We live in an era where opinion is currency. The pressure is on us to say "I like this" or "I don't like that," to make snap decisions ... But when faced with something we cannot comprehend at once, which was never intended to be snapped up or whizzed through, perhaps "I don't like it" is an inadequate response. Don't like Middlemarch? It doesn't matter. It was here before we arrived, and it will be here long after we have gone. Instead, perhaps we should have the humility to say: I didn't get it. I need to try harder.This has been an approach which has come to me in the last few years. Because I kept trying, I was finally able to get through Great Expectations and like it by the end. It took listening to the audiobook of The Lord of the Rings (as well as The Tolkien Professor podcast) before I was able to get to the end. And love it.
Andy Miller, The Year of Reading Dangerously
It doesn't always work, of course. Sometimes we don't get it because we can't like every single classic. I tried three times to get through The Brothers Karamazov before admitting that novel is one which I am not going to appreciate.
I have a feeling I am having the same experience with Don Quixote, having just abandoned it after my second try, which got me through 20 chapters. (Perhaps if I hadn't read The Pickwick Papers first. About 10 chapters along Charles Dickens hit that sweet spot which made me love the book ... and feel as if, by contrast, Cervantes just had a lot of gags strung together.)
However, I am very aware that the fault is not with the literature, but with me. It's why I am now willing to return to my failures in great literature and try once again to see if trying harder yields rewards.