The most boring book you read in high school

Brook is reading The Sun Also Rises.  Her teacher is much more merciful to her than mine was to me.  Of all the possible Hemingway books she could have assigned, she chose The Old Man and the Sea.  It took me 25 years before I would read anything else by Hemingway.  It was the very first piece of “literature” we read in 9th grade and right from the start, I had grave misgivings about my ability to endure four years of high school.

Every. Word. Was. Pure. Tedium.

The story was lame, the characters unimpressive.  I started to root for the marlin about halfway through hoping that the fish would drag Santiago out of his boat and drown him, mercifully ending both of our struggles.

Some critics have said that Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea as a response to another book that critics panned but revenge is not a good excuse for writing this practical joke. It’s full of obvious metaphors that  leap off the page to deliver a dope slap to your head. I couldn’t believe he won a Pulitzer for it except that the book has that mystique of being an allegory about something profound, like an ordinary object mounted on a canvas and declared art.  It’s like blaming the victim if you don’t appreciate it, therefore, it must be a masterpiece.

It’s only saving grace is that it is short.

What was your most boring assigned reading in high school?

(Loved The Scarlett Letter.  The words are lush)

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21 Responses

  1. I loved the Scarlet Letter too. I have a bad habit though of not reading anything I don’t like. Which could explain why I haven’t read Old Man and the Sea. I kind of liked A Farewell to Arms but, I don’t actually remember it. So there’s that.

    • Oh, wait!! Someone made me read Anna Karenina when I was in the 8th grade and I count that as the worst reading experience of my life. I slogged through every single word. Sometimes multiple times since it seemed like everyone had at least 3 names and I kept getting confused.

      Way, way out of my comfort zone. And I’ve never cared much for infidelity in literature since.

      • LOL! I haven’t tackled Tolstoy yet. But just thinking about Anna Karenina makes me think of dark taffeta bustled gowns and tight little bonnets. Too much clothing over damp skin, the clop-clop-clopping of horse hooves on cobblestones and overcast skies. Why is it always overcast? Anyway, way too much angst.

  2. Must be a guy thing.

    • {{snort!}}
      I don’t think so. I’m not that kind of reader.
      It’s just a bad book.

  3. While I can’t recall reading anything in high school that was really boring, I recall being amused by the “Canterbury Tales” probably because it was the first time I came across a book that had farts
    in it.

  4. OTB . . . interesting threadlet bearing on Assange and the Swedish Legal Enforcement System from a recent NaCap thread . . .

    Ned Ludd says:
    October 1, 2012 at 8:58 am
    The Swedish criminal justice system is a good place to send people you want silenced: “Pirate Bay Founder Remains Locked Up Without Charges“.

    To prevent Gottfrid from interfering with the investigation the Prosecutor believes it’s justified to detain him for more than a month without being charged. The Pirate Bay co-founder is not allowed to have visitors and is being refused access to newspapers and television.

    “According to the Swedish system, when the preliminary investigation is finished, I as prosecutor will decide whether to prosecute him. [...] In the Swedish system it is quite usual for people to be detained on this legal ground, and it gives me the possibility to prevent him from having contact with other people,” [Prosecutor] Olin said.

    It’s horrendous that it is “quite usual” in Sweden to lock people up without charges and to prevent them from having contact without other people or even to read a newspaper. It sounds like this type of detention, without charges and without access to the outside world, can be be extended as long as the investigation continues: “The Prosecutor hasn’t ruled out a request for another extension of Gottfrid’s detainment in two weeks, if the investigation is still ongoing.”

    Reply
    •Swedish Lex says:
    October 1, 2012 at 9:49 am
    Some facts about pre-trial detention in Sweden: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remand_(detention)

    Reply
    •LeonovaBalletRusse says:
    October 1, 2012 at 10:51 am
    Ned, so Sweden has made Julian Assange’s case for him?

    Reply
    ◦Ned Ludd says:
    October 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm
    Pretty much. Glenn Greenwald wrote about the case today and how it relates to the extradition of Assange to Sweden.

    One of the prime arguments I have always made about the Assange asylum case is that his particular fear of being extradited to Sweden is grounded in that country’s very unusual and quite oppressive pre-trial detention powers: ones that permit the state to act with an extreme degree of secrecy and which can even prohibit the accused from any communication with the outside world. […]

    [N]ow we have a case that confirms exactly those claims about Sweden’s justice system…

    Reply

    Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/10/links-10012012.html#ZS7YZH7sb5Eyqmx7.99

  5. Odd. I guess I spent so much time reading I don’t actually remember what was required. Though I do remember Hawthorne, Dickens, and Hemingway.

  6. my most boring assigned reading in high school? i think my school book :D

  7. Pride & Prejudice.

  8. It wasn’t school, but Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah and Children of Dune were never finished they were that much a soporific I often wonder if the Herbert referred to in the Star Trek episode “The Way to Eden” was a dig at Frank.

    • Omg, you are so right. I found the Dune books to be science fiction ambien. But I never had to read it for High School. I just couldn’t get in to Herbert’s world. Or the Thomas Covenant series either. And normally, I love Science Fiction. Ursula LeGuin is one of my favorite authors and there are many more that I can’t even remember. Who was the guy who wrote the Well World series? That series was a blast.
      But Dune? meh

  9. Don’t remember the boring ones. But I’m remembering that no one asked us to read Faulkner in high school, though we were told about him. I’m guessing they figured nothing that Faulkner did would make sense to a teenager. Now that I’m old, Faulkner is a favorite and I thank my high school for NOT making me read, and possibly learn to hate, his work before I was old enough to really love it.

    Also, Scarlet Letter – me too. Hawthorne rocks.

  10. I don’t remember the boring ones because I didn’t read them. I don’t know how I ever graduated from HS. I tried to read them but my boredom threshold was very low then and is not much better now. Books I didn’t read because they were boring would include The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises and I will add WAR AND PEACE. Good Lord. I might read it now and enjoy it, but school probably ruined a lot of good literature for me. I can’t think of a better way to ruin a good book than to read it a couple of chapters at a time and pick it apart in a class full of teenagers.

  11. what about moby dick?

  12. Lord of the Flies and Red Badge of Courage

  13. I say Moby Dick, for assigned reading. Not assigned, but one I tried to read in high school…The Last of The Mohicans by Cooper. I tried reading that book for a month and never got more than a hundred pages in, if that far…way, way too tedious to read.

  14. I’d have to agree with you that “The Old Man and the Sea” was one of the most tedious reads I ever had to force myself through in high school. However, I recall despising “The Scarlet Pimpernel” as well – for some reason I couldn’t get into it – the way it was written bored me every time I tried to pick it up.

    The class was also assigned Ayn Rand’s “Anthem” – I read it four times trying to figure out why I hated it so much. I suspect I knew then that I was a socialist.

  15. I don’t remember any truly boring books from high school. I remember a book from many years later that was so deadeningly aggressively boring that I still remember the two-or-three pages equivalent that I struggled to read.

    It was like this . . . when Borders was still successful, someone I knew at the Ann Arbor flagship Borders said they were starting a lay-readers book review feature in their in-store newsletter and would I like to recieve a free book if I agreed to read it and review it? Yes I would. So he gave me a copy of Issues In Canadian-American Relations (if I remember the title correctly). A book about a subject that important could have been interestingly written, but this one wasn’t. It was like eating a cool stale mixture of old oatmeal, tofu, and cottage cheese. After a few weeks of struggle, I offered to give the book back to him and he offered to let me keep it. I insisted on giving it back to him and he insisted on refusing to take it back. It was that kind of book.

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