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Author Topic: Grossly overrated books.
BlackBlade
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quote:
What a sad commentary on the modern world. We are all living in "the moment" and rejecting all that went before. Who needs philosophy, morality, religion, civilization, et el.? Well, we still have science and technology right?
I said the books are losing their relevancy. I say that as somebody who still receives moral guidance from books that are thousands of years old. But not all books are written equally, and I'm sorry but for a person living in say Scotland the life experiences of two adulterous puritans is just as aptly taught if not more so in more contemporary literature.

What a sad commentary on the modern world if we cannot surpass in excellence the literary efforts of those who went before us.

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Dobbie
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quote:
Originally posted by katharina:
Someone already made that joke.

That was me. I noticed a mistake in my post and reposted it instead of editing.
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Tara
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For the people who were talking about The Bean Series, does that include Ender's Shadow? Because while I agree that the Bean series is rather overrated (and I only read it because I already love the characters), I disagree about Ender's Shadow -- I think it's one of the most interesting, complex, and real of all of Card's books. Not better than Ender's Game overall, but more interesting in some ways.
Bean feels much more real than Ender ever did, and I feel like we really get inside his head in a way that is rare in literature. I could count on one hand characters in all the books I've ever read that are as good or better than Bean.
Ender is not as good a character per say, although his is a rather better story.

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Fusiachi
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quote:
Originally posted by Jhai:

Also irritating: the fact that Aleksandr Pushkin isn't better known in the English-speaking world. He's absolutely amazing, but I'd never even heard of him until I took 19th Century Russian Lit.

I hadn't heard of Pushkin either...until a course in...well, 19th century Russian Lit. So good.

Not so good: the LOTR trilogy.

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Traceria
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quote:
Originally posted by katharina:
Speaking of, David Tennant's Hamlet is being filmed this summer. It will be available on DVD.

*beams with happiness*

Ditto that. [Big Grin]

I can't think of any additions but do agree with The Scarlet Letter's inclusion.

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The Pixiest
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Anything at all written by Edmund Wells.
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Eaquae Legit
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HOW DID I MISS THAT. A link, Katharina, a link!
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katharina
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As you wish. [Smile]

http://deadlinescotland.wordpress.com/2009/03/03/david-tennants-hamlet-on-screen-686/

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lynda
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Wicked the book was ok, it had good parts. I realy like Elphie. But the musical is GREAT!!!
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Yozhik
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The reason Pushkin isn't better known among non-Russian speakers is that he was a poet and his brilliant use of language doesn't translate well. I haven't read any translations of Pushkin that are nearly as good as the original.
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DaisyMae
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I had no idea what to expect when I read Waterhip Down, but it certainly wasn't bunnies. So many people had told me to read it that I kept turning page after page until I finished. I think my exact words were, "Huh."
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Vyrus
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Epicfetus, I agree about Shakespeare. I was originally so-so about his work, which we studied extensively in 9th and 10th grade, but once I saw it performed it was brilliant.

I saw a modern interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing, and found it to be utterly amazing.. I also saw a contemporary version of Othello on Masterpiece Theater and consider it still to be one of my favorite movies.

I saw Midsummer Night's Dream for the first time, and thought it beautiful (and keep in mind it was performed by a..."poorly rehearsed" high school cast). It's hard to catch a lot of the undertones, especially the humor, from reading it.

I found Scarlet Letter to be dreadfully boring.

Catcher in the Rye was not bad, but I found it also to be a tad boring-I finished it, but it took me such a long, arduous time I could barely remember half of the book.

I didn't like the main character. He struck me as a serial killer for some reason. I don't know why.

I haven't read much Steinbeck so I can't comment on all of his works. I only know that i was madly in love with East of Eden. I found the ending to be a tad ambiguous, as I felt there were certain things I didn't get about it. [But then again, I did read it a little after 9th grade.]

A lot of the books I've read I read at a younger age and couldn't quite understand them. I read Scarlet Letter first in 8th grade, and couldn't' understand half of the words or make it through the first chapter. I read it again in tenth, and it was a lot more tolerable, though still boring. Maybe if I read it again 12th grade it will be awesome? Who knows. ^^

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Sean Monahan
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I'll add my vote to Moby Dick.

I suspect that Melville wanted the reading of this book to be similar to whaling (or to how some have described submarine warfare); 3 hours of boredom followed by 30 seconds of stark terror. The book contains extremely fatiguing passages that are just plain boring. It took me a month to get through that book, and I had to force myself; I didn't enjoy it.

