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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Sunday, July 24, 2005 - 08:43 pm:   

Y'all gotta have some of these. For whatever reason, you couldn't get through a book that most people who read it just simply ooo and ahhh about, and when you tell them later, they can't BELIEVE you didn't finish it.

Me first. AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman. I dunno. I bogged down in the middle somewhere. The thing won a bunch of awards, and I still couldn't finish it.

That's one. Another later, when y'all have had a chance to spill.
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Steve Parker
Posted on Sunday, July 24, 2005 - 09:02 pm:   

For me, C.J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station was a brick wall I couldn't scale.

I didn't develop particularly strong feelings about the characters. The sentences didn't really flow as I read them (my own limitations, perhaps, rather than the fault of the prose itself). And the whole thing just felt about as gripping as a margarine paperclip.

The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton was also a downer for me. I just never bought into the central premise at all, though the writing was very smooth.
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mastadge
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2005 - 03:55 am:   

THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien. I've made it through Book 5 a bunch of times, but have never been able to make myself care enough to forge ahead through Book 6.
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2005 - 06:11 am:   

Book 5? Book 6? Have I missed something?

For me, the first one I'll mention is GORMENGHAST by Mervyn Peake. The text is so florid and slow. I'd find myself looking around the room in the middle of paragraphs instead of concentrating on the text. I got about 100 pages into it and just couldn't go on. I'm not a slow reader, but that took me three weeks to accomplish, and I can't afford to spend that much time with a book!

JK
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gary gibson
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2005 - 07:13 am:   

Gormenghast I got through, but more out of 'I'll-finish-the-damn-book-if-it-kills-me' than anything else. The one that really sticks in my mind was Lord of Light by Zelazny. I tried to love it, I really did, but I chucked it in after fifty very hard pages.

Delany's Dhalgren is another, but that was a long time ago, and I'm thinking of giving it another shot. Sometimes a book you can't read becomes something you can ten years later: and of course sometimes the reverse happens too.
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2005 - 08:49 am:   

That's interesting Gary. I have the exact same thing with Dhalgren. Couldn't get through it, but have placed it on the shelf with the best of intentions to come back to it in the future.

JK
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Oliver Dale
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2005 - 06:20 pm:   

Patrick,

I picked up AMERICAN GODS precisely because it had won a bunch of awards. I finished it, but did so more out of duty than anything else.

Some books I didn't finish. Patricia McKillip's RIDDLEMASTER. Allende's HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS. Stephen King's DREAMCATCHER. Some of those might have been from circumstances and not because of the books themselves.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2005 - 10:16 pm:   

Steve, interesting about Cherryh. I liked DOWNBELOW STATION, but couldn't begin to get through its sequel, FORTY THOUSAND AT GHENNA (sp).

Gary & John, I think I was on a "I discovered Delany!" kick in college. I'd finished NOVA, EINSTEIN INTERSECTION, and TRITON, and said WOW, and picked up DHALGREN, and actually zipped right through it. Not sure I know WHY I did, though. <g>

Oliver, I liked the whole McKillip RIDDLEMASTER series, although I was much younger when I read it.

Another book I didn't finish was Neal Stephenson's SNOWCRASH. Loved the opening, the hi-tech pizza delivery, and then lost interest. I think it was a busy time in my life, my reading time nearly non-existent, and I think it must be a book you've got to get through FAST.
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Tamar
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2005 - 04:29 am:   

I used to pick up Kafka's 'The Castle' every so often, read the first page, and my brain would sort of shut down. Then one day I picked it up and kept reading, and subsequently became a Kafka nut.

I opened a book of his recently after a long Kafka-free hiatus, and I just couldn't. It was too depressing.
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Amy Sisson
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2005 - 08:05 am:   

"The Hobbit" -- tried twice.
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2005 - 08:45 am:   

Of the books mentioned above, I too couldn't get through "American Gods" and "Dhalgren". Add "Good Omens" to that list, and recently, the last three books in the Harry Potter series.

Ahmed
http://ahmedakhan.journalspace.com
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2005 - 03:11 pm:   

I loved LORD OF LIGHT, actually. Or...I REMEMBER loving it, when I read it in college.

Speaking of depressing... DOOMSDAY BOOK by Connie Willis. Didn't finish it, and I've always finished everything else. I'll pick it up again though, some day.
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gary gibson
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2005 - 04:32 pm:   

Snow Crash - when I say I evangelised that book when it came out, I'm really not kidding. I used to push it on people, saying 'go on, try this, the first one's free'. You really have to go back and finish it, even just for the world's funniest mall decapitation scene.

