Is It Just Me?

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Discus: High School Life and Pre-college Issues: May, 2003 and Earlier Archive: Is It Just Me?
By Noesis (Noesis) on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 10:18 pm: Edit


I have a serious "problem" that I must discuss with you all, just to see if I am normal. The "classic" books that everyone should read are, almost without qualification, boring to me. I cannot seem to make it through a Shakespearian play without losing interest. The same thing happens with Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, The Illiad, and other novels that are reportedly so stimulating. Often I quit reading halfway through, and I seldom make it that far. I have a 760 Verbal SAT I score, and a 760 SAT II Writing score, so I think that I am a capable reader. When I do find a book that interests me, I cannot put it down. However, they are not "classics" really, and are a rare find. Does anyone else suffer from the same problem, or am I just abnormal and headed for a life of illiteracy? Thanks.

By Mrowry (Mrowry) on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 10:51 pm: Edit

Do the themes bore you, or do you just hate wading through the "fancy" language?

By Noesis (Noesis) on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 07:49 am: Edit

That's a good question. Upon reflecting, I think it to be the language that feels like drudgery. For example, I love to read Socratic dialogues from The Republic, because they are entertaining and lucid. I really like theoretical works, but only when they are written with clarity. For example, David Hume's An Enquiry into Human Understanding is enthralling to me, but other philosophy works are so vague and difficult that I feel that I'm not "breaking even," so to speak. Thanks for the response.

By Abracadabra (Abracadabra) on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 09:06 am: Edit

i have the same problem here. so next time you find yourself reading a BORING book, remember, it's bound to be a classic....something you can be proud of ;)

By Thedad (Thedad) on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 10:38 am: Edit

Both daughter and I love submerge one's self in it is sublime...and she's been a Shakespeare nut since she was 7 or 8. The Illiad really depends on the translation and I don't now recall whose is good and whose sucks dead fish with a straw (a critical literary term).

But, as with many things, ymmv. (You mileage may vary.)

By Mrowry (Mrowry) on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 03:12 pm: Edit

I generally find classics more interesting when I read them carefully... if I skim them, all the subtleties of the language just go over my head, and then I can't appreciate any of it. For example, next time you read Shakespeare, really take the time to understand each line so you can indulge in the witticisms and sexual references. ;-) Otherwise, it's just a bunch of weird 16th-century-English garble.

By Noesis (Noesis) on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 05:57 pm: Edit

Perhaps my testosterone levels are too high, or my patience too low, but when reading Wuthering Heights, I was thinking "I am apathetic about Heathcliff and his whole situation in general. I don't care what happens at Thrushcross Grange. I need a sharper sense of reality, of rationality, I want fresh perspectives, deep thoughts, sound arguments, a clearer way of seeing the world, not bathos or melodramatic drivel." I love Nietzsche, but cannot manage to get through the first chapter of Huckleberry Finn. I feel that dwelling on the situations of fictional characters is a waste of time, as I have my own situations to wrestle with. I am pervaded by pragmatic thought.

Also, I rarely finish books I start. Even when reading books I enjoy, I hardly finish them expeditiously. Sometimes I will come back to a text a month or two later. This tendency is present in almost all of my endeavors, so I cannot say that it deals strictly with reading. Hopefully this will pass.

Thanks for the responses.

By Dree (Dree) on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 09:34 pm: Edit

I find a lot of the supposed "classics" really boring also. THe Scarlet Letter was the most boring book I have ever read. Or more acurately, was supposed to read. Just read whatever you enjoy. At least you're reading.

By Ricegal (Ricegal) on Thursday, April 10, 2003 - 05:11 pm: Edit

I am a lifelong (now age 45) reader of thought-provoking books, but, I too, find the classics mostly boring. Many times a book is considered a classic because it was ground-breaking at the time it was written. For example, Henry James wrote a book called "What Maisie Saw" which was groundbreaking at the time (turn of the century) because it was about divorce seen through the eyes of a child. I find the subject matter less engaging now that divorce is so common and the children's view has been discussed ad nauseum in the newspapers and portrayed in many movies. Some classics are interesting because of what they tell us about the time period in which they were written, but you have to have an interest in that era and have studied it from a historical perspective to appreciate this. The stories themselves aren't always that interesting.

Movies suffer from a similar problem. For example, Star Wars was an incredible movie for its time and has made it into the ranks of classic movies, but now the special effects seem dated and don't have the same impact they did when it was released. The story has held up pretty well over time, but I think some of the Star Trek TV stories are more thought-provoking.

I agree with your opinions about fiction versus non-fiction, and have been reading mostly non-fiction for years. I would rather read Seabiscuit, for example, than a fictionalized account of horseracing. History is my particular passion, but I think philosophy books are definitely worthwhile. I wish I had taken a philosophy course in college, but I didn't really know what it was all about when I was 18.

Also, regarding finishing or not finishing books. I tend to be reading 3 or 4 books at a time. Therefore, I when I am bored with one, I can set it down for awhile and pick it up when I want to think about those ideas again. Eventually I find that I complete all the books. This is why I hardly ever use the library - I mostly borrow or buy my books.

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