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Classics that are, or aren´t, a good read

 
 
Reply Sun 10 Feb, 2008 05:40 pm
In the history of the novel a lot of books are name checked as classics. It seems everyone has heard of them and will use them in conversation and letter, even if they haven´t read them. Some are good reads some aren´t.

Tell me what ones to avoid and what ones you enjoyed as much as a recent best seller.

I´ll start the ball rolling with two I liked and two I hated.

First the good:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte I really (surprisingly) liked - especially surprising because it was an assigned text in high school and I was a callow, male youth - brooding cross generational injustice, flawed protagonists, a sense of menace and use of a literary mise en scene (as I remember it).

Much later in life (four years ago) I read Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert and really liked it too, something about universal human foibles creating disasters in a different culture, time and place.

On my hate list:

Moby Dick - Herman Melville (I am about 75% through this, and I will eventually finish it, but lord it's hard going - reads like a trainspotter's guide to whaling most of the time)

Gargantua and Pantagruel - Francois Rabelais (maybe I've got a bum translation but I haven't got anything out of this yet - I'm about 10% through it and I doubt I will ever be desperate or committed enough to go back to it, let alone finish it ).


Over to you - don't give me your complete lists just one or two at a time, and hopefully we can map the pit bogs in the history of the novel and help each other pick the 'great and good' over the 'great and bad' in our never ending quest to edumakate ourselves through kulcha.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 7,784 • Replies: 114
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Feb, 2008 05:49 pm
I have never liked Don Quixote. I have tried to read it all several times in the span of my life, but, age does nothing to enhance my perception of it. Where others see nobility, I see a hard headed old man, who ought to go home.

Loved War and Peace. The lngth never daunted me. The one down side, I began to dislike Pierre, and wished he would finally resolve something.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Feb, 2008 06:04 pm
Un huh. Cervantes led a much more interesting life than Don Quixote.

Kipling's Kim immediately comes to mind as one of the good ones.
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JPB
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Feb, 2008 07:50 pm
Loved Pride and Prejudice (liked other J. Austen books), The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorn), Crime and Punishment (Tolstoy), many by C. Dickens (although I couldn't finish Nicholas Nickleby -- too depressing), and Jane Eyre (Bronte).

Did not at all like Lord Jim (Conrad), Billy Budd (Melville), or Sons and Lovers (DH Lawrence).
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Quincy
 
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Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 07:25 am
I really don't see what's so fantastic about Dickens

(Hides in fear of sure-to-follow name-calling and criticism)
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JPB
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 07:56 am
No need to hide in fear, Quincy. Personal preference is just that. To each his own. I like Dickens because I can relate to many of the main characters and story lines. His personal circumstances heavily influenced his writing and they were similar to my own. I also tend to like books that were serialized -- one chapter per issue of whatever journal was publishing them. Each chapter can stand on it's own and can be put down and picked up at a later time quite easily -- my preferred way of reading a classic.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 08:38 am
Three books somewhat remind me of each other - Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, House of Mirth. I read and liked Madame Bovary, probably in my twenties. I tried to read Anna Karenina and House of Mirth later on and couldn't hack it, women making 'bad choices' and having them play out. Perhaps it was my mood that decade and I'd be able to appreciate them now, or perhaps it is a signal failing in my reading openness, an avoidance of reading what I take to be a downhill spiral, kind of a lesson book. Or, downhill spiral fear.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 02:46 pm
Quincy, I'm not a Dickens fan either.

Those that haven't been mentioned:

I liked the Brothers Karamozov. I'm a Faulkner fan. Liked Light in August and As I Lay Dying. I liked Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as Young Man.

Most of the ones I didn't like have already been mentioned. Yup, Moby Dick. Pride and Prejudice.
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hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 04:31 pm
Hey thanks guys - I already see patterns developing:


http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:Fa9hpAU0OpNKrM:http://www.weightwatchees.com/assets/images/thumbs-up.gif
Tolstoy. Flaubert


http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:jURCwiHMt39YNM:http://www.weightwatchees.com/assets/images/thumbs-down.gif
Melville, Cervantes



Jury still out on Dickens and Austen. If we get enough I'm going to create a canonical list....
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 04:37 pm
Well, I like the Dickens I've read, the Austen I've read... to add confusion.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 04:39 pm
edgarblythe wrote:
I have never liked Don Quixote. I have tried to read it all several times in the span of my life, but, age does nothing to enhance my perception of it. Where others see nobility, I see a hard headed old man, who ought to go home.

Loved War and Peace. The lngth never daunted me. The one down side, I began to dislike Pierre, and wished he would finally resolve something.


I have also found it impossible to read Don Quixote. The problem i had with it is that the joke wears thin all too quickly. It could have been half the length and have made the same point.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 05:10 pm
I had to read Don Quixote in my Spanish lit class. Yes, I read it in Spanish. It had some romantic vision, but it was too damned long. Overdone.

