Confession: A few books that went over my head

in BDCommunity2 months ago

My reading habit is varied but to a certain extent. A pie-chart would show a considerably big piece consists of classic literature. While I love reading archaic texts and musing in their complexities, not all of them have been merciful to me. They are not all that intangible and I like to believe I’m competent enough to decipher the text (most of the time), but grasping the meaning behind the lines or underlying philosophy sometimes eludes me. Perhaps it would help if I could keep my concentration at 100% all the time. Unfortunately, I’m only a human. I want to mention a few books that are tough nuts to crack. To me at least.

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The Magic Skin (1831) by Honore De Balzac

I thought this book was fantasy. It was and it was not. My initial impression was that it could be a fictional tale with a bend of philosophy as the series it belongs to La Comedie Humaine, is famous for its social commentary. Boy oh boy, how wrong I was! The book ‘clickbaited’ me. Fantasy is there only as a means to support the story. Not the other way around. It’s complex in its prose, in its ideas, story progression and narrative style. To think I was planning to read more of the 91 Balzac’s works of the series!

The protagonist finds a piece of skin and it got magically tied to his own lifespan. Every time he wishes something, his desires get fulfilled and that piece of skin shrinks, consuming his life force. At one point, if it vanishes, so will the protagonist.

Pretty interesting premises, Eh? Well, I thought so too. Then Balzac hammered me with heavy torrents of words. Well, I actually liked the book despite not being able to comprehend most of it. I don’t look up online for research papers and meanings. So I will have to read it again to filter out meaning on my own sometimes in the future.

Billy Budd, Sailor (Released posthumously in 1924) by Herman Melville

Herman Melville is the godfather of american literature and reading Billy Budd was an eye opening experience for me. I started to believe I do not understand English all that well. Then I saw some goodreads reviews of the book. It turned out, native English speakers do not understand English as well.

The book is about a handsome young sailor wrongfully forced to face the mutiny law on a ship. The story is quite enticing and the atmosphere Melville creates can creep on you. But it was some work deciphering the language. I will read it again as well. Perhaps to learn. Perhaps to torment myself. Perhaps to enjoy.

Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce

I have had several attempts at this book. I failed EVERY SINGLE TIME! I couldn’t get past 3-4%. No, this is due to my own inadequacy and I will not take any other explanation. Me not being able to appreciate a piece of high art doesn’t make it obsolete. It is what it is. I understand that. I also understand that average human beings like me do not make such a dent in the fabric of human history as do the likes of Joyce. It is what it is.

I wondered what usually goes wrong for me with this book. The way Joyce plays with the language is so damn wild and alien! Still I have a favorite line, when Buck Mulligan talks about one of his friends,

“O, it’s only Dedalus, whose mother is beastly dead.”

I think this line has been forever implanted in my head.

I will definitely try my hands at Ulysses again and if I can go through it, I will consider that as an achievement.


Do you have books that tormented you? Any one of them you’d like to revisit? Let me know, I might take some interest in them as well. I like me a good challenge. :D

And as always, thanks for stopping by.

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How do I know thee? Let me count the ways.

I know it's a mixed quote, but the books I've given up on are legion. I've never been able to finish Moby Dick. Though I did mostly read Billy Budd I am really thankful for the movie that gave me a better grasp of what I'd read. That is usually NOT the case.

Ulysses. I know I should just pick it up and slug it. But I can't. Joyce's words are wonderful, no doubt. His concepts are out of my league. I actually read more for pleasure than pain. I'm funny that way.

Which brings me to De Balzac. I read enough of one of his works to get a grade out of a college class but have never gone back and have no memories of even which work it was. Nope. Sorry. Isn't happening.

There are many. In some ways, they are utter defeat. Or at least strategic psyche saving retreats. I had serious problems with Crime and Punishment that way. I think those characters overwhelmed me and it was pure grit to hang on to the end.

How do I know thee? Let me count the ways.

I know it's a mixed quote, but the books I've given up on are legion. I've never been able to finish Moby Dick. Though I did mostly read Billy Budd I am really thankful for the movie that gave me a better grasp of what I'd read. That is usually NOT the case.

Ulysses. I know I should just pick it up and slug it. But I can't. Joyce's words are wonderful, no doubt. His concepts are out of my league. I actually read more for pleasure than pain. I'm funny that way.

Which brings me to De Balzac. I read enough of one of his works to get a grade out of a college class but have never gone back and have no memories of even which work it was. Nope. Sorry. Isn't happening.

There are many. In some ways, they are utter defeat. Or at least strategic psyche saving retreats. I had serious problems with Crime and Punishment that way. I think those characters overwhelmed me and it was pure grit to hang on to the end.

I actually read more for pleasure than pain.


