If you didn’t already know, I have a Masters degree in English Literature. And because of that, I have studied a lot of books, short stories, and also plays. There are some that I have genuinely enjoyed reading as well as studying, and those are treasured favourites of mine because to me, enjoying assigned books has been a rare occurrence.
9 times out of 10, I ended up not really not liking the books that I had to study, and unfortunately, that really sucks all of the fun out of analysing books. Yes, I’m one of those people. Fight me. The colour of things do have meanings whether the author intended them to be there are not. And some writers really do put symbolism and meanings into their work. There’s a whole genre of authors who do that.
THE GREAT GATSBY BY F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
I’m really going for the throat first, aren’t I? But yes, I absolutely can’t stand The Great Gatsby. I read it for the only time when I was in sixth form (i forget which year, but i was either 16 or 17) and even when it came time for me to study it again for an American Literature class I took in my second year of uni, I didn’t reread it because I hate it that much.
I really do not see what is so great about this book. On a plot-based level, it’s boring as hell. This is one of those old books where literally nothing happens until the end and that is one of my biggest pet peeves ever. The romance is hardly a romance, it’s more of a one-sided obsession. All of the characters are shallow hypocrites, and that’s kind of the whole point of the book, but still. And then in terms of literary devices and all that stuff, it’s so basic. Oh, the green light at the end of the dock or pier or whatever it is symbolises Gatsby’s love for Daisy and I just don’t give a damn. Ugh. I’ve read fanfics by teenagers who can write symbolism and imagery better than this. The fact that this book didn’t make any impact when it was first published and was forgotten about for years really doesn’t surprise me.
THE METAMORPHOSIS BY FRANZ KAFKA
Here’s the thing about this story: I would enjoy it more if it wasn’t so tedious to read. The concept of someone waking up to find out that they’ve somehow transformed into a giant bug is interesting, but it really loses its spark when the whole story is written in incredibly long run-on sentences. And I understand that’s it’s been translated into English from German, but that doesn’t really stop me from not liking the narrative style. Some sentences can take up half a page and once I finish them, I’ve forgotten what happened at the beginning of them. This is a sentence, by the way, not a paragraph. So that’s not good.
Usually I’m very interested in what interpretations there are out there for bizarre stories like this, but in this case, I just don’t care. Is it psychological? Is it sociological? I really don’t care. Some guy turns into a bug and then gets abused by his family in the most long-winded way possible. My interest is out the window.
THE SOUND AND THE FURY BY WILLIAM FAULKNER
A third modernist book? There’s definitely a theme here. This book is about a family and… something happens I guess? There are four sections and they all have different narrative styles: the first one is from the perspective of a mentally disabled man and uses what’s called “stream of consciousness”. This is when the narrative attempts to mimic the way someone can multiple thoughts and feelings in a short space of time. I hate it. So much. I can understand the artistic merits of using it, but once it happens I just end up completely lost. I guess it fits in the first section because the character is disabled but still.
The second part is from the perspective of another of the family members who goes to university and wants to die. #Relatable. He also has this weird obsession with his sister’s virginity. Gross. This part of the book is pretty much impossible to understand without having to consult Wikipedia because it goes to so many lengths to show that he’s going through a severe mental breakdown. It gets to the point that there’s no spelling or grammar or punctuation and just ends up being this gigantic messy ramble. Does the fact that it works well make me like this book? Of course not, I still don’t like it. So much that I don’t even remember what happens later.
A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN BY JAMES JOYCE
Do any of you have that one book that you would love to just destroy? Like, not just throw it against a wall but stab it with a knife, douse it in water, burn it or bury it? For me, that’s this book. THIS. FREAKING. BOOK. I HATE IT. I hate this book and I hate this author.
I had the extreme misfortune of studying this book in my very first semester at university, and luckily I wasn’t the only person who hated this book. All of my friends hated it, and so did a lot more people. In fact, so many people in the class hated it and James Joyce that one of the lecturers was actually surprised to learn that none of us liked him.
But what is this book actually about? It’s about the author. And it’s not even an autobiography. How self-centred and narcissistic do you have to be to write a fictionalised account of your own life??? Having a character who is based on yourself is fine, I’ve done it before, but I personally would never write a fictional version of my own life. It gets worse from there, friends. Here we get absolutely no indication of when dialogue starts, and it, of course, has to use stream-of-consciousness, which I obviously love so much. It’s because of this book that I actually hate the modernist movement as a whole. I’ve never encountered such a demanding book in my entire life. This is one of those kinds of books that tells you that you’re a failure or a moron if you try to read it. And I don’t accept those kinds of challenges when I’m reading. No thank you.
ROB ROY BY WALTER SCOTT
This book caused me some serious pain because it was the very last book I wrote an essay on for my Masters degree. And I hated it. So much. Not even the movie with Liam Neeson could save it. What really bugs me about this book is that it both rejects and embraces tartanry at the same time. Tartanry, if you don’t know, is kitsch and made-up elements of Scottish culture that are overemphasised to the point that Scottish people are seen as stereotypes. It’s kind of a form of cultural appropriation, but people don’t call it that because it’s not racist and most Scots are white. It’s kind of similar to the idea of “Plastic Paddies” in which someone tries to show their Irish heritage through things that aren’t actually Irish and have been made up by the English.
To me, Walter Scott is definitely guilty of using tartanry because even though he was Scottish himself, he goes back and forth on proving and disproving Scottish stereotypes by having Rob Roy be a “noble savage” kind of Highlander but at the same time other Scots are shown as drunkards and penny pinchers. What’s good, Walter? Are you trying to paint a romantic picture of people in Scotland or not?
THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO BY HORACE WALPOLE
If you say that you’re a fan of Gothic literature but have never read this book, you will have the misfortune of me throwing this book at your head. Why? Because this is the first Gothic book ever written Not a Shelley book, not a Poe book, this one. That means that it should be good since it’s the first, right? WRONG. The Castle of Otranto is so terrible that I can barely remember what happens in it. Yes, it was popular enough to spark an entire literary movement, but everything that came after it is a million times better and nowhere near as boring. Remember, friends, just because someone did something first does not mean that they did it better. Just remember that Horace Walpole invented Gothic, not Poe. Every time you say that Poe did, Walpole’s ghost gets sadder.
OF MICE AND MEN BY JOHN STEINBECK
This book is not as painful to get through as some others because of the length of it, and the language used, but that doesn’t make me dislike it any less. I first read Of Mice and Men when I was either 14 or 15 and still at school. Part of me not liking it may just be bitterness because we were supposed to read To Kill a Mockingbird (which is way better) but because the other kids in my class decided to be lazy and say that TKAB is “too hard” (it’s really not) we ended up reading this book. And I hated it. For a book that’s so short, I shouldn’t have hated it so much, but my problem with Of Mice and Men is the same I have with The Great Gatsby: nothing happens until the very end. The first three-quarters of the book is just a lot of nothing happening, and then we get a shock ending, and then that’s it. Why make a book so short if you’re going to have such little going on? This is actually kind of an issue I have with books from the early 20th century, and it’s why I dislike so many of them.