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  1. #1
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    Default books you've had to stop reading

    i've had to put down moby dick. i put off reading the copy i bought for 20 years. made a fist of it and just read 61 chapters - over half of it.

    however i'm totally sickened by the slaughter of whales it describes. yes - it is within the context of an earlier age when hunting whale was incredibly dangerous for men - but even so it disgusts me. melville is entirely wrapped up in the perceived excitement, honour and majesty of the activity.

    it's a thoroughly disgraceful bit of writing that deserves none of the respect (oh sacred american tome) accorded to it.

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    I'm one of the legions who made it halfway through Moby Dick. I thought it was marvellous, but full of punishing digressions. Luka WILL mock me here for making it halfway through.

    The animal rights angle is interesting, as that hadn't even occurred to me. I wonder if this has been a popular criticism levelled at it? Reminds me of Nabokov's lecture on Don Quixote, where he roundly rejects it for its revelling in cruelty:

    http://www.nytimes.com/1983/02/13/bo...pagewanted=all

    Hunting is one of the formative activities of our species (of any species really), and was a source of excitement and joy for thousands of years. Indeed, it is only in our modern industrial society that hunting animals is a minority pursuit. Not to say we should revel in it ourselves, but to impugn people living in a prior age for doing so as 'disgraceful' is surely a little harsh? Not worthy of ANY of the respect its accorded? Surely Moby Dick's reputation doesn't rest upon its humane treatment of whales?

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    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Berlin-Imag.../dp/1780224583

    I started reading this yesterday. Caught my eye in a shop and I'm visiting Berlin for the first time in a few years. I will give it another shot, but the introduction was so laboriously written that it put me right off:

    'A Soviet MiG flew low over the Brandenberg Gate, touching the sound barrier, shaking the windows and my faith in the inherent goodness of man.'

    The upside to reading a sentence like this in a critically praised book is that it makes you think 'maybe even I could get published, and praised, if I manage to put together 300 pages of this stuff!'

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    Moby dick is outstanding. Fully deserving of its place at the peak of the canon. I think it is a mistake to focus on the descriptions of the horror of the whaling industry - it is only one aspect of a multi-faceted and often contradictory symbolic order, and I dont think its fair to say the melville revels in it. Certainly the idea that it is 'american psycho' for whales seems deeply wrong to me.

    Have you read Blood Meridian?

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    The elaborate descriptions of cruelty provide the justification for the whales madness, its righteous fury. Amongst other things, the whale symbolises nature placing a limit on man's dominance, unwillingness to be exploited - an exploitation condemned by Melville, the murder of whales being "in order to light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all."

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    Dont think Ive ever stopped reading something out of disgust. Mostly boredom or shitness.

    If something elicits a visceral reaction then its a must read.

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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    The elaborate descriptions of cruelty provide the justification for the whales madness, its righteous fury. Amongst other things, the whale symbolises nature placing a limit on man's dominance, unwillingness to be exploited - an exploitation condemned by Melville, the murder of whales being "in order to light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all."
    actually you can safely ignore my comments in this thread and engage with droid's. He's more articulate and better informed than me. After all, he's read it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Corpsey View Post
    Not to say we should revel in it ourselves, but to impugn people living in a prior age for doing so as 'disgraceful' is surely a little harsh? Not worthy of ANY of the respect its accorded? Surely Moby Dick's reputation doesn't rest upon its humane treatment of whales?
    i stopped reading it because of the cruelty. where the cruelty is pitched in that book - it's simply wrong. you can write about cruelty certainly - but it's where you place the reader that matters. you could write a proper book about whaling - but this isn't it.

    i'm more than happy to judge people in a prior age. i'd say it's up there with that other "classic" mein kampf. moby dick is a throughly ignorant book.

    its literary merits are reasonably thin on the ground too. ok, the introduction is breathtaking. but as soon as the boat sets sail melville spends the entire time letting the reader know how erudite and well-researched he is on the subject of whales.

    this is a book which owes its reputation to unquestioning readers - and ultimately its attitude to whales is indefensible.

