Friday, January 21, 2011

Literary Blog Hop: Hateful

Literary Blog Hop

The Blue Bookcase hosts a "Literary Blog Hop" for blogs "that primarily feature reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion."

Each week, in addition to hopping around and visiting some terrific book blogs, participants answer a bookish question.  This week's question -- answered very well for the BB team by Lucia -- 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?

"School or university" was a long time ago and, looking back, I can think of several books I "hated" while I was reading them. The Grapes of Wrath, 1984, Sister Carrie, and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage come immediately to mind.  But, the thing is, I don't think I would hate them now.  I simply didn't understand them when I read them or was bored by them with the profound boredom of a teenager.  I re-read Sister Carrie, for instance, and enjoyed it tremendously (review here).

But there is one book that I can honestly say I hated -- I hated it then and I am certain I would hate it now:  Waiting for Godot.

I don't care if this confession brands me a literary Philistine.  Irish critic Vivian Mercier famously described Samuel Beckett's masterpiece as "a play in which nothing happens, twice."  I had to read it twice, for two different college classes, and I saw it performed once in London, so in my personal experience, nothing happened six times.

Why did I hate it? I found it excruciating. Absurdist theater is not for those who seek a plot. Or character development. Or clever dialog. Or even just a scintilla of entertainment.

In Annie Hall, Woody Allen tells Diane Keaton, "Never take a class where they make read Beowulf." My advise is to skip any class involving Waiting for Godot.


  1. Well I know one play I'll never attend :) I don't think you are the first person I've heard complain about Waiting for Godot.

  2. Good for you, stand up to the establishment. I have several theories about how "classics" are being chosen and from some reason all of them involve alcohol.

  3. I'm so confused by the number of people hating on Waiting for Godot. I was completely infatuated by it. Hm.

  4. dragonflyy419: Yes, I don't think I'm alone in my opinion.

    Man of la Books: You may be right! I think that alcohol would have helped my appreciation of Beckett tremendously.

    Adam: Well, it has remained a classic, so somebody must appreciate it. In fact, the critic who said "nothing happens, twice" praised the play.

  5. The Mercier quote is hysterical!

  6. Am also a fan of this, but based on one of the comments it could be because i also love single malt whisky.

  7. LifetimeReader: Hysterical and spot on.

    PL: If you combine the single malt and the Beckett, yes, that could account for your enjoyment. A wee dram helps me enjoy many a cultural event I could otherwise not tolerate.

  8. Seen a lot of bad productions of "Godot," and a couple of good ones. Beckett loved vaudeville, and most directors/actors miss that: In its own weird way, this thing's a comedy.
    (Which of course doesn't mean you can't honestly dislike it.)

  9. Bob: I'll keep that in mind next time I have my academic nightmare of taking a test in a class on Godot that I never attended.

  10. Great post, it made me laugh. I didn't mind this one, only because I thought Lord of the Flies was an abomination by comparison. Awful litte boys with their nasty dirty ways and cruel games. I was so young. But it seems there's one we all hated.

  11. Sorry to hear you "missed" The Grapes of Wrath. It's a great one.

    Much as I love literature, sometimes I worry that making young people read "the classics" is counterproductive. For every student who's inspired, there are probably more who are turned off forever because they aren't ready to handle the hard stuff. Kind of like with alcohol!

  12. I've occasionally thought I would read Waiting for Godot, just so that I could say I did...but life's too short and there are too many great books/plays out there. I think in college my mind might have been receptive to it, but that window has closed.

    Interesting post! The only book I've really and truly hated was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but there are many I've abandoned.

  13. Some books are so difficult to get into. And those put us off that author too, for always.

    And my teacher spoiled A Passage to India for me. But I did go back and loved it!

    Here is my Literary Blog Hop: Disliked Book post!

  14. My read was STONEHENGE DECODED...uggh. Did anyone else have to suffer through it?

    Stop by my blog if you like...I also have a giveaway that isn't very literary, but check it out.


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