The prompt for this week's Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase (for my non-book-blog readers, a short description of what, exactly this means, is below) is to describe the most difficult literary book I've read and why it's difficult.
Easy one: Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon. I spent pretty much the whole summer in close range, hand-to-hand combat with this novel, and have written several times about why it's so hard. Here's my post from May when I was about half way through describing why it's difficult. And here's my post upon finishing it — a fake conversation with Tommie P, in which I took the opportunity to vent about how ludicrously tough it is.
So, since I'm pretty much Gravity's Rainbowed out, the second most difficult book I've ever read is Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. I read this book from Oct. 7th through Dec. 14, 2008 — right after DFW committed suicide (in Sept, 2008). So it was extraordinarily difficult to read in the sense that, since DFW is my all-time favorite writer, I was reading his masterpiece when he was no longer in the world. There was just something incredibly sad about that, especially when I came across this quote about two-thirds of the way through: "It’s weird to feel like you miss someone you’re not even sure you know."
But it's a difficult read in the traditional sense of "difficult," too — it's not exactly a John Grisham. To start with, it's 1,079 pages long. It includes 378 footnotes spanning 96 pages. And for about the first 200 pages, you really have no idea what's going on. DFW jumps around from scene to scene, creating an alternate reality, near-future world. He goes back and forth in time — and because years are sponsored by corporations (Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar, eg.), you're not really sure whether you're in a scene chronologically after the scene that immediately preceded it in the book, or several years before. DFW's style is often described as difficult as well — dude has quite the vocabulary, can spend four pages on the same paragraph, and can spend 200+ words on the same sentence. It's an acquired taste, to be sure — but one I love! While I was reading the novel, I did a silly little blog about my thoughts. Here's my post with a little more about why Infinite Jest is so difficult.
Infinite Jest is easily in my top 5 favorite novels of all time. The reasons? Other than writing that is some of the best ever rendered in the English language, the genius of the novel is comparing different types of addiction — to substances and to entertainment — in such a way that the line between the two becomes quite blurry. Last December, I wrote a brief tribute to DFW on my one-year anniversary of finishing the book. Here that is, if you're interested. I'm still incredibly sad that he's gone.
(The Literary Blog Hop is essentially a networking event for book blog dorks. Several bloggers post about the same prompt, and then get to post a link to their Website on the host's site. The, they Make sense?)