Saturday, June 8, 2013

Giving Up and Moving On: DNFs in Spring 2013

Hello again everyone. A lot has happened since my last post. The semester ended, summer started, and I graduated from college. That's right everyone, I now officially have my BA in English, so that makes me qualified for... something. I don't know. Actually, I'm still unemployed. Like I said, BA in English.
Anyway, before I tell you about my summer reading, I want to catch you all up on what I read for classes last semester. And, since I'm too lazy to write a real review still enjoying my vacation, I thought I'd start out with the books I didn't read. (That's right, even we high-and-mighty English majors skip out on our assigned reading every now and then. Just don't tell my professors.) So, without further ado, here's the list of books I was supposed to read this semester but just couldn't finish.

North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell
I really had good intentions with this one. It was assigned for a British novels class I was taking, and I honestly enjoyed most of the books we read. Besides, I'd heard that it was about the working class and had a strong female protagonist. It sounds like exactly the kind of book I'd love, right? Yeah, well, about that. First of all, the structure is pretty awful. Admittedly, this is partially because it was originally serialized. Gaskell had to meet certain guidelines, so I don't blame her entirely, but it's still a pretty awkwardly-paced book. Secondly, the characters just aren't as good as Austen's or even Bronte's. Thirdly, the romance is completely unbelievable and feels contrived. Lastly, at this point in the semester I was really tired of books that focus on compromise. The whole book is a compromise between North and South, labor and the masters, poverty and wealth, etc. Just for once I'd like to read a British novel that doesn't end with "I think we all learned a valuable lesson about first impressions and compromise," especially when it comes to working conditions for the working poor, and especially when that compromise means that no-one really has to change in any meaningful way. I love that Gaskell tackled issues like industrialization and working conditions. I just wish she had actually committed to it instead of only going halfway.
Reasons for Leaving: bad pacing, mediocre writing, flat characters, annoying plot.
Likelihood of Resuming Someday: Maybe when I haven't just finished four better similar novels.

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
This book was also for that British novels class. (I promise I'm usually a better student than this.) I'd always assumed that the people whom I'd heard complaining about Dickens were just not classics lovers. Surely I would be different. After all, my favorite books include The Odyssey and Persuasion. Well, I managed to get about five chapters into this one before wanting to stab my eyes out with a rusty metal file. After that, I refused to read any further, and relied on Sparknotes for everything except the last few pages. Seriously, how on earth is Dickens so popular? Like, what kind of bookish crack is the literary world on that makes people want to read this? I don't know, but I will try everything in my power to never read another Dickens novel again for as long as I live.
Reasons for Leaving: boring, bland, torturous writing. I thought I was actually going to die.
Likelihood of Resuming Someday: Never again, oh goodness please no.

The Song of Roland - Anonymous
This one was actually for a Medieval History class, which was about as enjoyable as you could expect a 9:00 a.m. lecture class to be. To be honest with you, I read the beginning and end of this one. Since the middle was mostly a list of all the people our heroes killed ("and then he killed this guy, and then that guy, and then about 1000 more) I figured it was safe to skip it. The beginning and end had some interesting bits that made for a useful final exam essay, but that's about all I got out of it. (Sorry, Eric.)
Reasons for Leaving: The middle was tedious and repetitive.
Likelihood of Resuming Someday: It's an interesting and useful source for the time period, so maybe? We'll see.

Well, that's what I've been not reading this semester. Soon I'll tell you about what I actually finished. Hint: it was pretty awesome. See you soon!


  1. The Dickens-bashing makes me so happy! I had the exact same experience with the exact same book. I couldn't believe how bad it was. I abandoned it a few chapters in. Granted, I had also read David Copperfield and I still remember that one as a decent book, but then again I was ten or so when I read it, so I don't know. I think one might convince me that Dickens wrote a few decent books, but not that Great Expectations is among them.

    Also, congrats on getting your degree and please tell me this also means you'll be blogging more :)

    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who felt that way about Great Expectations. Maybe I'll give David Copperfield a try someday. Maybe. (Maybe not)
      And yes, I'll definitely be blogging much more now. Yay for free time!

  2. SO happy you are back! I loved this post! And I am happy to see someone I respect as a reader of the Classics not like Dickens. Congrats on your degree! That's such a good feeling. Cannot wait to see what reading you have in store for this summer.

    1. I'm happy to be back. I'm really glad I'm not the only one who isn't a fan of Dickens. And yes, graduating feels pretty awesome. Though applying to graduate programs and studying for the GRE aren't nearly as cool.
      I can't wait to review the few books I've already read this summer.

  3. I was supposed to read Great Expectations during the summer before 9th grade, and I don't think I got past page one. No really, I TRIED and only managed one page. Then I read Oliver Twist in undergrad and at first I was all, oh, this is kind of funny, and then it just kept being the same thing for hundreds of pages and UGH. I think I only finished it because of how much I liked the professor.

    And CONGRATULATIONS! I have one of those degrees as well. :]

  4. Congratulations on your graduation!

    I really like some Dickens and others not so much. Great Expectations is not among the ones I really like, though I think I might go back and re-read it at some point just out of curiosity since I read it back in high school. The one I really love is Bleak House. I think it's some of Dickens' best writing. SO you might try that one at some point.

    North and South has been on my list of books I'd like to try.

    I have Song of Roland on my shelf, I think I bought it at a used book store when I was feeling ambitious. But I've never read it because it was never assigned reading and there always seem to be more interesting choices waiting to be read. I almost wish I'd taken a class where it was required. Then I might have read it. It's the kind of book I wish I'd read but don't want to read now. Does that make any sense?

  5. I wasn't all that impressed with North and South, either. I liked the main character, but it was just too much clunky symbolism and IMPORTANT ISSUES after a while.

  6. North and South took me two tries, and in the end it was good but not a favorite. I did like the heroine though.

    Dickens is pretty uneven. I hate Great Expectations but love David Copperfield. I mean to read Bleak House some day.