Saturday, November 13, 2010

Literary Blog Hop Week Two and Orlando

So I've been a bit MIA for the past few days due to a death in my husband's family, meaning that we hopped on a plane to Wisconsin and are currently in a perpetual sugar high due to the absolutely amazing soda they have here.  Sprecher's soda is fire-brewed, whatever that means, and contains awesome things like real cherry juice, real honey, and other real flavorings.  It also contains some less amazing things, like high fructose corn syrup, which is why it's a good thing that we don't have this stuff in New Jersey because I would probably be diabetic by now.  Seriously: the cream soda tastes like carbonated cream.  In a good way.  Needless to say, my sugar coma has severely affected my blog and my NaNoWriMo, but I think I'm coming out of it long enough to belatedly participate in this week's Literary Blog Hop, hosted by The Blue Bookcase.
Oops, wrong picture.  But look at all the deliciousness!
Literary Blog Hop

What is the most difficult literary work you've ever read? What made it so difficult?

I've actually been thinking about this question for a few days now and I'm having a hard time deciding what angle to come at it from.  Should I talk about a book that presented such difficulties that I never actual finished it?  Because I have plenty of those (i.e. Anna Karenina and Lolita).  Or, should I talk about a book whose difficulties I managed to overcome (i.e. Tess of the D'Urbervilles)?  And what form of difficulties - narrative, comprehension, or personal issues with the subject?

I think I'll go with a combo deal - a book that was so difficult I initially failed to finish it but eventually persevered through, which presented difficulties both in my comprehension of the subject matter and in the actual reading: Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf.  I first encountered Orlando the summer before my senior year of high school.  Woolf was on a summer reading list where I got to choose the author and the text (minus Mrs. Dalloway, which would be required reading during the course).  This was my first introduction to Woolf and I struggled through about half of it before giving up and writing a "D" essay on it and deciding that I hated Virginia Woolf.  I ended up loving Mrs. Dalloway, which I read months later, and To the Lighthouse, which I read during a Modernist class I took during my freshman year of college.  After these triumphs, I decided to return to Orlando and, with a new understanding of Virginia Woolf, not only finished it but loved it.  This prompted me to try and read The Waves, which I failed at terribly.  Oh well.

So what's so confusing about Orlando?  Maybe it's the fact that the main character lives for several centuries, or the fact that he becomes a she at some point?  Or could it be Woolf's distinctive style which can be difficult to latch onto and to comprehend?  I honestly don't remember much about the specific style of that novel, though Wikipedia claims that "it is generally considered one of Woolf's most accessible novels."  Well screw you Wikipedia!  Oh well… I've beaten it now.  Now to vanquish The Waves...


  1. I am also a Woolf neophyte-I found reading Victoria Glendinning's biography of the woman on whom Orlando is based, Vita Sackville-West a big help-I am reading Woolf's A Room of her own Now-I liked your post a lot and am now a follower of your blog-

    Mel u

  2. I'm excited to see so much Virginia Woolf this week - because I hate her! GAH. I heard so many good things about her and her novels, but she drives me so freaking crazy! It's a sweet sort of vengeance to see that probably 30-40% of this week's responses cited V. Woolf as "most difficult." Mwahaha!

  3. Woolf seems to be a popular choice for this week's Hop. I haven't read either of these, but like you, I loved Mrs. Dalloway.

  4. Yep, I've seen lots of Virginia Woolf on this week's blog hop. I loved Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse so much, but I've never tried Orlando or The Waves. I guess I'm a little afraid to, since I know they're the more difficult ones.
    Thanks for participating in the hop!

  5. That soda sounds sooooo good. Wow.
    A lot of people have mentioned Orlando as their hardest read. I have yet to tackle it.

  6. I just can't get over how many people have chosen works by Virginia Woolf as their most difficult book. I'm defintitely staying away!

  7. Not read Wolfe, but will do so. as for Thomas Hardy, I prefer "Jude the obscure" enjoyed your write up

  8. To anyone who now fears Virginia Woolf: Nooooo! That was not my intention! I loved Orlando and everything else I read by her, she just requires some commitment. Give her a chance, just start with something "easy" like To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway!