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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Writers I Still Can't Appreciate...

Some writers that I'm still trying... and failing... to appreciate...my apologies in advance... include the following: Vladimir Nabokov (a compelling figure to be sure; people say he's such a great prose stylist and I suppose he is, but so many of his novels seem so inaccessible or off-putting or both; perhaps I should give him another try in another ten years or so); Saul Bellow (tried by could not make my way through Herzog or Henderson the Rain King or The Dean's December or Humboldt's Gift or Seize the Day;  Ravelstein was better, but has anyone noticed how practically the only subject in all these works is Saul Bellow himself disguised as various protagonists???); Ernest Hemingway (I'll give him The Sun Also Rises and a few short stories just for the existential attitude, but other than that I can't say that I really enjoy or understand the adulation that accompanies his pedestrian prose style); John Steinbeck (used to like him more, but now I find his narratives rather thin and one-dimensional; Of Mice and Men is great the first time around, but try reading it seven times and see it you don't notice the diminishing returns...The Grapes of Wrath is known as a movie first and a book second; ditto for East of Eden); John Irving (haven't really tried to read him ... might give A Prayer for Owen Meany another try, but he's sort of overtly political sometimes in a way that a good novelist doesn't really need to be); Phillip Roth (could not stand Portnoy's Complaint...how in heck is that book supposed to be funny???... The Plot Against America was an exercise in far-fetched hypotheticals and paranoia...It's usually all about you know you or a character who bears a striking resemblance to who know who and has all of the baggage associated with you know who....So should I try Goodbye, Columbus just to be fair?)... James Fennimore Cooper (don't think I could make it past the first page of one of his novels); Lawrence Sterne (Tristan Shandy sounds great in theory but it's kind of tedious waiting 400 pages for a plot to materialize...)

2 comments:

Brain Mind said...

We may have slightly different tastes... for me Conrad is difficult to appreciate (and I've read thousands of pages if his collected works -Heart of ..., Lord Jim, etc), but I noticed your post quoting him, so I'm guessing he's someone you like (and you're certainly in very good company).

I agree with you about Nabogov, and especially Hemingway (yuk). Roth makes me feel neurotic (even more so than usual). I overcame my resistance to the first few tedious pages of Cooper, and ended up gobbling up his (very fun) stories.

Thomas W. Sheehy said...

Many thanks for your helpful feedback...I know what you mean re: Conrad and Roth. I'm willing to give Nabokov another try, just not quite yet...With Hemingway, it sounds like we've both paid our dues...I will definitely be looking at your Brain Mind blog...sounds interesting and literary-minded...