That's understandable, no funny business either. I think I will lean towards that perspective as well. These selected books can humiliate you or ascend to a higher throne themselves -- however you want to see it. But I go back to them again and again. I must like the taste of defeat. Or I'm a masochist!
I've been meaning to read Crime and Punishment. Read a bunch of short books by Dostoyevsky but left the big one for the last. I wonder how will I fare. I also didn't read Moby Dick yet.

I don't know why I keep going back to the 'classics'. I actually don't think it's masochism, I think it's an intense curiosity to know about the author and the work.

I'd guess I want to know what really good literature IS. I certainly didn't take the courses in college, I didn't care THAT much :) Maybe it's like the mountain climber that can't rest until he climbs Everest or K2. The sad part is I don't know the literature equivalent of those peaks, so I have to read them and see when I get done. Obviously I haven't found them yet.

That's a good analogy. And to find that peak, you have to keep reading and see what peak is steeper. And one lifetime is not enough. Perhaps, two or three aren't either.

I think my peak, for now, is Ulysses. How I want to conquer it!

I didn't take a literature course in college either and actually, looking back, I think I should have. We have a "science" craze in our country, to get better jobs, you have to pick a science discipline. While I'm very much a science lover, I think I'd love fine arts even more and perhaps literature too. But I was a different person and also a kid back then.

In all honesty? I was scared of a liberal arts education. Like you, I like Science and was happy to take those courses, but I did not like the required English courses that went with them, so I never even looked at lit.

My friend from San Diego's first degree was a Masters of English. She worked a very little as a reporter but was an Editor at a major newspaper for a few years until she got bored (or something else I don't know) and went sailing. She was on an all female crew in America's Cup qualifying :)

Then she got a PHD in Physics. She taught at a Liberal Arts University in So Cal. She's just retired due to CV from being a substitute HS teacher while she finishes up her PHD in ornithology. Next time I go hiking with her I'll ask about the literature degree. She'll tell me. I'll give her the Baron of the Trees then too. Yep, she is still an intense reader.

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I salute you in reading classic literature. It's hard to digest the words which always leaves me a question mark. That's why I am avoiding them, although classic poetry and short stories are some of the things that I like.

I'm planning to read again The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry. I gave the four books a five star each on Goodreads with some "generic reviews". It's my first time reading a book set in a Utopian world and I want to know 'again' why I gave them five stars. There's also a book that still confuses me, "By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept" by Paolo Coehlo. It took me almost three months to finish the book. And the Nevernight Chronicle by Kristoff Jay. I haven't reached 10% of the book. I tried rereading it from the start but decided to discontinue it after several attempts. My friend was disappointed that I dropped the book. He said that it was really good and even thanked me since it was me who made him read it. He followed my reading list. That confuses me tho. Maybe, just maybe, it was hard for me to digest it that's why I can't even read more than 10% of it. Planning to give it another chance and another shot.

I've got a long list by the way. 😅 Some were stories about WWII,the Civil War, and other historical wars.

Hey, I haven't seen this notification! With the hardfork and Ginabot not working properly, it was lost to me!

Thanks for taking the time to write this.

I haven't read any of the books you've mentioned but The Giver Quartet caught my eyes. I think I will try these books. I have heard of Kristoff Jay and this series but not sure whether I'm gonna read it. What made you drop it, btw?

I'm still confused with this hardfork thingy. I can't tell if there have been some changes or what.

Let me know your thoughts about The Giver Quartet. I know you can finish the four books right away. About the Nevernight Chronicle, I really don't know why but all I can remember was I tried reading it more than three times and the same with the audiobook. I added the book to my list because of the book cover. It was made by one of my favorite artists. But, I'll try reading it soonest. Maybe, after The Giver Quartet. 😁

They delayed the whole hard fork thing a lot and I think it's still haven't gone through completely. I can't log in to hive.blog at all. Probably on 15/16th, What are the major changes coming to the blockchain, I also have no idea!

Things are busy at my workplace and I'm not getting that much time to read nowadays! 😞
But I indeed can read like a maniac if I wish so! :P

I thought it's because of our poor internet connection that I can't log in to hive.blog. Now I know.

That's what I thought too. 😆 But I'm still amazed that you can still read and write blogs, read books, and engage with others despite the busy sched.

I think we forked yesterday. Things are still buggy but soon things will recover. Hopefully.

I'm actually doing a poor job at everything. And I don't have an active social life out of my family and colleagues. You could say, I don't get out to "hangout" with people! 🤣

History books are hard to digest because of their nature I think. I haven't read many history books but however interesting they are, I cannot read them in one sitting. The portions will be smaller and spread out throughout an extended period of time.

On point! Hah! That's a hundred percent true! You're not alone in this department. But, Diary of Anne Frank is an exemption tho. 😊

Yeah, I heard that book is one hell of a sob train. I still haven't read it though. :3 Perhaps I'm too soft to handle it. ☹️

But hey, I've read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich! 😁

Oh! I haven't read that book. It sounds familiar. I will add this one to my To-Read List. 😁