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amira tharani
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I really liked both Frankenstein (which I studied for A-level) and The Great Gatsby. I think that Gatsby might be slightly overrated, I've heard it mentioned as the greatest prose work of the 20th century, and I certainly wouldn't go that far.

As for Shakespeare, I agree that really you have to see it performed to "get" it. But oh, when you get it... I was lucky enough to study Hamlet for A-level and see it performed at the Globe. It got under my skin like nothing else I've ever seen, and then trying to analyse the language and see what he did with it just opened up the whole play and made it even more amazing. I can go back to Shakespeare time and again and see things I didn't see before.

I think that both James Joyce and Salman Rushdie are overrated for exactly the same reason. Both very clever writers, but the complexity of their work strikes me as just showing off how clever they are, rather than being about something meaningful. I can see why they are very clever, but I don't think that necessarily makes them great literature.

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Dante
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I think it should be pointed out that "I don't like X" does not necessarily make it "overrated." For example, Joyce isn't really my cup of literary tea, but Ulysses is an immensely creative and influential work; I find Austen uninspired and dull to the point of tears, but there's no question that she knew what she was doing and has managed (somehow) to keep a large following.

Mind you, I'm not saying your own particular preferences are unrelated to whether or not you find a book overrated; I'm just pointing out that they're not necessarily the same thing.

Also, Moby-Dick is one of the best novels of all time, and possibly the only "classic" novel I've ever gone back and read again for fun. If you think it's overrated, you're doing it wrong. [Razz]

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Jhai
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quote:
Originally posted by Yozhik:
The reason Pushkin isn't better known among non-Russian speakers is that he was a poet and his brilliant use of language doesn't translate well. I haven't read any translations of Pushkin that are nearly as good as the original.

But they're still very, very good. He also wrote a fair number of short stories that translate decently.
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amira tharani
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Dante, I agree with you that "I don't like X" doesn't mean it's over-rated. I was just being lazy about giving my reasons. Having said that, I don't think that Joyce is over-rated purely because I don't like him. I think he's overrated because, at least as far as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is concerned, his work is clever for the sake of cleverness, rather than for the sake of meaning. I don't think that of either Frankenstein or Gatsby. I agree that Frankenstein may not be as polished a piece of work, but to me it is a better book because the heart of it, the sense of grappling with issues of meaning and morality, the emotional core of it if you will, resonates with me in a way that I don't get from Portrait. That may be a failing in me, rather than in the book, but then literary judgements are always as much about the reader as the writer, I think.
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Traceria
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quote:
Originally posted by amira tharani:
I really liked ...The Great Gatsby. I think that Gatsby might be slightly overrated, I've heard it mentioned as the greatest prose work of the 20th century, and I certainly wouldn't go that far.

I agree. It probably gets more acclaim than is truly warranted, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, I find the short stories of Fitzgerald that I have read just as enjoyable. Something about getting him in small doses helps. [Smile]
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katharina
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There are many authors that are better in short stories. Ray Bradbury, for one. His short stories are magic, but I found Farenheith 451 to be tedious and dreadful. Dandelion Wine was okay, but it was essentially a series of short stories anyway.
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theamazeeaz
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Dante's Inferno. A bitter, exiled man sticking everybody he hated in his story-hell. The book is little more than a list of the people Dante disliked, complete with what he would like happen to them. He doesn't get creativity points for thinking up good punishments either- any angry teenager can think of brilliantly horrible things that should happen to their enemies. It's a thinly-veiled grudge-fest to slam the nasty politicians from the 14th century along with a few historical figures to make it "legit".

[ March 06, 2009, 11:21 AM: Message edited by: theamazeeaz ]

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Noemon
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Kat, what did you think of Something Wicked This Way Comes?

I generally love Bradbury's stuff, both his novels and his short stories, but Fahrenheit 451 did less for me than a lot of his work.

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Traceria
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I thought Something Wicked was thrilling, but it's not one of my favorites. More often, I get drawn to reading story collections, with the favs being The Martian Chronicles (talk about chills) and The Illustrated Man (still a really awesome connecting concept to me). I have been through 451 numerous times, and while it certainly isn't the best of the best, it strikes home (and it doesn't drag things out like similar 'this is where society is heading' books sometimes do). Also, a friend just acquired an autographed copy for me, so I'm having a hard time saying anything bad about it at the moment. [Big Grin]
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katharina
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I haven't read it. Did you like it? I was so discouraged by the first two full length novels of his that I resolved to stick short stories and novels-filled-with-short-stories, like The Martian Chronicles.

