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20 April 2015

Finally finished a frustrating fable... Have you ever picked up a book, and ended up being relieved that it was over, simply because it exasperated you so much? Yes, I just fininshed "Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star Gazer" by Sena Jeter Naslund. 666 pages (yes, really) of too much existential ramblings, interwoven with a completely unbelievable story line. Thank goodness I got it at the used book store, and didn't pay full price for it.

What have been your most frustrating books?
I recently had to read "A Prayer for Owen Meaney" by John Irving for my book club. Christ, it was awful. Pages and pages of unbroken, repetitive text, rants about the Reagan administration and all of Owen Meaney's dialogue in upper case.

It was unreadable. I confess I didn't finish it. Not even close. I cheated and read the Wikipedia plot summary and found a couple of critiques online so I could talk about it at the book group.

I also had to read 'The Holy Man' by Susan Trott for the book group. Thankfully it was very short, and I read most of it on my commute home one day. It was bad. So very, very bad. It was like those horribly sappy 'spiritual' cards you get in Hallmark, you know those pastel-coloured ones with script on the front that are meant to convey some kind of message. Ugh!
posted by Senyar 20 April | 19:23
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It took me six ever-loving years. And I'm a speed-reader.
posted by Madamina 20 April | 23:20
Thomas Wolfe and Michael Chabon both rub me the wrong way.
posted by brujita 20 April | 23:55
I always think I should like Henry James, but I do not. I generally don't finish a book I don't like, why bother, but in college when I had to finish The Portrait of a Lady, I bought a second paperback copy and ripped out each page as I read the front and back. That was quite helpful.
posted by JanetLand 21 April | 07:33
Funny, Brujita, I love both Thomas Wolfe and Michael Chabon - especially Michael Chabon (I am reading Yiddish Policemen's Union right now). Tastes really do vary. My bugbear is Thomas Hardy. I have picked up and put down Jude the Obscure more times than I care to count. Far from the Madding Crowd drove me nuts.
I also failed to love The Shadow of the Wind, despite many people around me having loved it. I struggled and barely finished it.
posted by msali 21 April | 09:57
I keep thinking I should like works by Sharyn McCrumb because she's an award-winning "Southern" writer. I have managed to read two of her novels, and each one is a struggle.
posted by mightshould 21 April | 11:42
Anything by Faulkner.

Which, frankly, baffles me, because I love other writers contemporary to him who wrote in a similar vein.
posted by gaspode 21 April | 15:00
I really liked Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union, but I hated Telegraph Avenue. Pages and pages of bombast.

This year, frustrating books have been The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon and The Magicians by Lev Grossman. The former had an intriguing premise but then went completely off the rails into blatherland, and the latter dragged too much in the middle and was generally unsatisfying.
posted by initapplette 21 April | 15:29
Shakespeare is like this for me. It's like eating cashew nuts--a lot of work for little gain. I know a lot of people would be horrified if I told them, but way too often I'm just like "that's it? That's the plot? For all that hard work?" Looking up the unfamiliar vocabulary words is only part of it.
posted by Melismata 21 April | 18:10
Woops, I meant pistachio nuts--having to crack the shells etc.
posted by Melismata 21 April | 18:11
My experience with Shakespeare is that he has to be seen to be appreciated.
posted by brujita 21 April | 20:31
Neal Stephenson's three-volume Baroque Cycle was kind of like that for me. I ripped-through the first two volumes, and really enjoyed them. But somewhere around half-way through the third book, I sort of hit a wall. It wasn't that it was difficult reading or following. It was more that I just didn't care anymore. The story ceased to be interesting on any level, as did the characters. I put the book down many years ago and have never finished it. I will occasionally pick it up and give it another try, but I lose interest within a few pages.

posted by Thorzdad 22 April | 07:14
Robinson Crusoe. It was high school. I had to read it for a test. If he went back to that damn boat one. more. time, I was going to set the book on fire. I did rip it in half in frustration about twenty pages from the end. Still got an "A" on the test.

No Faulkner, 'pode? Really? We often have such similar tastes (your love of "Prufrock," for instance). I haven't read anywhere near everything (and have no intentions of slogging through Sound and Fury, but As I Lay Dying is my very favorite book.
posted by Pips 22 April | 21:58
No Faulkner for me either.
posted by Obscure Reference 24 April | 14:45
Well, it's like faith, I suppose. You get it or you don't.

(I'm an atheist, mind you ; )
posted by Pips 25 April | 10:29
Photo Friday: Fire || The theme for this week's Photo Friday is : Air