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What books do you read and read again?

 
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Dec, 2008 04:43 am
@msolga,
Lol!!

Just part of my reflections about how there seems to be a phase for many of us (including me) when the drive to learn as much as we can about everything is very strong.

I am now finding that I am thinking "well, that's fine, but what difference is knowing as much as I can about everything going to make? It all ends up as manure.....so what do I REALLY want to do with the time I have left re experiencing stuff, learning stuff, enjoying stuff, reflecting on stuff..."

This has been an interesting theme of the book cull......there are some information type books that I have had for a long time on my "gonna" list...this time I let a number of them go....kind of like, so what?
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Dec, 2008 04:45 am
@bathsheba,
I love dear old Jane Eyre!!!

I never could really 'get" all the fuss about Wuthering Heights.....Emily is a bit too to for me....but I did love all the other Charlottes when I read them, and even dear old Anne!
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Dec, 2008 05:41 am
@dlowan,
With me it's more of a case of creating time to read a lot more. I used to be a really avid reader but the bloody internet has chewed up so much of my (reading) time. (Apart from A2K, I read the daily news from so many sources you wouldn't believe! Rolling Eyes ) Recently I made a conscious effort to cut down & to read more books again. And it's been great! What took me so long?

I can fully understand where you're coming from, too. I never quite thought as information overload ending up as manure till now, though! Wink

Good luck with the book cull, Deb. Very liberating, I found (when I was forced to do it)! I mean why hang onto books you haven't read for years, or you've no interest in reading at all?
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Dec, 2008 06:27 am
@msolga,
Audio books that can be listen to as I drive or exercise or shop is the best way to find the time to "read" of late.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Dec, 2008 07:11 am
@bathsheba,
I think the quality of someone's writing will transcend whether or not it is a "woman's book" or a "man's book." Jane Austen, very high on my list of all-time best authors, is usually dismissed as a satirist. This is done even by women literary critics who highly admire her. But i have several objections to that. One is that satire is not a lesser art. The Greeks and Romans highly valued satire, and found one of the greatest artistic expressions in subtle satire. Satire can be such an effective weapon that people were banished from Rome in imperial times for writing satires which stung sufficiently influential people.

Another objection which i have to that label of satirist is that it is dismissive. If you have once categorized Austen as a satirist, then you are free to ignore the artistic quality of her writing, and can avoid comparing her to her contemporaries and near-contemporaries--a comparison in which i assure you that the quality of her writing in general, and especially of her best writing will stand her in good stead. In particular, i object to the label of satirist because it misses the fact that the most constant subject of her novels, marriage and the marriage market, was a subject of intense interest to all classes of society in 18th and 19th century England, above the most impoverished class, and a subject of as intense interest to men as to women. Horatio Nelson, the great naval hero of that time, was justifiably considered vulgar for his consorting with Emma Hamilton (née Amy Lyon). He was vulgar, as was Emma Hamilton, but i bring it up because she had been the mistress of Charles Greville, who fobbed her off on his uncle, William Hamilton, when he, Greville had better prospects. Greville lived in high style, and he was the heir-designate of his uncle, Lord Hamilton, but his money was running out, so he was looking for a rich heiress. This he found in the person of Henrietta Middleton. She brought him 50,000 pounds sterling, or, in some less credible accounts, an annual income of 50,000 pounds. The marriage market was not simply a concern of otherwise idle women--it was a matter of high finance, and a matter crucial to the social standing of all involved, even the busy-bodies and match makers.

In dismissing Austen as a satirist, and dismissing her subject as insignificant, the critic actually reveals him- or herself as rather ignorant of or shallow about an extremely important aspect of life in the 18th and 19th century, not to even canvass the implications for the position of women in society.

I suppose the reason i am less impressed with the Brontës is that they seem to take their gothic style rather more seriously than Austen would have done. Austen lampoons the gothic both in her juvenilia and in her adult novels--the subject and theme were important to her, but she had a better contribution to make than a brooding, gothic treatment, which was the popular style of the day. The Brontës survive because they were, in my never humble opinion, the best of a bad lot.

