Why I Despise…

After reading this article from New York Magazine recently, ‘Why I Despise The Great Gatsby, I started thinking about the topic of ‘great literary classics you secretly can’t stand’ and our reluctance to admit to them. It seems to be something of a literary taboo – confessing which novels, whether from centuries ago or those which critics are rushing to crown as the greatest work of our age, you actually hate. While I can’t agree with Schulz about The Great Gatsby (it happens to be one of my all-time favourite novels), I certainly understood where she was coming from, and there’s a definite pressure to love a novel just because it has that ‘classic’ tag before its name. Once it’s been included in any form of ‘top 100’ list, it’s seemingly immune from criticism for all eternity.

For full disclosure, the one novel that immediately comes to mind for me is The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I still remember my teacher’s gasp, studying the novel in 6th form, when I admitted to the group that I’d hated everything about it, and spent the whole thing wishing Holden Caulfield, the novel’s main protagonist, would stop being so self-absorbed and, quite frankly, whiny about every aspect of his very privileged life. I read it when I was 16 or 17, surely the perfect age to identify with his teenage angst and desire to rebel. While I understood what Salinger was trying to achieve, and even why it had become such a well-loved novel, I just couldn’t feel any of that love for it myself. Most people don’t agree with me, and it’s a book that I’ve had debates about with friends and course-mates over the years, who insist that I ‘just don’t get it’ or insist that I re-read it. Perhaps I will, and decide that, actually, I love it. But for now I’ll stand firm.

So tell us, what great classic or recent critically acclaimed novel do you secretly (or openly) despise?  (I’ll definitely be interested to see which titles everyone in the A&B office come up with!)

Sarah Fortune, currently doing work experience at A&B

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2 thoughts on “Why I Despise…”

  1. This is probably unfair judgement on my part, seeing as I didn’t really give the book a chance, having only read some 40 pages before putting it down. But I’d have to go with the award-winning, international bestseller, “The Slap”, by Cristos Tsialkas. I simply despised the characters and saw no need to spend any more of my time with them. I gather I’m not alone in my opinion, as the book has garnered a bit of a marmite reputation – readers either love it or hate it. I was definitely in the latter category.

  2. I will second ‘The Slap’, I couldn’t bear to read more than a chapter or two. I’ve also tried a few times to read Barbara Pym and I just don’t like the tone of the ones I’ve tried, they are just seem dreary to me.

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