I think sometimes when you're younger, certain 'denser' books are harder to get into because you really sometimes need an older, perhaps wiser perspective to understand them, which may well be the case with Dhalgren. I don't know. In some ways, I've got a version of Dhalgren in my head which probably has nothing to do with the actual book itself. You can not get into a book but still really, really like the central premise. Jeter's 'Madlands' as I recall isn't dissimilar to Dhalgren in some respects, perhaps enough so Dhalgren might be an influence (particularly that whole 'things burning forever in the night sky' thing). But I really liked Madlands, so go figure. Perhaps in that sense, Madlands is to Dhalgren what Interpol are to Joy Division - taking the basic ideas and presenting them in a more accessible form? Just a (vague, random) bunch of thoughts.

On the other hand, I loved Dune (the first one, anyway: I used to go out with this girl who kept buying the sequels for me, even after repeated requests to please, please get me something else: I think it was some form of sadistic emotional torture). But I know a lot of people who found Dune really hard going.

Perhaps the question here is, what is it that some people are getting out of certain books the rest of us aren't? Is it really just taste, or simply a case of different environments and upbringings generating different needs in fiction? For me, there's something about really, really good books (ie books that I like) that offer something almost indefinable - as if the book is some weird reflection of some inner landscape, inside my head, and reading that book creates a sense of familiarity with something I can't even find the words to describe because I'm not consciously aware of it.
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Jim Van Pelt
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2005 - 08:18 pm:   

Hi, Gary. I like your last paragraph. There are a bunch of books I couldn't finish (last year I was one of the judges for the Phillip K. Dick award, and there were MANY I couldn't finish). DHALGREN is one of my non-finishers, as was GORMENGHAST, which someone else mentioned.

I like the idea of a book as a "weird reflection of some inner landscape." That describes my reaction to Robert Holdstock's MYTHAGO WOOD, which I think is my absolute favorite novel of that length (it's not fair to compare a short novel to LORD OF THE RINGS or THE STAND).

To be able to write a short story or novel that lights up someone else's inner landscape seems a worthy goal. I think it can be done with short stories too. Bester's "Fondly Farenheit," Ellison's "Hitler Painted Roses," Tolkien's "A Leaf by Niggle" all struck me just as hard as the novels I mentioned.
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Harry Connolly
Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 12:58 pm:   

I couldn't read past page 30 of Kushiel's Dart. The writing was excellent, but I didn't want to be in the same room with the narrator.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 02:36 pm:   

I never had trouble with Dhalgren for some reason.

Couldn't finish David Mitchel's recent Cloud Atlas --I read the first section and didn't care for it so never continued, although everyone says I should. Some day, maybe.

Tried Gravity's Rainbow several times and finally pushed through it, not very happily. Also, tried reading Cormac McCarthy's Suttree and couldn't finish it. I found it too dense and dull.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 04:31 pm:   

Ditto Ellen on GRAVITY'S RAINBOW. Haven't tried McCarthy's SUTTREE, but I sure enjoyed ALL THE PRETTY HORSES (but haven't read the sequels).

Gary, I devoured DUNE (and later, the sequels, though they got progressively worse), and that was when I was in Junior High. Probably didn't understand half of what was going on with the politics, relgion, economics, but man I loved the story. It's a big reason why I got so into reading SF.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 04:54 pm:   

I DID, however, love the disgusting candy sequence in Gravity's Rainbow :-)
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StephenB
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 12:44 am:   

So are you saying that Gravity's Rainbow isn't really worth slogging through? It's a book I never got that far with.
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Forrest
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 06:14 am:   

I never made it all the way through Gravity's Rainbow either, but I did make it through Mason & Dixon, and it was one of the best books I've ever read. It was tough, at times, but I felt that Pynchon was a genius by the finish. I'll have to go back and try GR again, I think.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 07:57 am:   

StephenB,
It's hard to say. I didn't think it worth it, but many people love it.
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Tim Akers
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 08:09 am:   

I've made several passes at Gravity's Rainbow, as well as various Iain Sinclair books. I just have trouble getting traction, partly because my only available reading time is at work over my lunch hour. Not the best environment. Then again I have no problem with Joseph Conrad, Dante or Melville. Tuned in to the older mind, I suppose.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 10:27 am:   

Oh yeah. Iain Sinclair. I tried White Chapel, Scarlet Tracings and couldn't do it. Also have trouble with Peter Acroyd. Couldn't get into Chatterton.
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Gary Wassner
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 10:34 am:   

I finally gave up on The Etched City after trying very hard to read it. I ultimately rarely ever give up on any book, but time is more precious now than it used to be. I read through American Gods waiting and waiting and waiting for it to be as good as so many said. Sadly, I got to the end before that happened for me.
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MarcL
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 11:23 am:   

I loved Chatterton, read it first of his books, then the awesome Hawksmoor. The Great Fire of London was also good.

I haven't been able to get through any of his later books except for the monumental Dickens biography. The ones I have read, I haven't enjoyed.

