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WHY GOOD LITERATURE MOVES ME

 
 
Setanta
 
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 08:50 pm
I have a particular fondness for nineteenth century literature, but whatever the era, if i like an author, i am apt to read anything they write. Among the several authors who constitute my favorites is George Eliot--Mary Ann Evans. Until recently, i had read all of her novels save one, that being Daniel Deronda. I bought the book several years ago, but hadn't read it, until i finally began it a few weeks ago--i have pursued it slowly.

"George Eliot," Miss Evans, is not the technically best writer of her period. Preceeded by Austen and Scott, a contemporary of Thackery and Dickens, and succeeded by the likes of Hardy, her writing is in an exalted company to which is does not well compare. Fortunately for Miss Evans, the other popular contemporary author was Anthony Trollope, compared to whose turgid prose just about anyone with a modicum of talent can shine.

In the last few days, i have read quite a bit more of Daniel Deronda than i had been doing, and getting more involved in the story. In the narrative, at about a third of the way through the novel, Deronda manages to forstall a young Jewess from committing suicide by the expedient of precipitating herself into the Thames, upon which Deronda was at that time boating alone. He takes her to the family of a friend where she, Mirah, finds sympathetic hostesses who come to love and cherish her. Deronda is moved by this unforeseen obligation (which he does not resent) to take a keener interest in Jews and their lives and their religion than he had thereto done. Evans writes one of the most moving and technically finest passages in her literature when she describes, first, Deronda's diffidence about the world as he has found it and takes it, then his realization that his former opinions may simply have been ignorance, and finally his self-acknowledged prejudices. She describes him going into the Jewish quarter, the Juden gasse in Frankfort, and then finding and attending the Friday evening service at a synagogue there.

Evans came from a family of evangelical christians, and her eventual abandonment of evangelicalism and estrangement from her family were a profound influence on her life and her literature. In the passage in which she describes Deronda's experience of the Jewish prayer service, she gives a description of worship and the variety of motivations for it, which i think is the best writing of hers which i have ever read. I was both immediately in her mind with regard to the subject, and very much moved. This comes from no piety on my part, those who know me even a little will not doubt that.

And that is why literature moves me so--the ability in the finest examples of literature which an author has of taking us out of ourselves, and giving us experiences which our quotidian lives do not afford.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 08:55 pm
George Elliot - very good reading. Not familiar with the other.
I too purchase a good book from time to time, then let it languish a good while before reading it. I began Dickens' Hard Times three or four times before finally getting into it. It was well worth the wait.
The Cloister and the Hearth - same story.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 08:59 pm
Although i was surprised to learn it, and am not yet certain i agree, George Bernard Shaw considered Hard Times to be Dicken's best novel. I found a copy in a store in Toronto a few years ago, and read it again for the first time in more than twenty years. It is indeed a fine novel.
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LionTamerX
 
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Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 09:03 pm
I'm just getting into David Copperfield for the first time. I'll report back in a couple of months.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 09:11 pm
That's the only Dickens novel i refuse to read. I was forced to read passages of it in school, and have always hated anything i was forced to read.

No, don't try to convince me, i know it is one of his good novels, but i refuse to read David Copperfield.

In my never humble opinion, his greatest "stories," for their breadth and depth are Our Mutual Friend and Bleak House; his technically finest writing comes in A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, the latter of which i consider his greatest work of genius.
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LionTamerX
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 09:17 pm
Nah, no forcing here. Reading should be enjoyed, not forced.

(Psst, don't tell the youngin's)
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 09:18 pm
My lips is sealed . . . no, really . . .
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 09:43 pm
The Idiot
Crime and Punishment
War and Peace (Pierre often got on my nerves)
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Lash
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 09:56 pm
Sons and Lovers D.H. Lawrence

I've reread that a couple of times. You just slip down into it.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 09:57 pm
Copperfield, I read it in almost one sitting. Well, I was sort of a weird teen...
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 09:58 pm
Of course, I don't remember much about it..
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LionTamerX
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 10:04 pm
ossobuco wrote:
Copperfield, I read it in almost one sitting. Well, I was sort of a weird teen...


The first time I read Anna Karenina, I did it in a two day period. Sadly, it was the old Constance Garnette translation, so I didn't actually read Tolstoy's Anna K.

I was a weird teen too. Weren't we all...
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 10:05 pm
I consider Dickens a comedic genius and Oliver Twist contains some of his best work.
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 10:06 pm
And I wasn't a weird teen. I was normal then and my weirdness is recently acquired.
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Lash
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 10:09 pm
Thomas Hardy------Far From the Madding Crowd.

Lovely.

Now, you've done it. Time to re- re- read.
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LionTamerX
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 10:11 pm
Lash wrote:
Sons and Lovers D.H. Lawrence

I've reread that a couple of times. You just slip down into it.


I've never been able to finish that book. His portrayal of women just annoyed the hell out of me.
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Lash
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 10:44 pm
I think it's the WOMEN that annoy....oh nevermind.

Very Happy
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 09:27 am
I reread Henry Miller and bits of Ulysses about every three to five years.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 01:00 pm
I read War and Peace straight through, although it required six days, what with the unpleasant necessity to work and eat, etc. . . .
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 07:36 pm
I think I agree Great Expectations is Dicken's greatest novel...though Hard Times is wonderful.

I also love Bleak House and David C and Dombey and Son.

As for Eliot in Daniel Deronda, I consider some of the Gwendolen parts....noteably Gwendolen at the mirror...as absolutely brilliant, and the Daniel parts, on the whole, as rather awful. But very worth reading as a whole, taken for all in all.
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