Thursday, January 20, 2011

Literary Blog Hop: Most Despised

The Literary Blog Hop takes place every other week at The Blue Bookcase.

This week's question:
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?

My answer:

It's been a long time since I've had to read a book for school, but The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane immediately comes to mind as one I particularly despised.  During high school, I was selected for a summer enrichment program at nearby university and Crane's book was assigned for the literature class.

War books have never really appealed to me and, I supposed it can be traced back to my experience with The Red Badge of Courage. The only thing I recall is the Civil War setting... no plot, characters, or themes.

A vague feeling of guilt has been nagging me for years. Should I give Mr. Crane another chance?  Should I stop saying I dislike 'war books'?  Have I ever really read any war books?  A new project may be in the making...

More answers to this question can be found here.


  1. I've never heard of this book, and will now forget about it again. Doesn't look like my thing anyway.

    Hope you're reading something good at the moment.

  2. I remember having to read The Iliad in college and I thought I would just die of boredom.

  3. I know I had to read this in high school, but I don't recall what I thought about it at all. Obviously it didn't make a big impression on me. :-)

  4. Leeswammes - Yes, do forget this one. I'm reading Pym's Excellent Women now and really enjoying it.

    Sandy - Don't know how I got out of reading The Iliad.. never had even the tiniest urge to read that!

    Amy - I guess the only real impression it made on me was a lasting dislike of war stories.

  5. We were made to read 'The Gulag Archipelago' by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, for World History examinations. I remember thinking that it was never going to end.


  6. This is one of the books I've put on my list that I am least excited about. Of course, I was dreading the Iliad and now that I am reading it, I am loving it. Still--Pym sounds like a much better choice!

  7. Red Badge of Courage is a tough one. Crane's realist style makes for slow reading. The book focuses more on characters than on plot, so it doesn't seem like much is happening. It's still not a book I like, but reading it later, when I was able to appreciate what Crane was doing, I was at least able to respect it.

  8. Fiction-books - I know I would have suffered through that one, too!

    Lifetime Reader - Pym is definitely more to my taste :-)

    Listener - I usually love a good character study, but I think I was way too young to appreciate this one. Not in too much of a hurry to see how I'd react now!

  9. Staci - And you probably won't want to ;-)

  10. I'm fairly certain that I had to read this at some point in time, but I can't remember a single thing about it other than it was about the civil war and it was told in the first-person (I think). So, I can't say I really hated it, but I didn't really like it either. Great post!

  11. Crane's style is unique, I don't know if it's really right for high school. I read it for University and enjoyed it. I think it's more suitable for adults, though I can see how it wouldn't be for everyone. I won't say that I enjoyed it, but I did find it interesting. You shouldn't use Crane's story to judge all war books by. Different writers have different takes on similar subject matter, right?

  12. Americans seem to have really hard texts for school. In my reading group we have read The Scarlet Letter and The Red Badge of Courage and although we all read it and enjoyed them, we did all agree that we are glad that we didn't have to read them in school!

  13. I don't do war books either. I find them really depressing. I know they have a story to tell but they are too sad.

  14. Somehow I managed to skip this one! Guess that's a good thing. sometimes I wonder at the books we were required to read in grade school--looking back some of them seem to be such strange choices!

  15. Oh goodness me - I had to read Paradise Lost at university. I nearly threw it across the room out of boredom! I know that it's supposed to be wonderful and life enhancing etc but it just didn't do it for me!

    Also Lord of the Flies is a classic text studied in British schools - I think everyone of a certain age who has been forced to read the tale of Ralph and Piggy now hates it with a passion, though actually, it's a very good book!

  16. Same here. I bought this book a couple of years ago, started reading it, stopped, and completely forgot about it. Like you, I'm not really into "war" books.

  17. Yep - read this one twice, disliked it both times. There wasn't much change for me as far as "liking it better when you're older" - which tends to happen. I compare it to other war books (of which I, too, am not a fan in general) like Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, and it just does not come close.

  18. not read this, but am in agreement with one of the other comments, in that you can't judge all war lit by this example, as different writers, styles etc.

  19. I'm not really into war books either, and now that I think about it, it could be because of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the West Front. Did I have to read that for school? Possibly...

  20. I remember not liking Red Badge of Courage as well. I also had to read a weird Crane story called "The Blue Hotel," that I found fascinating, but also not very enjoyable.

  21. I see you are reading Barbara Pym. I went on a Pym binge last year. She is addictive! :)

  22. I wasn't assigned this book, but as a high schooler I did check it out from the library. I never finished it and have no desire for re-trying it.

    My least favorite assigned book was D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers. I didn't care about any part of that book. It was one of the few books in college that I got 'behind' on in our assigned reading and consequently did poorly on a pop quiz.

  23. I somehow escaped having to read some of the major "war books" in school, thankfully. War books are hard. It's just too easy to have the details overwhelm the personal connection.

  24. 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!

  25. I really don't remember hating anything I had to read for school except poetry.

  26. yeah I wasn't a fan of that one either!

  27. Petekarnas - I'll give Crane another chance at some point. Hate to write off an author based on the opinion of my 15 year old self.

    Loni - Absolutely! I don't mind war books dealing with social issues ... it's endless battle scenes that bother me.

    Jessica - I agree, and it's still like that today. Some of the books my daughters have been assigned really can't be appreciated by 14 or 15 year olds.

    Vivienne - That's pretty much why I tend to avoid them, too.

    Trish - I wouldn't bother taking the time to read it now, either.

    Rachel - I'll never get to Paradise Lost, lol! Lord of the Flies is still pretty standard across the US. I remember reading that one, and at least a couple of the girls did, too. It was not especially popular with any of us though.

    Darlyn - Sorry to remind you of it ;-)

    Adam - I have though of trying The Things They Carried, but I just keep avoiding it...

  28. Parrish lantern - I'll give war lit another chance this year, I promise.

    Em - All Quiet on the Western Front intimidates me.

    Laura C. - Maybe when I give Crane another chance, it should be with a short story. Didn;t know he wrote them.

    Violet - There will be a Pym binge in my future, too... as soon as the tbr dare is over!

    Christy - The only Lawrence I've read is Lady Chatterly's Lover, and I wasn't crazy about it either.

    Melody - I think you're right. The details can get in the way of a personal connection.

    Gautami - Glad you were able to enjoy Passage to India later!

    Bermudaonion - I didn't think of poetry! I sure didn;t like that much in high school either.

    Amanda - Don't think I've heard anyone say they actually liked it!

  29. Wow...I just love your header and your blog title...awesome.

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

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

  30. I read this one in college and for some reason loved it and I don't read war books or even like war movies!

  31. I would recommend TheThings They Carried. I know it is a book about Vietnam but my first inclination is not to say it is a 'war' book. i was most amazed by the brilliance of the writing, the contrast of reality and truth, the love and friendships, and the processing of memories. And how O'Brien captures all this and does the telling.
    But I have avoided Cold Mountain because I don't want to read about the Civil War. ;)
    It can be a disadvantage to have books so labeled so I admire you for considering a war book despite a dislike for Crane's most famous. for example, couldn't you call Gone With the Wind a 'war' book? maybe I am stretching a setting/background for plot points...

  32. Elizabeth - I haven't heard of that one, and I guess I won;t be looking for it ;-)

    Stacybuckeye - You may be the first person I've heard of who liked it! So, I guess there must be some redeeming qualities...

    Care - Thanks! I suppose I like reading about the social impact of war more than the actual 'battle scenes'. I didn't like Cold Mountain at all... will give The Things They Carried a try after the tbr dare.


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