For me, it has to be watership down.
What is the most mentally chanllenging novel you've ever read?
|by Anonymous||reply 196||01/11/2013|
Ulysses. Can't even finish 2 pages.
|by Anonymous||reply 1||02/24/2012|
I agree. Ulysses.
|by Anonymous||reply 2||02/24/2012|
|by Anonymous||reply 3||02/24/2012|
I would say Ulysses but I couldn't get past page 2.
|by Anonymous||reply 4||02/24/2012|
Anything fucking Russian.
|by Anonymous||reply 5||02/24/2012|
My Pet Goat
|by Anonymous||reply 6||02/24/2012|
Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury."
|by Anonymous||reply 7||02/24/2012|
"For me, it has to be watership down."
Perhaps you should stick to Nancy Drew mysteries, hon.
|by Anonymous||reply 8||02/24/2012|
That's not mentally challenging, it's just badly written R7.
Finegan's Wake seems harder than Ulysses to me.
|by Anonymous||reply 9||02/24/2012|
Yes, Ulysses. When I was in high school, The Sound and the Fury.
|by Anonymous||reply 10||02/24/2012|
DUNE is actually fairly straightforward. Some big ideas but essentially it's a coming-of-age tale with a dash of soft science fiction.
|by Anonymous||reply 11||02/24/2012|
Lick 'Em In The Rear.. Its a page turner though.
|by Anonymous||reply 12||02/24/2012|
Harold Brodkey's "Profane Friendship". I found the prose largely impenetrable (thouh some passages were beautiful).
|by Anonymous||reply 13||02/24/2012|
|by Anonymous||reply 14||02/24/2012|
tons of dummies on this thread
|by Anonymous||reply 15||02/24/2012|
"To Spell Challenging"
By. The OP
|by Anonymous||reply 16||02/24/2012|
It's sad that so many people with very strong opinions about this book don't even understand its purpose or understand that the characters were carefully, and somewhat narrowly, constructed as expositions of particular philosophical outlooks.
|by Anonymous||reply 17||02/24/2012|
"Kritik der reinen Vernunft" by Kant
|by Anonymous||reply 18||02/24/2012|
Green Eggs and Ham
|by Anonymous||reply 19||02/24/2012|
Who's the dummy, R15? You didn't even answer the question!
|by Anonymous||reply 20||02/24/2012|
R9, I didn't find "The Sound and the Fury" badly written at all. It's challenging because it's written in three distinct voices, which all have their own views about the events that transpired.
I always thought "Finnegan's Wake" was the gold standard for incomprehensibility.
|by Anonymous||reply 21||02/24/2012|
In DUNE, the reader had to learn a new vocabulary dealing with futuristic, unknown concepts.
I think the unworldliness of it adds to it appeal.
And you had to read and process what you just read before you carried on because the whole book was definitely accretive.
Lastly, you had to read it sober as my 22-year-old self learned while reading the book one weekend after wisdom teeth surgery. Pain pills and/or beer do not make for a successful reading session.
I thought DUNE was challenging.
|by Anonymous||reply 22||02/24/2012|
I thought At Swim, Two Boys was almost incomprehensible.
|by Anonymous||reply 23||02/24/2012|
I've never had a problem with any of these books, but then again I probably read more than most people.
Also, if you don't get "Watership down" you're a sorry sack.
|by Anonymous||reply 24||02/24/2012|
You can spot the insecure types easily in this thread. They'll jump on it as an opportunity to criticize the choices of other people.
|by Anonymous||reply 25||02/24/2012|
R19, I want to have your baby.
|by Anonymous||reply 26||02/24/2012|
But "Watership Down" is a children's book. let's be real
|by Anonymous||reply 27||02/24/2012|
The Fuzzy Duckling
|by Anonymous||reply 28||02/24/2012|
I personally found Amelia Bedelia very taxing.
|by Anonymous||reply 29||02/24/2012|
If you want to get into Ulysses, do two things:
1. Buy it on mp3 and listen chapter by chapter.
2. Buy the New Bloomsday Book and read the (simple and clear) explanations of what you're hearing.
|by Anonymous||reply 30||02/24/2012|
BTW, It's "Finnegans Wake," I think.
|by Anonymous||reply 31||02/24/2012|
Two that I've never been able to get through, despite more than one attempt:
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
|by Anonymous||reply 32||02/24/2012|
"Ulysses" isn't for high school students, but it's not a hard read at all for an adult. "Finnegan's Wake," however, is ridiculously and intentionally impossible. What's the point, Mr. Joyce? You realize it's wonderful and often you can follow threads of it and when you work through the annotations and such you see the shape, but so what? riverrun yourself upstream to accessibility, darling.
|by Anonymous||reply 33||02/24/2012|
Pilgrims Progress, I couldn't get past the first page.
|by Anonymous||reply 34||02/24/2012|
Have never come across a "mentally challenging" novel. The only work of literature that was challenging for me is Martin Heidegger. I simply am unable to grasp what he is saying. When I was in college, I think it took me an hour to read just 4 pages.
|by Anonymous||reply 35||02/24/2012|
I've tried Paradise Lost a couple of times and I find the pacing to be a challenge. It's almost hypnotic and so I find myself coming around after a moment or two and realize I wasn't really engaged with what I had just read.
