Friday, January 21, 2011

Literary Blog Hop and My Most-Detested Literature

Literary Blog Hop
It's that time again... time for the Literary Blog Hop, hosted by The Blue Bookcase.  This week's question is:

Discuss a work of literary merit that you hated when you were made to read it in school or university.  Why did you dislike it?

At first I had a hard time thinking of one; not because I loved everything I was ever assigned to read (far from it) but because in high school, I only read what I liked and therefore rarely read anything I was assigned.  I feel bad bashing a book I never actually read the entirety of, so books from high school were out.  In college, on the contrary, I read every word of everything and liked most of it.  Most, I say, because there were two novels that I just despised and I can't decide which one I despised more so I'm just going to talk about both of them.

The first book comes from a class I took in gay literature at my first school.  To be perfectly honest, I wasn't a big fan of most of what we read in this class because most of the novels were more about being gay than about being literary (PLEASE don't be offended by this, I just wanted literariness in my literature and most of the books lacked this quality.  I would have rejected Stephen King or some similarly heterosexual writer on the same grounds).  Anyway.  One of the books we read was Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua.  This may have been the most literary text we read all semester yet was the most hated by me and the reason is right there in the freaking title: half the book is in Spanish!  And this wasn't a language class!  I never studied Spanish, but I did spend hours trying to decipher the thing with the help of my sister's abandoned Spanish dictionary and to absolutely no avail.  I have no idea what it was about except for what I read on the back cover - not even the English parts!  In Ms. Anzaldua's defense, this is probably more of an issue with the professor who assigned it than with the book itself but either way, the whole experience of this book was just miserable to the point that I still cringe whenever I see it.

The second book is a classic well-hated by many: Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, which you may remember as a favorite of the March sisters in Little Women.  I had to read it for an 18th century literature class (even though it was written in the 17th century) and oh man was that thing boring.  Okay, granted the whole thing is an allegory and maybe it would be more fair to say that I dislike allegories but as I've read few allegories and all of Pilgrim's Progress, I'm going to stick with blaming Bunyan for this one.  The main character is Christian, a pilgrim on his way to heaven who encounters such potentially interesting and completely disappointing characters as Apollyon, one of the devil's companion archdevils (according to the Wikipedia page) and Giant Despair who is good enough to imprison Christian for us.  The point, obvious from the first page, is that the trip to heaven is long and arduous.  Done.  Now you don't have to read it.

So there you have it: two completely different books that equally earned my wrath.  What do you think of them?!


  1. i haven't read either of these books - just bits and pieces of 'pilgrim's progress,' which was enough for me...but i wanted to say i love your "more about being gay than about being literary."

    i am always a little hesistant to say or write that sort of thing because, like you write, it can easily be misinterpreted. but one of the black lit seminars i took (and still, i feel like i need to add a disclaimer: i took a lot of black lit courses! i did an independent study on gayl jones! i am an okay person!) and spent most of the course arguing about the literary merit of the works, because there were a few that i thought were works interested for political or sociological reasons, NOT because they were quality works of fiction. not surprisingly, maybe, i was the only one who ever argued that view. :/

    and, thanks for saving me from feeling like i ever need to read pilgrim's progress. i should bookmark your summary for future reference.

  2. I think it was definitely your professors fault, could have least provided you with some notes on the book,as I can imagine what it must have been like not only to read, but also translate at the same time.

  3. Required Reading always sinks or floats according to the teacher. If the teacher is shoving it down the students' throats because it is Required that she teach this Required Reading and not because she loves it....well, you know what often happens.

  4. After loving Little Women for years, I was SO disappointed in Pilgrim's Progress! I had expected a much more exciting adventure. (I'm sure Christian would disapprove.)

  5. Pilgrim's Progress sounds grim. I wonder if Louisa May Alcott loved it as much as her characters did, or if she was just having them set a good example for her readers?

  6. I have Pilgrim's Progress sitting with me. I plan to get around it, but when?

    Here is my Literary Blog Hop: Disliked Book post!