries old they are. They may require a slower reading speed due to using fuller language, but it's well worth it. Fiction or non-fiction, old or new, books should be entertaining, but I'm also of the belief that most books I read should teach me something.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Debbie, that's how I feel - I don't want well written prose if the story bores me to tears.

And just so everyone knows, there are genres I just don't read. So some of the classics I'm not going to enjoy no matter what because they are in a genre I don't read.

Thanks, Rayna.

Sorry, Simon! Different strokes.

Carolyn, you are probably right.

Notesfromnadir, I always learn something. I read a TON of non-fiction, too. If it's a genre I like, I will struggle through. I did make it through LOTR because I like fantasy and I really like Lovecraft because I enjoy horror and think he's the best horror writer ever.