Also (not a novel), I tried A Brief History of Time a couple of brief times. I just can't grasp the concepts. I tried Dr Hawking's dumbed down version, The Universe in a Nutshell (complete with pictures and animation no less!), and still struggled.
|by Anonymous||reply 36||02/24/2012|
|by Anonymous||reply 37||02/24/2012|
Is Dune worth reading?
|by Anonymous||reply 38||02/24/2012|
Foucault is horrible, at least in English. It's not that his concepts are difficult. They're not. It's just that he makes his points with such imprecision (probably to avoid challenge) that's it's difficult to even know what he really thinks.
|by Anonymous||reply 39||02/24/2012|
[all posts by tedious troll]
|by Anonymous||reply 40||02/24/2012|
I agree with you completely about Foucault, which is why I hate him.
My book would be 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,' which is why I never made it to 'Ulysses. I didn't find it challenging in a good way, either, just deliberately dense and obscure.
|by Anonymous||reply 41||02/24/2012|
Oh Dear.... "chanllenging" ARE YOU SERIOUS???
|by Anonymous||reply 42||02/24/2012|
If you can't spell Finnegan's Wake, no wonder the text was challenging.
Watership Down posed a problem? Just forget about Charlotte's Web, then. Even if you realize that each of the characters was carefully drawn as an allegory of certain kinds of belief systems.
I like talking animals. And blue.
|by Anonymous||reply 43||02/24/2012|
R42, do you have nightmares about bad grammar/spelling?
|by Anonymous||reply 44||02/24/2012|
I have, R44. That's why I'm staying up.
|by Anonymous||reply 45||02/24/2012|
|by Anonymous||reply 46||02/24/2012|
"I still haven't finished 'Atlas Shrugged' which I began in 1912." - Emory
|by Anonymous||reply 48||02/24/2012|
"Finnegan's Wake" by James Joyce, "Of Grammatology" by Jacques Derrida, and anything by Julia Kristeva!
|by Anonymous||reply 49||02/24/2012|
R38, Dune is definitely worth reading. It's not very challenging, but it is a beautiful book about intrapersonal and larger-scale politics. It presents a fundamental understanding of all conflict, especially the way in which language plays a role. The sci-fi elements work as a great alienating effect to allow the author to get at the core of these conflicts in an allegorcial way. It also speaks to the spiritual nature of man in a very godless way.
It's soft sci-fi, but one of the greatest in the genre. Only Clarke can really rival it, in my opinion.
|by Anonymous||reply 50||02/24/2012|
After watching the movie version, I have no desire at all to read "Dune."
|by Anonymous||reply 51||02/25/2012|
R47, Rand had that problem in general. For a couple of years, the New York Daily News ran a commercial in which she said, "The Daily News is the best read newspaper because it is the best written." Unfortunately, being well read is not the same as being widely read. She had no ear for idioms at all.
I am, incidentally, the kind of liberal who can ONLY deal with the idea of free people.
|by Anonymous||reply 52||02/25/2012|
FINNEGANS WAKE - no apostrophe.
|by Anonymous||reply 53||02/25/2012|
The Making of Americans. Not as willfully opaque as Joyce, but you actually follow a new way of writing developing and have to alter one's own usual habits of perceiving.
Most of the great novels (In Search of Lost Time, War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov) are actually not very challenging because they take the reader along though a complex understanding of human life. But The Making of Americans demands that you meet it--in a way that is not common in novels.
|by Anonymous||reply 54||02/25/2012|
"Island of the Day Before" Eco followed by "Daughters of Aduyoye" or some shit like that. It was a spiritual/feminist/African cross between a grant proposal and a UN manifesto.
Physically challenging: "To the Lighthouse". My brain riffs like that and the book makes me hyper.
|by Anonymous||reply 55||02/25/2012|
Physically challenging -- I hadn't thought of that, R55. I'd have to say Remembrance of Things Past. Holding all of those volumes at the same time is really tricky, particularly when it's time to turn the page. It's mentally challenging too. I had to think practically all of the time. But that's okay; I think practically all of the time anyway.
Otherwise my brain gets real starved.
|by Anonymous||reply 56||02/25/2012|
Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. I've started Swann's Way several times and I can get about 50 pages in and then give up. But I keep it around because I'm hoping that one day I'll dive right in and won't come up for air until I've read all the volumes.
Any helpful advice from those full-fledged Proustians out there?
|by Anonymous||reply 57||02/25/2012|
"Atlas Shrugged" is worthless crap, not even suitable for use as toilet paper.
|by Anonymous||reply 58||02/25/2012|
Brilliant, challenging, life-affirming, almost impossible:
"The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman"
by Angela Carter
|by Anonymous||reply 59||02/25/2012|
r57, Just make it to "Sodom and Gomorrah" and you are home free. It really flies from there and it is the funniest and gayest book you will ever read.
|by Anonymous||reply 60||02/25/2012|
William Gaddis owns this thread.
|by Anonymous||reply 61||02/25/2012|
I agree. The thing that makes Remembrance of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time so readable is the humor. I remember sitting on the subway and laughing out loud at Swann's Way.
