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Tuesday, 07 August 2012

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Dr. Virago

What? To the Lighthouse is *so* not difficult (as you point out)! And the Faerie Queene is just long and in verse. Paradise Lost is much more philosophically difficult, as is its periodic sentences in verse, for that matter.

Actually, what really belongs here is Piers Plowman. First of all, there's the difficulty of *which* Piers Plowman one even means. And then there's the difficulty of the Middle English alliterative verse (the Latin is pretty easy). And then there's the difficulty of OMG-what-does-it-all-mean?! Takes a whole semester to read that fucker attentively.

mxyzptlk

Might add something like David Markson's This Is Not A Novel. It isn't, but it is, but it isn't -- yet it is. The book reads like a series of disconnected observations (almost stream of consciousness, but a little too aware; stream of supra-consciousness?), but as you read through, you start to pick up on repeated thematic and symbolic details that begin to form a narrative chain. DFW once described Markson as one of the more interesting writers working, someone he looked to for creative inspiration. (I loaned Markson's book to my advisor in grad school and never saw it again.)

How about something like Cortazar's Hopscotch, for structural playfulness, or Sam Beckett's The Unnamable?

I'm totally down with A Tale of a Tub. I've never seen a class become so confounded while trying to parse a text.

Someone who might be a lot more difficult than a first or third reading suggests is Cormac McCarthy. He can be subtly tricky, like in the way he eliminates apostrophes from all negative contractions. There's a reason for it, but it's not readily available.

Stephen

Contemporary poetry is far more difficult than Spenser, if we're going to mix poetry, fiction, and philosophy. How about Ezra Pound's Cantos, Charles Olson's Maximus Poems, and almost anything by John Ashbery?

SEK

Actually, what really belongs here is Piers Plowman.

My wife would disagree, but she's a medievalist, so she doesn't count.

I'm totally down with A Tale of a Tub. I've never seen a class become so confounded while trying to parse a text.

That's more a matter of them not understanding the historical context. After all, most of his contemporary's knew exactly who Swift was satirizing.

Someone who might be a lot more difficult than a first or third reading suggests is Cormac McCarthy.

I prefer my Faulkner uncut.

How about Ezra Pound's Cantos, Charles Olson's Maximus Poems, and almost anything by John Ashbery?

No kidding. I started the Cantos about a decade ago, and I'm still barely through the first three. Granted, I also gave up about a decade ago, but still.

mxyzptlk

That's more a matter of them not understanding the historical context. After all, most of his contemporary's knew exactly who Swift was satirizing.

But this was a grad school class. In Anglo-Irish literature. At Trinity College in Dublin. It was one of the better textual debates I've witnessed -- different factions arguing for the different political, social, academic, religious, and metatextual elements as primary.

I prefer my Faulkner uncut.

Heh. Touche.

summervillain

I don't know about 'To the Lighthouse,' but I found 'The Waves' pretty gosh-durn challenging. More recently, Nicola Barker's 'Darkmans' wasn't all that hard to read, but I found it difficult to comprehend.

John Quiggin

Is Clarissa difficult? I had the impression "long, boring and studied only because it's the first big novel"

SEK

Your impression's absolutely correct. I had a professor my first year of grad school who taught it, Pamela and Shamela, and when we pressed him at the quarter's end about how much he'd made us read, he confessed that we really could've just read Shamela and learned all we needed to about that stage of the development of the novel.

Martin Wisse

Bah. Appleseed was a doddle, only made challenging by Clute's prolix nature, while Dahlgren sold half a million copies, so can't be that difficult. Try Delany's latest novel, with the loving descriptions of snot eating, that's difficult.

Josh

Dhalgren sold a little over a million copies, Martin, and was much-loved. Doesn't mean all its buyers or fans made it to the end!

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