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    Woebot, in light of your thoughts on Moby dick, what's your opinion of homophobic dancehall? Are the two equatable?

    ps. Sorry if you have already addressed this before.

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    I think Achebe on Conrad is relevant here, with reference to cruelty precluding greatness, and the expectation that authors transcend the era in which they live

    http://kirbyk.net/hod/image.of.africa.html

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    So if it's literary merits are thin on the ground, it owes it's reputation ENTIRELY to unquestioning readers? This reminds me of Tolstoy's critique of King Lear. You happen to be the one reader who saw through the conspiracy.

    As for likening it to Mein Kampf! Well, it's certainly an original opinion. At least I think it is. Nothing comes up on Google. Mein Kampf isn't held in high esteem as a work of prose. It's interest lies entirely in giving insight into the mind of Hitler. (But then, I guess you'd argue Melville is to whales what Hitler was to Jews.)

    Anyway, I wouldn't attempt to refute your opinion entirely, as I only got halfway through lol Perhaps I need to read the cruel bits. I don't doubt your disgust, but I wonder if it's colouring your appreciation of its literary merits. And certainly most would agree it's hard going, even boring for long stretches. But then too, not many great novels are perfect. Dostoevsky's "baggy monsters" e.g.

    I've never encountered the argument about it being cruel, actually, either. I find it interesting for that very reason. (The critique, is.)
    Last edited by Corpsey; 08-06-2016 at 09:27 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sadmanbarty View Post
    Woebot, in light of your thoughts on Moby dick, what's your opinion of homophobic dancehall? Are the two equatable?
    Given the rampant homoeroticism in MD, I like the idea of the circle being completed by a dancehall tune that's anti-gay but also really pro-whale.

    Quote Originally Posted by Corpsey View Post
    I'm intrigued by the fact that in this book of cruelty towards whales, the head whaler is a madman and the whale ends up winning. (Right?)
    Only if you ignore the 'it was all just a dream'/'Ahab is himself a Replicant' interpretation.

    But yeah, Ahab is hardly the 'hero' of the piece, is he? He's basically painted as a total nutter right from the start and his monomaniacal obsession with the whale leads to his own death and the deaths of his entire crew. It's hardly a moral manifesto for the wonders of killing large animals, at least I didn't read it that way.
    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 08-06-2016 at 10:40 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    Given the rampant homoeroticism in MD, I like the idea of the circle being completed by a dancehall tune that's anti-gay but also really pro-whale.



    Only if you ignore the 'it was all just a dream'/'Ahab is himself a Replicant' interpretation.

    But yeah, Ahab is hardly the 'hero' of the piece, is he? He's basically painted as a total nutter right from the start and his monomaniacal obsession with the whale leads to his own death and the deaths of his entire crew. It's hardly a moral manifesto for the wonders of killing large animals, at least I didn't read it that way.
    Ahab is a villain to rival McCarthy's Judge. If there is a hero it is Ishmael, or the whale itself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woebot View Post
    i stopped reading it because of the cruelty. where the cruelty is pitched in that book - it's simply wrong. you can write about cruelty certainly - but it's where you place the reader that matters. you could write a proper book about whaling - but this isn't it.

    i'm more than happy to judge people in a prior age. i'd say it's up there with that other "classic" mein kampf. moby dick is a throughly ignorant book.

    its literary merits are reasonably thin on the ground too. ok, the introduction is breathtaking. but as soon as the boat sets sail melville spends the entire time letting the reader know how erudite and well-researched he is on the subject of whales.

    this is a book which owes its reputation to unquestioning readers - and ultimately its attitude to whales is indefensible.
    A cataclysmically, astoundingly (but entertainingly) bad opinion. Have you read Mein Kampf? This is like comparing Mozart to the vengaboys.

    Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!

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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    A cataclysmically, astoundingly (but entertainingly) bad opinion. Have you read Mein Kampf? This is like comparing Mozart to the vengaboys.
    Doubly ironic given Hitler's well-known love of animals and the obsessive greenness of the Nazis generally.
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