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With Naked Lunch, I Might Have Finally Met My Match

It’s happened to all of us.

A novel makes a “best of” list, maybe like Time Magazine’s—the critics love it—some of our friends say it’s great and some online reviews say it’s a good read.

Then we start reading the novel, and we’re like, Um, I don’t get it. But there’s something in the back of our mind saying, I’m supposed to like this novel! What am I missing?

I’m there right now. In reading Naked Lunch, I might have met my match, and I’m not sure what to do.

I’ve made it through all 3,000+ boring pages of A Dance to the Music of Time. I’ve made it through Lolita, Money, and Portnoy’s Complaint, with all their graphic vileness. I’ve made it through Faulkner’s stream of consciousness and Woolf’s unrelenting long-windedness.

But I’m not sure that I can make it through Naked Lunch, guys. I haven’t quit a novel since I’ve started this project, out of mere principle. If I do quit this one, I’m not sure what that means for the project. I’ve been determined to read the entirety of every novel, no matter how much I disliked it.

However, Naked Lunch is different. Maybe it’s just me, but a 5-page DETAILED scene involving pedophiliac rape is, well, just too much, way too much.

This is supposed to be “art.” But if this is art, then I can take a poop in the driveway and put a stick on top of it and call that “art” too.

But back to the original thought: Have you ever felt like you were “supposed” to like a novel, but you just didn’t get it?

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35 Comments Post a comment
  1. I hate when this happens! I’m always wary of picking up books that get raved about for this very reason. I haven’t read Naked Lunch, but wish you luck in making it through if you stick with it. – ashley

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  2. For many years, I finished any book I ever started. Then I realized that life is short. I think The Shipping News was the first book I ditched mid-read. That said, if you feel you cannot abandon your goal, why not read a chapter at a time, interspersed with the other books on the list? It’s your blog – no one said you have to read one book at a time. If you choose to throw in the towel, remember that it’s your life and your blog! And your posts over not finishing one of the books on the list would be interesting too.

    Liked by 2 people

    March 19, 2015
  3. I had this happen to me when I was reading a book for my book club. I just simply could not do it, and I am the same way as you…I typically do not quit a book. But that one, I just disliked so much that I couldn’t even force myself to pick it back up. I wish you luck and keep us posted on what you decide with it!

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  4. Terry #

    I felt like that for a few – Naked Lunch, On The Road, and Catcher in the Rye.
    I keep rereading them looking for what I’m missing.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 19, 2015
  5. Reblogged this on oshriradhekrishnabole.

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  6. Teresa #

    It’s a tough read – no doubt about it. I think that your own principals should come before an arbitrary rule to read every word. If you want to stick it out, I like the idea of a chapter every month.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 19, 2015
  7. Jin Okubo #

    Is it only books that make the greatest list that need be checked out? I find that I prefer to find books that are said to be crap. Low reviews or bad reviews. I find that some reviews are not all that they are cracked up to be and that the critiques sometimes state something just for the mere fact that they can.
    This is from so and so writer it is great. It reminds me of my old writing professor stating that you can not break rules to writing until people know you can write by having published and become a great. I disagreed with him then and I disagree with critiques on most things.
    I would read it to the end just because well, I hate having things unfinished. But that is just me. That being said, you must not finish it now if need be. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    March 19, 2015
  8. uju #

    Lady Chatterly’s Lover (D.H Lawrence). Still can’t conclude that book 😦 and I want to because I loved the opening lines.

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  9. I read the 101 College Board list several years ago. I was bogged down in War and Peace for a while; all those Russian names! drat! I did keep reading; I still feel lost. But I can say I read the entire list! woohoo

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  10. Stephen McDaniel #

    Always remember that lots of movies, books, etc. are on lists because they were… on other lists. Times and tastes change. What was fantastic 50 or 100 years ago can be unbearable now. How many people have actually waded through ‘Great Expectations’ or ‘Last of the Mohicans’? Yesterday’s ‘art’ is today’s ‘slush pile’. So don’t break your neck. You gave it your best shot – that’s probably enough. Like many of the above comments, I no longer feel like I have to read something because someone else said it was great literature. Reviews are in the eye of the reviewer. If it’s garbage, chuck it out with the old coffee grounds, and move on to something enjoyable – to you!

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  11. I had once tried reading through one of Jeffrey Archer novels- Paths of Glory. The detailed mention of the mountain peaks and their heights and expeditions caught me bad in my head and I left it with the thought that it ain’t a fiction. Again, I was compelled to read by one of my friends. Again I left it reading just a few twenty pages. The third time I read the book wholly cursing my first two wasteful attempts as the book was an amazing and interesting read with equally amazing reviews! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    March 19, 2015
  12. I hate it when someone insists I will love a book. I don’t mean they recommend it highly. I mean they expect me to love the darn book. Why can’t they say this is a book they enjoyed very much. Usually I don’t read them unless it’s something that catches my curiosity or I have heard something about the book. Usually I hate the book. Two books that fit in this category are The Da Vinci Code and The Corrections. I did give them 50 pages. Someone once said don’t give up on a book till you’ve read 50 pages.

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  13. I always feel like this with a lot of the “award winning” novels – Gilead for one – and I just go hmm, not for me. Only recommendation I would have is if you can’t power through it to read bits and pieces around other books. It’d be different than anything you’ve done, but enough to hopefully complete the entire blog!

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  14. Stick with it. I struggled with this book as well, but it was worth it when i finally got the end!

