As for Dickens, I really didn't like Tale of Two Cities, but that's 'cause I just can't get into Dickens' writing style. I can objectively see why he's a good author, he's just not my style. Oh, and Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter was lousy. The symbolism in that book is so blatant that it comes off as one giant cliché.
On the other end of the spectrum, I absolutely loved Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, but for some reason I don't get, I seemed to be the only one in my class that did. Throughout high school, we also got to read quite a bit by Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury; thanks to that, those two are my all-time favorite authors.
Ah! I almost forgot! I hated Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Makes me glad that it's the only book she ever wrote. It's also the only time I can say with confidence that the Hollywood-ified version is better--at least they cut out the completely lame romance novel that Shelley arbitrarily stuck in the middle.
OmenPigeon wrote:I agree that Shakespeare doesn't make great reading, but I don't think it's entirely fair to call him overrated.
I haven't read all of his stuff, and less of it more than once, because the words on the page really don't hold my interest. But I've recently seen some it performed, and I mean really performed, and by God does it work.
Reading plays will always be, at best, a pale simulacrum of watching a really talented company act them on stage. Unfortunately, really talented companies are hard to come by, so we have to make do with what we have.
Ultimately, Shakespeare is a pretty good playwright. Unfortunately, this doesn't make him a very good novelist, and a lot of English courses seem to treat him as one.
Absolutely... There are many huge gripes I have with how Shakespeare is usually presented. I couldn't stand him until my senior year of high school, when I finally had an English teacher who could teach his material the way it was meant.
There are two big reasons I've found for why Shakespeare can sound like crap. One you mentioned directly, that it's supposed to be a play, not a novel, and so it should be approached as a performance, not just a book.
The other reason is similar to what you said regarding good companies performing him. Most high schoolers' exposure to Shakespeare being acted comes from, well, high school productions. And... kids/amateur actors tend to read Shakespeare as poetry...
Regardless of the meter of the prose,
it should be spoken as one norm'ly speaks.
Reading Shakespeare's dialogue like poetry instead of dialogue absolutely ruins it. 'Cause then you have folks reading it, and attempting to act it, without understanding what it means. And when the actors don't even understand, you can't expect the audience to understand either. Then the meaning goes out the window and no one likes it.
...it also doesn't help that Romeo and Juliet is one of his lamer plays. KF