The literary blog hop is hosted over at The Blue Bookcase and the question is:
What is the most difficult literary work you've ever read? What made it so difficult?
I have three answers to these questions.
1. James Joyce, Ulysses: I haven't read all of Ulysses, but I have read quite a bit, and I always find Joyce to be serious work. There is pleasure in the prose in some chapters, but I were ever going to really read it and really finish it, I would do the work and use the Bloomsday book and all that jazz. That's what makes it so difficult. I feel like I can't just read it for itself, but I have to prepare for it, and work for it.
2. John Milton, Paradise Lost: This is probably the most difficult thing I read studying for my M.A. exam. Moby Dick was also difficult, but very pleasurable for me. Milton, not so much. The language is difficult and the complexity and length compound that, especially when I was trying to remember it and try to prepare myself for a discussion of it. I should add that this isn't my period at all. I studied 19th and 20th century American lit. If I studied Early Modern British Literature, I probably would have taken a full semester seminar on Milton.
3. J.G. Ballard, Crash: This book was difficult in a whole different sense of the word. It is a quick read and a book that I ended up "enjoying" when I read it as an adult and studied it. However, the first time I picked it up, I was sixteen years old. I had been reading books with adult content since I was very young, since I was a very advanced reader. I had read books with adult sexual content like Louise Erdich, The Beet Queen and Andrew Klavan, Don't Say a Word, when I was in eighth grade. However, this book portrayed humans in a way that I wasn't comfortable confronting at that point in my life. It was the first book I had read that made me feel physical distress, which is why it was so difficult. I had to put it down and I felt a twinge in my stomach when I realized that we would be reading it in one of my graduate seminars. However, I ending up writing on the book, and although I can't say I enjoyed reading it the subsequent times, I did end up appreciating it, and learning from it.