Has Kafka been mentioned? Good reading, but painful. The Metamorphosis is worth the effort, IMO.
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hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 05:10 pm
Boy did I screw up those images

http://www.weightwatchees.com/assets/images/thumbs-up.gif
Tolstoy. Flaubert


http://www.weightwatchees.com/assets/images/thumbs-down.gif
Melville, Cervantes

Jury still out on Dickens and Austen
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 05:18 pm
I love Dickens on many levels. His sentences and paragraphs are endlessly inventive. And, I relate to his characters and his point of view. However, I have not been able to get into Nicholas Nickleby, after two or three tries. Maybe I have reached my saturation point.

I have had many persons tell me they hate Grapes of Wrath. One of my all-time favorites, thank you.

I have never enjoyed Shakespeare's As You Like it. Insipid is the word that comes to mind.
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farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 06:09 pm
I think the point that must be made is that many of those works you may hate, sound so great when read aloud. Joyce can be a real PITA but as a "night with Ulysses" it is amazingly entertaining. Same thing with Kerouac or even Shakespeare.

Think about the Christmas CArol, its marvelous as a told story. Most of Dickens is like that. I got a real kick reading Swift and Dickens to my kids when they were each young. They really got a kick start on their literary endeavors with being read some classics like that.

It sure beats being read the ever popular "Saints for Six O'clock" and "More Saints for SIx OClock"(something that non-Catholics will have no idea what this **** is.)
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aidan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 06:17 pm
Thanks for bringing up American lit Edgar:
I love anything and everything by John Steinbeck from "Grapes of Wrath" to "Cannery Row" to "Travels with Charlie", "Of Mice and Men", "East of Eden" etc...

I prefer Steinbeck to both Fitzgerald or Hemingway...though I like them both okay too- but I can never really see the point in their stories...aside from just telling stories-and I guess that's just not enough to make reading them worthwhile to me, as I never seem to get into their characters as thoroughly as I do Steinbeck's.

I like Saul Bellow- I don't know if he's considered classic material yet, but I would consider him to be someone who will have a lasting influence- but really like Kurt Vonnegut better.

Love James Baldwin (mostly for his poetry) and Richard Wright (Native Son is a powerful novel).

My all time favorite American writer is Toni Morrison. I think her "Beloved" is definitely a classic.

The only less modern American writer (earlier than twentieth century) that I can think of that I really enjoy is Hawthorne and sometimes Twain- I liked Huckleberry Finn better than Tom Sawyer.

I'm interested to know if the rest of the world would consider the above classics. I know as an American reader, I would- but I wonder if that's only because I'm American. There are tons of others, Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty are two who pop into my head- but again, I don't know that they'd be considered classics to anyone who isn't American- or southern at that.

In terms of British lit - love the Bronte's - Emily moreso than Charlotte.
Really like George Elliot's "Silas Marner"-wasn't as crazy about "The Mill on the Floss"- and like all of the above more than anything by Jane Austen-I think she's a little too genteel or coy and her plots are more convoluted and contrived - too much so for my taste.

I like Thomas Hardy - anything by him -moreso than Dickens.

I don't think you can compare Shakespeare to anyone except himself. And I find his tragedies more interesting than his comedies.

German:
I like Thomas Mann- but prefer his short stories or novellas to his longer novels.

Russian:
I really like Solzhenitsyn-have enjoyed everything I've read by him.
I like Dostoevsky more than I enjoy Tolstoy.

Greek: I like Homer's Iliad, - though I found the Odyssey monotonous.
I love Virgil's Aeneid.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 06:18 pm
better than it's reviews "The Glass Bead Game" by Hesse
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 06:32 pm
The Aeneid, read it in Latin, or I think I did, it was a long time ago re remembering if we did the whole thing, but I think so. One thing to be said for old catholic schools, circa 1955-9: you got your declensions. I liked the experience, but it was the whole mix of the class plus the text.

I've liked Steinbeck, loved Steinbeck, liked Bellow, liked and loved Vonnegut. Use to talk Vonnegut for a while, so it goes.
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hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 06:46 pm
I 'liked' Mice and Men, and hated Silas Marner - but they were both high school texts - at a time when my lit of choice was SF in the Larry Niven/Brian Aldiss/Robert Silverberg end of the spectrum.

I like Vonnegut, but don't love him (although the Schlachthof Funf audio book rocks...) - I get the feeling, to paraphrase an earlier post, his life was more interesting than his writing.

And is Vonnegut a classic yet? Is To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye?

Glad to see some discussion of Fitzgerald, Hawthorne and Hemingway - I've not read any.

Anyone want to comment on Nabokov or Henry James (I want to know whether it's worth picking up one of theirs)?
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2008 06:49 pm
My daughter, Jean, walked in on me watching My Fair Lady. After a few minute's watching, she realized it was based on the hated "Pygmalion," which she had been subjected to, in high school. She said it was so boring. "Nothing ever happens in it." I was so disappointed. It's one of my top favorite stories, whether the musical, or original play.
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