The Bad Bits in Brilliant Books

So, I’ll just put it out there, I *love* classics! They’re practically my favourite thing in the whole world!! But for some reason- amazing authors like to punish us with the occasional dose of boredom! I mean, I’m currently reading War and Peace and a friend of mine has just told me to watch out for the boring bit (I guess I will have to wait and see about that- and you’ll have to wait for my review!). Why do they do that and what are they playing at? It’s literally like they almost want us to give up on their work in favour of something less impressive or well-written. Don’t believe me? Well, here are some examples:

anna karenina1- Anna Karenina– brilliant, brilliant book- but why does it have to begin and end with a discussion of agriculture? I don’t know why this book had to continue for another 100 pages after it was clear the story was over!

Invisible

Invisible

middlemarch2- Middlemarch– another one with a lot of descriptions of the countryside. I mean that does make sense, since a huge part is dedicated to provincial life. So not only do you get the treat of these terribly dull passages- there are also lots and lots of irrelevant farmer characters to add to the boredom. No wonder I didn’t relate much to a lot of this book (but hey- if you’re a farmer, you’ll probably love it)

Invisible

les mis3- Les Miserables– so much of this book is phenomenal- however, every other part seems to be another awfully dull description. I figure this was Hugo’s thought process: forget Jean Valjean, let’s talk about a random priest for a hundred pages… I’m a bit bored of the plot- let’s talk about the history of the Napoleonic Wars… You know what would be good right now- an intricate discussion of Parisian sewers (yes, that’s actually a whole part)

Invisible

count of monte cristo4- Count of Monte Cristo– this is one of the most exciting books on the planet- but let’s face it, the history of telecoms bit is mind-numbingly boring. Fortunately this is the only hiccup in an otherwise stellar book.

Invisible

Invisible

5- And finally… anything with stream of consciousness. Okay if you’ve read my last post then you’ll know I’m not a fan and so this can’t come as a big surprise. I have never liked books written in this style- it doesn’t matter how well-written it is or how well-loved the book is- I really just can’t stomach it. I can’t read Virginia Woolf, or James Joyce- and now it looks like I’m adding Gabriel Garcia Marquez to the list of authors I won’t touch with a barge pole. And you know why? Because they have so many boring bits!

So yeah- writing this post has only left me with more questions! Because, really, I am stumped by this one. Don’t get me wrong- I love good writing and a dense classic will usually make me shout “bring it on!” I just don’t understand why so many fantastic writers have to make me feel like I’m being punished for trying to read their work.

What are your thoughts on this? Is it just me? Or have you noticed this trend too? Why do so many of these brilliant works of literature have to have bad bits? Let me know what you think in the comments!!

Advertisements

59 thoughts on “The Bad Bits in Brilliant Books

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      haha really? fair enough! To be honest- I love the tangents in things like Dostoevsky cos he just gets really philosophical and I love it. I sometimes like the historical bits- but the history of the sewers was too much for me! 😉 x

      Like

  1. Matthew Wright says:

    In some books that I’ve read, the interesting part is the cover. After which the boring bit starts, and usually doesn’t finish until the last page, at which point the back cover is usually quite interesting (I am kind of pinching this idea from Charles Dickens, but hey…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      hahaha sadly that’s true far too often!! With most of these books though, I can recommend them- just watch out for the random passages of boredom wedged in between the incredible bits! (Although I won’t pretend to recommend anything with stream of consciousness- they’re just terrible 😉 :/ )

      Liked by 1 person

  2. rantandraveaboutbooks says:

