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What is the most challenging book you have ever read?I have several. As far as depth...

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 24, 2010 at 3:10 PM via web

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What is the most challenging book you have ever read?

I have several. As far as depth and vocabulary I had a hard time with Bleak House by Charles Dickens. It was like I could almost sense his state of mind when he wrote it.

Wuthering Heights took me a bit of time.

The Blind Watchmaker was very interesting, because of its content, but I think ultimately no book could possibly be anything less than a personal adventure.

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74 Answers | Add Yours

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martinjmurphy | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted August 24, 2010 at 3:46 PM (Answer #2)

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I had a hard time with The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.  The first section of the novel is written from the perspective of Benjy who has a severe mental handicap.  The narrative is hard to follow and quite disjointed. It was difficult getting through that first section, but the book was well worth reading.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 24, 2010 at 4:14 PM (Answer #3)

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Every year, I feel as though reading The Scarlet Letter is an accomplishment.  I always find new insights and observations which challenge my thinking and increase my appreciation for Hawthorne's use of language.  I think the challenge for me is to make this complex piece of literature meaningful for students who want easy and modern and direct--and to do so without any gimmicks or tricks.  Just plain, old-fashioned reading and appreciating.  On a personal level, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf was nearly the death of me one summer early in my reading life, and I've never tried it again.

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sboeman | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted August 24, 2010 at 5:38 PM (Answer #4)

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I think I'd have to define the word "challenging" first.  If you're referring to the difficulty of getting through a boring book, it'd have to be Absalom! Absalom! or A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. If it was a book that challenged my personal beliefs, it would be Brave New World.  I also might take "challenging" to mean thought-provoking, I would have to say it was A Clockwork Orange.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 24, 2010 at 8:38 PM (Answer #5)

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I guess the most challenging for me was The Gulag Archipelago.  In fact, many Russian authors in addition to Alexander Solzhenitsyn are difficult for me.  Tolstoy should be on that list and War and Peace, because I had such a hard time finding the time to actually finish it.  Moby Dick by Melville too.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 24, 2010 at 8:53 PM (Answer #6)

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Novels that are read in youth seem more challenging as it seems that experienced readers can  bring something to the novel.  Once Saul Bellow was asked why there are no more great books written.  He replied, "There are no great readers to buy them."

Among the challenging ones, Moby Dick was certainly one, but having reread it many years later, did, indeed, help to increase comprehension.  James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with its stream-of-consciousness bewildered one 20 year old: "What was that about?"  Virginia Woolf's works (To the Lighthouse) and those of D.H. Lawrence (Sons and Lovers) are formidable at times, too.

It does seem that some novels require at least two readings, if not more....

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted August 25, 2010 at 12:39 AM (Answer #7)

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I spent a good deal of time tussling with Moby Dick for a tutorial at uni to be truimphant as the only student who had actually read it.  It was certainly worth the effort. I keep trying to read The Bone People by Keri Hulme but the layers of Maori symbolism are still too much for me.

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cetaylorplfd | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted August 25, 2010 at 3:58 AM (Answer #8)

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Mine is Blindness by Jose Saramago.  It took me ages to work through the prose because it all just runs together.  Plus the characters are not named and are only labeled by their role in the story.  Finally, some of the scenes are hard to handle (the level of sexual violence in the book is extreme and I had to put the book down for a week before continuing which is surprising because I have never been this troubled by a book before).

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted August 25, 2010 at 6:05 AM (Answer #9)

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was an excruciatingly difficult read for me. I'd never have selected this novel as leisure reading. I had to read it for an English major class. Normally I breeze through reading assignments, whether fiction or nonfiction, but Joyce was a barrier that I found difficult to overcome. I have never attempted to read any other of Joyce's works.

The American author that I find least accessible is Faulkner. I had to read "The Bear" for a college freshman English class, and it colored my perception of all subsequent Faulkner assignments.

