TTT: Difficult Reads

TTTThis was pretty hard, actually. I wanted to choose books that were good books, but hard to read because of the subject matter. Apparently… I haven’t read many of them. I wonder if that’s a reflection on me as a reader, or the books i choose to read.

But 10 books i found, and here they are.

Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles
I really enjoyed the writing of this book. It was funny and descriptive, and utterly quoteable. But. The story was almost non-existent. As well-written as the words were, there was nothing pushing them along. I put this book down and didn’t read anything for weeks. That’s how bad it was. In the end I had to give up.

Canal Dreams by Iain Banks
This book just wasn’t that thrilling, really. Especially as the description on the back promised me a kick arse female cello player murder a load of evil men. It was interesting, reading chunks an the history of the Panama canal, but the different parts of the book felt very disconnected. Then there was the rape scene. That’s never going be not difficult to read.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
This book was just tense from the get go. It was brilliant, but not a good book to read before bed.

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
Just… bad. Lovecraft is not good. I was rolling my eyes and cringing and just frustrated during this book. (This book I didn’t actually finish.) He can’t describe anything and his plots make little sense.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
This book really dragged. Things were often repeated to various degrees of detail. Lots of action and time would pass over a few pages, but then nothing would really happen and very little time would pass over entire chapters. It was inconsistent and failed to hold my attention or interest.

Chrome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
I really enjoyed this book, but it was the kind of book that takes a lot of concentration to read. I couldn’t just fall into it and let it pull me along, it made me work for it, made me pay attention. I could only manage one chapter before needing to take a break, and was often left feeling tired. A wonderful, wonderful book, though.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger
This is two stories in one book, and it is the second story that I had difficulty reading. It is pages and pages describing Seymour. Fifteen of those pages are spent describing Seymour’s face. If Chrome Yellow left me tired, this book left me fast asleep.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
This was hard to read in an eye-roll cringey way. This author (who is basing this story on her own experiences) is waving her arms and crying out desperately for attention. The book and narrative voice are inconsistent. She claims she did not have any mental health problems, but seems to enjoy the allure she believes being labelled with such gives her. Every word just screamed, “Me! Me! Pay attention to me!”

The Inheritors by William Golding
Another booked I loved, that makes the reader work for it. It is told from the point of view of Neanderthals, whose language and connection with the world and each other is vastly different and simple than our own. They used few words, and grasping the larger concepts they were trying to convey with them took some work, but was more than worth it. I saw this picture.

The Knitting Circle’s Rapist Annihilation Squad by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan
Another cringe-inducing book. Considering the subject matter, this book was verging on slapstick, and it embarrassed itself and the reader.

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories

9780141187068Title: The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories.

Author: H.P. Lovecraft.

Summary: This selection of stories ranges from early tales of nightmares and insanity such as ‘The Outsider’ and ‘The Rats in the Walls’ through the grotesquely comic ‘Herbert West—Reanimator’ and ‘The Hound’, to the extra-terrestrial terror of ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, which fuses traditional supernaturalism with science fiction. Including the definitive corrected texts, this collection reveals the development of Lovecraft’s mesmerising narrative style and establishes him as a hugely influential—and visionary—American writer.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 1.5/5

Review: Disclaimer: I could not actually finish this book. I usually squirm uncomfortably at the idea of not finishing a book, but i was not enjoying this. I think it helped that it is a book of short stories, so i didn’t actually stop reading mid-story. I finished one, with four left to go, and just could not bring myself to continue.

It started off badly in the first story. This line, in particular:

Grotesque beyond the imagination of a Poe or a Bulwer.

This is still the one line of all that that annoys me the most. It’s lazy. He’s saying, “Imagine something horrible that Poe or Bulwer would write about, well, this is worse.” How about describing it yourself, mate?

This laziness was not an isolated incident, but is the only one where he actively uses other authors’ imaginations. No, his most frequent crime, for me, was being unable to actually describe things. The whole mood or flow is ruined by scattered and repeated insistence that things are “indescribable,” “unnameable,” “unutterable” or “unmentionable.” Occasionally he’d make the effort and declare something “hideously indescribable” or “gruesomely unmentionable.” It got to the point where i was physically cringing and rolling my eyes about it. He’s supposed to be setting a mood, creating an atmosphere and transporting me to another world of horror and suspense. Instead i was left wondering what the hell was so bad, because i can’t imagine what he won’t describe!

It wasn’t all entirely bad, though. ‘The Outsider’, ‘Herbert West—Reanimator’ and ‘Cool Air’ i actually thoroughly enjoyed. While ‘The Hound’, ‘The Rats in the Walls’ and ‘The Festival’ were also good. They all had interesting subject matter (my three favourites all being about the living dead, i’ve only just realised), genuine suspense, adequate descriptions and mood setting and they didn’t drag on too long or get bogged down in insignificant details. I would easily recommend these six individual stories.

Unfortunately a few very good stories can not make up for a book filled with a majority of bad ones.

The last straw came with the title story. Cthulhu, i was so disappointed. It’s told second and third hand by a man after going through his grandfather’s notes (and notes of notes) and acquiring a written account of an encounter with Cthulhu from a now-dead sailor. It’s a very convoluted and overly complex way to tell a story. What really bothered me, though, was the narrator’s hypocrisy… or stupidity, it’s a fine line. He claims he made his discoveries regarding Cthulhu by accidentally piecing information together, that he hopes no one else will do that same and that he will never knowingly supply a link to this information. He then goes on to explain the connections he made, what exactly Cthulhu is and what it could mean for mankind, and puts his account into the file with all the information he used to draw these conclusions. Yes, that way no one else will ever figure it out.

Some of the explanatory notes told me that Lovecraft was highly influenced and inspired by Edgar Allan Poe… i just don’t see it myself. Poe was a master as creating an atmosphere in a few short lines (even if he was the opposite of Lovecraft in his insistence of over describing things!), whereas i felt little to no atmosphere in Lovecraft’s work. Poe wove interesting tales with twists and surprises, Lovecraft prattled on and never really got anywhere before ending on anticlimaxes.

Sorry, but my new nickname for him is Lovecrap.