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Literary challenge - November 2010
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Jen M



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
Posts: 596


Location: Middlesex, UK

PostPosted: Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:15 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

Ok, I'm sticking my head above the parapet here as I remember feeling very foolish when I did one of these before....

Anyway, here goes.

A is fairly modern (1970s??); the auction of private body parts would hardly have been written about much before then.  It certainly caught my interest and is something I might consider reading.

B does not appeal, I am afraid - "DunEden" jars with me.  But I am still curious to find out what it is, and what might happen next.  My first reaction was that the style was slightly stilted.

C is (obviously) American; apart from the place-names and spellings, it has a style which I think of as "wise-crackin' "  Again, I wonder what happens next, but don't think I would like to read a whole book in this style.

D is the one I like best - I felt a strong sense of place, and thought "Norfolk", even before the mention of the Fens.  Perhaps the earliest-written piece?

I suspect they were all written by men.

Literariness:  D A B C (but I am really not sure about B - it might be translated - it does feel a bit stilted)

Preference:  D A C B

Chronological order:  D B A C

I look forward to finding out what they are.



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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3435


Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Fri Nov 19, 2010 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What astute comments you all made, and thanks for the final flurry of entries! Jen, your observations were exemplary.

Excerpt A is the opening paragraph of Ian McEwan's short story 'Solid Geometry', which appeared in his first published book, First Love, Last Rites in 1975. County lady is quite right that the great-grandfather does not become a major figure in this story; in fact, the artefact described at the start turns out to be a bone of contention (as it were) between the narrator and his wife, Maisie. It turns into a gratifyingly nasty little tale, though not in the macabre manner of most of McEwan's early stories. I don't know whether to be impressed or horrified by Gul's stories of his maths teacher. My memories of McEwan's short stories are dim, but I'd have said this was about the most suitable one for children of those I've read...

Green Jay majestically identified excerpt B as by Ronald Firbank. It is the opening of his short novel Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli, published in 1926, the year of his premature death. Firbank's rather neglected nowadays, but he was once championed by people like Waugh and Forster. I wondered whether the matter of the recipient of the christening would arouse anyone's curiosity. Monsignor Silex is baptising the Duquesa DunEden's dog (and not with water but with crème de menthe). I finished reading it earlier today, and will post something about it in a minute on the November thread.

Excerpt C is the opening of the novel Down There by the American David Goodis. It was first published in 1956, and was the basis of François Truffaut's celebrated 1960 film Tirez Sur le Pianiste (Shoot the Pianist), which starred Charles Aznavour. Fifty years ago Goodis was much more popular in France than in his native USA, but his reputation in Anglophone countries has been somewhat rehabilitated in recent years. Down There at least is now available in a Library of America anthology of noir novels.

Excerpt D divided opinion on the subject of its date. It comes from Thomas Love Peacock's novel Nightmare Abbey, which first came out in 1818. The character names might have given a clue as to the author, for Love Peacock was fond of the outlandish moniker (Sir Telegraph Paxarett, Humphrey Hippy, Esquire, of Hypocon House, and so on). There is a character in the same book called Emanuel Kant Flosky, so named because of Mr Flosky Sr.'s devotion to the philosopher. I wondered if, read out of context, Aquarius might have appeared to be a dog. In fact he is the son of Mr Asterias. Nightmare Abbey is a Gothic satire on Romanticism. Not knowing much about the things it was poking fun at, I expect the satire was lost on me when I read it a few years ago, but I remember charming elements of farce and light humour in several passages like the one I excerpted.

Finally the rankings, according to my rudimentary and flawed scoring system:

Literary

Thomas Love Peacock - 15.5
Ian McEwan - 15
Ronald Firbank - 13
David Goodis - 5

Personal preference

Ian McEwan - 18
Thomas Love Peacock - 17
David Goodis - 13
Ronald Firbank - 12

I'll gladly take part if someone else fancies putting together another one of these at some point Smile


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3864


Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a bit surprised by Ian McEwan - I'm not sure why. As for Firbank, I'm kicking myself that I didn't think of him when considering English Catholic authors.

An intriguing quartet: thanks very much for that.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2998


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that, Gareth. I was interested to see D (which I put as my personal favourite, I think) was by Thomas Love Peacock.  We studied his two best known works at university, no doubt focussing on the Gothic nature of them.  I think I don't like Gothic writing, but I did like this for its humour and style.  

I have only read On Chesil Beach by McEwan and was slightly disappointed in it, but I found this piece intriguing.  (Though of course, a good passage in Chesil Beach would have been intriguing too - the concept was; I just was bothered by some of the execution.)  

Ronald Firbank isn't really known to me, nor is David Goodis.  I see Firbank died in Rome aged 40 of lung disease.  Does this mean cancer? TB? or what?  Might pick up any book I see of his if I come across them.  

Thanks for that.  I do enjoy reading the comments of people about these pieces and the element of mystery and suspence.  

Cheers, Caro.


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Sandraseahorse



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
Posts: 1170



PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Grrr.  After having said that I would recognise D if it were a book that I have read, I find that it is a book I have read - many years ago.  I said I was hopeless at this sort of thing.

I've never read Firbank but he is an author who interests me.  I'll look out for what you have to say about him.


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county_lady



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
Posts: 633


Location: N Worcs.

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gareth thanks very much for this thread. It was entertaining as well as excercising and teasing our minds.


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Green Jay



Joined: 13 Jan 2009
Posts: 1605


Location: West Sussex

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've never been described as majestic before!    Laughing  Shove over, Wills 'n Kate, stop hogging the screen!!

Firbank is quite unique. I have read Valmouth, but years ago. So naughty.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2998


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I've never been described as majestic before!


Yes, I was envying you that epithet, Green Jay.  You will be able to look down on us mere mortals now, and stick your nose way up in the air!

Cheers, Caro.

(You won't see me here for a few days - I haven't got the huff not to be the subject of Gareth's praise, but I am away for a few days.


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Jen M



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
Posts: 596


Location: Middlesex, UK

PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 9:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for posting the answers, Gareth, and thank you also for your kind comments.

I, too, was surprised that the first passage was by Ian McEwan - although I have only read two of his books.



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MikeAlx



Joined: 17 Nov 2008
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Location: Seaford, East Sussex

PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Gareth - I did read the excerpts but didn't get very far with thinking about them (and still less far with responding).

My thoughts were that a) was probably 1980s; the style seemed familiar but I couldn't quite nail it - Julian Barnes was the only name that sprung to mind.

The others I couldn't get much of a handle on, though my personal reaction was that I loathed D intensely (unless it was intended as some sort of camp parody), and found B mannered and dated. I quite liked the writing style of C, even though it seems to be in the sort of American macho tradition that I don't normally go for.




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