Monday, July 9, 2012

On Intimidating Authors


Literary fiction has always terrified me.

This all started when I read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami in college. One of my literature classmates said IT WAS THE BEST BOOK EVER, and threw around words like ‘metafiction’ and ‘postmodernism’ to describe how amazing it was. I immediately got my hands on a copy of the book and started reading it.

Guess what?

I didn't understand a thing. What the hell does this little cottage in the middle of the mother effing woods stand for? Is this woman his sister, his cousin, or his three-headed mother-in-law? I could not grasp what Murakami was trying to tell me. Since I’ve always thought of myself as pretty smart, this was a huge blow to my ego.

Never wanting to feel stupid again, I simply decided to stay away from literary fiction (or maybe just Haruki Murakami, I’m not sure).

I guess my decision wasn’t that firm, because literary fiction novels seem to have accumulated in my shelves. I’ve got The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (who is gorgeous, by the way), Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I’m sure these books will be filled with awesome but hard-to-comprehend ideas, and I’m preparing myself for unexpected things galore.

I’ve always been comfortable with the classics, because these books have already been dissected and discussed by other people (some of these people even had PhDs). Every time I can’t figure something out by myself, there will always be another book or another article to turn to enlighten me.

Literary fiction is completely different. These books are filled with ideas from people living and breathing at this very moment. Yes, people have also dissected these books, but, most of the time, I will have to comprehend the themes by myself. So, I’m going to buckle up and finish The New York Trilogy and all the other literary fiction novels I own, because it’s time for me to stop being scared of my own ideas, of looking stupid because I might’ve interpreted something wrong.

What about you? Which literary fiction authors do you find intimidating?

15 comments:

mooderino said...

Murakami is an odd writer, but worth the effort, i think. You might try Norgegian Wood, probably his most accessible novel. His short story colections are also easier to digest. A lot of it is context thought. His writing is almost science fiction, and reading Philip K Dick might give you a better way into his style.

mood

Trish said...

I just bought that very same copy of New York Trilogy! I've heard Auster is like Murakami . . . hmm we shall see.

I loved Life of Pi but the ending was trippy. Middlesex was pretty good too. Great pile of books, though! I'm eager to see your take on them.

Laura said...

Gaaaah, you've namechecked like allll my favourite things!!

Ok, here's a thing- So I know Murakami's all like intimidating and it's like 'what is he trying to say with this thing? I really don't know!' but I feel like, if you kind of just roll with the story, it *feels* amazing, even if you don't get all the different little things (or maybe I just tell myself that because I don't read into it that much. Whatever!)

And also, Middlesex and The New York Trilogy are two of my favourite ever books! I feel like Middlesex is more accessible, so you might like that better, but The New York Trilogy is AWESOME, so... I hope you like that too! :)

Laura said...

Gaaaah, you've namechecked like allll my favourite things!!

Ok, here's a thing- So I know Murakami's all like intimidating and it's like 'what is he trying to say with this thing? I really don't know!' but I feel like, if you kind of just roll with the story, it *feels* amazing, even if you don't get all the different little things (or maybe I just tell myself that because I don't read into it that much. Whatever!)

And also, Middlesex and The New York Trilogy are two of my favourite ever books! I feel like Middlesex is more accessible, so you might like that better, but The New York Trilogy is AWESOME, so... I hope you like that too! :)

LBC said...

Middlesex is great and since you are a fan of the classics, you might also really enjoy the new one, The Marriage Plot. As for authors that intimidate me: David Foster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon, but I'm trying to get over it.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

Literary fiction is my favourite thing, followed by historical fiction, followed by classics. Tbh, I find classics much more intimidating.

Life of Pi is good, but Middlesex is better, I would start with that one. The Virgin Suicides by Eugenides is great too. You have some amazing reading ahead of you!

Andi said...

You're about to read some of my favorites!!!! The New York Trilogy and What I Loved, especially. Those two are married, by the way. Did you know?? You'll see a lot of overlapping themes in those works, so it might be fun to read them close together? And I am never afraid to take a break and look up/read more about lit fiction authors. Auster, especially, has a lot of the biographical in his work. Some people resist that approach, but I find it enriching. The same for Hustvedt.

Zibilee said...

I have had a hard time with Murakami in the past, and I thought it was just me! A few of those books are wonderful, and I have read and loved them. If you want to start out with an easy yet very engaging read, start with Life of Pi. I loved the hell out of that book. Middlesex was awesome too. I am also scared of The New York Trilogy. I have read another by the same author, and it wasn't intimidating at all, so I am not sure what I am scared of! A few of the classics intimidate me, and so I have stayed far away, despite my desire to read them. Good luck with this pile. I think you will find that you love a lot of these!

bibliophilica said...

Hi Darlyn,
Please give Murakami another chance at some point. Maybe try his short story collection, "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman." A lot of good stories in that volume - and a few clunkers too.
-Jay

Fanda said...

From your books, I only have read Life of Pi, and I enjoyed it!

angus25 said...

I think the best approach to reading "literary fiction" is to not overthink it. I've read Life of Pi and Middlesex, and I don't think they are so hard to read. Middlesex can be a little daunting, but only because it's longer than your average novel.

Regarding your question, I am most intimidated by David Foster Wallace. And Thomas Pynchon (and I had a really bad experience with his Crying of Lot 49). :)

Trisha said...

Pynchon, Wallace, Rushdie, Eco, Joyce, there are so many authors I find intimidating. But I find that if I just relax and don't worry too much about analyzing and "gaining a deeper understanding" I can at least enjoy the story (except Ulysses). Just remember - you sound smart just cuz you read them. :)

Ben said...

I agree with the Mood. Murakami needs some work getting into. KAFKA wasn't a favorite of mine, personally. I liked CHRONICLES OF WIND-UP BIRD best, but NORWEGIAN WOOD is a great place to start. I got two other bloggers hooked on him with that novel.

Paul Auster is a lot of fun, also. Especially the New York Trilogy. Not all that intimidating.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

JOYCE! I know exactly what you mean about intimadating authors. There are certain ones (see above) that terrify me. I do think part of it is because we can't just sit back and read their books and ponder them, instead we must dissect them. It's "literary" fiction, so we must squeeze every possible meaning out of each book. I'm planning on reading my first Murakami, Norwegian Wood, this year and I'm a bit scared.

Emma said...

I am absolutely planning on commenting on this post, but I better go get ready for work before I am forced to leave with a towel still wrapped around my head!

For now, I will just say, LOVED Middlesex, and Yann Martel is great (I think I loved his short story collection, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios better than Life of Pi). I can't believe you can tackle about a million books I'm terrified of (ANY Jane Austen, and Dickens himself, for example), and I never even considered being antsy about lit fic. One reason I guess I am not, is because of the alternative in today's bookstore - I think Serial Vampire Romance is it's own genre now!

I'll be back with my list of intimidations!

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