When books are so complicated you need to take a class to have them explained to you by some literature professor that tells you how amazing and life changing this book, you have never heard of is, you may not like them. This is coming from a book nerd that read Moby Dick for fun as a young person I tried to read all the “great books” of the traditional cannon, Gave that up after a few years and moved onto Choose Your Own Adventure and Endless Quest gamebooks.
You have to admit it’s interesting what famous novels people actually like or don’t like when they’re not being told by someone else what books they’re supposed to think are “classics”. Now of course there are plenty of ways to poison that well and it’s far from gospel, but if anything I think it’s safe to say that some of these so called “classics” aren’t timeless, which isn’t a huge criticism.
From what I could make of Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon is that there isn’t really that much to the plot, and most of the difficulty comes from the seemingly pointless digressions and from the author simply being unclear. Like pages of dialog with little to no clue who is speaking or where or when the scene is taking place like it’s one of those logic puzzles where you start with a grid. Sometimes the scene even shifts somewhere in the middle of a conversation with no indication whatsoever when it happened, and it wouldn’t make sense for the conversation to have repeated entirely in both locations plus the people there are different so you’d have to map the lines and damn, my brain is melting again.
Sure, I have personal reading goals. I love setting almost unattainable benchmarks and trying to quantify my reading. My backlog of novels is incredible. Really, you should see it. Adding some structure to my reading life is a way of making sure that I actually read. Twenty four novels a year is not asking too much. I would argue that it motivates the experience of reading for myself. I want to keep challenging myself to read as much as I can. That means picking up the newest Max Brooks speculative fiction(?) opus as well as Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. However, the curious thing about goals like these – it is essentially homework that I am making for myself.
Maybe it’s the type of homework the book asks you to do; Joyce is like doing classics homework, Nabokov crossword puzzles, whereas Pynchon hands you a set of essay questions that might be history or quantum physics or psychotherapy and you have to sort of figure it out as you go.
I’m half convinced that the only way to read some of these is to just give up, let the words wash over you, and don’t worry about things like understanding what’s going on or worry about why you’re wasting your time with this. Hopefully there won’t be a quiz on it later.
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