The Literary Blog Hop is hosted by The Blue Bookcase and “is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction,classic literature, and general literary discussion”.
This week’s topic is:
What is the most difficult literary work you’ve ever read? What made it so difficult?
I’ve read a number of difficult books. But it is my experience with Beloved that I will discuss today. I first attempted to read the book in 1993, when Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature. I was already a fan of her earlier works. Her other grand novel, The Song of Solomon, is simply superb. So without any hesitation, I picked up Beloved to read. To my dismay, I couldn’t get through the first chapter. I didn’t know what was going on and I couldn’t connect with the book at all. Now, usually I will stick with a book through at least the first two chapters before quitting. I gave up on Beloved halfway through the first chapter. I’m convinced that the subject matter (or what I thought it was about) intimidated and scared me a whole lot. I thought it hard, dark and a bit hazy. Like entering a scary corridor with your vision a bit obscured by a thin film of gauze or something.
So after a couple of failed attempts, I put the book back on my shelves. And I forgot about it. I was left wondering what all the fuss was about and often remarked how the book did not deserve all the accolades it was receiving. Fast forward about nine years. On a Saturday morning, I pick up Beloved to give it another go and this time I get through the first chapter. And I spend the rest of the day reading and enjoying the book. I’m so blown away after reading it, I spend the following Sunday reading it again. To my amazement and delight, Beloved is a masterpiece. And it took me almost ten years to discover that.
So what had happened in the intervening 10 years? Well, I’d become a better reader. I read a lot of literary fiction over the period. I especially read a lot of magical realism. I think books by Alejo Carpentier and Juan Rulfo (whose Pedro Paramo is the scariest literary fiction that I’ve read) helped me is break into and connect with Beloved. I call this experience The Beloved Effect. And I’m at the beginning of such an experience with Ulysses. I can’t get past the first 10 pages. But I’m confident that one day I will be able to complete and enjoy a reading of Joyce’s masterpiece. In the meantime, I continue to hone my skills as a reader so that I can tackle those notorious difficult reads of literary fiction.
What are your difficult reads?