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted August 25, 2010 at 6:44 AM (Answer #10)

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As an undergraduate I remember having a hard time reading The Ambassadors by Henry James. I had loved Portrait of a Lady and other shorter works by James (Washington Square, Daisy Miller, The Turn of the Screw), but I could not get into Strether's European journey and his quest for his wealthy and widowed fiancée's son Chad. The book put me off James's so called "major phase" for a long time.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 25, 2010 at 7:02 AM (Answer #11)

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As far as classics go, anything by Faulkner or James gives me fits.  I also remember the first time I read The Grapes of Wrath (of course, I was in middle school, so that is a telling factor in itself), and struggling to read past the turtle crossing the road chapter.  I so wanted to catapult that turtle...as I have grown in appreciation for author's purpose, however, I can handle that chapter a little better and giggle when my students have the same reaction.

The Shack also challenged me quite a bit.  I had to read and re-read several sections of that book which challenged by belief system and made me think about not only what was being communicated, but also if I agreed with it or not and why.  It was intriguing, and made me feel a little dumb, I'll admit.

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted August 25, 2010 at 7:46 AM (Answer #12)

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I just can't get past all verbage in Dickins, so I would have to say Bleak House or David Copperfield. It wasn't that the story was hard, but it just took so long for things to happen and to discover the significance of things that I would lose track of information and need to skim back, which made the reading all the longer and more challenging.  I liked his shorter novels, in particular, Oliver Twist so I can say I am a Dickins fan, but I am selective.

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted August 25, 2010 at 8:04 AM (Answer #13)

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I would have to say that, at the time, my first attempts at Heart of Darkness and Moby Dick were some of the most frustrating reading experiences I've had. I was at a complete loss as to even a basic plot line in these works, largely because of the vocabulary and the structure of the narratives. Probably not surprising, these are two of the works I now most admire in literature. The challenge of these works and the multiple readings they required made me a better reader. It's easy to say that now, but at the time I would have gladly thrown these books out the window!

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted August 25, 2010 at 10:56 AM (Answer #14)

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Like several others here, I struggled mightily with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I've been reading as long as I can remember (I read my first 1,000 page novel when I was ten), and I usually attack challenging texts with vigor. I loved Shakespeare, loved Wuthering Heights, The Scarlet Letter, all those ones that students usually have trouble with in school. I even love non-linear, stream-of-consciousness narratives...but Joyce definitely posed the ultimate battle for me.

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kmcappello | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted August 25, 2010 at 6:00 PM (Answer #15)

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Speaking of Joyce, has anyone ever tackled Ulysses?  That's one, along with War and Peace, that I'm saving...or avoiding, depending on how you look at it!  I'd have to agree with others that Moby Dick was probably the hardest book I've ever tackled (it seemed to move so slowly), followed closely by Peter Mathiesson's The Shadow Country. Actually, now that I think about it, they're both books about a futile hunt.  Maybe it's the plot I can't take.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted August 26, 2010 at 12:30 PM (Answer #16)

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How do you define "challenging"? If you mean a book that was difficult to read because of its style or vocabulary, then it has to be Charles Dickens's Hard Times. I never got past the first chapter. If you define "challenging" as a book that just did not interest me, but I was required to read for class, then that book would be Billy Budd--just dreadful! If you mean a book that challenged me to make a change in myself, then it most definitely would be the Bible.

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ajmchugh | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted August 27, 2010 at 9:24 AM (Answer #17)

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In reply to post 15: I absolutely adore James Joyce's Ulysses.  I spent an entire semester in college working through it, and I'm glad that I did--I love every page of it.  It required so much supplementary reading (Reading Joyce's Ulysses, Allusions in Ulysses, The New Bloomsday Guide to Ulysses, etc) that it was overwhelming at times, but the payoff was so great that all the hard work was completely worth it.

I do have to say, though, that I'm not sure I would have gotten through it on my own, and I certainly benefitted from having a professor who offered a course just on this novel (although we obviously had to read Portrait first in order to meet Stephen Dedalus), since we had so much time with it.

(As an aside, I remember calling my mother--who is also an English teacher--and crying while I was trying to read Spencer's The Faerie Queen for a Brit Lit course in college.  I don't remember specifically why I was so frustrated with it, but I'd say that was my worst experience with a work that I was required to read.)

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kmcappello | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted August 30, 2010 at 4:47 PM (Answer #18)

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Thanks for the advice on reading Ulysses, ajmchugh!  I will certainly take it to heart when (or if) I try to read it in entirety.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 31, 2010 at 6:03 AM (Answer #19)

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I think for me American Psycho - not because of the language, but just because of the sheer violence and grossness of the content! I really couldn't finish it as it was just too disturbing. I guess if you want a book that was challenging because of its language, Ulysees by James Joyce has to be the big one - the bane of every English Literature student in the UK!

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lclasson | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 3, 2010 at 6:14 AM (Answer #20)

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I have to agree with #9.  I had the most difficulty reading Ulysses, by James Joyce.  I foundd the technique of stream of consciousness  personally annoying.  The fact that each chapter is written with a different writing style was also challenging.  The absence of punctuation in some sections drove me crazy. I found myself sifting through it with a fine-toothed comb to make sure that I caught every literary element that I could.   Even though I dislike Joyce, I admire his talent and think that it is important to expose my students to some of Joyce's works, such as "Eveline."  I prefer to stay away from Ulysses.

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frankpz | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 15, 2010 at 12:30 PM (Answer #21)

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"As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner. Faulkner and Joyce are both very "challenging" but reading Faulkner is also a very rewarding experience, reading Joyce a very frustrating one, in my opinion.

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thejester1962 | College Teacher | eNoter

Posted September 17, 2010 at 2:20 AM (Answer #22)

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Without a single doubt, Georges Perec's Life: A User's Manual, eclipsed only by its French original, perhaps. Proust's masterpiece A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) I have read several times in French and English, first for research purposes and now for pleasure. I'm trying to translate it into my mother tongue, Dutch, but that's another challenge.

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jacobjinglheimer | Student , Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted September 19, 2010 at 10:28 AM (Answer #23)

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BNW, while not difficult to read, took me a few times to grasp what it was trying to say.

In reading Moby Dick was incredibly difficult for me too read, causing me to give up halfway thorough twice before I managed to finish it.

Another was Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, which I just can't seem to pay attention to.

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tfgrrl | Middle School Teacher | eNoter

Posted September 27, 2010 at 12:53 AM (Answer #24)

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Have to agree with sboeman that "challenging" can have different meanings and what is challenging for one person may not be for another. I didn't really have any problems with any of the books listed above although I'm not a fan of Tolstoy and the whaling sections in Moby Dick went on a bit.

I'd say the most emotionally wrenching book I've ever read was either Night by Elie Wiesel, a first person account of concentration camp horrors, or Toni Morrison's Beloved which I had to put down several times to get through some of the graphic scenes. I found the descriptions of victims in Hiroshima by John Hersey to be very realistic and disturbing, and from as far as horror writers some of Stephen Kings books gave me nightmares when I was younger.

I used to feel like if I had started a book then I had to finish it no matter what, and given the amount of bad writing out there, that was sometimes challenging. Luckily I've outgrown that rule.

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annmcd | Student , Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted September 29, 2010 at 4:52 PM (Answer #25)

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i agree, a novel is only challenging for certain individuals because cultural backgrounds and personal tastes come into account and your comprehension changes from book to book based on your personal life experience. For me, War and Peace was difficult just because of it's historical references and it's length. Structurally, Catch - 22

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deekhalo1 | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 30, 2010 at 1:41 AM (Answer #26)

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The most challange i have come across is reading The Great Gatsby, because of the setting of the book and the way the writer chose to have it narrated. It was hard for me, but eventually i ended up with a great deal of having to understand the vocabulary and sentences used.

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jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted October 9, 2010 at 4:25 PM (Answer #27)

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I have a hard time with anything by Joseph Conrad.  I know that his language is magnificent, that his themes are profound--but quite honestly, I don't know what he's talking about much of the time.

If you're looking for some Conrad that's a bit more accessible, I recommend a story called "Il Conde."  It's classic Conrad, but comprehensible.

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angel-girl | Student , Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:12 AM (Answer #28)

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A challenging book is Romeo and Juliet.  The confusing words of thee, thou, thy etc. is hard to understand sometimes and it took me a long time to understand the whole story, especially in analysing the setting, characters, themes and genre (tragedy).

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nnkkklo | Student , Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:12 AM (Answer #29)

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kim-c | Student , College Freshman | eNoter

Posted October 12, 2010 at 11:54 PM (Answer #30)

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In year 10, the top English class had to read Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code.' It was really difficult to get into, even the film that we had to watch after it. Well, we only watched the film to be assessed on some of the things in there. English and Religion were merged into one subject in year 10 so I guess that's why 'The Da Vinci Code' fitted perfectly into the subject.

As I said, we only had to watch the film and do all these hard assessments but I went and got the novel because I wanted to further enrich my learning abilities. It was two years ago, and I can't remember if I finished the book in time or not...I think I actually got bored of it towards the end, even though I had no more than 20 pages left!!

And this year, for English we had to read David Metzenthen's 'Boys of Blood and Bone' and I have to admit that it was a real pain!!! It's because there's two stories in one and that's why it's so confusing! And plus, it doesn't have any interesting parts anyway.

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bvdv2445 | Student , Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 13, 2010 at 9:21 AM (Answer #31)

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Anything by William Shakespeare is hard to me...he's a good writer just that we could never have a conversation.

-he make up too many words!!!! :-)

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tk753 | Student , Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 13, 2010 at 12:58 PM (Answer #32)

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Heart of Darkness has been my hardest book thus far.  I found it hard to get involved in the plot of the book.  The book itself is less than 100 pages, but it took me weeks to read it.  I am glad I persevered though because I find myself thinking about it and applying it to other books as well.  For example, I just finished reading Macbeth and I have decided that Macbeth was finally pushed to his limits and so he portrayed his "heart of darkness."  So then the big question arises - What situation will draw out my "heart of darkness?"  And not only that, but what is my flaw?  For Macbeth, it was "vaulting ambition."  For Kurtz, it was pride.  So what is mine?

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mshurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 16, 2010 at 9:35 AM (Answer #33)

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I would say Ulysses by James Joyce, but I'm not sure this counts, as I've never actually made my way through it, although I've tried several times over the years. My plan is to wait for a time when I'm immobilized from a skiing accident and have to spend several weeks in bed with my leg in a cast suspended from the ceiling. Maybe then I can read it, since I won't be able to get up and walk away. In truth, this isn't going to happen since I don't ski, but it's always good to have a plan!

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paramorerocks | Student , Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 19, 2010 at 2:45 PM (Answer #34)

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Given i don't have a wide spred of liturature quite yet becouse of my English Lit class, but so far i'd have to say The Odyssey got a bit difficult at times for me, but i did okay with it. We'll be starting Romeo and Juliet soon. I'm actually really interested in reading that one.

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rene-descrates | Student , Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 20, 2010 at 2:30 AM (Answer #35)

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I agree with sboeman on A Clockwork Orange being thought-provoking. However one of the most difficult novels I have read (or in the least attempted to read) was The Brothers Karamazov, or, due to its extreme length, The Crimson Petal and the White.

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adobson1 | Student , Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 20, 2010 at 6:47 PM (Answer #36)

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Heart of Darkness I just started it for my english class and i'm already completely lost.

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psmortimer | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted October 20, 2010 at 9:25 PM (Answer #37)

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I agree that defining the word "challenging" is the key here. Many people have commented on Ulysses. I have started to read it but frankly Joyce is a little too verbose for me. Rather, the stream of consciousness and literary quality goes on for so long that by the time the rambling ends i have completely forgotten what I've read.

I found the Scarlet Letter to be as dry as week-old bread.

In the "it's just painful" arena, my vote goes to Flannery O'Connor. Recently I wrote an indepth study guide for a non-related site. By the time I was done, I was so irritated that I wanted to toss the book across the room. Not very professional so instead I told my editor that if he ever had to read O'Connor or take a bullet...take the bullet.

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mazzzz | Student , College Freshman | eNoter

Posted October 21, 2010 at 8:37 AM (Answer #38)

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Winnie the Poo....... IT is HARD ok!

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mazzzz | Student , College Freshman | eNoter

Posted October 21, 2010 at 8:39 AM (Answer #39)

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anyway moving on...seriously....Lord of the Rings in French...... i may have been too young though.... or it could have been my freinds version of harry potter.... FREAK why read in latin?

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msmegmaynard | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted November 3, 2010 at 7:38 AM (Answer #40)

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I would have to say that the most challenging book I've read to date has been House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. He's such a talented writer! The book is not difficult because of register, but because of the layout. Some pages are written on a diagonal, some written in circles, some with only a few words. There are pages upon pages of appendices, indexes, and footnotes - some of which come from viable sources while others were made up for the purposes of the story. The jumping around and flipping back and forth and looking things up online is what will really wear you out!

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elreyfadi | Student , Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 3, 2010 at 5:58 PM (Answer #41)

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i think that the good book are great american stories two it has more emotion,drama and suspense

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ramashishsharma | College Teacher | eNoter

Posted November 12, 2010 at 12:32 AM (Answer #42)

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My anwer is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.  I had to read it several times to feel comfortable and enjoy it. In fact it is in the form of a capsule. The symbols used therein are not easy to understand at first. However, the book tempts one to read it again and again. The inspirational aspect of the book is awesome but one can get to it only after arduous effort. Santiago, the protagonist, is such a wonderful creation of the Nobel lauret but going into his word was certainly not easy for me. Manolin is indeed captivating. Any way I enjoy reading of this type of stuff. It gave me the joy similar to guessing the answer of a riddle after thinking hard. And I would love to read it again. I will. While writing this answer once again I am planning to go to the world of Hemingway again.

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cabbey | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted November 16, 2010 at 6:04 AM (Answer #43)

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The most difficult book I have ever read was East of Eden by John Steinbeck.  It was not difficult to understand or to comprehend.  It was not confusing.  What makes it a difficult read is that it challenges the reader to assess themselves.  It challenges its readers to check up on themselves and make sure that they are doing what is right.  The book is constantly asking readers if they are Cathy, Sam, Tom, Adam, Charles...  Great book.  Great story.

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frostfire827 | Student , Grade 11 | Honors

Posted November 21, 2010 at 7:39 PM (Answer #44)

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i have a hard time reading any type of long biographical book

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vikas1802 | Student , College Freshman | Honors

Posted November 23, 2010 at 2:58 AM (Answer #45)

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i have a hard time reading any type of long biographical book

you shoul break in to parts than you will feel very easy to do this .

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted November 23, 2010 at 6:13 AM (Answer #46)

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The most difficult book I ever read was Pagan and Christians [a history of early Roman religions] by Robin Lane Fox. I didn't understand a word of it until pages 698 and 699--Part II started on page 700. If you read it and have never read archaeological works before, allow me to suggest you read pages 698 and 699 first, then go back to page 1. You may fare better than I did. Also Lane uses colons (:) in a fashion I was unaccustomed to. Usually, explanatory or additional information comes after the colon, but Lane wrote in the reverse: he put the detailed explanatory information first, then followed with the broader statement. It would be something like this:

Lane put the detailed explanatory information first then followed with the broader statement: usually, explanatory or additional information comes after the colon, but he wrote in the reverse.

It was fine once I caught on--somewhere around page 525. I was well used to his style by the time I got to page 698. Great book. I've read it a second time since that first go round (and yes, I refreshed my memory of pages 698 and 699 before embarking from page 1).

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted November 23, 2010 at 6:25 AM (Answer #47)

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If you mean book of fiction, that would be Tolstoy's War and Peace. I read it the summer before my senior year in high school. I actually had to resort to putting a chair in front of my mother's pull-out wooden kitchen cutting board so I could read it (the board was higher than the table and made hours and hours of neck bending easier on me) because it was too heavy for me to hold. One day when I was about half-way through she asked me how I liked it. Without looking up from the page, I said, "I don't understand a word of it--I have no idea what he's talking about--none whatsoever." She said, "Then why are you still reading it?!" I said, "Because it's so beautiful. The words are so wonderful. Even if I don't know why he is saying what he is saying, I want to keep reading the beautiful words ... and maybe it will all make sense at the end."

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vikas1802 | Student , College Freshman | Honors

Posted November 24, 2010 at 3:40 AM (Answer #48)

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MACBETH-BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS THAT MAKES CONFUSION.

