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
N0, 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 advice 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.
The French Revolution — Thomas Carlisle
I hated it.