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  15. Yes, I had this at points with ‘War & Peace’ or ‘Atlas Shrugged’. Overall, I wound up enjoying the challenge of reading both, but was also aware that at stages it felt like I was going nowhere fast, and flicking ahead to see how many pages remained became a challenge to avoid.

    I actually really enjoyed both novels by the end for differing reasons, and felt immensely satisfied at the achievement of having completed them having gone through the difficult periods in the reading process.

    Admittedly, these novels didn’t feature just unpleasant themes to digest, or difficult passages mentally and morally to comprehend, but hopefully you can power through and get to the end, then you’ll be fully able to comprehend how much you agree with the “art” sentiment, and how much you agree to its inclusion on lists of literary accomplishment.

    I feel more concerned that this is actually the next novel on my own personal reading list.

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  16. Call me Cordelia #

    Yes, of course, I’ve felt this way! I didn’t care for “Naked Lunch” either (barely remember reading it, I’ve purged the details from my mind) and I despised “Frankenstein” but I pushed through, hoping for the best… I was disappointed, but this is where skimming/scanning skills come in handy!

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  17. I can relate to the feeling of how we feel pressured to like certain books because of their critical acclaim. Yet when we read the book, we don’t get what all the fuss is about.

    I know when I was in high school there were a couple of “the classics” that I read and just didn’t like. But probably the book I hated the most that I had to read for school was called “The Fixer.” While it wasn’t boring me to tears, it was creeping me out. I wasn’t a fan.

    I think we feel that pressure to like a book because of the social pressure of the “Everybody else is doing it” mentality. We feel like if the critics like it, if our friends like, if Time likes it, then we should like it, too. But that’s not always the case. We all have different tastes and interests and pet peeves when it comes to what makes a book enjoyable or not.

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  18. I think this may have something to do with parenthood. I saw the film “Happiness” before I had a son and thought it was quite disturbing and well done. But if someone wanted me to see that film again today, they couldn’t pay me enough money to sit through it.

    That said, I’m sure you realize what this means for your project. So if you’ve made it this far, you need to skim, as one reader suggested. Get through the details quickly. Abandoning all the work you’ve done would be quite a disappointment.

    Hang in there.

    Like

    March 19, 2015
    • I’ll probably just skim through the rest of it. I can’t read the detail of some of this stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      March 20, 2015
  19. Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  20. Markie #

    I tried so hard with Catch-22 because everyone loves it but I just didn’t get it. I’ve tried twice so far so maybe I’ll try again in the future but at the moment ‘life is too short…’

    Liked by 1 person

    March 19, 2015
  21. I didn’t hate this book as much as you, i have a fondness for Beat era writers, but i know this feeling well. Most recently I recently gave up on a Margaret Atwood book after barely surviving Oryx & Crake. I picked up The Year Of The Flood simply because it was billed as the sequel, but after 100 pages i just couldn’t do it.

    Like

    March 19, 2015
    • I just wrote a post about being stuck in the middle of a book and I was remembering M. Atwood’s The Blind Assassin which I wanted to give up on for the first, oh I don’t know, fifty pages or so. Maybe more. But it turned out to be one of my favorite books of all time! However, Oryx and Crake, was AWFUL. But I did finish it. Probably because Atwood autographed it for me. But my point is – don’t give up on ALL Atwood books!

      Like

      March 21, 2015
  22. I feel your pain Robert!
    I would say try to get through it for the project, but I’ll be honest… i didn’t finish this one.

    Like

    March 19, 2015
  23. Of the hundreds of books that I’ve read, there have only been a few that I just couldn’t finish. My mom always laughs when she asks me if I’m enjoying the book I’m reading, and I reply, “no, not really”. “If you’re not enjoying it, then find something else,” she says. I guess it’s just me, because even if I’m not liking it, I’m hoping it will get better so I have to finish…. sad isn’t it? Especially when there are millions of books out in the world to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 20, 2015
  24. Gosh, that book sounds awful to read! I have this problem all the time studying Literature! For example, ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert – supposedly this fantastic novel in which the protagonist is a feminist icon – is the most boring book I have ever read in my life. I could only read two or three pages a day.

    Like

    March 20, 2015
  25. Yes, it’s happened to me. A. S. Byatt! Could not get through even a few pages. Good luck w/ this. I’ve never read it and I’m a bit afraid.

    Like

    March 21, 2015
    • Possession is a tough read. I struggled with A.S. Byatt as well.

      Like

      March 23, 2015
  26. I just wrote a post about being stuck in the middle of a book that I actually DO want to read, it’s an intriguing plot, starting off a bit slow but I think it’s going to get better. The main problem is finding time to read as much as I want and if a book doesn’t GRAB me, well….. But I think you should try to finish it because I want to know more about how bad it is. Someone made me watch the movie version once back in the nineties and I wasn’t impressed. They acted like it was a big deal. As Holden Caulfield would say: “a bunch of phonies.”

    Like

    March 21, 2015
  27. Reblogged this on MiszPhanget.

    Like

    March 22, 2015
  28. #Epic

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  29. yes. for whom the bell tolls by hemingway. snooze-fest zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Like

    March 25, 2015
  30. Wow, thats just like the book I am reading right now ; The Master and Margarita (in eng) by Mikhail Bugalov (russian writer). And I am from the eastern Europe, I know Russian language, their expressions, and culture, but still found it hard to read. Not that is boring, its just hard to keep up with the plot. I understood the message, its really accurate and up to date (at that time), its an work of art in that part of the world…. it was just hard for me to read it….

    Like

    April 1, 2015

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