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Monday, 30 March 2015

On the 25 most hated books (by Book Riot readers)

http://bookriot.com/2013/06/19/the-25-most-hated-books/
1/ Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (102 votes)
=> No wonder. In fact I'm glad it makes the 1st spot. 
2/ Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (90)
=> Having been the only one in class who loved this novel whereas almost everyone else hated it, I'm not surprised to find it here, I only find it unfortunate. The general reaction is annoyance at and dislike of Holden Caulfield, without any attempt to understand him- his loss, alienation, troubled mind, etc, which is apparently caused by the tendency to see "identifying with characters" as a criterion of literary merit. It goes further, I believe- based on my own teacher, another teacher in the programme, and what I have seen in the internet, people usually represent The Catcher in the Rye as a book about teen angst and Holden as a troubled teen who doesn't want to grow up because he believes kids to be innocent and adults to be hypocritical. That is a mistaken view- if the teenagers reading the book that is said to be a teen angst book don't see themselves in the protagonist and don't relate to his feelings, it's understandable that they have trouble liking and appreciating the book. But The Catcher in the Rye is much more. 
Holden is a teenager, and has certain problems of teenagers in general, but he's not typical. Note his brother's death. That loss is enough to make his world fall apart, plus a feeling of guilt, because his brother dies and he, the "worst" one in the family, survives- that makes him feel alienated from others, including his parents, and question everything. This is also why he wants to get back to the past, when Allie was alive. Holden's trouble, at the same time, comes from his intelligence and sensitivity, as he notices how many people around him pursue false values, care more about appearances and conventions, and pretend to be something they are not instead of trying to be good. Kids, generally speaking, don't pretend- because they're not aware of conventions and others' expectations, they just behave like themselves. This is why Holden adores kids and has a negative view on adults- when saying that he wants to save kids, he doesn't mean saving them from becoming adults, but saving them from becoming hypocrites and conformists as he has seen many others turn into. 
3/ Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (90)
=> No surprise. It should be up there right next to Twilight, though. 
4/ The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (53)
=> Another high school book. Why do these people hate The Great Gatsby? I don't get it. Please enlighten me.
5/ Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (41)
=> No comment, I haven't read this one. The common criticisms: "boring", "overrated". 
6/ Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (41)
=> I can see why- these readers either expect it to be a romantic, beautiful love story and don't find what they're looking for, or, again, see "identifying with characters" as a measure of the greatness of a novel. Why they do so, on the other hand, is something I don't get. 
7/ Lord of the Flies by William Golding (35)
=> I don't like it myself, though "hate" is a strong word. Or maybe I do hate it. It's the bleak vision that I can't stand- in spite of everything, I still don't lose faith in humanity, and even though lots of books I love are sad, tragic, even depressing according to some people's standard, I don't like and can't accept the idea that human beings are evil, genuinely, inherently evil. To equate evil with reality is a naive view. That's probably 1 of the reasons I prefer Tolstoy to Dostoyevsky. 
8/ The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (33)
=> No wonder. 
9/ Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (31)
=> Haven't read this one. 
10/ Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (30)
=> Haven't read it, but I've read a lot about Ayn Rand's philosophy (objectivism). I should have included her in my post on literary prejudices. 
11/ Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (28)
=> Haven't read it, but I've seen the film. Not hard to see why. As a friend of mine puts it, Gone Girl is not uplifting. Or as another friend puts it, the plot is full of holes, and does anybody notice how the women here are generally stronger/ more intelligent/ more scheming than the men, and when there's a man who is able to engage in the battle of wits with the "wife", he's black? 
12/ Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (26)
=> Again, haven't read it, but seen the film. Probably not fair to judge a book by its movie, but I feel that the film has nothing in it. Nothing. 
13/ Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (26)
=> I don't get it. Why should anybody hate Great Expectations? I read this novel before discovering Tolstoy and Jane Austen, and haven't read anything by Dickens since then, so my perception might be different now. However, it should be said, while I'm aware that people often criticise Dickens for sentimentality and his caricatures and 1-dimensional female characters, on my part I see nothing sentimental in Great Expectations (and people know how much I dislike false sentimentality), Miss Havisham and Estella have enough depth and complexity (of course don't compare them to Tolstoy's and Flaubert's female characters), and some characters such as Joe or Herbert, albeit (almost) caricatures, have a kind of convincingness or plausibility in this book, like the characters in Dead Souls. Not all writers create characters that are like human beings. 
14/ The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (25)
=> Haven't read this book. Please, tell me, why?
15/ Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (24)
=> I can see why. There can be tons of reasons: the idea that it's sentimental, trivial, mundane, confined, only romcom, only chicklit, having no passion or intellectual depth, treating unimportant issues, etc. Bright, light, sparkling. Too much dialogue, one might think. After all, my mom hates Pride and Prejudice, saying that we know more about the characters from what the narrator says and what other characters say than what they reveal themselves through words and actions. A bunch of others, famous, also hate the book, such as Charlotte Bronte and Mark Twain. 
16/ The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (23)
=> Haven't read it. But it's in my TBR list. 
17/ Life of Pi by Yann Martel (21)
=> Haven't read it, but I've seen the film. Why do people hate it? 
18/ The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (18)
=> Haven't read it. 
19/ The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (17)
=> Haven't read it. 
20/ On the Road by Jack Kerouac (14)
=> Haven't read it. I start to realise that this post of mine is like a confession. Let's play the Humiliation game- I'll definitely win. 
21/ The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (14)
=> Another book I haven't read. But I've read several others by Paulo Coelho, and can see why.
22/ Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (14)
=> This is unfortunate, but not hard to understand- people can't tolerate the contrived plot, don't like Jane, don't like Rochester, can't accept Rochester's treatment of Bertha, see Jane Eyre as an anti-feminist book and a racist book, don't like the melodrama, and so on and so forth. Nowadays I don't like it as much as in my teens. Jane Eyre is a powerful book, but it's flawed. 
23/ The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (14)
=> It was so long ago when I read The Lovely Bones. Even if I remember my reaction, I was a horrible reader then. But the ending's definitely silly- what do you call that? Karma? 
24/ The Pearl by John Steinbeck (14)
=> I remember reading this book- whether I finished it or not is uncertain, the feeling is vague. 
25/ Ulysses by James Joyce (14)
=> Haven't read this one, but I know why it's here- people often say it's boring, pretentious, etc. 
I'm rather surprised that Madame Bovary and Lolita don't make the list. Thought lots of people hated these masterpieces. 
Maybe some day I'll list the books I hate. 

2 comments:

  1. Compare the list to the site's 50 favorite novel, and the whole list concept begins to look rather pointless; note the titles appearing on both lists. It is a bit like assessing true political attitudes of a population by looking at voting results when only a few people vote. More interesting than the list are your comments. Well done.

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    Replies
    1. Pointless? I don't think so. This is interesting, though at the same time, puzzling.

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