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post #76 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 22nd, 2013, 11:02 PM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

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Why just one. I find Austen's entire oeuvre to be tripe, so I'm far over that limit.
Obviously there is that element of subjectivity which we call "taste", one was a complete arbitrary number. Art can't be fully objectified.

But I do think we have that much deeper an understanding of literature if we "get" and appreciate as wide a variety of what is considered and enjoyed as great literature as possible. That's just my personal feeling, this literature has provided the templates and shaped the structure of literary history while heavily influencing what came since.

It's a bit like tennis fans not enjoying watching certain greats. I personally like them all. Someone doesn't like Serena, someone doesn't like Evert ok, fair enough. But I would say their appreciation of tennis is that much the poorer for it.


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Agreed. Many of her novels are about cheesy love stories, characters are boring, shallow, their relationships are superficial. Her writing is IMO simply unimpressive.
I think this is an example of how knowing the historical context aids appreciation/enjoyment of a work. The relationships of her characters are dominated by convention and propriety - of course there is an inbuilt superficiality to this - that the actual feelings and emotions are stifled is actually intentional and part of her world-building ability. The books' strengths are more about how she carefully crafts her plot to expose the underlying social dynamics - the fact that some of the characters a bit shallow is a social criticism and realism of her world.

Great authors/figures of literature provide a fascinating window into the past. Homer and Virgil are great examples, as is Tolstoy, and Austen in fact. It's perhaps a double edged sword that we have to know a bit of history first. I made my original comment as I wondered if I was missing something important from the context of Catcher in the Rye.

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post #77 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 22nd, 2013, 11:43 PM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

I like Austen and Rye both.

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post #78 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 22nd, 2013, 11:49 PM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

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I think this is an example of how knowing the historical context aids appreciation/enjoyment of a work. The relationships of her characters are dominated by convention and propriety - of course there is an inbuilt superficiality to this - that the actual feelings and emotions are stifled is actually intentional and part of her world-building ability. The books' strengths are more about how she carefully crafts her plot to expose the underlying social dynamics - the fact that some of the characters a bit shallow is a social criticism and realism of her world.

Great authors/figures of literature provide a fascinating window into the past. Homer and Virgil are great examples, as is Tolstoy, and Austen in fact. It's perhaps a double edged sword that we have to know a bit of history first. I made my original comment as I wondered if I was missing something important from the context of Catcher in the Rye.
Tolstoy is a great example of the opposite of Jane's writing. He was describing a very similar society with a criticism. The characters like Anna or Levin are the victims of that hypocritical and snobbish society, of those shallow values. Jane describes those shallow characters and gives them happy endings after few complications. While Tolstoy's main characters make much more profound relationships, he describes their psychology, you can also see his thoughts on religion, there's a lot of philosophy in his books.

I didn't like Catcher in the Rye at all. I think I fully understood it, it's just not my thing.
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post #79 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 12:02 AM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

As I've gotten older I've just in general moved away from this near unchangeable Canon that is filled with superior writers than you have to love and appreciate or there's something wrong with you. I was obsessed with that when I was younger, and to a large extent my reading is still influenced by it. But I just can't get behind it anymore. It bothers me how the Canon and the "classics" is mostly shorthand for Western classics with a small sprinkling of Middle Eastern ones (While the Eastern "Canon" is comparatively ignored). It bothers me that 95% of the people that have chosen the Canon are white men who bristled for years at including authors from Africa, India and other such places. Nowadays I just read what interests me and don't read what doesn't. For me personally that still includes largely members of the Canon, but I supplement it with whatever I want. I appreciate the type of Canon central literary theory people like Harold Bloom preach, but I don't have enough time or interest in trying to force myself to like authors like Austen or DeLillo just because some guys from prestigious American and British universities said I need to.
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post #80 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 12:27 AM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

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As I've gotten older I've just in general moved away from this near unchangeable Canon that is filled with superior writers than you have to love and appreciate or there's something wrong with you. I was obsessed with that when I was younger, and to a large extent my reading is still influenced by it. But I just can't get behind it anymore. It bothers me how the Canon and the "classics" is mostly shorthand for Western classics with a small sprinkling of Middle Eastern ones (While the Eastern "Canon" is comparatively ignored). It bothers me that 95% of the people that have chosen the Canon are white men who bristled for years at including authors from Africa, India and other such places. Nowadays I just read what interests me and don't read what doesn't. For me personally that still includes largely members of the Canon, but I supplement it with whatever I want. I appreciate the type of Canon central literary theory people like Harold Bloom preach, but I don't have enough time or interest in trying to force myself to like authors like Austen or DeLillo just because some guys from prestigious American and British universities said I need to.
But why would you force yourself to like anything? I remember that during my oral part of literature exam the girl who was taking an exam before me basically said that Ulysses was an overrated, pretentious crap and the professor was fine with that, of course she was asked to elaborate it, she had good answers and got away with that.
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post #81 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 12:45 AM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

