Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, June 7, 2007

It's different, so it must be good. Right?

There are a lot of books out there that have lived in history and become the definitive classics, with their authors recognized as the masters of prose. Most of these books and their authors deserve this status of immortality. Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, W. Sommerset Maugham, Thomas Hardy... I've read at least one work of each of these authors, and I must agree with the valuation that history has given these authors and their works; they are masters
who've created at least one masterpiece.

I'm a huge fan of the classics, so I make it a point to read them whenever possible, and usually, these works do belong on a "must read" list.

Every once in a while, though, a book and its author are truly over-rated.

You can almost sense when books are "appreciated" simply because they do something different. It doesn't have to be necessarily good, it's just something that's never been done before, therefore it merits kudos.

I'm not a book reviewer, nor am I formally trained to analyze books, but I do read books that up my status on the reading ladder, if you will. Recently, I tried my hand at James Joyce. Ulysses, to be exact. I checked Ulysses out at my local library and brought it home, feeling confident that it was going to blow me away with its brilliance.

Though I can't deny that it is a brilliant piece of work-- for those unfamiliar with this colossal work (some editions are 1000 pages long... there are several) serialized between 1914 and 1921, Ulysses was quite innovative. So innovative, Joyce found difficulty publishing it in its entirety, as it was banned in the United States and the United Kingdom until the 1930's for obscenity and explicitness.

It was innovative in that it used a stream of conciousness style of writing, eventually giving birth to what would become Modernist Literature. It recounted one day in 18 hours, each chapter representing an hour of that day, from several points of view. It also used parallels with the Greek work, Odysseus.

Sounds like a great book, it not only was innovative, but it created an entirely new type of literature. I appreciate and respect these things about this book. However, I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed the bit I read of it.

Not only did I find it hard to read without pausing and stumbling in my reading, but I also found it to be the equivalent of scribble in the form of literature. I had no idea what was going on.

Perhaps I should be ashamed of my opinion, but even though this is a book to delve into and try to understand for its uniqueness and difficulty; it would be quite a great adventure... I think it's too much of a challenge to enjoy.

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