In the Shakespeare Top 10 thread Tracy suggested the top five canonical but unread works of literature. This is a hard one simply because some works are reasonably well read whereas others are on lots of shelves unread.
1. Ulysses by James Joyce. Everyone talks about it. It’s considered the greatest piece of 20th century literature. I’ve yet to meet a single person who’s read it all the way through. I’ve tried many times.
2. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. I think that the Inferno is actually fairly well read. Not Shakespeare well read, but for this genre probably close to the top. But how many have actually made it all the way through the whole comedy? There something to be said for hell, which is also the attraction in Milton I think.
3. Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained by John Milton. I think Paradise Lost is better read than some, but perhaps not as much as it ought be. But be honest, has anyone made it through Paradise Regained here? Like with Dante, heaven just isn’t as interesting as its opposite.
4. The Trial by Franz Kafka. He’s one of my favorite authors but I can honestly say I’ve never quite made it all the way through The Trial. The Castle might be close. Both bring to bear a tedium of bureaucracy that is quite painful. I’ve read all his shorter works (some only a few paragraphs long) Kafka’s a genius best taken, like strong cheese, in small doses.
5. The Idyls of the King by Alfred Tennyson. I love this book. But honestly, outside of the popular sub-books, has anyone actually read all this?