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But why would you force yourself to like anything? I remember that during my oral part of literature exam the girl who was taking an exam before me basically said that Ulysses was an overrated, pretentious crap and the professor was fine with that, of course she was asked to elaborate it, she had good answers and got away with that.
Read a Harold Bloom book and you'll see a good argument for why the Canon is central and needs to be appreciated. It's placed at the center of Western life and thought, and if you can't appreciate it you're not properly appreciating Western culture and ideas. (Their argument, not mine)
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post #82 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 02:38 AM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

A lot of Austen's writing is heavily satirical and critical, even though she does go for happy endings. Are you sure you're not confusing her with those unreadable Bronte sisters?

I do agree it's worthwhile to read a reasonable chunk of the Western canon, if for no other reason than the Western novel has so heavily influenced that art form in the rest of the world.

(Of course, other cultures developed their early novels independently, in some cases before the West, and retain their own cultural influences as well).

On the other hand, nobody can read everything, and as my own list indicates I certainly venture outside the canon. Oe, Chin, Mishima and a number of others would be on my longer list.

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post #83 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 03:52 AM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

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A lot of Austen's writing is heavily satirical and critical, even though she does go for happy endings.
There are elements of comedy of manners in her novels, it does exist. But heavily satirical? Only if we believe that it's heavily satirical that a girl who thinks she's a matchmaker can't find a husband herself for example. It's a lighthearted use of irony, IMO.

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Are you sure you're not confusing her with those unreadable Bronte sisters?
No. But I believe that even they criticized on Jane's novels, saying there's no passion in them.
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post #84 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 09:44 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

I've read a lot of Jane Austen's novels and I used to like them but I don't really like them anymore. They are quite shallow. But they are still fun especially something like Emma.
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post #85 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 10:10 AM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

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post #86 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 10:19 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

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Tolstoy is a great example of the opposite of Jane's writing. He was describing a very similar society with a criticism. The characters like Anna or Levin are the victims of that hypocritical and snobbish society, of those shallow values. Jane describes those shallow characters and gives them happy endings after few complications. While Tolstoy's main characters make much more profound relationships, he describes their psychology, you can also see his thoughts on religion, there's a lot of philosophy in his books.
Yes, that's why he's my favourite. Also Jane Austen is romanticism and Tolstoy realism. That's why they are the opposites. Having said that I still think there are better examples of romanticism. Chateaubriand comes to mind.
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post #87 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 12:21 PM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

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Yes, that's why he's my favourite. Also Jane Austen is romanticism and Tolstoy realism. That's why they are the opposites. Having said that I still think there are better examples of romanticism. Chateaubriand comes to mind.
I'd say she was a romantic realist, if it can be said. It was the age of romanticism, but her writing style and themes were more similar to novels that belong to realism. Francois Rene was perhaps one of the best or typical romanticism writers, like Byron.

Although some of Jane's characters are obviously romanticism characters, Marc Darcy, for example. He's very similar to Onegin.

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post #88 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 01:01 PM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

Anyone read the whole A la recherche du temps perdu here ? I plan to read it but I am maybe too young.

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post #89 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 01:06 PM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

It --- Stephen King
Christ Recrucified--Nikos Kazantzakis
La Symphonie Pastorale---Andre Gide
Cien Anos de Soledad--- Marquez
Bonjour Tristesse---Francoise Sagan
L' etranger---Albert Camus
Ulysses--James Joyce
Le Grand Meaulnes--- Alain Fournier
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post #90 of 155 (permalink) Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 01:18 PM
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Re: Top ten favourite novels

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Anyone read the whole A la recherche du temps perdu here ? I plan to read it but I am maybe too young.
I read only volume 1. I didn't like it a lot, but some of my friends are huge fans of Proust's works. I read it in my early twenties and I felt I was too young for that. I'll give it a second chance for sure.
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