Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Still More Conversation about Reading Challenging Books . . .


Challenging Books This conversation began on September 12th and continued on September 14th

The last post had 3 comments; so, we move the conversation forward…

First was Catherine:

“For me, bad storytelling is always a challenge. Clichés have been mentioned before. In certain genres different stories are written with the same words… It makes every story the same.

“As for a book that was emotionally, really challenging for me to read was ‘A Little Life‘ by Hanya Yanagihara. The most challenging thing about this book was the fact that it was about issues I struggled with myself.

“Poetry is challenging, too—the one that is written too laboriously—I can’t relate if I have to look up the words in a dictionary. (Keep in mind that my first language is Luxembourgish).

“But I also think that books I may find challenging could be favourites for others.”

I can certainly relate to bad storytelling and I spent my early reading years with plenty of repetitive genre tropes

And, reading about issues I’ve faced in my life has been very rough with certain books and therapeutic with others…

As far as poetry is concerned, my absolute favorite poet, Emily Dickinson, can be a very worthwhile challenge…

Then, a comment from Ali:

“Reading ‘The Canterbury Tales‘ in Middle English was challenging—as was all the American and British Victorian literature I’ve read over the years. Even though my first language is English, those books were challenging because they were written in older forms of English.

Philip K. Dick’s works are challenging because he shortens and combines words and, if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss what he meant. I’ve read ‘Paradise Lost‘ and ‘Paradise Regained‘ by John Milton and was able to follow both long poems. But when I had to read his non-fiction, I couldn’t understand it. I find it interesting that I could follow the fiction, but non-fiction written in a similar style threw me off so much.

“In case you’re wondering, I did enjoy much of the harder stuff I’ve read. I didn’t care for Milton’s non-fiction…but his poetry was full of imagery.

“I haven’t tried to read much in other languages, but if I were to try, I’d start with some books which were originally written in French. Perhaps Jules Verne, George Sand, the Marquis de Sade, etc…”

I’ve never read Canterbury Tales, or Milton, or Sand, or the Marquis…

But, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Philip K. Dick…

And, to introduce our final comment is my statement from the last post, “I’ve read and re-read a few books by Dostoevsky—he was a bit of a challenge though it may have been the particular translations…”

And, CarolinaC’s comment:

“Regarding the Dostoevsky translations, when we read ‘Crime and Punishment‘ in high school we read a ’90s translation – I am not sure which one, but knowing my teacher at the time it was very likely the much-lauded Pevear/Volokhonsky translation. I found it painfully unreadable.

“About six months later, the bookstore where I worked part time got in some copies of the Constance Garnett translation, and I decided to try the book again, as I had basically enjoyed the story even though I’d found the prose extremely difficult. This time, the reading experience was completely different. This translation read rather ‘Victorian’; but, that was more natural, at least for me, than the other translation had been; and, I found it an easy, engrossing, thought-provoking read. I bought a copy and reread it regularly. I now consider it one of my favourite books, which I never would have using that other translation.

“And I’m always surprised, when I see these Dostoevsky translation threads, that everybody lauds the translations I found unreadable and knocks the one I found extremely enjoyable. I very much agree with the comment that ‘it comes down to what you subjectively prefer as a clear, enjoyable reading experience, with no seriously objective “best” among the major translations.’”

I read Crime and Punishment many years ago for the first time—no idea which translation…

I just checked my E-reader for the translation of the copy I read as my second journey through the world of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov; and, it was the Constance Garnett translation :-)

So

What are some of Your reading challenges…?

What are some challenges you enjoy dealing with…?

What are some challenges that drive you crazy…?

How about reading challenges your friends or acquaintances reveal…?

Perhaps you’ll share challenges you used to have but have overcome…?

Reminderit only takes one comment to keep this discussion going………
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8 responses to “Still More Conversation about Reading Challenging Books . . .

  1. CarolinaC September 18, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    Re. challenges we used to have – as a teenager, I wouldn’t have been able to work through a romance novel if you paid me; they just didn’t interest me. I found them implausible an dull. Now I see them as light and frothy, but fun, like a movie romcom. I’m not sure what changed. Maybe I matured a little and began to take the world less seriously? At least, that’s what I _want_ to think ;)

    Like

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