    You love classics… You don’t say? 😉 I’m also a big fan of classics. I know we’ve had lengthy discussions about them. I have to agree with you on Les Mis. It’s ridiculously long and for no apparent reason. I’ve tried reading it but I can never seem to get through all the boring bits to finish it. I’m a big fan of the story and the musical. Some of my favorite songs are from the musical. I wish I could finish the book. It’s like trying to read Moby Dick. That book is so big it used to hurt my hand holding it open. I haven’t finished that one either. Well, Les Mis is much worse than Moby Dick. I believe that one is around 800 pages and Les Mis is like 1200 or 1300. Either way both of them are a real challenge if they’re not keeping you entertained.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      hahaha yes we have! I do love les mis- but it took sooo long to get into, because the first 100 pages are totally random. And there are loads and loads of random diversions- so I didn’t like it as much as I do other classics. But you’re right- the story and (of course) the musical are what it’s all about! (I seriously, seriously love the musical- it’s the only reason I persevered through the boring opening!) Ahh I’ve not read that yet- I’ve honestly heard so many different things!! Yeah definitely- the one I can really recommend is the Monte Cristo- I know I included it on this list- but apart from that one blip, it’s one of the most exciting books I’ve ever read! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Holly says:

    I felt this way about Moby Dick, especially during the passages about the history of whaling, different types of whales, whale anatomy, etc. I know it’s all to provide the reader with helpful information and context, but it can be really dull! Middlemarch is one I’m hoping to get around to someday… we’ll see how that goes! Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      You know you are literally the second person to say that in the comments!! (I wouldn’t have said anything- but I just read that comment lol) oh my god- that does sound awful!!! I’ve read so many bad things about it- and this isn’t making me want to pick this up any time soon! It is good- and I really liked the vast majority of it! Hope you like it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Anne says:

    I know exactly what you mean! I love classics but it’s like our 2016 minds can’t adapt to it properly anymore. I was bored out of my mind at times when I read The Picture of Dorian Graylast year despite it being a very daring and ‘scary’ book at the time. Maybe it’s just all the internetting that makes our brains crave for faster stuff, more action, get to the point-ism! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ljtreads says:

    Hey, I sort of know the answer to your first question up there! This is half-remembered and quickly looked up, so I’m probably conflating or mistaking a few things here, but…

    There was an idea early on in the novel’s existence as a form that it was meant to describe a society and its history in all its detail, something a novel could do far more clearly than poetry because of how open its structure was. For a lot of these writers, those seemingly pointless sections weren’t only a part of what made a novel a novel, they were a part of what made novel writing important in the first place, as an encapsulated window into either their own time or a point in history. The idea that a novel should only contain what is essential to tell the story is a very recent one, dating to at least post-WWI Modernism, but my mind wants to peg it even later. Like, Mid-twentieth century.

    And yes, it’s still incredibly frustrating from modern eyes, even if you know why it’s happening. You kind of want to scream at them to get to the point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ah yes- you know you’re waking up my own (admittedly rather flaky) memory of my first year Robinson Crusoe lecture- essentially where the professor justified how boring that book is with a similar argument. My professor also mentioned the importance of realism in the original novels, in order to garner interest- because there were still some rather medieval opinions of making up stories being an immoral, un-Christian pursuit. Perhaps this desire for authenticity is a hangover from that. It also plays into the idea of the author as an authority- or in some cases moral arbiter- by essentially using their novels to make a social commentary.
      haha yes that’s true- I’m criticising these books through the lens of modernism- though funnily enough, one of the main things that causes my boredom is steam of consciousness (ironically a modern invention 😉 ) Thank you so much for your comment- it was so interesting- and it certainly got me to think! Hope you don’t mind my rather rambling reply 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • ljtreads says:

        I would be a complete hypocrite if I opposed rambling!

        And to be fair, stream of consciousness has its own societal…issues…that lead to its creation. I think that probably makes the point, though. Literature adjust to social mores and tastes as they shift, and regardless of how recent that shift was it’s really hard to look back without feeling like there’s just something a little off with a previous era’s work.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Martin says:

        Interesting discussion. You see the same thing in Thomas Hardy as you do in Anna Karenina, some long detailed stuff about agriculture which doesn’t really seem to bear on the plot. The thing is, one of the central ideas of Hardy’s novels was that he was chronicling the dramatic changes to English society and I suppose there were no film makers or TV crews around to do it. Maybe Tolstoy was doing the same.
        Great post.