Proust sucks you in with the humor and then hooks you with the character.
And EVERYTONE is gay or gay-ish in this book.
|by Anonymous||reply 62||02/25/2012|
The Faerie Queene
|by Anonymous||reply 63||02/25/2012|
Anything by Dostoyevsky - I had to keep charts of the characters, their multiple names and nicknames and gender. Thank god for Sparknotes!
|by Anonymous||reply 64||02/25/2012|
R57, the first chapter "Combray" is the most difficult to overcome. Once you reach SWan's Way you become used to the language, the story begins and you start to enjoy it. It is worth it, specially the 3rd and 4th books.
|by Anonymous||reply 65||02/25/2012|
I tore my copy of Henry James' "The Ambassadors" in two and then ran over the pieces with my car. How I hated that book.
|by Anonymous||reply 66||02/25/2012|
Finnegans Wake, for sure. Recently got half-way through 1Q84 and just gave up. Not incomprehensible, but stultifyingly boring.The challenge was staying awake while reading it.
|by Anonymous||reply 67||02/25/2012|
Kant is not a novel, and not hard at all, if you are trained in logic. The hardest to get through are Catholic philosophers like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas because they are the Karl Roves of their day and everything they say is twisted counterfactual propaganda. I prefer simpler Catholic theologians, where you can just say, oh, he's wrong, like Duns Scotus.
For novels I have to say I'm struggling a bit with Nathalie Sarraute's "Planetarium."
|by Anonymous||reply 68||02/25/2012|
r 68 how do you get trained in logic; is there a special book you read.
|by Anonymous||reply 69||02/25/2012|
A Hundred Years of Solitude
Paradise by Toni Morrison
|by Anonymous||reply 70||02/25/2012|
It's not a novel... but it's an amazing book. Mind-blowing. Horizon-expanding. Educational and informative. Brilliant in every way.
It's also very challenging to read. I would never recommend anyone read more than two chapters in any one day, as your brain might explode if you do. And some chapters take effort to get through, they're so dense.
But it's beyond worth it.
Check it out:
"Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas R. Hofstadter
|by Anonymous||reply 71||02/25/2012|
[quote]"Atlas Shrugged" isn't mentally challenging, [bold]unless you're some kind of liberal who can't deal with the idea of free people.[/bold]
You have GOT to be kidding me.
|by Anonymous||reply 72||02/25/2012|
Go Dog Go
|by Anonymous||reply 73||02/25/2012|
"Atlas Shrugged" is laughably bad, with its endless descriptions of people's mundane actions, their appearance, etc. Ayn Rand had evidently never heard of "Show, Don't Tell."
Mary Gaitskill sends Rand up in one of her novels, where "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" are renamed "The Bulwark" and "The Gods Disdained" and the characters all have preposterous names.
|by Anonymous||reply 74||02/25/2012|
V by Thomas Pynchon
|by Anonymous||reply 75||02/25/2012|
For any of you who actually thinks "Atlas Shrugged" is a good book (or movie), or that Ayn Rand is a great philosopher or writer, or that Randian Libertarianism is logical and meaningful... you MUST read this essay by David Brin, noted Classical Libertarian, where he completely deconstructs the movie,the book, and Ayn Rand herself.
Wake up, people.
|by Anonymous||reply 76||02/25/2012|
Pat the Bunny
|by Anonymous||reply 77||02/25/2012|
It is always weird to encounter someone who actually considers Ayn Rand a philosopher. Usually its people who have not read much philosophy.
Rand's ideas are half-baked and her critique of philosophers seem to be based on Cliff Notes. If I recall she is always going after Kant, but seems to be completely ignorant as to what he actually wrote.
|by Anonymous||reply 78||02/25/2012|
What work of literature did Martin Heidegger write, r35.
What do you mean by "mentally challenging", OP? Some novels can be boring, need editing and cutting, be badly written, but I don't know what you mean by "mentally challenging".
|by Anonymous||reply 79||02/25/2012|
The Poky Little Puppy
|by Anonymous||reply 80||02/25/2012|
Just because writing is impenetrable and difficult to follow does not make it deep or good. Twisted, convoluted writing is bad writing, not deeply nuanced with hidden meaning. It's taken me years after having been brainwashed at a "top tier" university as an English Literature major to overcome the bandwagon mentality that has elevated certain authors. Shakespeare has stood the test of time.
Get back to me on the likes of Joyce and Somerset Maugham who have fallen in and out of favor among the literati. Virginia Woolf - experimental fiction writing, my sweet tuckus - would not last five minutes going toe-to-toe with the likes of George Eliot.
|by Anonymous||reply 81||02/25/2012|
|by Anonymous||reply 82||02/25/2012|
Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow
|by Anonymous||reply 83||02/25/2012|
While much of Woolf may not stand the "test of time" (whatever that means) but Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse are hardly impenetrable fortresses and are quite wonderful.
