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My three favourite novelists
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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 7:12 pm    Post subject: My three favourite novelists  Reply with quote

My three favourite novelists are:

Charles Dickens, because I find myself delighting in that unique, idiosyncratic, vividly imagined fictional world he has created;

Leo Tolstoy, because I find it enriching to share in his magnificent, all-encompassing vision of human life;

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, because he frequently has me scratching my head in sheer puzzlement, or shaking my head thinking "this'll never do", but who consistently engages me, thrills me, and even infuriates me; because he presents a challenge I feel worth trying to rise to; and because I enjoy a good fight: I have had lots of heated arguments and fights with old Fyodor, and have emerged from them bloodied, but invigorated.



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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Total knee-jerk response. John Updike, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Austen. Just because they are authors who I return to again and again and who never cease to bring joy and amazement into my life. That is not to denigrate Himadri's choices: any one of those might feature in my list on a different day, when I was in a different mood. I would hate to be reduced to reading only three authors, so thank goodness this list does not commit us to any such limitation!


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TheRejectAmidHair



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that, at long last, I'm mature enough now to tackle Austen. I'm planning an Austen marathon next year - all the novels in order of composition. And if I could ask you to name a novel by Elizabeth Taylor you think suitable for someone who has not yet read her works, I'll read it in the New Year.



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Ann



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
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Location: Worcestershire

PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I think that, at long last, I'm mature enough now to tackle Austen. I'm planning an Austen marathon next year - all the novels in order of composition. And if I could ask you to name a novel by Elizabeth Taylor you think suitable for someone who has not yet read her works, I'll read it in the New Year.


I'm intrigued by the idea, Himadri, that one has to be a mature reader to tackle Austen. I've always felt one has to be able to appreciate her nuances and her sarcastic sense of humour. The plot is very little to do with the greatness of her writing; it is her moral comedy which I love.

I have read a few by Elizabeth Taylor but the one that I can remember most about, and still has the effect of making me shudder with horror, is Mrs Palfry at the Claremont. It is a book full of observational humour but with a desperate sadness underneath. I'm not sure if I could ever bring myself to read it again although I remember it so clearly.


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chris-l



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I think that, at long last, I'm mature enough now to tackle Austen. I'm planning an Austen marathon next year - all the novels in order of composition. And if I could ask you to name a novel by Elizabeth Taylor you think suitable for someone who has not yet read her works, I'll read it in the New Year.

You do rather put me on the spot there! I haven't yet read all of ET's novels, but I have been very impressed by two that I read for the first time this year: 'A View of the Harbour' and 'The Soul of Kindness'. I also love her first novel 'At Mrs Lippincott's'.  If I had to come up with a single recommendation, though, I think it would have to be her short stories: these were published in a collected edition earlier this year (to mark the centenary of her birth) and really capture the essence of her work.

It only occurred to me after I posted my first response, but the two writers to whom Elizabeth Taylor is most frequently compared are Jane Austen and John Updike. In fact there was a programme on Radio 4 (I think it was the James Naughtie one) which discussed the proposition that she formed the link between the other two. So I suppose I can at least claim that my choices show a degree of consistency - or are totally predictable, if you prefer!


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TheRejectAmidHair



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 9:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's good enough for me: next time I'm book-shopping, I'll pick up her Collected Short Stories, and The Soul of Kindness. Thanks!



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TheRejectAmidHair



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ann wrote:
.
I'm intrigued by the idea, Himadri, that one has to be a mature reader to tackle Austen. I've always felt one has to be able to appreciate her nuances and her sarcastic sense of humour.


Hello Ann, I think any literature of any value at all requires a certain maturity from the reader. Depending on the individual reader's temperament, there are certain types of literature they will respond to even at an early age (although the nature of the response may well deepen with age); some they may never respond to at all; and others they may respond to only they have had sufficient experience both with literature and with life.

