The Quest for the Best Books Ever (part 2)

[Continued from the last post]

In my quest I even went so far as to read One Hundred Years of Solitude in Spanish, The Aeneid in Latin and tried to muscle my way through Dante‘s Inferno in Old Italian (this, admittedly, proved to be too difficult).  I was ready.  Armed with my library card and Half.com I plowed through books on my hour long train ride and subway commute to and from school each day and in classes and at lunch, but eventually, an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, and that object was Jane Austen.

Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was simply too much to bear.  As a 17 year old boy, commuting to school everyday with thousands of others on their way to New York City, I couldn’t make the jump to that era and persona.  I could struggle to breathe with Vonnegut in Dresden, I could tackle an enormous beast (and play the cuckold) with Sir Gawain and I could even serve in a field with a Jesus-esque slave, but I could not for the life of me wear jodhpurs and muscle down the clandestine courtship of a big house novel.  This would prove my undoing as I would later be derailed by Hardy‘s Far from the Maddening Crowd.

So I ask you reader, at what point do you know to put down a book?  I feel that there are too many great books to be read to suffer bad literature, but when is the point where you say “I give up?”  Or do you soldier on, looking for the redemptive qualities as your eyes cross and head turns to mush?


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