Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Once read, twice shy?

I read an article the other day on writers who were hugely popular and are now languishing in the also-rans: DH Lawrence and Hardy were cited as forgotten titans. That struck a chord with me: I devoured Lawrence as a teenager (no, not just for the dirty bits: they're couched in such overwrought terms that the effort isn't worth it if you're just after some filth) but found recently that I couldn't get on with the novels - though the short stories and poems really stand up. Ditto Hardy, of whom I'm a fan. Lots of people have said that they can't stand them - but I have a taste for melodrama and rural folk (hence The Archers) and happily get through 800 pages of child suicide ('because we are too menny'). That said, I'm now convinced that Hardy's poetry is much more significant than the novels.

Who else? I can't stand Tolkien anymore (despite Ben's claim, which he printed on a business card, that JRR Tolkien is blocking my cock). I read the lot when I was 14-15, untold kilos of biblically-cadenced sons-of-sons-of Beorn the bloody bear: now the clunky prose, awful dialogue and terrible characterisation stop me about 5 pages in. Except for The Hobbit, which is light-hearted enough to win safe passage. There must be loads of stuff I read as a teen and would now reject. The Thomas Covenant and Amtrak Wars series - why? Ann McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern fantasy series. I've also largely given up on Delillo, Auster and McEwan, having spent 15 years loving their back catalogues and being progressively more disappointed or angry (that's you, McEwan) with their new stuff.

Other books I'm warming too: I used to have a blanket ban on Dickens, but I'll read the darker ones now - nothing that tries to be funny, mind. Ned Cheeryble should be stabbed in the kidneys. I'm trying Milan Kundera again - at 17 I thought that The Unbearable Lightness of Being should be The Unreadable Dullness of Pretension, but I'm slowly coming round.

So what are the books you once loved and now can't stand?


ed said...

Being so young and pure (22 today!), I'm going to do this backwards (i.e. books/writers I hate now but may love later...not bloody likely though).

Wuthering Heights
Henry James
Wilde (sshhh, please don't tell anyone)
The Great Gatsby
Goodbye to All That
Alexander Pope
Andrea Levy
Philip Pullman (I'm an atheist, don't worry)
Four Quartets
Jane Austen
The Grapes of Wrath
Stephen Fry
Carol Ann Duffy
G.B. Shaw

Can't think of any more. Oh, Mein Kampf.

The Plashing Vole said...

Good list.
Irigaray - must confess to never making serious efforts to get to grips with her stuff. I know the general approach.
Byron - leaves me cold
Sartre - not as clever as he thought
Shaw - plays are dating badly, prose very interesting
Duffy I rather like
Stephen Fry - the Trefusis monologues are good. As to the rest of his work, I refer you to Peter's Friends.
I love Steinbeck more and more.
Wuthering Heights - not my thing. I like the minor Brontes.
Henry James - I think is one to try over the decades.
Wilde - brilliant journalism, I can take or leave the plays.
The Great Gatsby - wonderful!
Goodbye to All That - not read it.
Alexander Pope - good technically, doesn't move me
Andrea Levy - haven't tried.
Philip Pullman - you Philistine.
Four Quartets - I admire Eliot more and more for his intelligence and skill, and dislike him more and more for everything else.
Jane Austen - I'm a huge fan. The trick is to catch the bitchy, sarcastic register - then it works.

The Plashing Vole said...

And happy birthday!

David Wells said...

Lord of the Rings was one for me too. Can't get on with Tolkien's endless descriptions of nothing. Worse was Eragon by Christopher Paolini, which is crammed with indecipherable place names full of hyphens and apostrophes.

And I tried reading some modern locked-room mysteries by Christopher Fowler. I was struggling to finish it just to find out the solution, which was predictably rubbish.

By the way, I have a load of Left Book Club books just sitting on my desk at the moment. If you're still interested in them give me an email at dwells at worldofbooks.com and I'll send you a list of the titles

The Plashing Vole said...

I haven't tried Eragon - I read too much fantasy as a kid and don't want to bother with the mediocre stuff any more. The writer I really rate in this sphere in Sheri S. Tepper: interesting feminist/eco/mythical stuff.

I haven't come across Fowler - I don't really go for detective fiction much. I should go back to Sherlock actually - I loved them when a teen but haven't read any since.

The Red Witch said...

I only ever liked one D.H. Lawrence book - The First Lady Chatterley, which I still like. I still like Tolkien even though I am familiar with many of the texts he got his material from.
However I recently reread The Steppenwolf which I loved in my teens and the over wrought self pity of the narrator really got on my nerves. Is it that hard to turn 50? Not if you live your life properly.
I had to stop reading Zola because he was making me depressed but this summer I am going to revisit him in French and see if he still makes me want to slit my throat. :-)

The Plashing Vole said...

Hello The Red Witch and welcome. I agree with you on Steppenwolf, but I love Zola - however miserable. It's the style (which translates pretty well).

The Plashing Vole said...

PS. The Red Witch is a medievalist: if you're into medieval romances (and I am, though I particularly love the rough and ready plays of the period), then you should head over to her blog: http://distractingfromthenow.blogspot.com/

The Red Witch said...

You are being too kind. Aspiring medievalist. Working on an MA. I enjoy reading your blog because sometimes I wonder why I want a PhD anyway and what I am going to do with it when I get it. (move to the country and start an organic farm?)