And, of course, literary merit is not everything. Mary Ann Evans, who wrote as George Eliot, can't hold a candle to Jane Austen, but her writing is still important, and worthy of continued reading. The Mill on the Floss is a melodramatic horror, and Adam Bede and Silas Marner are a little to obvious--but in many respects, she was writing for the reading public of her day. Austen died two years before Victoria was born, but Evans/Eliot's entire oeuvre is produced in the heart of the Victorian era. Middlemarch stands up well to all but the greatest of the Victorian novels. Eliot's work is as important as Austen's in giving us a view of the insular world of English society in the 19th century.

The details here won't be on the test, but you had better be ready to discuss the concepts.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Dec, 2008 08:52 am
@Setanta,
I have never thought, nor heard, of satire and satirists as being considered dismissive terms, nor as in any way implying that the skill and intent of the writer is lesser than that of writers not labelled such.

Nonetheless, Austen's best work is far more than satire, I agree...she simply works her themes on a smaller stage than some...but I do not think the themes are smaller for that.

I am also surprised to hear you speaking of Eliot's best work as giving us a view of the insular world of Victorian England....again, this is her canvas, but her intellectual interests went well beyond that of the average middle class Victorian, and she paints of timeless themes.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Dec, 2008 09:42 am
@raprap,
raprap's baaaaaack!
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Dec, 2008 10:51 am
@dlowan,
My remarks about Eliot and Austen giving us a view of the insular world of England, both before and during the Victorian era, was not a dismissal of their work, but a reference to the historical importance of their work, something which is often (i'd say usually) not understood by literary criticism and its practitioners.

For example, Austen's work was written between the 1790s and her death in 1817. This corresponds to the period of the Wars of the French Revolution and the wars with Napoleon. But references to the those wars are almost entirely missing from her work. This is not because her view or understanding was necessarily insular or narrow (her correspondence would give the lie to any such claim), but because in the insular world of England in that time, the wars are far less important than the historical emphasis on them would lead one to believe. The brother of the heroine of Mansfield Park is sent to sea, in the hope that if he survives, he'll qualify for a midshipman's berth, which would give him a career--but what he might do at sea, and any political or military context is completely lacking. In Persuasion, Captain Wentworth brings in the subject of the Napoleonic Wars, but only by inference. His ability to marry well would depend upon his ability to support a wife, and it would be by taking prizes while commanding at sea that he would do so. No discussion of Napoleon, of the state of affairs political and military on the continent, nor of the naval war are involved in this--notice is simply taken of the necessity of Wentworth taking prizes to be able to afford to support a wife.

This was not because Austen's world view was insular or narrow, it is because the view of the society which she described was narrow and insular. The naval war was of the greatest interest to them, because their commerce, and therefore, their livelihood depended upon maritime commerce. Those wars impinged widely only on the working class and the poorest people of England. Wellington said of his troops that they were " . . . the scum of the earth, but see what fine fellows we have made of them." He was not the first English officer to describe his troops in such terms. The Royal Navy impressed men off the streets, and stopped merchant ships to take men off them, too. The army recruited among the poorest classes, and both the army and the navy had recourse to "Lord Mayor's men," meaning those given a choice between prison and military service.

The wars had almost no impact on the men of the middle classes and the upper classes. In the army, advancement rarely came from merit (although the vicious and dissolute Duke of York, son of George III, was very much devoted to the idea of rewarding merit, in his capacity of Commander in Chief). Commissions in the army were bought and sold, and even as late as the Crimean War, the colonelcy of a regiment sold for more than 30,000 pounds. The navy was the service which reward merit more consistently, although preferment was by no means entirely reliant upon merit, and political connection was at least as important. Because of the possibility of advancement and prize money, the middle class looked to the navy for careers for its sons. Horatio Nelson was the third son of a ne'er-do-well country parson in Norfolk, whose maternal uncle, Maurice Suckling, provided Nelson a berth as a midshipman.

So, apart from those middle class families who sent their sons to sea in the hope of providing them careers, and those wealthy families who purchased commissions for second or third or fourth sons in regiments, those wars were simply not a part of the lives of anyone above the social level of the working class. Austen is accurately portraying a society for which the wars with France were simply not an important part of their lives.

Historians do well when they marry a knowledge of literature to their knowledge of the detail of life in the periods they study. It is precisely because narrative historians (a much maligned group in recent decades) have been pointing these things out that studies of correspondence and journals have revealed that Austen's portrayal of society has been borne out in that regard. People whose fathers, sons or husbands were not actually serving in the wars simply paid little or no attention to the wars, except insofar as they impinged upon the commerce upon which they relied for their wealth. That is what i mean when i speak of an insular view.

Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) came from an evangelical family of religious dissenters, as they were then known. This theme is central to Adam Bede, the title character of which is an evangelic Methodist--in the time period in which she sets the novel, all Methodists were also evangelicals. Silas Marner is a "classic" evangelical dissenter. Middlemarch is set in the late 1820s and early 1830s, at the time of the first Reform Act. It is a detailed and perceptive description of parochial society in England at that time. Most historians will take note of Lord Liverpool and the Duke of Wellington, of Grey and Canning and Peel, and of the Peterloo Massacre and the Reform Act, but pay absolutely no attention to the evangelicals, who were a major force in English society at the time. Historians, of course, know who Wilberforce was, and know to a certain extent the effect of his anti-slavery and "anti-animal cruelty" crusades, but they tend not to connect the dots. Dorothea Brooke is an archetype of the committed, sincere evangelical woman of her day, and Evans' careful description of her disillusionment with Casaubon and his phony piety shows how better a grip she had on the significance of evangelicalism in society in that time period than historians have since shown. The tidy, quiet, peaceful and insular world of England was poised to be turned upside down in the years succeeding the period of action of Middlemarch. The dissolute and cynical George IV died, and was replaced by his awkward, foul-mouthed, vulgar brother, William IV. The railroads were drawing the nation together in a way that no one could then have foreseen, and when Evans describes scenes of "provincial life," she is describing a way of life which was to pass away in less than a generation. The passage of the first Reform Act was to forever alter English society in a manner not to be undone, even had the reform been repealed.

At no time was i suggesting that Austen and Evans were insular and narrow-minded--but the society, the nation of which they wrote, was, or wanted to be.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Dec, 2008 10:52 am
By the way, my comments about satire and satirists were based on the standard line in literature courses in university 40 years ago, when i read English and American literature at university. I would certainly hope that those views have been altered in the last 40 years.
spendius
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Dec, 2008 11:33 am
@Setanta,
I would imagine that reading English and American literature at university would be quite sufficient to ruin any taste for the art. That is demonstrated by the turgidity and meaninglessness of the prose examples Set has provided us with.

I got most of mine from second-hand bookshops and libraries. Over a long period of time.

Did somebody say they didn't like Darling Emily. Sheesh!
Fountofwisdom
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jan, 2009 06:18 am
I can only assume that something gets lost in the translation of Bronte's Wuthering Heights; the Language is difficult even for people who speak English, as it is a book written in a regional dialect: and I guess Americans just don't dig it.
It is vastly superior to the smug world of Austen. It encapsulates the wildness of the moors, a passion that conquers death itself, and the torrent of a love unfettered by morality.
I recommend that anyone who believes they don't like it, to read it outside, and in a storm. And learn to be afraid of elemental forces
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jan, 2009 06:40 am
@Fountofwisdom,
"It encapsulates the wildness of the moors, a passion that conquers death itself, and the torrent of a love unfettered by morality."


Yes. Exactly the problem. Awfully mawkish and self-indulgent, in my view.

But...to each their own.
0 Replies
 
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jan, 2009 07:02 am
@Fountofwisdom,
Quote:
I recommend that anyone who believes they don't like it, to read it outside, and in a storm. And learn to be afraid of elemental forces
Very Happy Very Happy

my first a2k laugh of 2009 (outside of acronyms)...
could they read it outside in a storm but undercover of an outcropping of rock or maybe in an old abandoned shepherd's hut? (they have to keep the pages dry somehow).

I'm not laughing at you - I like the way you put that and I agree - it does teach you to respect anything one deems absolutely elemental or feels cellularly.

I'm American - I loved it -from the first scene in the farmyard..and I grew up in the suburbs.

And I think it was because it was so foreign and different that the language resonated so much with me (although I also really love Southern American writers for exactly the opposite reason - theirs is the language I recognize cellularly and elementally).
But I also loved Charlotte's work too.
I just can't get into Austen as much - and I think it's because of the people she chose to write about as much as anything else.
I think that's why I like Hardy more than Austen too - he and the Bronte's tend to write about more simple folk - and when they dont, at least they concentrate more on the universal emotions that all people can relate to instead of the world of manners and mores of the upper classes that Austen pretty much details in most of her novels.

