Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Scarlet Letter III

"Yes indeed I am biassed in terms of not particularly liking classic novels but this one was not at all enjoyable at all the main character Hester Prynne lacks any sort of interest and the whole idea of a woman being forced to wear a scarlet letter 'A' seems so ridiculous considering that in those God-fearing times they would have hanged her with no time to waste.
The crime for this punishment is adultery hence the letter 'A' although if you are looking for a story about sex lust and adult themes you will be very disappointed"

"I liked this book because i like reading about history.I didnt know that aduldtrey was not allowed back then, but on the other hand i dont like how they put peoples business in front of the intire town and made them were a big red'A'over there heart. Things like that should be kept a secret and know one should know unless the person who as comitted the crime want to say something."

"Most of the 'alliteration' in this book don't really mean anything further than what was said. On the count of it, many of the characters just seem like shallow pools ... The writing style, yes, while appropriate for the times, was highly boring to follow. There was little to actually make the book interesting, and the storyline felt altogether wanting, and lacking."

"It's great to finally get back to the classics. It's been far too long since I read a book with careful intensity, noting throwaway lines that are likely to show up on a multiple choice or short answer test that misses the main themes of a book entirely while managing to ask lots of questions like, "In the fourth chapter, what kind of shoes was [character you don't even remember] wearing?"

I was thinking maybe it would be nice to read a book like this without worrying about that stuff, just absorbing it for what it was and then moving on through my life drunk.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It's hard to know where to start with this thing.

The prose itself is almost unreadable. Let me give you an example of what a sentence in this book is like:

A man- who was born in a small town, which bore no resemblance to the town his parents imagined for him when they settled in the area over 40 years ago with every intention of starting a small business selling gift baskets online that sort of petered out after bigger companies like FTD caught onto the whole thing and ran the little guys out with predatory pricing- decided to go for a walk one day.

I shit you not. Whenever I saw a dash I'd skip down to find the second dash, and usually managed to cruise through half a page to find the relevant piece where the prose picked up again.

Word on the street is that Hawthorne, who published the book in 1850, actually wrote it to seem EVEN MORE old-timey than it was, which is pretty goddamn old-timey at this point. As far as I can tell, writing old-timey means:

1. Describing furniture and clothing in such exhaustive detail that royal wedding coverage appears shabby and underdeveloped.

2. Using commas wherever the fuck you feel like it.

3. Structuring the plot in such a way that you already know everything that's going to happen way before it does.
One might accuse me of rarely reading challenging books, and maybe it's true. I find myself drawn to books that compel me to finish them as opposed to those that I feel I have to slog through while other books are sitting in growing piles around my apartment, calling out to me with their promises of genuine laughs, heartbreak that is relevant to me, and prose that doesn't challenge me to the point that it's more of a barrier to the story than anything.

Perhaps most telling, at the book club meeting we were discussing this last night, and an older lady asked a pretty decent question: 'Why is this considered a classic?'

There are two answers, one that is what the Everyman Library will tell you and one that I would tell you.

Everyman would say that the book is a classic because it is an excellent snapshot of a historical period. It has a narrative set within a framework that allows us to better understand our roots as Americans. The issues of people's perceptions of women and rights of women are still very alive today. Overall, it gives us a chance to examine our own society through the lens of fiction, therefore re-framing the conversation to make it less personal and easier to examine without bias. Blah, blah, blah.

I would say it's a classic because it was one of the more palatable books that came out during the period when 'classics' were made. I would also point out that the canonized classics are never revised. We never go back and say which books maybe have less to say about our lives than they used to, or which might still be relevant but have been usurped by something that is closer to the lives we live today. I would also say that it continues to be taught in schools because the kind of people who end up teaching high school English are most often people who have a deep and abiding respect for these types of books and identified with these types of books at around that time in their lives. I think there are a lot of people out there who never liked these books, and rather than making their voices heard about what they think people should read they just drop out of the world of books altogether.

My point is, I think this is a bad book. It's got low readability, even for adults. The plot is melodramatic. The characters are single-dimensional crap, the women being constant victims of the time and the men being weak examples of humanity. Also, a very serious story is halted in places where we are expected to believe that magic letter A's pop up in the sky like you might see in an episode of Sesame Street."

"Ughh, what can I say?? The Scarlet Letter has got to be one of the worst books that I have ever read, if not THE WORST. Between the 100 word sentences and the too hard to understand psychological symbols, it was a major pain to read. Why would anyone enjoy a book with a never-ending number of run-on sentences? And, if not forced to read The Scarlet Letter in my 10th grade AP English class, I would've gladly skipped it. My entire class dreaded reading it, and I can see why. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone, unless you like reading books that make you want to light a bonfire (for the books to be burned, of course) and bang your head against a wall. Thank you Nathaniel Hawthorne, for a truly aggravating read."

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