x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 December 2017

10 overrated literary classics

Chances are you were force-fed one or more of these 10 so-called literary classes in schools. M magazine begs to differ, and even suggests more readable substitutions.

10 overrated classics

ATLAS SHRUGGED (1957), AYN RAND If a slow-paced political and moral treatise on "objectivism" - a fancy name for rational self-interest - is your cup of dystopian tea, drink deeply. Instead:A Clockwork Orange (1962), Anthony Burgess.

GONE WITH THE WIND (1936), MARGARET MITCHELL A bubblehead protagonist, a cardboard-cutout of a Southern rogue leading man, a wimp of another love interest - and prose both turgid and purple. Instead:Wilderness: A Tale of the Civil War (1961), Robert Penn Warren.

GRAVITY'S RAINBOW (1973), THOMAS PYNCHON Overwritten, overly praised by critics and academics - and rightly hurled across the room by readers after trying a few pages. A good doorstop. Instead:Infinite Jest (2006), David Foster Wallace.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS (1954-55), JRR TOLKIEN Wandering subplots, overwrought emotions, deus ex machina after deus ex machina and a tone-deaf ear for storytelling. Instead:The Hobbit(1937), Tolkien.

MOBY-DICK (1851), HERMAN MELVILLE The most boring book in literature, starring whaling minutiae, paper-thin characters and transparent motives. Instead:Billy Budd (1924), Melville.

ON THE ROAD (1951), JACK KEROUAC "That's not writing, that's typing," Truman Capote sniffed. While the runaway prose is meant to mirror the manic energy of the American "Beats", it comes off as undisciplined and tedious. Instead:Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me (1966), Richard Farina.

THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY (1881), HENRY JAMES Misogynistically a Victorian era product. Isabel Archer ought to just get on with it. Instead:The Age of Innocence (1920), Edith Wharton.

THE SCARLET LETTER (1850), NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE Serial comma abuse and overarching prose run amok in this "novel of ideas" fit for only literature teachers and insomniacs. Instead:Walden (1854), Henry David Thoreau.

ULYSSES (1922), JAMES JOYCE OK, it pioneered stream of consciousness as a literary device; it's also unreadable for all but the most serious student of Modernism, with all its enigmas. Instead: The Sound and the Fury (1929), William Faulkner.

WAR AND PEACE (1869), LEO TOLSTOY Let's face facts: the only reason anyone tackles all these pages and all these characters is for bragging rights. It's flat, impenetrable, meandering and stultifyingly dull. Instead: The Brothers Karamazov (1880), Fyodor M Dostoevsky.

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