Many writers - including Eliot - have ponderous works but wholesale dismissal is hardly the answer.
|by Anonymous||reply 84||02/25/2012|
I waded through War & Peace ( not even for school, just thought it was one of those great works everyone should read). The plot and dialogue were not difficult but all those damned Russian names... hard to keep them all straight.
|by Anonymous||reply 85||02/25/2012|
I love you, R81!
|by Anonymous||reply 86||02/25/2012|
R51, the movie of Dune is a mess. Read the book. You can't even compare the two.
|by Anonymous||reply 87||02/25/2012|
Beowolf in middle English. Yeah, not a novel but still...
|by Anonymous||reply 88||02/26/2012|
|by Anonymous||reply 89||02/26/2012|
Try Beowulf in Old English. Those Middle English translations are for scite.
|by Anonymous||reply 90||02/26/2012|
|by Anonymous||reply 91||02/26/2012|
Definitely "Ulysses" by James Joyce.
|by Anonymous||reply 92||02/26/2012|
R85, I had the same problem reading Tolstoy & Dostoevky: those long Russian names made it so hard to keep track of who did what. After I studied Russian and became semi-fluent speaking it, I found those long Russian names to be no problem to read anymore. But now I have the same problem reading CHINESE-themed book.
|by Anonymous||reply 93||02/26/2012|
I never made it through "My Pet Goat."
|by Anonymous||reply 94||02/26/2012|
I took a class on James Joyce in college in which we read about half of "Ulysses." Then a few years later when a new, supposedly more accurate edition came out I read it cover to cover. It was like reading something in a foreign language. You had to translate it as you went and occasionally you'd run into something you had to look up, but I wouldn't say it was necessarily more challenging, just a little more work. The fact that it's got funny and dirty parts and the entire thing is so unpredictable and out of left field helps maintain your interest, if you're into that kind of thing. In some ways "Under the Volcano," which is also written in a stream of consciousness style, is more challenging to read because rather than being all these crazy little random bits that you can pick up and put down whenever you want, it's a sustained, continuous, intense experience that's actually leading you on a meaningful narrative arc.
|by Anonymous||reply 95||02/26/2012|
I am taking a university course on "War and Peace" this semester taught by a history prof and a Russian lit prof. The course is in remembrance of the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's war with Russia.
First, I was not very aware of how much I missed when I first read W&P five years ago, especially the info about Russian society and the difference between the characters who live in St. Petersburg vs. Moscow.
I am also enjoying reading about the battles much more (assigned reading: RUSSIA AGAINST NaAPOLEON by Dominic Lieven). As to the Russian names, write down as many names as possible as they come into the story and memorize like crazy. It sounds like a small thing, but to essentially know almost everyone by name by page 200 can make a huge diffence.
|by Anonymous||reply 96||02/26/2012|
"Ulysses" is hard because it reflects a daily sociability that it is inaccessible in our atomistic antisocial world. Anomie is the norm nowadays, and "Ulysses" has little to teach our world.
|by Anonymous||reply 97||02/26/2012|
Do epic poems count? The Iliad. I found The Odyssey enjoyable though.
|by Anonymous||reply 98||02/26/2012|
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance was THE badly written pop sensation novel of the late 70s(?) which no one finished except the insane, the drugged or the grimly determined. I managed it. But the 70s had a heap of such popular 'impossibles'. Mervyn Peake and Herman Hesse were carted round like Harry Potter is now. Which indicates how far things have fallen.
|by Anonymous||reply 99||02/26/2012|
I don't know which of those categories I fell into, R99, but I read it. Remember it came out in different colored book covers?
For me, the archetypal pseudo-whatever novel from that era was "The Teachings of Don Juan" by Carlo Casteneda.
|by Anonymous||reply 100||02/26/2012|
"Justine" - Lawrence Durrell
More recently, "The End" by Salvatore Scibona. Goes off on tangents, but in the end a truly gorgeous work.
|by Anonymous||reply 101||02/26/2012|
I dare anyone to try to read just a few paragraphs of this book and tell m,e how before the words "mentally challenged" pop into your mind.
|by Anonymous||reply 102||02/28/2012|
[all posts by tedious troll]
|by Anonymous||reply 103||02/28/2012|
[quote]As to the Russian names, write down as many names as possible as they come into the story and memorize like crazy. It sounds like a small thing, but to essentially know almost everyone by name by page 200 can make a huge diffence.
Thanks R96, a college professor friend of mine gave me similar advice, he said to cross out the Russian names in the book and write in a more common named like Steve, Brad or Cheryl and keep doing it throughout the book.
Sounded like even more work LOL
Here is my favourite Tolstoy quote, it always reminds me a datalounge.
“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.” ― Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata
|by Anonymous||reply 104||02/28/2012|
House of Leaves
|by Anonymous||reply 105||02/28/2012|
I found the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation of "War and Peace" very readable. As far as the name confusion, it's no big deal once you get used to the idea that Russians have three names instead of two (the patronymic second name, which means "son of" or "daughter of," is especially helpful in a big Russian novel because it helps you keep track of family relations) and that they use nicknames or call people by their last names just the same way that we do.