But I haven't read Hardy or the Bronte's or even Toni Morrison (who is one of my all time favorite authors) over and over again.
In fact, I'm (w)racking (sp?) my brain to think of a book I have read over and over again. I can't think of even one- except the dictionary or the thesaurus- and I do love both of them.

Although I do love Jeanette Winterson's prose and when I'm reading one of her novels, I will read passages over and over again - just because I love the sheer beauty of the way she uses language - and she's funny as hell sometimes to boot.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jan, 2009 07:07 am
I find it hilarious to suggest that the windswept moors have any more of the "elemental" power of raw nature than does a hurricane or than do tornadoes. That clown FoW is just too, too eager to insult Americans. I suspect he hopes to get a rise out of them with that drivel. Good luck to him.

As for the Brontës, i just can't do the gothic thing--it's too silly.
aidan
 
  2  
Reply Fri 2 Jan, 2009 07:27 am
@Setanta,
the crazy, ghostly gothic stuff is always rationally explained in the end though...that's probably why I can't read it again and again...once I know the plot, I know it- unless I'm confused and I need to reread it to try to catch something I think I missed.

The moors are pretty spectacular though - different than anyplace else really - although not better - just different. Useful for setting a scene certainly - just like the sea or the tropics or whatever.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jan, 2009 08:25 am
I just can't do the gothic thing, it's too silly.
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Fountofwisdom
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jan, 2009 04:46 pm
As a historical document Wuthering Heights represents the people's choice: Austen represented the establishment line, about formal courtship.
Bronte's Heatcliff was much more like James Dean: it is not written in the Queens English: the accents and language are pure Yorkshire, the characters romp around the moors in unseemly acts of passion.
That such a book survives, despite being regional, anti establishment and disturbing, says a lot about the true aspirations of Women down the ages.
For the Americans there is even a gunfight.
The Brontes actually lived on the moors:

Hardy represents a romanticised view of the countryside, the books are beautifully written, although the women in it have a bad time. They represent a yearning for things rural during growing industrialisation.
I think books should be understood in their historical context, but some things don't travel. I never liked either To Kill a Mockingbird or Catcher in the Rye; I guess I don't understand the American- ness. To me not liking Wuthering Heights isn't an option
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jan, 2009 05:18 pm
@Fountofwisdom,
Fount of wisdom wrote:
Quote:
To me not liking Wuthering Heights isn't an option

Is that because you're English?


For me, nationality has little to do with which authors I do and don't like. Although I'm American, I have to admit I'm not a fan of To Kill A Mockingbird. Love the themes, characterization, and setting but in terms of Lee's writing - too wordy...I did get through it and was happy I did - felt it was worthwhile- but I have to admit I scanned a lot to make sure I wasn't missing any important action - and that was when I was a much more careful reader when I was eleven or twelve years old.

I had to read it again (aloud) years later for some students with reading disabilities - and was struck all over again by it's wordiness.

Loved Catcher in the Rye though-but I was exactly the right age to read that when it was heavily in vogue and still somewhat topical.
My daughter read it for her class and she just didn't get it and said that most of her classmates didn't either (and she's American).
The kids in her class posited that Holden was in rehab - I had to explain to her that when the book was written there was no such thing as rehab yet (speaking of putting books into historical context).

spendius
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jan, 2009 06:13 pm
@Fountofwisdom,
Quote:
I can only assume that something gets lost in the translation of Bronte's Wuthering Heights; the Language is difficult even for people who speak English, as it is a book written in a regional dialect: and I guess Americans just don't dig it.
It is vastly superior to the smug world of Austen. It encapsulates the wildness of the moors, a passion that conquers death itself, and the torrent of a love unfettered by morality.
I recommend that anyone who believes they don't like it, to read it outside, and in a storm. And learn to be afraid of elemental forces.


That is just brilliant. That is literary criticism out of the top drawer.

I went to visit Emily's tomb once. And when the curator wasn't looking I laid myself down on the couch on which she died which had ropes around it to keep us off. And I went up on the moors and found a pool in which she might have dangled her hand and watched the minnows pass between her fingers.

She was born in spring
An' I was born too late.





spendius
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jan, 2009 06:19 pm
@Setanta,
Quote:
That clown FoW is just too, too eager to insult Americans. I suspect he hopes to get a rise out of them with that drivel.


What has made you think FoW is a bloke Set?
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