Top Ten Tuesday is a feature created at The Broke and the Bookish blog. Each week they post a new list for bloggers. Click on the logo to see the lists coming up and those posted in the past. This week's list is:
Top Ten Most Intimidating Books
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experiencece. If the writing of his brother, Henry, is anything to go by, William's great and influential book of psychology, philosophy, religion, natural science, existential judgment, reality and images of reality, and who knows what all else is a morass of verbiage in which concepts that I don't understand are discussed in detail. No way.
Henry James, The Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl. I have enough trouble with The Ambassadors, which is so much more readable and understandable than these two. Late in his life James took to dictating his books to a stenographer and the result, combined with a natural tendency to extend and complicate sentences, is very difficult to read.
Miguel De Cervantes, Don Quixote - How many times have I tried to read Don Quixote? A dozen at least. I now have the latest translation, by Edith Grossman and I have found it much more readable than previous editions, of which there are many, and of which I've tried four or five with no success. I remain hopeful that I will read this, the best literary work ever written, before I die.
Herman Melville, Moby Dick. In New Bedford, Massachusetts, where I went to school, they make you read this novel in high school. In no way is a 16-year-old ready for this lengthy, rambling, and difficult to comprehend book. I've tried to read it a half dozen times as an adult, but somehow the memories of those difficult nights of homework making my way through a treatise on whale blubber prevent my continuing past the arrival on deck of Starbuck.
JRR Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps I'm being unfair. I have tried a few times to read The Hobbit with no success. They tell me you have to read that before you read this. If so, I'm never going to read this.
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury. The title of this, most famous of Faulkner's novels, sounds familiar. That's because it's a quote from Shakespeare, "A tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." And that's what the book is - a story narrated in part by a mentally disabled man. Plus it moves around in time with few clues to the reader where it's going and why. Life is too short.
Sigrid Undset, The Master of Hestviken and Kristin Lavransdatter. I was in high school working part time in a library when one of the librarians told me I should read Sigrid Undset. (I think she caught me reading Mary Webb's Precious Bane and felt intervention was necessary.) So I read Kristin Lavransdatter. And I loved the story. But with so little knowledge of 14th century Norway (or 20th century Norway for that matter), no idea what the Scandinavians had been up to for the previous 500 years, or the difficulties geography placed in the way of the Norwegian farmer, I suspect I missed half of what was going on. It's time to read both of these classics. But they are so lengthy. Either I won't find the time to read them, or I'll get so engrossed I won't read anything else for months.
Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu (in French) - I've read Proust's roman fleuve a few times. It's everything they say it is, but it isn't until at least the second time you read it (and for me, the third) that it becomes comprehensible. I started reading it in French, sitting in a sidewalk cafe in the cold, in late 1967. I got half way through Swann's Way and got bogged down. I've since acquired the beautiful Pleides edition and for the last five or six years I've been planning to tackle it in French. That would be so much easier if I really understood French. (My language skills - excepting English - are dismally insufficient.)