I also enjoyed The Illustrated Man.

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Traceria
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I listened to Something Wicked, which probably helped with the thrill factor. [Smile]
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Leonide
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quote:
Then there is James Joyce "Ulysses" that always gets mentioned, but never actually read. There is no story, no plot, no consistency, hardly a character, and too long for the effort. I feel that those who like it are only saying that to show off.
*always mentions it*

*has actually read it*

There is a story, a plot, consistency, a great deal of character, and it's exactly as long as it needs to be, and given the scope of what he was atempting, probably could've been longer. [Smile]

I do think, however, that a lot of the time it's lauded without the lauders actually having read the whole thing.

I think most of the novels by Stephen King are grossly overrated -- I could barely get through The Shining, and though I'm pretty sure I read Salem's Lot, I don't actually remember anything about it except, maybe, a graveyard? His short stories, however, are largely overlooked and vastly superior.

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FlyingCow
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The problem with having Shakespeare on this list is that he didn't write books.

His works weren't written to be "read" in the sense of absorbing the text off a page. And if you only ever read them, you don't really get a real sense of them.

A contemporary comparison would be reading the screenplay of a great movie without every watching the movie.


As for overrated books, though, I have to put DaVinci Code on that list. Eragon would be up there, too.

I'd toss on almost anything by Jane Austen, too... but that is likely just personal taste. They're not bad books, by any means, just overrated.

I'd say most of the Sherlock Holmes I've read is overrated, too. Holmes' "genius" often relies on Doyle not giving the reader the details they'd need to figure things out.

A Spell for Chameleon, the first Xanth book, almost made me claw my eyes out. I have not read anything else by Piers Anthony, but it would take a lot to get over my initial impression of him as a hack.

As for Ulysees, I have not read it yet... but I read a great newspaper article once saying that it improves greatly if you read it while in a state of partial inebriation.

The writer of the article mentioned while he was in Ireland that he didn't like the book, and one of the gentlemen in the pub with him said he hadn't read it the right way. So they sat him down, bought him a pint, and got a copy from a local bookshop. Each day he came in, and read while they bought him pints of beer.

He said he really had an entirely new appreciation for the book - so I'm tempted to give that a whirl.

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Leonide
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quote:
As for Ulysees, I have not read it yet... but I read a great newspaper article once saying that it improves greatly if you read it while in a state of partial inebriation.
I imagine in general, the visceral experience of the stream-of-consciousness thought processes is enhanced by this method. And some of the more bizarre sections: "Circe" comes to mind specifically. However, you need to be stone-cold sober to dissect other aspects. I think it depends on what kind of experience you want out of the book.
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Jhai
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I'm not sure if the same effect could be achieved in the states, unless you have a really good supplier of European/Irish beer. Guinness isn't the same outside Ireland.
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Blayne Bradley
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Anything by Tom Clancy, although ill be reading Red Storm Rising to confirm that its the exception that proves the rule.
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DaisyMae
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quote:
The problem with having Shakespeare on this list is that he didn't write books.

His works weren't written to be "read" in the sense of absorbing the text off a page. And if you only ever read them, you don't really get a real sense of them.

I have to agree. There are certain nuances that are difficult to pick up in the text that when seen performed are so genius. I've never seen a live performance of a Shakespearian play that I didn't adore. I really don't enjoy reading it though.
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scifibum
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quote:
The problem with having Shakespeare on this list is that he didn't write books.

His works weren't written to be "read" in the sense of absorbing the text off a page. And if you only ever read them, you don't really get a real sense of them.

I wish my high school English teacher had known this.
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
Moby Dick is on just about every list of "great literature", I suspect because the people who make those lists haven't actually read that book, but instead cribbed off of someone else's list.

Moby Dick cries out for some very heavy editing. It would make a decent short story, though. I think Herman Melville just kind of got caught up in the writing, and couldn't get himself to stop. [quote]Moby Dick is on just about every list of "great literature", I suspect because the people who make those lists haven't actually read that book, but instead cribbed off of someone else's list.

Moby Dick cries out for some very heavy editing. It would make a decent short story, though. I think Herman Melville just kind of got caught up in the writing, and couldn't get himself to stop.

quote:
I'll add my vote to Moby Dick.

