Classic Intimidation

For November, the monthly meme at The Classics Club asks the question:  What classic book most intimidates you?  Tolstoy’s War and Peace immediately comes to mind.  I have a feeling many readers find this novel intimidating simply because of its length.  I might actually use this novel to answer the question if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m currently half way through reading it – and I’m completely confident that I will finish it.  I’m guessing I won’t finish it until December, but I will finish it.

So what other classic work of literature intimidates me?  I’ll pick William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury.  During my senior year in high school, my English class read Faulkner’s Light in August.  I enjoyed the novel enough to try reading more Faulkner and The Sound and the Fury popped up on my radar.  I don’t remember how far I got into it, but I could not make heads or tails out of it.   I’ve never been afraid of working at reading a book and usually a little extra effort pays off in an enjoyable reading experience; however, this Faulkner novel never got finished.  The disjointed, stream of consciousness, lack of chronological order narrative just proved too much for me.

It’s been a little while since high school and I’ve developed some as a reader, but giving The Sound and The Fury another go just isn’t on my agenda – but never say never.  I never thought I’d be reading War and Peace and enjoying it as much as I am.

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23 responses to “Classic Intimidation

  1. Just looking at the size of War and Peace makes me shudder. Certainly a book needs consideration before reading. Plus it was written in Russian. I have some problems with translations from Russian (or was it the book?). Good luck with that. Hope you finish it soon. 😀

    • Listra, it’s interesting that you mention the translation issue. From time to time as I’m reading War and Peace, I’ll read a phrase that makes me think “Is that really what was written?”. I’m enjoying the book very much, but I would love to be able to learn Russian to read it in the original. Not sure that’s going to happen, though! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I’m also halfway through War & Peace. I like it very much but am taking it slow. I’ve read The Sound & The Fury. Read the last section first. In fact, read the whole thing backwards — it makes more sense that way. The first section is nearly impenetrable because it’s told through the POV of a mentally challenged character who can only describe what he sees. The book becomes progressively easier with each section, until the last section is written “normally.” So that’s why you should read it backwards. 🙂

    • Mabel, thanks so much for stopping by! Ever since I posted this, I’ve been feeling like I need to make another attempt at The Sound and The Fury. I think I will take you up on your suggestion to read it backwards. I probably won’t be starting until January, though. I am taking War and Peace slowly and really like it. For each W&P “Book”, I’ve read two other books. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and looking at your blog!

  3. I also put War and Peace in my list of intimidating classics (who wouldn’t, seeing the length, the theme, and the fact that it’s Russian literature!). I’m looking forward to hear from you after you finish it, maybe you have any suggestion on the best way to conquer it… 😉

    • Fanda, what I’ve found so far is that 1) I didn’t intially make a concerted effort to figure out every character and relationship, but I just kept reading and it all started coming together and 2) it’s separated into several “books” that I understand were originally published separately – so I’ve read other books in between the W&P books. It takes longer but it’s helped me keep up with it without getting too bogged down with it. So far I highly recommend it! Thanks for the comment!

  4. I’m intimidated by War and Peace, too…actually, that’s probably the book I’ll use to answer this question! I’m glad to see you’re enjoying it!

  5. I began War and Peace earlier this year, but kept it aside for later mainly because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to complete it this year. I’m really looking forward to reading it in 2013, especially as whatever I’ve read so far has caught my attention. 😀 As for Faulkner….he’s an author that isn’t on my radar at all!

    • The small plots in W&P are weaved together beautifully! It has kept my interest right from the beginning. After writing this post, I think I’m going to have to give The Sound and The Fury another try. Thank you for commenting, Risa!

  6. For various reasons beyond my control I have read The Sound and the Fury at least 4 times. Two of them were for school where scholarly people explained what I was reading. I still can’t make head nor tails of the thing! War & Peace isn’t officially “on my list,” but I hope to get to it one of these days. I’m glad to hear you are enjoying it.

    • While War and Peace is long – I haven’t really found it difficult. There’s something about the whole Russian landscape and history that fascinates me. Reading The Sound and The Fury 4 times in quite an accomplishment! After reading Light In August, I really wanted to like it. I haven’t read anything else by Faulkner probably because of the same intimidation factor. Thank you for stopping by, Mary!

  7. War and Peace is definitely the first title that comes to mind for me when we’re talking intimidating books. That, and Finnegan’s Wake. (But I don’t think I’ll ever even try that one!)

    As for Sound and the Fury, each section becomes more intelligible. It’s a gradual pulling back of the curtain, as it were. So the first part is the worst; if you can get through that, it will get clearer and clearer.

    If you want to try some Faulkner that’s less intimidating but still quintessential Faulkner in all the right ways, go for As I Lay Dying. It’s one of my favorites, and very, very funny.

    • Thanks for the suggestions Rebecca! I have seen As I Lay Dying in bookstores and have heard a little about it and have always thought I should try it. Maybe I will soon. And I’ve pretty much been convinced that I need to give Sound & Fury another try. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I, too, used to be intimidated with War and Peace until I got into reading it and discovered that it would eventually become one of my all-time favorites! I’ve never tried my hand at Faulkner, but I’m chomping at the bit to do so!

    • Jeremy, I’m on page 875 out of 1440-something with War and Peace. It’s becoming a favorite of mine also! I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement about Faulkner from this post, so I will probably try Sound and Fury again in the near future. I highly recommend Light In August if you are looking for a Faulkner novel to start out with. Thanks for stopping by!

    • It is definitely long! But the more I get into it, the less intimidating it has been. It’s probably that way with a lot of things. Thanks for the comment!

  9. I loved War and Peace! 🙂 I haven’t tried The Sound and the Fury yet, but I’ve heard that it’s a bit intimidating. I was thinking of hosting a read-along of it in April for Autism Awareness month (it’s the only classic I could find where a character is supposedly Autistic…probably because Autism hasn’t existed very long).

    My November Meme is here

  10. War and Peace is taking my a while, but I like it! I’m almost to page 1000. The Sound and The Fury would be great for Autism Awareness month. Thank you for stopping by!

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