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Old 08-10-2012, 08:54 PM   #31
taosaur
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Originally Posted by Ladyrixx View Post
I agree about Cat's Cradle. I read it, and I still have no real idea what was going on. Same with L'Estranger. (At least when I read that, I thought it was my sketchy French...then I read a translation, no, it makes no sense.)
I don't even... Those are both totally straightforward narratives in fairly plain language, probably on an eighth grade reading level. The events are absurd in the first and arbitrary in the second (both quite deliberately, as rather the point of each book), but what on earth is difficult about the texts? I can see how they'd be unappealing to some, but difficult?
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Old 08-10-2012, 10:27 PM   #32
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I thought Cat's Cradle was funny and absurd.

It probably says something that I think all these "difficult books" are funny except The Faerie Queene. (I though Faulkner was a hoot sometimes too. I mean, setting a broken leg in cement? Doesn't get much funnier than that.). But Spenser's fake-retro English coming FROM Elizabethan English was kinda funny to me.

There are some authors I find I have trouble reading unless I slow down; some dense 18th century stuff, or philosophy, or Early Modern/Middle English. Generally I just find a book difficult to finish if I don't like it though.

Last edited by Joykins; 08-10-2012 at 10:32 PM.
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Old 08-10-2012, 11:20 PM   #33
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I thought Cat's Cradle was funny and absurd.
It was my favorite book from about ages 18 to 20, and my first Vonnegut. Eventually I lost my taste for the misanthropy and cynicism in Vonnegut, but he did make it funny.
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Old 08-10-2012, 11:37 PM   #34
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Here are the Lexile difficulty ratings for a number of books from classic literature:

http://ed.sc.gov/agency/programs-ser...Map8_10_09.pdf
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Old 08-11-2012, 12:46 AM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timoleon View Post
Here are the Lexile difficulty ratings for a number of books from classic literature:

http://ed.sc.gov/agency/programs-ser...Map8_10_09.pdf
Cat's Cradle comes in at a 4th-5th grade level and The Stranger at a 5th-6th grade level, so I guess I was being generous.
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Old 08-11-2012, 02:26 AM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taosaur View Post
Cat's Cradle comes in at a 4th-5th grade level and The Stranger at a 5th-6th grade level, so I guess I was being generous.
I guess that some have trouble with the literary level, and some have trouble with the premise. I think both would make the book opaque to the reader. I'm not an expert in these things, but maybe they're both the same problem.
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Old 08-11-2012, 02:35 AM   #37
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the most difficult book for me is my Advanced Algebra...
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Old 08-11-2012, 05:42 AM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QuantumIguana View Post
For non fiction, Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is really heavy reading. It is one of these books that is more read about than actually read. Here's a link to the Random Kant Generator, http://interconnected.org/home/more/2000/08/kant/ which generates text that has a resemblance to how work. At first glance, it looks like it might not be gibberish.
The Kant was what I immediately thought of when I saw there was other philosophy on the list. I have a degree in philosophy, and I'm supposed to have read it, but, er, I've only read bits of it.

The thing is that it does explain some complex ideas with precision. It's the idea themselves that make it complicated, and the fact that they all need new technical names like "schema" and "manifold" so you end up with sentences where none of the nouns mean anything you understand.

It could have done with a few jokes, that's all.

Incidentally, I was told at the time that German students of Kant would often read the English translation because it was easier. I have no idea if that's true.
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Old 08-11-2012, 10:29 AM   #39
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Difficult can mean many things. I was never able to get through the Silmarillion because of the multitude of names, but I could read each sentence without difficulty. The Faerie Queene is written in an archaic style but I think it is relatively easy to read once you adjust to it.

There is difficulty on the level of not being able to grasp the ideas conveyed in a text, and more basic than that, difficulty on the level of not even being able to read a sentence.

The most difficult thing I've read is probably the excerpt of Finnegan's Wake posted here. I can't even understand it word for word, let alone sentence by sentence. Not understanding it, I don't get any of the ideas the author is trying to convey.
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Old 08-11-2012, 10:52 AM   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timoleon View Post
Here are the Lexile difficulty ratings for a number of books from classic literature:

http://ed.sc.gov/agency/programs-ser...Map8_10_09.pdf
Gone With the Wind ranks higher than The Sound and the Fury? I'm baffled.

eP
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Old 08-11-2012, 11:07 AM   #41
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Difficult can mean many things
I agree, which is why for me, my advanced algebra book is the most difficult..
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Old 08-11-2012, 12:59 PM   #42
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I found The Emigrants by W.G. Seabald a pain in the... neck to read. I think the first twenty pages of that was a guy describing his garden.

