Thursday, January 20, 2011
Books We Have Hated
This week's questions for the Literary Blog Hop asks us to consider if there are any "works of literary merit" we were required to read for classes and utterly hated. I suppose the answer to that for me is no--but only because I read so few works of literary merit at all in my anti-academic high school. (As I've said before, I hated Clan of the Cave Bear when we slowly read the whole thing aloud in my English literature class.)
But there have been books I've read on my own which I disliked. I wasn't too keen on Faulkner's short story "The Bear" when I read it in eighth grade--primarily because it seemed like too much of a boy book to me. (I have since learned that what I read was a highly abridged version.) My father told me I would appreciate Faulkner more when I was older. I hated his statement and resisted it for many years, but when I read a Faulkner novel during a long weekend in college, I realized my father was right.
The book I have hated most in my life, though, is that innocent-looking little volume by Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome. I was 17 years old, uncompromising in my condemnation of those stupid characters with their stupid desires and how ineffective they were in doing anything that mattered to anyone. Everything seemed dreadfully bleak and cruel--from the characters to the landscape. I read it in one sitting, starting it after dinner and staying up late into the night, reveling in my new experience of really hating a book.
The next morning, I put on my new dress and walked into an interview for a college scholarship. One of the interviewers asked what I had read lately and what I liked about the book. I was still so obsessed with my disgust with Wharton that I ranted for half an hour--in complete exhilaration--about how much I hated the book. My interviewers broke out laughing and offered me the scholarship.
* * *
The years have passed and I have read no other Wharton. But I've held onto my hatred for long enough. That gorgeous flashy Penguin Deluxe edition pictured above has me ready to give the short novel another chance. I suspect, after seeing friends and bloggers rave about the beautiful book, that I might be mature enough to appreciate Ethan Frome this time. Any bets?