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hdclark33 | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 29, 2010 at 11:30 PM (Answer #49)

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I recently read the book that was most challenging for me for two reasons. First, I had to determine what I interpreted the author was saying and whether some of the characters were real or imaginary and second, I had to determine how to teach such an openly interpretive novel without influencing my students' beliefs. The book is Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. It is now on my favorites list.

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namurchi | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 1, 2010 at 6:19 AM (Answer #50)

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I found As I Lay Dying very difficult.  It was my first Faulkner read and many pages left me so bewildered that I laughed out like a lunatic.  I told the assigning professor that Faulkner's writing sounded like pots and pans being banged together.  I am still not sure if I will ever tackle another, but I do enjoy being surrounded by his legend in my home town.

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mamape | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 1, 2010 at 10:05 AM (Answer #51)

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I love Dickens, and pretty much anything Russian as I studied Russian too, but I have a lot less patience in the face of absurd writing, or stream of consciousness.

Ulysses and Catch 22 are both languishing unfinished on my shelf, whilst I indulge in more appealing reads! (I will finish them one day, purely from shame!)

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 1, 2010 at 5:39 PM (Answer #52)

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I am sure the list is a long one, made up of the books by which I was challenged that I actually finished, and the books that gained the upper hand, which still glare of accusingly at me from the book shelf.

I think the book that really made me crazy was James Joyce's Ulysses. I must admit that I was proud to have finished it (it was part of a college course), but have to say that I would never want to read it again, and must give a lot of credit to my professor who was highly enthusiastic and refused to leave his students behind when we stumbled...often.

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ypately | Student , Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted December 2, 2010 at 3:05 PM (Answer #53)

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i agree with cetaylorplfd because this book is not for beginners there are alot of vocab words. Personally to me i read this book last year and i still cant figure out the story of this book.

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saurabhkgp | College Teacher | eNoter

Posted December 2, 2010 at 10:57 PM (Answer #54)

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Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence was the most challenging book i have ever read as this book has odepius theme. It was very controversial, i tried my best to read the point of view of the writer but it was a difficult task.

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booklover342 | Student , Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted December 5, 2010 at 3:50 PM (Answer #55)

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Well, the original version of A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens can sometimes be hard to follow.

Also, A Wind in the Door By  Madeleine L'Engle is hard to understand if you have no background knowledge of mitochondria.

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saharm | Student , Undergraduate | Honors

Posted December 6, 2010 at 12:53 PM (Answer #56)

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it is Sinuhe the Egyptian by  Mika Waltari it was the most wonderful historical novel that i have ever read. every idea in it seems different and real.

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gordybella | High School Teacher | Honors

Posted December 6, 2010 at 4:18 PM (Answer #57)

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The most difficult, yet rewarding book I have ever read is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. This book is rivoting, and is full of literary devices. It definitely takes an analytical eye to pick up on all of the symbolism, motifs, etc. Although challenging, I would probably put it in my top 5 books of all time. You should absolutely check it out, and try to add it to the reading list for your seniors!

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ivana | Student , Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted December 10, 2010 at 8:46 AM (Answer #58)

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If you mean challenging to read as having a hard time reading it -for me, one of the most difficult book to read  was Ethan Frome because it was such a depressing experience and I felt somehow caught up in it, I don't know  quite how to describe it. I would add Turn of the Screw to this list for the same reason. (Whatever interpretation you take what happened to those kids was horrible!)

If you mean challenging in a intellectual and philosophical way that would be Dune series.

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sroach | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 14, 2010 at 4:28 PM (Answer #59)

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Dante Aligheri's Inferno continues each year to be a challenge for me to fully comprehend.  There are so many allusions to political groups, individuals, and events from the Italy of Dante's time that I often feel I am missing a critical connection or an inside joke.  With each reading I become more familiar with the details, but I don't think I will ever understand them all--which is part of the challenge and why I keep trying to "get" it.

When it comes to a text that is challenging to get through because of the mood of the story, is that book for me.  It is just s-o-o-o dark and horrible.  I had to stop teaching it during the gray, cold winter months because of the effect it had on me and my students!

