What book took you the longest to read, and do you feel it was the content or just the length that made it so?
King Hereafter, hands down. It wasn’t the length; I can zoom through a thousand pages in a few days. And it wasn’t really the content; again, huge, sweeping epics are kind of my thing, coming from fantasy as I do. It was the accessibility; Dunnett really throws you into the deep end and asks you to learn how to swim. It’s worth it, but the learning curve is so steep it took me three weeks to finish it off. I even cleared out an evening to sit down with it and the dog, and couldn’t make much headway. I even had to read a graphic novel during just so a review would actually go up on the blog (this is why I have a posting buffer now!). Ultimately, it was worth it, but three weeks is an absolute eternity for me in terms of reading.
What’s the hardest/most challenging book you’ve ever read? Was it worth the effort? Did you read it by choice or was it an assignment/obligation?
The hardest book—or, to be more specific, the book I remember having difficulty just reading—I’ve ever read for class is Absalom, Absalom! in high school. While I ultimately liked the story, the sheer willful obscurity of the prose angered and frustrated me like nothing else. I’m a minimalist editor; I believe that there should be no barriers between your meaning and your audience. I often use a window metaphor to explain this. I prefer a clean window between author and reader; Absalom, Absalom! was caked in dirt. I’m glad I read it, so I’ve experienced Faulkner, but it certainly hasn’t motivated me to pick up anything else he’s written.
The hardest book I’ve ever read for myself was King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett. The difficulty lay in the fact that it was just so incredibly dense, long, and occasionally given to tangents. I did enjoy it, but it took me three weeks to read it, which is just an eternity for me.
The fraternal twin sister to the doorstopper fantasy novel is the doorstopper historical fiction novel; it’s a matter of setting and scope, I think. When either one is executed well, there’s a similar sense of immersion and escapism that can be downright comforting. So I’d thought we’d look at two doorstopper historical fiction novels on my reading list—both of which are set on the British Isles.
(I just checked my scheduled posts, and discovered that this Sunday Salon is my three hundredth post on The Literary Omnivore! Goodness.)
In Mark Bauerlein’s alarmist The Dumbest Generation, he mentions in passing that the kids these days just won’t devote the ten hours it takes to read a three hundred book. My first reaction when reading that was, “It takes you ten hours to read a three hundred page book?” Readers of my generation cheerfully volunteer just how long it took for them to read Harry Potter and the Death Hallows–usually well into the morning of the 22nd. I myself took eight hours. Part of the reason some kids don’t fall in love with reading is the simple fact that it doesn’t come as easily to them as other children. Thus, devoted readers tend to read books faster than the average Jane.
But is reading speed actually important when it comes to reading?
This week, we’re looking at two historical fiction novels that have popped up on the horizon–an old recommendation rife with murder and perhaps a touch of steampunk, and a very fresh recommendation that sounds amazing.
King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett
While Nancy Pearl breathlessly recommends Dorothy Dunnett’s historical fiction in Book Lust, she neglected to mention that reading one of her books will overwhelm your reading diet for an extended period of time. Three weeks is a good length of reading time–I can usually get three or four novels under my belt in that time. King Hereafter, on the other hand, demanded all of those three weeks. So let this review start with a warning- while Dunnett is worth the time investment, you’re going to want to clear out your calendar.
Usually, I never run into the problem of reading the same book two Tuesdays in a row, but there’s certainly enough material in King Hereafter to solve that.
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
No more than the next man did Ealdred, Bishop of Worcester, England, enjoy the rigours of travelling. But in the art of arriving he was matchless.
pg. 439 of King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your 2 ‘teasers’ in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!
Usually, on Valentine’s Day, I try to be a subversive little Cupid, handing out candy and silly kids’ Valentines. (This year’s batch is G.I. Joe themed- my favorite of all of them is the one that states, quite simply, “YOU’RE A NINJA”.) It’s my little way of poking fun at the holiday’s (and our culture’s) focus on heteronormative romantic love by doling out the ace platonic love in spades. (Pun completely intended.)
I spend a lot of time denigrating the Twilight saga. While I think Twilight itself is decent, New Moon and Eclipse are simply pointless. (I’m going to do a Sunday Salon in the future about series- these will definitely come into play.) I’m not fond of the treatment of romance, Bella’s passive character, or the bizarre bastardization of vampire mythology. While I’m more than happy it gets the wee lasses reading, they need to move to better stuff very quickly.
The northern hemisphere, at least, is socked in by winter right now… So, on a cold, wintry day, when you want nothing more than to curl up with a good book on the couch… what kind of reading do you want to do?
I want to lose myself in an epic fantasy, quite frankly! The Fellowship of the Ring looks so tempting whenever I see it out of the corner of my eye. There’s something so nice about being curled up in bed with an epic fantasy in your lap and forgetting the cold weather outside with hobbits and kings.
But this year, I’m trying to move away from my beloved fantasy and expand my literary horizons. So, this winter, I’m trying to lose myself in historical fiction, namely Dorothy Dunnett’s King Hereafter. It’s just as massive and epic as any good fantasy, I have to say, so it gives me the escapism I want from a book in winter.
In short–just give me an epic storyline and I am golden.