Monday, June 8, 2009

It's not you, Oscar. It's me.

I'm inspired by Emily's "Books I felt I ought to have liked but didn't" post over at Underage Reading.

The following are books I feel I should love, but just leave me cold. I rather think that, in these cases at least, it's my fault.

The first is Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. How many of you have actually read Alice in Wonderland, rather than just watch the Disney version? I just could not get through it. I blame my first-year novel writing class. They were allergic to adverbs (a modifier: thoughtfully, slowly; they usually end with -ly but not always) and handed my manuscripts back with every single one circled in accusing red pen. This was a good thing for them to do as I've since learned that amateur writers rely too heavily on adverbs. Since flagellating myself nightly and intoning "show don't tell" like that albino from The Da Vinci Code, I've even managed to cure myself of adverb abuse. Every now and then I allow myself one, just a small one, as a treat. (But my grammatical drug of choice these days are gerunds. Ah, sweet, sweet gerunds...) As I've been conditioned to shun adverbs, reading Alice in Wonderland, which is buried three-feet-deep in them, set up a Pavlov's dogs-esque eye-twitching and drooling that is reminiscent of certain individuals on Tram Route 57.

Verdict: the book is ruined for me.

The second is The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde. I want to howl with disbelief too that I didn't get through it. I'm so ashamed. It's about a young, handsome man who wishes that he might never get old, that his portrait absorb all the side-effects of his aging and vice. I wish I'd thought of it myself.

Wilde's frivolous writing style works wonders for me in The Importance of Being Earnest (love love love this play), but I wanted Dorian Grey to be darker, like Salome, and it wasn't. The silliness grated on me and I could only get through half.

There are plenty of books I can't stand and feel no qualms about, like The Great Gatsby and The Bronze Horseman. But Alice and Dorian I feel I should have liked. I believe whole-heartedly that it's my own preconceptions that have ruined these great books, so if/when I've gotten over myself sufficiently, I'll revisit them.


  1. Totally with you on The Great Gatsby. I can't understand why so much people gush over the thing.

  2. I liked Alice in Wonderland quite a bit, but I've never been able to finish Dorian Grey, and it's one of those factoids that I don't really let slip...till now! Also felt the same way about Gatsby.