        Liked by 1 person

        • theorangutanlibrarian says:

          Yes that’s definitely true- the reason why I didn’t mention Hardy is cos I happen to like his rambly descriptions (I’m very subjective about these things, I know) A lot of his books are about the huge social changes the industrialisation brought about- so you’re most certainly right! Thanks!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel says:

    Haha, This was fun to read. Except that I have not read any of these except les Miserables, which I cannot recall now. Oops, too bad you didnt enjoy Gabriel garcia. I went and read your last post on 100 years of solitude. He is a favourite author of mine and I love the magical realism aspect that he brings in. Maybe he isn’t your taste for a good book. Hope you will pick some othr great reads for the rest of the month. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ahh thanks! Yeah it was a shame cos I really wanted to like it, but it just wasn’t for me, which is a shame :/ I objectively can see that he writes well- but even that objectivity can’t stop me from being subjective about it (if that makes sense). I’m glad you like it anyway 🙂 Hopefully!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nicola Alter says:

    The Count of Monte Cristo is on my to-read list so I am glad to hear there is only one boring bit!

    For me the book that comes to mind when I think of boring bits is Frankenstein… because there’s a kernel of interesting, exciting and emotional story at the centre sandwiched by a whole lot of boring framing narratives. I read somewhere that the narrative at the core of it was the original story she came up with when she and her friends had a competition to tell the best horror story. Then when turning it into a novel she added the framing narratives around it to extend it and make it appear more “serious literature” (i.e. not just a cheap horror story). Not sure if that’s true but that’s certainly what it felt like when reading it – like a lot of boring padding added in later.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yes- it’s a fantastic book- I really recommend it! It’s one of my all time faves! Ah yes, I can see that- although I found that book so beautifully written that I loved it (which is strange cos sometimes I don’t like books like that). Yeah that’s true- it’s also the case that a lot of it was edited by her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley- a poet who I love- and he added in a lot of the flowery prose. Personally, I think his influence shines through- and I love his style- so I loved it. But I get that you don’t- lots of people aren’t crazy about the style 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. messymess says:

    I am in much agreement with you on this!! Tale of two cities is a good example of a great book with an exceptionally dull middle. However I would say i don’t remember Count of monte cristo being dull ever even with the telecoms part.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. r_prab says:

    Haha. I read your previous post too, and it seems your mood continued in this post as well. As an admirer of classics it is fine that you have been candid about your experience. I will tell you my personal take. I also once wondered about the extreme descriptions classic writers seem to get lost into, and I had found there was a norm in old ages that for a book to qualify as novel and published, it had to have more than a certain word count, giving the writers to write their heart out. I don’t recall exactly but this was the explanation I had fathomed. I mostly read classics to savor the language. I feel like feeding a fine cuisine to my mind. So I always read them slowly, little by little with no anticipation of thrill. I often use the analogy of wine for classics, drinking it for taste.And when I need thrill, I would go for whisky or rum, that is, a modern racy fiction like one by Dan Brown or Michael Crichton 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Well thank you very much! I do agree with you about classics and beautiful writing being something to be savoured- but there is a fine line between something being beautiful and being boring. I’m a huge fan of classics- but sometimes they do cross over that line. To use your analogy, it’s the difference between a perfectly balanced cuisine and something that is over-seasoned. And to use your analogy of wine- not all wine is good. Sometimes the best wines can go vinegary over time 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  10. mphadventuregirl says:

    I have read the unabridged version of Les MIsérables. I love reading the plot, but honestly feel bored in those history lessons. I do not like being strayed away from the plot. The book is such a masterpiece, but are the history lessons really necessary? I can understand the opening with all the information about the bishop, but the history lessons?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s