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John Bowker
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 12:27 pm:   

It took me two tries and a running third start to get through Stranger in a Strange Land, even though I'd read and liked a lot of other Heinlein. Once I got past page 110, it was smooth sailing but getting there took some effort.

Dune is another book I pick up and put down on a fairly regular basis. I recognize it's good, but the material has been retread so many times by some many authors that came after that it feels stale to me.
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Tim Akers
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 01:15 pm:   

Funny that Dune is stale because it was the source material for such much later stuff. It's a pity.

American Gods I had no trouble with. First time I read Perdido Street Station I was expecting something different. I read maybe the first fifty pages, then put it down and reset my expectations. Came back a couple weeks later and tore through it. The Scar I just devoured.

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GabrielM
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 01:26 pm:   

Love Ackroyd, but his recent fiction has been disappointing. On the other hand, I thought both ALBION and LONDON were tremendous. His Shakespeare bio will be out in the fall.

I think Sinclair rewards perseverance, but you can't be in the mood for a casual read.

Gaddis's THE RECOGNITIONS is something I started a couple of times but didn't finish.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 02:12 pm:   

Oh, I tried Hawksmoor and didn't care for that either. Oh well.

I read one Gaddis--I can't recall which--and while I think I finished it, was not impressed. I found his lack of quotation marks pretensious and off-putting. Don't know if he does that with all his books, but in the one I read, he did. That to me is a good example of "experimental writing" failing, because I noticed it.
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gary gibson
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 04:01 pm:   

I didn't try Gravity's Rainbow, but I made a serious assault on Vineland several times before giving up. I end up feeling bad about that because it has such enormous respect (or at least I perceive that to be the case), and always have this sneaking suspicion that somehow I'm missing something. I can see how much it influenced writers like Neal Stephenson, but I feel like i'm watching some comedian in a club where everyone else is laughing and I can't figure out why.

Which makes me feel like I need to immediately assess something resembling intellectual kudos by saying how much I admire JG Ballard ...
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StephenB
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2005 - 05:15 am:   

GR seems like the type of book certain academics, with serious amounts of knowledge in science, history, etc, would enjoy.
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MarcL
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2005 - 11:08 am:   

It takes a polymath to write a book like GRAVITY'S RAINBOW but not to enjoy it. Agreed with Ellen, the bad candy sequence is one of the funniest things ever written, but there's lots more in there to like. The first Pynchon I read was V, which I thought was great. VINELAND starts off with a flavor reminiscent of T.C. Boyle and Neal Stephenson, then goes somewhere very different; I admit I liked the beginning best.
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StephenB
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2005 - 05:32 pm:   

I think I'd read V, before trying to tackle GR again.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2005 - 08:40 pm:   

I read V and liked it ok, although it didn't make me run out and read other boks by him.
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Bill G
Posted on Saturday, July 30, 2005 - 03:25 am:   

DON QUIXOTE
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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, July 30, 2005 - 03:42 am:   

I've read the first part of Don Quixote. It's not that I'm not going to finish it. Just taking a break.:-) Funny book though.
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Chris
Posted on Saturday, July 30, 2005 - 09:12 am:   

Loved Neverworld but strangely I got stuck halfway through American Gods. Another one that sticks in my mind is Perdido Street Station. Here's something I just realized; both these books I had greatly looked forward to reading and I think it might have been my expectations as much as anything else that killed them for me.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Saturday, July 30, 2005 - 10:31 am:   

Neverwhere?
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R.Wilder
Posted on Saturday, July 30, 2005 - 04:05 pm:   

I've only read the first 400 pages of Gravity's Rainbow, in a two day binge while working a temp job. I was buying used text books from students at a small college in Detroit and the first few days there was little traffic and lots of time. It was wonderful. But once those two days were over I put the damn thing down and haven't picked it up since. I loved V, Vineland, Lot and the short story collection.
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, August 01, 2005 - 05:53 pm:   

The Bible.

It started off strong, but quickly bogged down in too many characters and I got confused. I hear it eventually develops a strong, sympathetic protagonist and the climax is quite powerful, but then it dissolves into a bunch of mystical stuff sorta like the ending of 2001.

I have a feeling that trying to get into it right now would be like starting the Harry Potter series just before book 7 comes out. Why read it when you can see it in the theater?

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E Thomas
Posted on Tuesday, August 02, 2005 - 01:40 pm:   

I actually don't think there has been a book I've completely given up on that I decided to read.

As for Lord of Light, I really liked that book, but I always recommend it with the caveat that you have to get 150+ pages in before it starts making sense and really picking up. I also suspect it is better on a second reread, though I haven't reread it yet.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Wednesday, August 03, 2005 - 12:36 pm:   

It maybe too early to tell, and I WILL go back and try again, but I had trouble with the first part of Dan Simmons' ILIUM. I've read MOST of Simmons' work to date. But...anyone else have trouble? Shall I grit my teeth and slog through?

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