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reeja | Student , Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted December 17, 2010 at 8:39 AM (Answer #60)

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I found reading Waiting for Godot by Samuel Becket as a challenge,because of its absurdity.I will never venture to re-read it or any other from the Theatre of the Absurds.

 

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted December 19, 2010 at 11:24 PM (Answer #61)

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Ulysses by by James Joyce gave me a run for my money - and still does (I still pick it up to finish it one day!) The novel is well known, I think, for being an intellectual and literary challenge, and for any literature student who needs stretching I would recommend it entirely.

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bickemanne-a | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted December 20, 2010 at 1:05 PM (Answer #62)

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I would say that The House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski is the most difficult to understand due to repetition of consistant themes and trials. This is coming from my view with a scientific background not a Primary in Literature.

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celtic1108 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 22, 2010 at 11:23 AM (Answer #63)

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James Joyce's Ulysses was my most challenging book. I tried to read several time on my own and never made it through. Finally, while in grad school, I took a James Joyce class. With the class discussion and several supplemental books, I was able to read the book in it entirety and understand it! It truly is a masterpiece. I love Joyce's playfulness throughout the work. This book is a major hurdle to tackle on your own. I highly suggest a book club for support. If anyone would like a few supplemental material for Ulysses, just let me know. I have a few that I could suggest. Maybe we should start a James Joyce Discussion Group focusing on Ulysses? Next, I will tackle Finnegan's Wake.

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kmalone614 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 28, 2010 at 9:08 AM (Answer #64)

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The most challenging book I have ever read is definitely Nightwood by Djuna Barnes. I don't remember much about it, because I'm not sure I understood any of it. I had to read it for a Fiction class during my undergraduate work, and it was my introduction to post-modern literature, with which I still struggle.

I noticed many of the posts also mentioned A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, which I would also agree is difficult. Because of my struggles with this, I have never attempted what is supposedly the most difficult book around, also by Joyce - Ulysses.

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jashley80 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted December 28, 2010 at 1:19 PM (Answer #65)

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I can think of many challenging books, though they were challenging for different reasons based upon the age at which I tried to tackle them. Reading Rushdie's The Satanic Verses as a sophomore in college was challenging because I began it while on a small plane flying through a thunderstorm (in the opening, men are falling from the sky)... it was a challenge to continue reading because I kept associating it with the anxiety I felt during that very long 45 minute plan trip in the storm.

I could not make myself read past page 2 of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities during and even after college because the style of writing lulled me to sleep - it was only listening to it on tape that worked for me. However, I had no difficulty reading Beowulf or other Anglo-Saxon and Medieval texts because the history and plots appealed to me.

The Wasteland and "Four Quartets" were challenging for me my sophomore and junior years in college (though "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" did not seem so in high school), but I enjoyed them so thoroughly that I embraced the challenge of deciphering the allusions and sifting through the imagery. I actually plan to keep in mind the poetry of T.S. Eliot as a thesis option when I work for my Ph.D.

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psmortimer | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 29, 2010 at 9:38 PM (Answer #66)

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I'm sure there are more than the first two that come to mind.

Ulysses has to be one. I've never been fond of the "literary" style when it is stretched out to the extreme. Joyce is known for his love and use of words. However, I find that he tends to go on about a particular minor point/subject/character for so long that I have completely forgotten what I've read. I never did finish it.

The other has to be The Scarlet Letter. I like that period in history but the writing was so dry that I couldn't get through it.

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lovinggirl111 | Student , Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 5, 2011 at 7:24 PM (Answer #67)

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This year, I had to read "My Antonia" by Willa Cather. It was really detailed, I couldn't really image the atmosphere and the characters personalities. People have said it was a good book, but overall, I think I need a bit more understanding on what the message really is.

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mitchrich4199 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted January 15, 2011 at 6:54 AM (Answer #68)

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I would have to say, like many of my counterparts, that Portrait was the most challenging book that I've read and finally understood. I've read Joyce's Ulysses as well, but when I say I've read it, I can only say that in the physical sense. I've read every word of it, but I haven't understood much of anything from it, yet. This is a novel that I need to go back and read and study. I'd like to take a class on it someday as well. Portrait provided a difficult challenge for me and I feel that I can say that I "conquered" it in as much as I can now discuss it skillfully and effectively, while still learning about it every time I use it in class.