I got two-thirds of the way through To The Lighthouse, and yes, that was also a chore throughout every page.

I've had others which were hard going, yet immensely enjoyable. For example: Franz Kafka's The Trial is really difficult in places (I had to re-read the section with the door that's only for him around five or six times) but I loved every second of it.
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Old 08-11-2012, 01:24 PM   #43
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The stranger is just boring as hell... had to read it too In French *puke*
Just as Kafka was constantly whining *sigh*
Silmarillion? Not hard at all. Although possibly not what most people expect after having read LotR
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Old 08-11-2012, 03:04 PM   #44
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It does seem strange to make a list of the most difficult books rather than the most difficult *novels*. Philosophy books can be hard to read because the ideas are complicated - but as far as that goes, you might as well include any number of advanced calculus or physics books.

Faulkner is hard to read because of the style it's written in. (The same is true for people who have trouble with Dickens - the language is modern but the style is not). The "Faerie Queen" is hard to read because the language is archaic and because it's poetry. Shakespeare can be hard to read because of the difficulty reading Early Modern English, but changes in language aside it's not that complicated. Here's an example of the original Shakespeare followed by Shakespeare translated into the current vernacular:
Quote:
CAPTAIN
     Doubtful it stood,
As two spent swimmers that do cling together
And choke their art. The merciless Macdonwald—
Worthy to be a rebel, for to that
The multiplying villanies of nature
Do swarm upon him—from the Western Isles
Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied,
And fortune, on his damnèd quarrel smiling,
Showed like a rebel’s whore. But all’s too weak,
For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name—
Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valor’s minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseamed him from the nave to th' chops,
And fixed his head upon our battlements.
Quote:
CAPTAIN
For a while you couldn’t tell who would win. The armies were like two exhausted swimmers clinging to each other and struggling in the water, unable to move. The villainous rebel Macdonwald was supported by foot soldiers and horsemen from Ireland and the Hebrides, and Lady Luck was with him, smiling cruelly at his enemies as if she were his whore. But Luck and Macdonwald together weren’t strong enough. Brave Macbeth, laughing at Luck, chopped his way through to Macdonwald, who didn’t even have time to say good-bye or shake hands before Macbeth split him open from his navel to his jawbone and stuck his head on our castle walls.
So I don't think it really makes sense to compile a list of "difficult" books comprised of books that are difficult because of subject matter, books that are difficult because the language has changed, and books that are difficult because of their complex style.
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Old 08-12-2012, 07:35 AM   #45
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´I´ once read a book...

I once read a book. I forget the name thank goodness.

¨I¨ it had on the front cover is all I remember.

The book went on to explain how to protagonist was a failed writer (with substance issues) and how his ´friend´ - an average Joe - had become a great success off the back of some novel about Hippies gardening (I´m generalising but that was the thrust).

Throughout the book those publishers unfortunate enough to read our protagonists work all fall sick with either physical or mental illness. Only now does this manage to raise a wry smile, like - say - the thought of a sporting accident or losing your first love.

I can confirm that it took me circa. two weeks to struggle through this horror of a book and without question was the most painful literary experience of my life.

Seriously, I didn´t read another book for at least a year after that debacle, The Dark Tower series brought me back from the brink. Turning to the last page was a relief palpable even now. It was a recommended HOLIDAY BOOK and foolishly it was all I took, hence the grit and bloody-minded determination.

So IMHO there are books that transcend mere ´Baddery´.

One might suggest the author of the aforementioned - badly remembered and indirectly referenced - work set out to create exactly such a piece of Floury Weevilness: And succeeded, in spades.

IIRC, the ´climax´(if you will pardon the pun I know see I am about to make inadvertently) of the book was finding out his sometimes-nemesis was receiving Fellatio from his wife.

At the risk of relying on sarcasm to get my point across: What a rewarding read. As someone put about Ulysses ¨It made me want to murder myself in the face¨, Yes. I can relate to that sentiment.

I honestly recommend burning every copy ever made, save one; for future reference or perhaps starting a war one day.

Is a books ´Toughness´ related to grammar; dated syntax; bad punctuation; annoying lists with semi-colons; invented wordages; stupid layout and altered orders; or arty and unique writing perspectives?

For me, No. It is in the level of reward for effort imparted. When this is a fail, the work is a fail. Like most art.

Thanks for listening.

P.S. (I did scour around for the book name, {maybe ´I´ntelligence} but it eludes my hunt, possibly a good thing)

Last edited by twobob; 08-12-2012 at 07:44 AM. Reason: too many cans, recycled a few. ´The´ not ´to´. (I was going to remove some ´I´´s as well but it felt somehow relevant)
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