5 Classic Novels I Didn’t Enjoy

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Painfully inferior to it’s older brother,  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn one after the other. The difference in quality is striking. Huck Finn lacks the insight, humor and compelling story of Tom Sawyer. Twain’s trademark erudite voice is lost. Instead we get a 19th century, working class, country American dialect. This vernacular is what made Huck Finn so remarkable in it’s day, but I found it extremely tedious to slag through.

I didn’t find the plot, the moral messages or the Huck-Slave relationship moving in the slightest. Huge disappointment. Never saw it coming.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy

The way this book is praised, I was expecting a hilarious and inventive sci-fi adventure set in space. What I got was considerably less entertaining. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy reads like the novelization of a tacky Saturday morning cartoon about aliens. The universe of the story as described by Adams is a place of ugly chaos. I found the humor to be obvious and unsophisticated. Aliens eminent domain earth to make way for a hyperspace expressway! Hysterical commentary of government overreach! Come on, people, this is funny?  

The Sun Also Rises

I didn’t exactly dislike this book. In fact, of the five novels listed, I enjoyed TSAR the most. However, when I read it, I didn’t have the historical knowledge to appreciate the important themes being explored. Hemmingway was trying to capture the essence of The Lost Generation of American expats living in Paris disoriented, wandering and directionless during the haze of the postwar period (WWI). The war did damage to the participants belief in justice, morality, love and manhood. So, characters of TSAR are aimless and act immorally. With no background info to guide me, TSAR was little more than a formless, mildly entertaining series of pointless scenes in which the characters socialize and pursue casual sex and talk about nothing in particular and go on trips. I’m sure I would enjoy it more if I read it within it’s proper historical context.

Catcher In the Rye

Who wants to spend time in the head of a disagreeable, narcissistic spaz? I found Holden Claufield to be totally unlikable as a character. His opinions are ignorant and poorly thought out. His expectations of others are unrealistic. His attitude toward sex is creepy and dysfunctional. I did not root for Claufield or even identify with him in the slightest. I simply pitied him. Is Holden Claufield a good representation of the mindset of an angsty, teenage loner? Sure. What is strange to me is that people talk about CITR as if Claufield is an admirable character and as if his societal crtiques are words of wisdom to be taken seriously.

Crime and Punishment

I bought a copy of Crime and Punishment right after I read it’s synopsis. A philosophical novel in which atheism-fueled nihilism and Christian morality go head-to-head in an intellectual battle – plus murder! – in dreary, 19th century Saint Petersburg? I’m sold!

Sadly, reading C&P was 95% chore. The remaining 5% consists of Dostoevsky teasing the reader with very interesting and short-lived bits of brilliance in which the disastrous consequences of unbelief and the idea of might making right are explored. The interactions between Raskolnikov and Petrovich, in which the latter is trying to lead the former into confessing murder is nothing short of marvelous.

However, the rest of the story is just Raskolnikov putzing around Saint Petersburg naval gazing and wallowing in depression. Another thing, – and it may have been the translation – C&P has possibly the flattest, most drab, unexpressive prose I’ve ever read. Reading almost 500 pages of such bloodless language was a test of my resolve.

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