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tradecraft | College Teacher | Honors

Posted January 28, 2011 at 2:46 PM (Answer #69)

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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri.

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tolchowy | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 30, 2011 at 1:47 PM (Answer #70)

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What is the most challenging book you have ever read?

I have several. As far as depth and vocabulary I had a hard time with Bleak House by Charles Dickens. It was like I could almost sense his state of mind when he wrote it.

Wuthering Heights took me a bit of time.

The Blind Watchmaker was very interesting, because of its content, but I think ultimately no book could possibly be anything less than a personal adventure.

  Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi was, by far, the most challenging novel I have ever read. To truly appreciate the text you needed to have a knowledge of a number of texts found in each of the sections of the novel: "Lolita", "Gatsby", "James", and "Austen".

Under the "Lolita" section you needed to have read Lolita, One Thousand and One Nights and Invitation to a Beheading.  Under the "Gatsby" heading you needed to have read The Great Gatsby and Mike Gold's works.  Under the "James" section you needed to have read Daisy Miller and Washington Square.  Finally under the "Austen" section you needed to have read Pride and Prejudice. 

While I had read many of the texts referred to in the novel, some I had not read for a number of years so could not recall every reference and, in the case of the novels I had not read, I did not understand the reference. 

This is a novel that would be enjoyable to read as the foundation for a Univesity course with the other texts being prescribed reading as well. 

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 1, 2011 at 1:56 PM (Answer #71)

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Without question, the most challenging book I have ever read (and continue to read) is the Bible.  I find it challenging on numerous levels: reconciling the meaning of phrases rendered differently in various translations; trying to determine how descriptions of archaic practices may relate to contemporary activities; struggling to understand cultural traditions and expectations that shaped perceptions and reactions in Biblical times; most of all, seeking how to apply the wisdom and examples it contains in my own life.  I am looking forward to having time and opportunity to undertake in-depth study of the Bible as a piece of literature that has stood the test of time, as well as the centerpiece of my religious faith!

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 2, 2011 at 12:47 PM (Answer #72)

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I think books can be challenging for different reasons.  I believe that the most challenging books are books in which the ideas themselves are challenging, more than the language itself.  I sometimes struggle with the vocabulary of an older book or a technical one, but I consider the books that make me reconsider my most deeply-held beliefs to be the most challenging.  I personally found The Road very profound and meaningful, for example, even though the text itself is easy to read.  I teach my students that even simple books sometimes explore deep truths.  A book may not be written at a high reading level or contain a lot of advanced vocabulary, but if it makes me stop to think and question myself I consider the book challenging.

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coco85 | Elementary School Teacher | Honors

Posted February 7, 2011 at 8:58 PM (Answer #74)

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Catch 22 I found very difficult to follow because the timeline is constantly jumping back and forth.  The dialouge is painful at times and I found myself constantly bored and confused.  Made for an interesting book club conversation though.

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kaitbird | Student , College Freshman | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted February 11, 2011 at 5:50 AM (Answer #75)

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The most challenging book I have ever endeavored to read was definitely Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce. We attempted only a few pages of it in my Literary Culture of Modern Ireland class but each line (and sometimes even each word) was a puzzle crafted by Joyce that we needed to solve. It was a strange experience and made me look at literature in a new light. It showed me how many different implications and connotations a single word can have and how drastically its interpretation this can change the reader's perception. It is now one of my goals to make it through the entire book, reading even just one page per day for a sustained period of time.

 

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ms-charleston-yawp | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted April 12, 2011 at 7:27 PM (Answer #76)

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Oh, absolutely The Sound and the Fury or any later work by Faulkner.  I remember my jaw actually dropping when I found out in AP Literature what "really" happened to poor Benjy.  Oh my, innocence at its best.  I'm afraid my reaction to this novel began my dislike for modern literature.  Is it because the South is portrayed in a state of disintegration?  Maybe. ... but then again, that was at a time when I thought living like Maria Von Trapp was possible, ...

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