I suspect that Melville wanted the reading of this book to be similar to whaling (or to how some have described submarine warfare); 3 hours of boredom followed by 30 seconds of stark terror. The book contains extremely fatiguing passages that are just plain boring. It took me a month to get through that book, and I had to force myself; I didn't enjoy it.

quote:
I love Moby Dick. But I guess that's obvious.
White Whale,

How about we start a thread to discuss Moby Dick? I also love it, and have been looking for an opportunity to discuss it with someone.

As to the rest of you, Ha! Just because you didn't "get it" doesn't mean it isn't the greatest book ever written, which it is.

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Dante
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Amira, I was just making sort of a general comment on the thread. I actually think your points are always cogent and interesting.

quote:
Dante's Inferno. A bitter, exiled man sticking everybody he hated in his story-hell. The book is little more than a list of the people Dante disliked, complete with what he would like happen to them. He doesn't get creativity points for thinking up good punishments either- any angry teenager can think of brilliantly horrible things that should happen to their enemies. It's a thinly-veiled grudge-fest to slam the nasty politicians from the 14th century along with a few historical figures to make it "legit".
I submit you have misunderstood nearly everything about the Commedia. And I'm not just saying that based on a Hatrack user name I took on a whim eight years ago. [Smile]

And while I agree that Shakespeare has to be seen to be fully appreciated, it's completely possible to recognize and enjoy the poetry of his language from reading it. I've read Titus Andronicus and seen Romeo and Juliet and immensely preferred the former to the latter.

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Vyrus
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My problem with reading many of these books is reading them in school. While I enjoy discussing themes, characters, meanings, inferences, etc. [thus the point of this thread ^.^] I really hate, as I have said before, the complete and utter dissection and analysis books in the average high school curriculum, from the thematic elements of characters down to the oh-so-dreadfully-clever use of asyndenton and chiasmus, etc.

Works have to be taken on their own merit before discussion can begin.

It's like, you have to get your own meaning out of the book, and they're trying to force a meaning upon you. It's like saying "See, see what this stanza here represents?" "Yeah! I think it represents the futility of man when cut off from the beauty of life." "NO! You're WRONG! It's talking about DEATH! How do you ever expect to pass this class when you can't even get that!"

Or some other such preachy lesson. [This, gentle readers, was of course a very random dramatization.]

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Teshi
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75% of English teachers are carp.

quote:
Being written by a genius does not make a work into something people should want to read. On that scale, I'd have to think the works of Shakespeare are overrated.
Reading Shakespeare is your whole problem. Shakespeare didn't write his plays to be read, he wrote them to be performed by actors not divorced from the meaning and jokes of the plays by four hundred years. Find out which is the best filmed version of the plays and watch it. If you can't find one of Shakespeare's plays incredibly up to date and fun and so easy to understand compared to his contemporaries you haven't actually seen Shakespeare.

You don't read screenplays, do you?

Oh... Flying Cow already said all this. Well, seconded.

quote:
I'd say most of the Sherlock Holmes I've read is overrated, too. Holmes' "genius" often relies on Doyle not giving the reader the details they'd need to figure things out.
I disagree with this. Well, I disagree that Holmes isn't extraordinary. Holmes is never really supposed to be a genius at deduction but at observation. Everyone is always noting that, once he explains what he saw, how darned obvious it all was. It was always just a matter of seeing what nobody else saw and being able to put it together in a coherent picture drawn from years of experience with crimes. Holmes is more of a giant encyclopedia with very good powers of observation than a genius.

It's his brother Mycroft who's the real genius, but he just never had the energy...

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Sean Monahan
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
White Whale,

How about we start a thread to discuss Moby Dick? I also love it, and have been looking for an opportunity to discuss it with someone.

As to the rest of you, Ha! Just because you didn't "get it" doesn't mean it isn't the greatest book ever written, which it is.

I'll admit that maybe I just didn't get it. But my experience was unenjoyable enough that I don't presently want to give it a second chance (there are too many other books I want to read). But I'm very interested in seeing what is discussed in the Moby Dick thread. I'm willing to learn, and if I'm sufficiently convinced, maybe I will pick it up again.
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Blayne Bradley
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i really wanna see hamlet as performed by David Tennant.
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Liz B
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quote:
75% of English teachers are carp.
I am not a fish!

(cookie to the first person who names the movie)

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Synesthesia
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That mermaid movie? Splash...

