To the point.
For instance, Marquez is an over rated writer. Merely having force-fed myself Love in the Time of Cholera for academic purposes, I might not seem to be the ideal candidate for judging Marquez. However, after having attempted to read One Hundred Years multiple times and having failed miserably each time, I pitch the blame on the author for putting off a reader thus. There is no better judge of an over rated author than a competent reader whose competency has been crushingly thwarted by his panoramic, luxuriously sprawled out narrative. Marquez’s birdie-eye view of history sweeping across centuries and generations feels like you are caught in a labyrinthine family tree and you are entitled to take a break every now and then, every generation or so. In my case, the breaks tend to get a tad longer, and I haven’t been able to move past the death of the young girl during childbirth somewhere in the first quarter of the book. I felt it deserved a longer span of mourning than what Marquez can possibly give her with his machine-gun coverage of events. So here I am still in mourning after more than a year.
Then there’s Hilary Mantel who is more historian-and-biographer than fiction writer. Reading Wolf Hall was an insufferable exercise of patience and endurance under duress. The characters are all appallingly fleshed out and in sheer number they flabbergast the lector pauperum. Fighting the urge to terminate my excruciating drudging through the narrative that’s paced like hyper-realistic life, I laboured on like a good ol’ soldier vaguely expecting a gun salute at the end. However, I merely ended up with a bleary vision of Thomas Cromwell’s life and thoughts in medieval England and two weeks’ time wasted. Much like Fabrice del Dongo’s bewildering experience of the battlefield in Charterhouse of Parma, to give a classical allusion to my plight.
Hardy can be tedious and dull at times especially in those nature descriptions and the detailed exposition of motives and morals. I rather liked Jude the Obscure and Far from the Madding Crowd. But Tess of the D’Urbervilles–with its permanent atmosphere of gloom even in happy times, the downfall of Tess from the moment her father comes to know of his noble ancestry, the rape/seduction by Alec, the meandering plot, misunderstandings, blah blah, and the final comic twist, Tess’s murder of Alec and her subsequent arrest and hanging–was pure horror. Such a lovely tale, that proved once and for all that even milkmaids are capable of being tragic heroes and hanged. I mean, the character of Tess is so exasperating, her silence and self imposed suffering seems almost ridiculous. She must die for others to be happy. For her husband to marry her younger sister who has Tess’s looks without the tragic flaw, whatever that is. Convenient.