I think also one of the things that throws people off about "War and Peace" is that there are so many princes and princesses running around from different families that are not in the immediate family of the Tsar, and we're used to the European system where you're only a prince or a princess if you're a child of the country's supreme ruler.
|by Anonymous||reply 106||02/29/2012|
"I dare anyone to try to read just a few paragraphs of this book and tell m,e how before the words "mentally challenged" pop into your mind."
I dare anyone to read the above post and explain what the hell r102 was trying to say.
|by Anonymous||reply 107||02/29/2012|
The Unfortunate Traveller: or, The Life of Jacke Wilton by Thomas Nashe. I hated this book - it is basically written in another language in another time and just not interesting. The Unfortunate Reader.
|by Anonymous||reply 108||02/29/2012|
Mentally challenging novel?
Any Dl thread about gay-for-pay porn. Pure fiction, convoluted and endlessly novel every time.
|by Anonymous||reply 109||02/29/2012|
I've never been able to get through Ulysses. I've read and enjoyed all the other challenging books mentioned here. Joyce just gets on my last nerve.
|by Anonymous||reply 110||02/29/2012|
I have tried to read "The Ambassadors" many times and never made it past the first paragraph. Has anyone made it all the way through?
|by Anonymous||reply 111||02/29/2012|
Infinite Jest comes to mind.
|by Anonymous||reply 112||02/29/2012|
THE AMBASSADORS is actually amazing, R111, and I found it less difficult and more...tactile...than THE GOLDEN BOWL. I think for me it was just a matter of committing to the time it's going to take to get through it. Or, more practically, start with earlier James, which is far more accessible (PORTRAIT OF A LADY comes to mind). That's good training for his later, denser work.
|by Anonymous||reply 113||02/29/2012|
The Golden Bowl is dreadfully boring.
|by Anonymous||reply 114||03/01/2012|
I'll second Foucault's Pendulum, but VERY worth it if you get past the first 50 pages or so. I have read it 3 times or so over the years and enjoy it every time.
|by Anonymous||reply 115||03/01/2012|
The "Seth" books.
|by Anonymous||reply 116||03/01/2012|
Perfume by Patric Suskind.
What was the whole point of Grenouille, after having the world at his feet, pouring the perfume all over himself and being devoured by the nasty crowd of bums? What does the entire story have to say bout humanity?
|by Anonymous||reply 117||03/01/2012|
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon is unreadable.
|by Anonymous||reply 118||03/01/2012|
R114, I thought that there were several thrilling scenes in THE GOLDEN BOWL. Loved Charlotte Stant's confrontation of Mrs. Assingham, Maggie being a bitch to Mrs. Assingham once she realizes her complicity in the deception, and finally Charlotte's confrontation of Maggie. Maggie herself was an annoying character, though.
I'm glad I read it but probably won't attempt it again for a couple decades.
|by Anonymous||reply 119||03/01/2012|
I never could get through David Copperfield. I'm surprised nobody has mentioned it.
|by Anonymous||reply 120||03/01/2012|
I 'umbly beg to differ with your opinion, R120.
|by Anonymous||reply 121||03/02/2012|
Les miserables, the text is hard to wad through.
|by Anonymous||reply 122||03/02/2012|
Lord of the Flies.
It bored me so much, I couldn't get through more than about 10 pages at at time. And then the next time I picked it up, couldn't remember what had happened previously.
Finally gave up about 100 pages into it.
|by Anonymous||reply 123||03/02/2012|
Enter Talking - Joan Rivers bio
|by Anonymous||reply 124||03/02/2012|
During a long lazy weekend for which I had made no plans, I decided I was going to wade through Ulysses if it killed me. It's hard to explain, but I sort of forced my mind to wrap itself around what he was saying. Once I did that, I was able to comprehend the rest of the novel. I've read it again with no difficulty, so it must have stayed with me.
Finnegans Wake is a whole different story. I totally failed there. Part of the problem is that it didn't interest me enough to drag myself through the mire.
I went through a phase where I read only the Russians. I could see where listing the cast of characters might be helpful, but eventually I began to recognize them.
A couple of Joyce Carol Oates' books have seemed impenetrable in the beginning but ended up being worth the effort.
|by Anonymous||reply 125||03/02/2012|
|by Anonymous||reply 126||01/08/2013|
Has anyone managed to finish Nabokov's "Ada"?
|by Anonymous||reply 127||01/08/2013|
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
|by Anonymous||reply 128||01/08/2013|
50 Shades of Grey
|by Anonymous||reply 129||01/08/2013|
Like many of you, I've never found a novel overly difficult. (From Pynchon to "Finnegan's Wake" to William H. Gass... All are feasible.) I read a lot, though, so I'm never too surprised by variation in form.
Philosophy, on the other hand, can be truly challenging. I agree with the earlier poster who mentioned Heidegger. I can't tell if he's a charlatan or brilliant... His comprehensibility and relevance changes from paragraph to paragraph.
|by Anonymous||reply 130||01/08/2013|
50 Shades of Grey.
|by Anonymous||reply 131||01/08/2013|
Couldn't figure out Woolf's To The Lighthouse or Stein's Tender Buttons. Damn modernists.
|by Anonymous||reply 132||01/08/2013|
Les Miserables. The first 100 pages are about the bishop and I'm bored.