I want a cookie

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Liz B
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*hands Syn a cookie*
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PSI Teleport
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Brave New World. I can never make it past the part where Bernard and Lenina leave off on their trip. It just seems to...ramble on pointlessly. Then I flip to the end and I go, "Are they on a res? WTH?"

Not that it doesn't start out well. The concept in interesting and the style of writing is pretty compelling. But still, never at any point do I know why I am continuing to read.

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Vyrus
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I enjoyed Brave New World-I was completely hooked all the way through. I do get where you're coming from, though.

That's my problem, is being able to get past the parts in books that tend to drag.

A lot of the time I give up and come back at a later date, which happened with both the fourth and the fifth book of the DT series; some of my favorites no doubt, they just had portions that were insufferable.

It also happened about 450 pages into the Brothers Karamazov, which I still have as of yet to finish.

[And about six pages into War and Peace...]

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JennaDean
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quote:
i really wanna see hamlet as performed by David Tennant.
Mmmmm....

I'll add the umpteenth vote for Catcher in the Rye. I read it in high school and still wish I hadn't. The huge amount of profanity was very distracting for me. I really could not relate with the main character at all; I had no feelings like his, so all I got out of it was a really foul mouth for weeks afterward. Maybe I would get it now, but I'm not likely to pick it up again. I have a friend who said in high school it was her favorite book - I was completely flummoxed.

And I'll add one I haven't seen yet: One Hundred Years of Solitude. It was an Oprah Book Club book, like her FAVORITE, life-changing book, right? But I couldn't see why. It didn't teach me anything new; I found it depressing and parts of it really disturbing. There were parts of it that were supposedly the "good times" - I mean when the characters went back and remembered the good times, they remembered these events that just seemed horrible and depressing to me. In the end the overall impression I have of it was, what was so life changing about that? All I can really remember is there were lots of ants.

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theamazeeaz
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quote:
Originally posted by JennaDean:
quote:
i really wanna see hamlet as performed by David Tennant.
Mmmmm....

I'll add the umpteenth vote for Catcher in the Rye. I read it in high school and still wish I hadn't. The huge amount of profanity was very distracting for me. I really could not relate with the main character at all; I had no feelings like his, so all I got out of it was a really foul mouth for weeks afterward.

I got a really melodramatic way of speaking after reading the Grapes of Wrath.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Vyrus:
I enjoyed Brave New World-I was completely hooked all the way through. I do get where you're coming from, though.

That's my problem, is being able to get past the parts in books that tend to drag.

A lot of the time I give up and come back at a later date, which happened with both the fourth and the fifth book of the DT series; some of my favorites no doubt, they just had portions that were insufferable.

It also happened about 450 pages into the Brothers Karamazov, which I still have as of yet to finish.

Just read the inquisition chapter and be done with it. [Wink]
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Godric 2.0
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quote:
Originally posted by Teshi:
75% of English teachers are carp.

Maybe. But I still had a crush on every one I ever had.

[Embarrassed]

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Sterling
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Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Admittedly, I might have a higher opinion of it if I hadn't been forced to read it because the executor of his estate designed my college's "core" curriculum. As it was, it felt like "of all the works that could illuminate the American experience for this class, we're wasting our time on this rambling piece of...?"
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advice for robots
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Add a vote for The Kite Runner. Way overrated. Terrible plot twists.

It's been years since I read Grapes of Wrath but I remember being really touched by the ending. I like how Steinbeck uses imagery.

I could never enjoy books I was assigned to read in school classes. Picking them apart always seemed to kill them for me.

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Maratanos
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I'm not actually familiar with the thoughts of modern critics with regard to Victor Hugo, but I feel like some of his work is overrated. Les Miserables was a great story, but practically nobody ever reads the book because from a modern perspective, Victor Hugo was a terrible author.

Then we have the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the most hideously depressing and static book I ever did see in my whole life. Practically the only likeable character is Quasimodo, who has the misfortune of being stupid enough to fall in love with a shallow woman like Esmerelda, who in turn is stupid enough to fall in love with Phoebus, who is frankly borderline evil. And then practically everybody who's likeable dies and the people portrayed as villians live (even if not happily ever after).

Of course, I'll be the first to admit I haven't read the book in quite some time and it's possible my memory has been warped. If this is so, please, don't hesitate to correct me.

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FlyingCow
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Phantom of the Opera was overrated to me, but I think the hype is more about the musical than the book (haven't seen the musical yet). The book had a somewhat interesting story, but the writer's conventions used drive me crazy.
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