Challenge 11 – A Book You Hated

Hi everyone

As everyone says, hate is such a strong word, and such a strong emotion to apply to a book that you have read.  Unfortunately I have experienced a surge of loathing when reading a book so I have an answer for today.  I have read a few books now for my top 100 books challenge that I found a bit boring, or a bit confusing or a bit slow, but there was one book that I truly hated.  In any other circumstances I would have stopped reading it and sent it straight back to the library but I had to finish it to review it for my challenge so for 3 months I tortured myself by reading a little bit of this book at a time.  I kept hoping it would get a bit better, or that the ending would make sense of the rest of the book so that when I looked back on the story I would feel enlightened.  After all it couldn’t have been voted by the public to number 90 on the list for nothing.  Oh how wrong I was.

On The RoadOn the Road – Jack Kerouac

My feelings towards this book are so strong that I actually feel the need to physically destroy something just looking at the cover.  If I was to give you the full synopsis for this book I’m sure you would think it sounds like a really interesting and insightful story line.  And I would agree it is, but the writing is so bad that anything exciting in this book is completely lost.  In anyone else’s hands this would be a good story but the book is too autobiographical for Jack Kerouac so he just rambles on about the insignificant things and glosses over anything remotely interesting.  It’s like he’s forgotten he was supposed to be writing a story for others to enjoy and therefore has taken all of the enjoyment out of it.  With every chapter all I could think was that I could write this story better than him; I could describe what it was like to live in these places at that time better than him, even though he actually lived in those places at that time and I, obviously, didn’t.  This book is just that bad.

Please don’t read it, unless you are a masochist.  If this is ever put on your set reading list at school or university I seriously you suggest you plan a coup and overthrow the person responsible.  Trust me, it would be worth the repercussions.

Jennie

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Book Review: On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Book 90

On the roadOn the Road swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, jazz, sex, generosity, chill dawns and drugs, with Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty, traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat. Now recognized as a modern classic, its American Dream is nearer that of Walt Whitman than Scott Fitzgerald, and it goes racing towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and autobiographical passion.

The premise of On The Road sounds exciting: set just after the second world war, an ex-soldier come disillusioned youth sets off to find himself by travelling from coast to coast across the USA.  However not once did I find this book exciting.  It is written in an autobiographical style with Sal Paradise as the protagonist of the tale.  Sal lives with his aunt in New Jersey and as a budding writer dreams of following his friends across America to the west coast and he has decided to go for it: Sal is the  epitome of “you’re only young once”.  As Sal hitch-hikes and buses his way from place to place he takes every misfortune in his stride and never seems to be concerned with anything past the next few hours.  Throughout the story he runs into various acquaintances along his travels and with very little difficulty as well: On The Road gives the impression that the USA must be very sparsely populated indeed if everyone is so easy to track down.  After all , this was before most working class families would have a telephone in their homes and a world away from the modern-day world of mobile phones and social networking.  Yet everyone is always where they should be even though no one seems to stay in one place for very long.  As Sal moves from place to place he never looks back, never wonders what became of the people he met or the places he’s seen.  He is always moving forward; avoiding all responsibility for his life and the lives around him.

What I liked about this book:  I have tried to think of something positive to say but have come up blank.  I can’t even say that the fact that it is only 300 pages is a good thing as it felt much, much longer.

What I didn’t like about this book:  There is no point listing everything I disliked, it would take too long and I’ve already wasted too much of my life on this book.  I think my biggest complaint is that in theory this could have been an intriguing story yet on paper it failed to spark the imagination.  There was also no personality in the telling of the tale, it was more as if a child had written it: And then we did this and then that and then this happened etc, etc.  I never felt I was given Sal’s take on what was happening: there was no reflection on the events and no insight as to how it made him feel.  Any descriptions that were given were unimaginative and did not transport me to 1940’s San Francisco or 1950’s Denver.  Also the pace of the book would chop and change at a moment’s notice: sometimes there was just too much happening, too much information on one page to take in yet at other times it was too slow with nothing of interest happening at all.  Sal would travel to a new town and there would only be a small paragraph dedicated to it, yet at other times the smallest occurrences would be described in minute detail to the point of boredom.

I can imagine a book about a 20-30 year old male refusing to grow up, drinking too much, taking drugs, sleeping around and travelling the country as if he were homeless would cause controversy when it was first published in 1957.  I can also imagine that at the time many young people would empathise with this book.  However I did not find it controversial and I certainly did not find myself empathising with any of the main characters.  I understand that this book is more fact than fiction; it is supposedly Jack Kerouac’s autobiography of his life travelling the country with his friends and all he did was just change some names.  This probably explains why the book doesn’t really make any sense as a piece of fiction as it’s not supposed to be.

I do feel that the main events of the book would have been more interesting if they had been written by someone with more talent for telling a good story; someone who could have injected a bit more personality into it.  There is a film adaptation due out in the UK in September 2012 and I would be interested to see if this proves my theory right: if the film is good then the failure of the book is not the content but the way it is presented.  I will never, ever read this book again and I urge anyone out there considering it not to put yourself through it.  Watch the film instead; for once I can guarantee it will be better than the book!

Ta Da!

Hi everyone

My eye has finally healed (well almost, still slightly demonic looking) and I’m back to work tomorrow.  I’m actually quite pleased to be going back as it can be quite solitary when you can’t drive a car and see people, so at least at work I will have human contact.  I’m going to try reading a book as well, I think I can manage it, but unfortunately that means attempting to finish On The Road.  I now detest this book and I still have exactly 100 pages to go.  However, my reward for reading this book will be The Twits.  I think I deserve the shortest book on my list after trying to get through On The Road for over 3 months now.  Hopefully this will be the last hiccup in my quest to read all of these books although as I’ve said before this is probably wishful thinking.  I would like to have read and reviewed On The Road and The Twits by next weekend but I’ll have to see what I can manage.  I have two humongous fantasy books to read next: Gormenghast and Magician.  I might have to sandwich a book or two in between them so that I’m not all fantasied out.

Whilst I’ve been off I’ve tried something new: audiobooks.  I’ve never really listened to audiobooks before; I prefer to read books or listen to the radio (or sometimes both but it’s not always advisable).  I had the Harry Potter series read by Stephen Fry so I thought I would give them a go to alleviate the boredom.  At first I was itching to grab my copy of Philosopher’s Stone from my bookshelf as it was so frustrating listening to it and not reading it, I think mainly due to my reading pace being quicker than Stephen Fry voicing it.  But after a while I got used to it although I soon realised that as soon as my mind becomes distracted (facebook, new blog posts on my email) I don’t take in any of what is being said and might miss a few pages whilst looking at my phone.  So it was a case of only doing menial tasks such as housework whilst listening otherwise I would miss crucial stuff.  I don’t think I would become a fan of audiobooks, the Harry Potter ones are great as Stephen Fry is amazing but I think listening to someone else’s interpretation would bias my view of the text if I ever read it myself.  I think maybe they would be good for my friends who can’t concentrate long enough to read more than a few pages of a book, but then the same amount of concentration might be required to take in everything when listening as well so maybe not.  It definitely made washing up more enjoyable.

Here’s hoping that I FINALLY finish On The Road this week!

Jennie