Literary Inspiration - Mark Twain on Jane Austen

Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.

- quotes in Remembered Yesterdays, Robert Underwood Johnson

To me his prose is unreadable--like Jane Austin's [sic]. No there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane's. Jane is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death.
- Letter to W. D. Howells, 1/18/1909

Jane Austen's books, too, are absent from this library. Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn't a book in it.
- Following the Equator

I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.
- Letter to Joseph Twichell, 9/13/1898

Wow, some harsh words there Mark Twain! As a bit of a Jane-ite, I have to disagree with his statements but the fact remains that there are definitely books (and authors) out there that I do not care for. Take a deep breath, my friends, in order to be prepared to gasp.

Charles Dickens - with possibly the exception of "Great Expectations"... I don't know what precisely it is about his plot lines that rub me up the wrong way, but I won't ever read his texts of my own volition. I had to read "Hard Times" for a paper this year, what a prophetic title that was.

J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" - I know that it's meant to be a classic, but if I wanted to listen to some perpetually whinging self involved teenagers I'd become an English and Drama teacher... oh wait, I am :P. Plus the excessive use of "goddamn" becomes really grating after a while.

Harry Potter - ALL of them. I opened the first book and just couldn't get into the storyline. Subsequently I have not seen ANY of the movies, nor read any of the books.

Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" - While I love the idea of the story and the belief that love should be mad, passionate and endure for ever, the thing is so damn hard to read. Her sister's novel Jane Eyre follows a similar track and is ever so much easier to read. I also cannot forgive a novel that inspired the ear-splitting caterwauling namesake by Kate Bush that my dad likes to listen to.

Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bones" - I read this novel through to its conclusion and felt oddly dissatisfied. I'm actually interested in going and seeing the movie of this to find out whether this is the exception to the rule "The book is always better than the movie"... and whether I can make more sense of it.

Are you scandalised? Do you agree? Or have you gasped so sharply that you've made yourself pass out? What books don't you care for?


  1. I am absolutely with you on Harry Potter, The Lovely Bones and The Catcher in the Rye.

    I would also add Catch 22. Uh-oh ... now I'm waiting for the villagers with torches and pitchforks ... :)

  2. I've never read any Dickens, so I can't be scandalized. I really should get on that at some point though...I have a BA in English. And I haven't read Wuthering Heights
    I dig Harry Potter, but I've always been interested in that genre, even as a child.
    But whatever floats your boat.
    I've read Catcher in the Rye, but it was so long ago. I don't remember disliking it, but I do remember wondering what all the fuss was about.

    Here's a few books that I don't care for:
    *"The Alchemist" - Paulo Coelho. First time I read this, it was ok. Second time, I really didn't care for it. I liked "Veronika Decides to Die" though.
    *"Love in the Time of the Cholera". - Marquez. I didn't really get into it.
    "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius". - Dave Eggers. I didn't make it past 50 pages. And I normally finish a book once I've started it.

  3. Wuthering Heights can not be blamed for Kate Bushes voice (it's me i'm kathy, i've come home.....i'm so cold ... *continues singing) although i'll admit i adore them both....

    I wanted to name my first boy Heathcliff (Husband disagreed *sigh)

  4. @Andrea - I haven't read Catch-22... now I have the perverse desire to read it and see whether it's really REALLY bad.
    @Meri - I did two papers that involved literature from around the same period as those two novels so it's really expanded my reading of the classics.

  5. I just read The Lovely Bones after hearing everyone rave about it. I thought the ending wasn't as good as it could have been, but then again, I wonder if Sebold did this to make us think a bit more about it all. It certainly wasn't as good as what I had expected it to be which was a bit dissappointing. When is the movie coming out?