Othello – William Shakespeare
They made me read this in High School and it took forever. Shakespeare is usually a fun read but this one was painful. I don’t think it was the play itself but rather being forced to read it.
The Magic Mountain – Thomas Mann
I started reading this at the beach one summer and took it back to the beach the next summer. I enjoyed the novel and the themes but it just took so long to read (and I had whizzed through Buddenbrooks so I didn’t expect the pain)
The Cave of Heaven – Patrick Grainville
This is an author in love with words and I suspect he overpowers his narrative with too many words (if a metaphor is clear, then ten or eleven metaphors should be even more clear, assuming you can remember what the subject was in the first place).
Lord Jim – Joseph Conrad
This started out fine and then I had an unforeseen break in my reading; when I got back to the novel I was confused, out of synch, and probably should have started all over again and not just plow ahead. Oh well.
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
This is another one of those novels that suffered from a break in my reading. After going back to the novel, the characters all got confused and it was a messy read. I did reread it later, however, with better results.
War and Peace – Count Leo Tolstoy
This one really doesn’t belong because I had no trouble reading the novel and the experience was always a pleasure; however, I was reading it the first time on the bus when I met the woman who would later be my wife and the mother of my daughter. Years later I tried to refresh the three-quarter completed novel by watching the Russian film but eventually just had to start over again. Like Magic Mountain, I read War and Peace over the vacation at the Jersey Shore but this time I finished the novel in twelve days.
Finnegans Wake – James Joyce
N, Joyce wasn’t spoofing the literary world but it is a lot of work to read this novel and get any sense out of it without resorting to some sort of guide. I followed Jack Hirshman’s advise and read it as if it was the world’s funniest (and greatest) comic book. Still it was painful and needs to be reread more than once.