Marcel Proust, "In Search of Lost Time".
|by Anonymous||reply 133||01/08/2013|
I've read several Toni Morrison novels, but I couldn't get thru Beloved. I can't get thru Proust and I can't get thru Ulyssees. Now that I'm 57, I've given up trying. I don't care. I tried to read "Possession" (they made a movie of it with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam) for a lit class about 10 years ago and couldn't.
|by Anonymous||reply 134||01/08/2013|
R120. Because most people find Dickens easy, if long-winded.
|by Anonymous||reply 135||01/08/2013|
Another one for The Sound and the Fury. A friend of mine who is an English prof turned me onto Light in August, which I loved. S&F was a whole different experience. After like 20 pages, I was completely frustrated and called my friend. "Whats going on? Who are these people? Are they old, are they young? Are they poor? Are they rich? Are they black? Are they white? Did I become retarded overnight? I don't understand what the fuck is going on" Then he told me the whole premise, how its in these different voices and in different order. I put it down and told myself I would get back to it later. I never did.
Over the summer I started reading Tender is the Night. It wasn't challenging, but I think because the Occupy movement was so much in the news and on my mind, I found I had no patients to read about a bunch of lazy rich Americans who do nothing but eat lunch and have parties and fuck while lounging around the south of France.
|by Anonymous||reply 136||01/08/2013|
Beloved is my favorite novel, but my Ph.D. is in English with an emphasis on postmodern theory and cultural texts, which in current literary parlance has since been usurped by "liquid modernity." FAP, FAP, FAP. . . .
I think anything by Jacques Derrida qualifies as challenging, though he didn't write novels.
|by Anonymous||reply 137||01/08/2013|
Ulysses is easier heard than read: Buy it as an audiobook and also buy the New Bloomsday Book to help demystify things.
|by Anonymous||reply 138||01/08/2013|
R137 OMG I LOVE Beloved! What a work of art. Its one of those books where I found myself reading the same sentences over and over because they are so wonderfully crafted. R137, is there anything else by Morrison you would recommend?
|by Anonymous||reply 139||01/08/2013|
For those of you who find Heidegger challenging, try reading Husserl. I never understood what phenomenology actually is.
As for literature, I agree with those who have mentioned Gravity's Rainbow. I read it in college and don't remember a word of it. I just recently bought the Kindle edition, and have made it through the first 75 pages with more than 600 pages still to go. Not sure how far I will get.
I gave up on Infinite Jest after a few hundred pages. It just wasn't worth the effort.
But Ada, War and Peace, and Swann's Way are among my all time favorites.
|by Anonymous||reply 140||01/08/2013|
[quote]Les miserables, the text is hard to wad through.
Are you trying to use it as jack off material?
|by Anonymous||reply 141||01/08/2013|
I was an English majo"course I had to read The Education of Henry Adams, which I found shockingly difficult," although I guess I finished it more or less since I had to write papers on it. Nobody's mentioned that one. (although now with Google you could find out who all those English prime ministers like Palmerston, etc. were and it would be much easier).
There were many others (of course I couldn't read Ulysses), but I do remember tackling Middlemarch more than once and always getting defeated pretty early on.
|by Anonymous||reply 142||01/08/2013|
Only Revolutions by Mark Danielewski. Had to have been written under a crack-and-absinthe induced haze. Back to Rowling for a while. Oy.
|by Anonymous||reply 143||01/08/2013|
r142: That was my post. Sorry bout that. Not sure what happened, but it should read: I was an English Major. In my first freshman English course I had to read "The Education of Henry Adams," which I found shockingly difficult...etc.
|by Anonymous||reply 144||01/08/2013|
R143 - More so than House of Leaves?
|by Anonymous||reply 145||01/08/2013|
"Back to Rowling for a while. Oy."
You can do better, R143.
|by Anonymous||reply 146||01/08/2013|
I don't quite know why.. but it was the biography of Truman Capote. It had joyous moments, but all in all I found it a difficult undertaking.
|by Anonymous||reply 147||01/08/2013|
Yes, R145. It's as if he's amping up his literary S&M with each new novel.
Trust me, R146. After reading it, you [italic]won't want[/italic] to do better.
|by Anonymous||reply 148||01/08/2013|
[quote]I don't quite know why.. but it was the biography of Truman Capote.
I think I know why. It may be the same reason I had a hard time with a bio of Warhol I read last year (Capote figured a lot in it too). The subject, while seeming so glamorous and having such and exciting life is really very tragic, very much an asshole and very much doomed. You get into someones life, know what they think and feel, you grow attached to them even though you know that in the end its all going to end very badly. From everything I have read about Capote, he was a horrible person, ugly inside and out. Warhol was the same way. Bitter, vindictive, manipulative, irresponsible and constantly needing validation. Its not easy feeling sympathy, much less interest in people like that.
|by Anonymous||reply 149||01/08/2013|
[R149] Nailed it!
|by Anonymous||reply 150||01/08/2013|
Joan Rivers autobiography, "Enter Talking". The worst read ever!
|by Anonymous||reply 151||01/08/2013|
It has taken a long time for anyone to mention Thomas Mann's "Doctor Faustus," so that's my pick as the most difficult book I actually read.
