Are you a Rambo or a Mr Bean when it comes to reading? Looking at a list of 50 novels described as ‘tough’ because they are ultra long or intense or use a style that requires deep concentration, I realise I am very much in the Mr Bean camp.
The list has been developed by Flavourwire (who seem to specialise in creating lists) to suggest some of the ‘heftiest’ books around, books suitable only for readers with strong constitutions. Of the 50 they name, I’ve read precisely 4 so clearly I am a wimp.
Now some of these I have never even heard of (like the Tunnel by William Gass or Out by Natsuo Kirino) and one or two I started but gave up on (William Faulkner’s Sound and the Fury for example). Then there are others whose reputation for being ‘complex’ precedes them so much I have persuaded myself that I really don’t need to read them (Finnegan’s Wake, Moby Dick and The Faerie Queen are prime examples here). And some that I think I should read but need to build up my strength before tackling (like Robinson Crusoe).
Here’s what I’ve read:
- To the Lighthouse – Virgina Woolf
- Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
- War and Peace – Tolstoy
- Sophie’s Choice – William Styron
The Tolstoy one was far and away the hardest because a) it’s incredibly long and b) I am not good at keeping track of characters at the best of times and this one had a very very long cast list. Not only that – but because in Russia, each individual has three variations of their names, I got hopelessly lost with who was who. And that was even with the aid of a list of people at the front of the book.
Sophie’s Choice was only ‘difficult’ in terms of its subject matter but I could say the same of many other books so I question why this one in particular was included. Heart of Darkness is so multilayered that it does sometimes make for puzzlement but the language is so wonderful. the opening passage where the narrator begins his story to the shipmates as they wait for the tide to take them down the Thames, is like an Impressionist painting. As for To the Lighthouse, hm, I did enjoy it, though I can’t actually say that I understood what it was about.
So are you all wimps like myself or are you more in the Rambo camp? Are there any titles you think missing from the list?