Formidable Fiction

6 Aug

Happy Monday people! I write to you from the floor, where I have melted into a puddle and plan to remain until September or whenever this ridiculously unlivable humidity wears off. It’s to the point where I’ve seriously considered inventing a jumpsuit made of sponges to absorb the absurd amounts of sweat emanating from my body. I feel like I’m in a 24-hour-a-day, three-month hot yoga class, the only difference being there’s no one to give me cold coconut water when it looks like I’m about to pass out.

On to business! I have much to share this week—an imminent review of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, and more results from the Sorry Television book quiz—but first! Publishers Weekly put up a cool post today on the Top 10 Most Difficult Books, which I found fairly fascinating (I’ve read only one of them: Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse; my memories of its difficulty seem to be blocked by my more distinct recollection of hating it.) Since I spend a fair amount of time talking about or defending the world’s least challenging authors, I thought it might be a smidge refreshing to reflect for a moment on the literature that truly stretched me as a reader.

The book I remember having the hardest time getting through was Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, which was a high school assignment, and the only academically assigned book that I never finished in full (I know, for shame.) The most challenging/frustrating books I’ve started out of personal interest and never finished are David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves (though I haven’t given up hope on either). And the books I currently own but haven’t quite mustered up the courage to open include Gravity’s Rainbow, On the Road, Underworld and Atlas Shrugged.

Whatsabout you guys? If there were an Olympics of book reading (which, why not? They’ve already got horse dressage, pistol-shooting and curling), which title would have cost you the gold? (Or earned you the win.)

P.S. You can also share your answers on Twitter, using #difficultbook.

2 Responses to “Formidable Fiction”

  1. Austin August 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    For me, Proust just kicked my fucking ass. House of Leaves gets easier as it goes. To the Lighthouse was a BEAR to read… Hrmph.

  2. typingelbow August 8, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    It took me two tries to get into 100 Years of Solitude, but it is a favorite of mine now. I read Atlas Shrugged, but it was a chore all the way through. I also had to try several times to get into Pride and Prejudice. I just finished it, and I’m quite happy I gave it ANOTHER chance.

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