I took "Finnegans Wake" to the beach once, and gave up very soon. But, I like Joyce's other books.
|by Anonymous||reply 152||01/08/2013|
Obama's birth certificate, hands down.
|by Anonymous||reply 153||01/08/2013|
To Serve Man.
Oh, wait ... it's a COOKBOOK!
|by Anonymous||reply 154||01/08/2013|
Ulysses was the biggest drag, War and Peace and Dostoevsky novels were challenging just for the names...I am better at this now.
I loved the Fountainhead but not so much Atlas Shrugged. They are challenging mentally and I guess to many out here, morally. English majors and others in the humanities are taught how to think and interpret, not censor.
Lately I find Lionel Shriver's books to be dense and rewarding reads, challenging in the material and in her style.
"We Need to talk About Kevin" and "So much for That" are engrossing books that require a great deal of verbal know how. Moral and ethical dilemmas presented as fact, with determined and complex characters and detail. She is a fascinating writer and not at all dull or scholarly.
Within her complex structure and very realized characters, she maintains a central voice that questions everything while creating this great fiction to lay her ideas upon.
"We need to talk about Kevin" is a brilliant book about american culture and gender roles, the unspoken ambiguity of motherhood and the current cultural approach to children. Don't go by the film. It is also a heartbreaking read and very good fiction.
Perhaps like Ayn Rand, Lionel Shriver is a literary fascist?
"The Fountainhead" is a great book regardless and the Russians (Tolstoy and Dostoevsky) are worth the work.
|by Anonymous||reply 155||01/08/2013|
I liked The Fountainhead. I had no idea what it was about going into it, other than it was about an architect. And I like architecture so I thought I would give a try. The weird thing is, I didnt get any of what is supposed to be Rand's political philosophy that everyone says she promoted. If anything, I got the opposite. IIRC, it wasn't the government that was oppressing Roark, but a big business concern.
|by Anonymous||reply 156||01/08/2013|
[quote]"Kritik der reinen Vernunft" by Kant
That's not a novel, dear.
|by Anonymous||reply 157||01/08/2013|
[quote]If you can't spell Finnegan's Wake, no wonder the text was challenging.
Honey, I wouldn't cast stones at glass houses. You incorrectly punctuated it. There's no apostrophe in the title.
|by Anonymous||reply 158||01/08/2013|
[post by racist shit-stain # 2 removed.]
|by Anonymous||reply 159||01/08/2013|
I've read a couple of Chuck Palahniuk's books and they are rough going. I'm not sure if I've even made it to the end of one. Still, I may try to read Fight Club one day.
|by Anonymous||reply 160||01/08/2013|
Anything by Doris Lessing.
|by Anonymous||reply 161||01/08/2013|
"They are challenging mentally"
No. No Ayn Rand novel is mentally challenging for any adult with an IQ above 100. Her prose and characterization have less artistry and wit than a Berenstain Bears book.
|by Anonymous||reply 162||01/08/2013|
Home decorating shows and curbs and decks and DYI's, "historical" colours and making all kitchen counters look like a bank tellers window. Stainless Steel. Restoration Hardware and all that aspirational crap.
Home is a sentimental place, but the constant reconfiguring and fucking with peoples sense of it based on nothing but magazines HGTV and retailers is nauseating.
I hate granite and stainless kitchens, open concepts and spa bathrooms. They will go out of style cuz that is the way but that doesn't make me right. I know what I don't like. Can't sell me on an idea of home that doesn't fit, and call it my dream. Don't succumb.
I have more serious examples of twee and sentimental things that make me nauseous, but this is what is pissing me off today.
I am Italian, my bf is Trinidadian and we require a separate room kitchen, among other things......
|by Anonymous||reply 163||01/08/2013|
I suggest that Ayn Rand is mentally challenging since so many can not interpret her work well. I agree that the prose is not difficult.
You, sir are some reactionary. The Fountainhead is a fine and rewarding book, for those who can think. It is a good book for discussion and is still used as such.
It has it's challenges which clearly you have encountered.
|by Anonymous||reply 164||01/08/2013|
R156 - The Fountainhead is a better book than Atlas Shrugged. Rand's anti-government paranoia isn't yet omnipresent, and the speeches are shorter.
|by Anonymous||reply 165||01/08/2013|
"The Sound and the Fury" is definitely not badly written r9. It's written in stream of consciousness, much like Mrs. Dalloway. Whereas I found Mrs. Dalloway quite boring, Sound and the Fury was beautiful prose. Almost all of Faulkner's novels are written in the same way, but Fury is a masterpiece.
