Mark Twain once said whenever he read Pride and Prejudice he wanted to dig up Jane Austen and beat her to death with her own shin bone (and this before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) So I am heartened that it is not just mere mortals like myself that struggle to see what is so great about some of the greats.
To my eternal shame I once bluffed an entire module on James Joyce using sparknotes (quite successfully I might add - I got a first in that module). Oh yes I could sit in Professor McGuinness' tutorials and earn his wan smiles as he gruffly committed "Good insight there Dalton" and then went to pick on the others. But in truth, despite being a voracious reader, I bought Ulysses, read the first chapter, and then placed it in my locker where it lived until the end of the academic year when I brought it home and it now lies abandoned I don't know where. Likewise with Portrait of an Artist and Dubliners (although I was a bit more successful with the latter and managed about four of the stories). And what's worse is I've met bloody loads of French and Germans and Italians who've read the whole bloody lot plus Finnegan's Wake cover to dusty bloody cover. Who, upon hearing that I'm Irish, and I love to read, and I have a degree in English want to sit down and enthusiastically talk Joyce with me. And then I have to rouse up that old knowledge from my sparknotes so they won't know.
On an episode of South Park a few years ago Cartman et. Al got all excited about reading The Catcher in The Rye, that (supposedly) most scandalous of novels that's been offending the older generation for years. They were, of course, horribly disappointed. As Kyle says, it's "just some whiny annoying teenager talking about how lame he is." Is there more to it than that? Lots of people seem to think so but it seems to have completely passed me by. But maybe coming from the 'South Park' generation swear words are not as provocative anymore. But still I can't buy into the myth that Caulfield is some sort of representative American teenager, even taken in his time. And that fantasy about catching children in a field of rye - what's all that about.
So since philistinism loves company feel free to align yourself with the likes of me, Twain and the South Park kids and tell of the Great works of literature that aren't all that great.