When, as a teenager, I was thrilling to the Russians (whom I still thrill to: see above) I regarded Austen as essentially "chick-lit" - even though the awful term didn't exist in those days. I read Pride & Pejudice expecting not to like it because it was "chick-lit", and, unsurprisingly, what I got back out of it was as little as what I'd put in. Later, I thought of Austen as a satirist - as someone who, with exquisite comic touch, showed up human foibles and put them down. This did not strike me - and still does not strike me - as sufficient raw material for fine literature. My last reading yielded little. But it did plant a few seeds in my mind, and those seeds have since been growing. And it was growing into something that had nothing to do with "chick-lit" romance, nor yet with social satire. Not that her novels did not contain these elements: rather, I had a sense of there being something more.

The turning point came recently when an Austenite friend of mine referred to Emma as having a "Mozartean perfection". Now, the music of Mozart means much to me, and I have frequently argued against those who have complained that Mozart lacked passion: there is, I countered, tremendous passion beneath that formal and decorous surface - but one had to look for it. So, if the analogy between Mozart and Austen holds good, there should be much passion and depth of feeling in Austen also, and that I missed it all because I was not looking hard enough beyond my limited expectations. And certain things that I retain in my mind from Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, seemed to confirm this. So, I thought, the time had come to revisit these works. Maybe, at long last, I'll be mature enough to take them in.

As one changes over the years, one's perception changes. An account of what I have liked and disliked at various stages of my life effectively becomes an internal autobiography. Maybe, I'm just entering a new phase. I hope so.



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Ann



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I liked your example of comparing Austen to Mozart. Did you see those rather good programmes on BBC by Ian Hislop on the Stiff Upper Lip? I think Austen is a good example of that phenomenon - there are things that one doesn't mention and certainly show no emotion about and yet the passion is there under the surface. Ian Hislop said how unmoved he'd been by the whole Olympic jingoistic fest but that he did find himself with a little bit of patriotic fervour when he saw the Jubilee procession with two elderly people standing in the rain for hours and the singers, probably suffering from hypothermia, but still performing in the the downpour. I dislike outpouring of emotion so an atmosphere of restrained feeling is  appealing to me.

I did get a lot of pleasure from the Olympics, though. Confused


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TheRejectAmidHair



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm afraid I missed the Olympics almost entirely. A good friend of mine had passed away shortly before the Olympics were due to start, and the morning after the opening ceremony, I was speaking at his funeral: the next few weeks, I wasn't really in the right frame of mind to watch anything.

But back to Austen: for a long time, I had thought her merely decorous, and lacking in passion. I think I was disastrously wrong. If one is to depict humanity seriously, one has, I think, to delve deeply into their feelings. I am sure Austen does this, but I had missed it. This is why I think that this time, I'll be "mature" enough to understand this.

I tend to find that the works I love best - from Shakespeare's Othello to Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, from Mozart's G minor symphony to Verdi's Requiem - are all works of great depth of feeling, and, indeed, of passion. There are many different and valid ways of depicting passion, of course. Sometimes, a vast passion can reside behind a stiff upper lip; equally, sometimes, all that lies behind a stiff upper lip is mere emotional desiccation.

And speaking of "mature" - the targeted adverts on my Facebook page keep recommending websites for "mature dating". Cheeky buggers! Now, if they'd offered me websites where I could buy mature cheddar...

But I digress. Anyone else like to tell us their three favourite novelists, and why?



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Marita



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
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Location: Flanders, Belgium

PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To find the answer to this I had to think whose novels I would miss most if I lost all my books. Two came to mind immediately and both have been mentioned before.

Charles Dickens: there is one thing my Charleston has taught me. I love his writing. I kept expecting to get fed up with reading the same author but I never did. I put Dickens on hold because I thought I ought to but I could have started ‘David Copperfield’, next book of the Charleston, without thinking ‘God! Not another Dickens novel.’

Jane Austen: I like her sharp wit and her view of the society she lived in. and of course the ‘tremendous passion beneath that formal and decorous surface’ that I failed to communicate to Himadri in the discussion we had on his blog about Mansfield Park.

Finding a third novelist is more problematic but today I go for
Henry James: I’ve not read much of his work (The Golden Bowl, Portrait of a Lady, The Aspern Papers) but enjoyed them very much. Despite the fact that he puts his characters under a microscope, scrutinising their behaviour, portraying them in the minutest detail, he still asks a lot of work from his readers. His novels are puzzles without clues, or perhaps with too many, confusing clues. I love his writing and The Golden Bowl is the only book I read and immediately re-read without a break.






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