I've never found any novels to be mentally challenging. Most of the difficult ones were nonfiction, written by German philosophers like Heidegger. I think it took me an hour to read 10 pages of Heidegger's book (I can't remember the title). To this day, I'm still not sure if I even read it because I certainly did not understand it.
|by Anonymous||reply 166||01/08/2013|
If it's a 'mo reading it, it would be "Fun with Dick and Jane."
|by Anonymous||reply 167||01/09/2013|
The Fountainhead is an ok book, but does not belong on a thread called most mentally challenging book you've ever read...not even a close call!
|by Anonymous||reply 168||01/09/2013|
F&F for r167
|by Anonymous||reply 169||01/09/2013|
"It has it's challenges which clearly you have encountered."
While you find basic English grammar a challenge...
|by Anonymous||reply 170||01/09/2013|
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - I was 15 or 16 when I tried reading this. Had I been just a bit older, I think I would have gotten more out of it.
|by Anonymous||reply 171||01/09/2013|
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass was horrible, but I'm not really sure if it was difficult or not because I read it in translation and sometimes translators don't measure up.
Saul Bellow's first novel was difficult although I can't recall what it was called. Before Augie March.
I found Wuthering Heights a bit challenging because I could understand Heathcliff but Cathy and Edgar just didn't seem like real people.
No novel taught me more than my favorite, Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, which had probably 400 words that were new to me. Of course, my mind isn't what it was so I've already forgotten them, but for a few weeks I had a dazzling vocab.
|by Anonymous||reply 172||01/09/2013|
The only thing 'mos read is the bathroom stall.
|by Anonymous||reply 173||01/09/2013|
Green eggs and ham
|by Anonymous||reply 174||01/09/2013|
The cheese grater.
|by Anonymous||reply 175||01/09/2013|
It was a classic philosophy book I had to read in college. It was horrible. I guess I blocked out the title and author but I would know it if I heard it.
|by Anonymous||reply 176||01/09/2013|
The Divine Comedy.
|by Anonymous||reply 177||01/09/2013|
The Unfortunate Traveller, or The Life Of Jack Wilton, by Thomas Nash
|by Anonymous||reply 178||01/09/2013|
can someone start a thread titled "Unbelievable Facts" where posters can share some really unbelievable facts with us?
|by Anonymous||reply 179||01/09/2013|
'Dyke Rapes Gay'
|by Anonymous||reply 180||01/09/2013|
The brilliant "Wuthering Heights."
|by Anonymous||reply 181||01/09/2013|
Ulysses seems to be winning this thread and deserves to. My only caveat would be that it is so impenetrable so fast that it is easy to give up immediately.
A 'challenging' book might be one that I forced my way through and wrestled with the difficult text. Using that criteria, I might say The Canterbury Tales, which was a tough read and a slow one, but I was able to get through it.
I also read Sound and the Fury. Not sure I got anything out of it nor that I had any idea what the hell was going on, or who was saying what about what.
|by Anonymous||reply 182||01/09/2013|
I read Ulysses in the 9th grade and loved it.
But I loved mythology, so that probably explains it.
|by Anonymous||reply 183||01/09/2013|
Is that the same Ulysses?
|by Anonymous||reply 184||01/09/2013|
Dos Passos can be challenging too.
So I like to take a hard novel, and read it at the same time I read a dirty easier novel, like something from Jerzy Kosinski.
|by Anonymous||reply 185||01/09/2013|
Remembrance of Things Past. No, that wasn't mentally challenging. It was mentally taxing. And not worth it.
Ulysses is mentally challenging. And well worth it.
|by Anonymous||reply 186||01/09/2013|
Novels which were not hard to read but were thought provoking and therefore challenged me in that sense were books like Sophie's World and The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder which I read when I was younger.
I believe a book should challenge you in the sense that it leaves you asking questions about the world rather than being just ridiculously difficult to read. Joyce is a nightmare.
For those who struggled with 'Lord of the Flies' I'm not sure why. It's quite short and it was one of the books I had to read for school when I was around 13. It wasn't a 'nice' book but it was interesting and thought provoking. As were Animal Farm and 1984.
|by Anonymous||reply 187||01/09/2013|
I didn't take "mentally challenging" to mean necessarily "struggled with," but to mean a novel of depth and complexity, with symbolism, etc.
TLotF is one such book, but it is too often taught superficially to youngsters.
|by Anonymous||reply 188||01/10/2013|
|by Anonymous||reply 189||01/11/2013|
V. by Thomas Pynchon.
|by Anonymous||reply 190||01/11/2013|
Watership Down. It was challenging figuring out why this book was so popular.
|by Anonymous||reply 191||01/11/2013|
Philosophy books which are tough to read are tough to read because their authors don't think clearly.
|by Anonymous||reply 192||01/11/2013|
An Eternal Golden Braid is one of the best books ever written, but I agree it is challenging.
Gravity's Rainbow is actually my favorite book ever.
The only books I really struggled with were Lacan and Foucault, which I had to read for a class I took last year. I just couldn't really grasp all that signifiers, signified stuff.
|by Anonymous||reply 193||01/11/2013|
Umberto Eco is challenging too, but again, it could be the translation.
|by Anonymous||reply 194||01/11/2013|
Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.
|by Anonymous||reply 195||01/11/2013|
Hop On Pop
|by Anonymous||reply 196||01/11/2013|