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The Spine - 2012 > Suggestions for "The Spine 2013"

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message 1: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Please feel free to suggest books for our 2013 version of "The Spine". The plan is to select another six books for our main reading.

For each book suggested, please include a description of the work and how you see it as a logical addition to our reading plan.

Also, please be sure that the suggestion is available in English translation and that it is currently in print.

Thank you!


message 2: by Liz M (last edited Nov 27, 2011 06:42AM) (new)

Liz M Faust, Part 1 & Faust, Part 2 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


message 3: by Liz M (last edited Nov 27, 2011 06:44AM) (new)

Liz M Liz M wrote: "Faust, Part 1 & Faust, Part 2 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe..."

Ooops, I completely forgot the part where I am supposed to include a description of the work & how I see it as a logical addition to our reading plan.

According to wiki, "Faust is Goethe's most famous work and considered by many to be one of the greatest works of German literature." The writing of Faust spanned most of Goethe's adult life. It first appeared as a published fragment in 1790. Part one was published in 1806 and then heavily revised for an edition published in 1828-9. Part two was completed shortly before Goethe's death in 1831 & published posthumously.

Most of us know the basic storyline -- the scholar that sold his soul to the devil in return for knowledge & power, right? But the actual text is so much more complex, and different, than the basic idea. Part one illustrates the microcosm through as a sequence of scenes in a variety of settings. Part two encompasses the macrocosm through five acts (relatively isolated episodes) each representing a different theme. But overall, it is an odd, beautiful, frustrating work that would benefit greatly from a more structured, supported read.


message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Liz M wrote: "Liz M wrote: "Faust, Part 1 & Faust, Part 2 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe..."

Ooops, I completely forgot the part where I am supposed to include a description of the wo..."


Thanks Liz! Yes, I can see these two works fitting into our project. At first, I envisioned the group as being about difficult forms, but I can see the desirability of expanding the vision into difficult themes. Although not posted in detail yet, I have planned thematic readings, "Cluster Headaches", as parallel projects to the main "Spine" reads. Already I'm seeing Faust as a Spring 2013 Cluster Headache. I'm going to meditate on this for a bit, and will send you a message sometime in the next week or two and see what you think about the idea.


message 5: by Kimberley (new)

Kimberley | 10 comments Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. It was originally published in 1667 (though written nearly ten years earlier) in ten books, with a total of over ten thousand individual lines of verse. A second edition followed in 1674, changed into twelve books (in the manner of the division of Virgil's Aeneid) with minor revisions throughout and a note on the versification; most of the poem was written while Milton was blind, and was transcribed for him. [1]

The poem concerns the Christian story of the Fall of Man: the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton's purpose, stated in Book I, is to "justify the ways of God to men" [2] and elucidate the conflict between God's eternal foresight and free will. Although the primary event in the epic is about the Fall of Man, the character Satan serves as an anti-hero and as a prominent driving force in the plot. His depiction has fascinated critics, some of which have interpreted Paradise Lost as a poem questioning the church's power (a common theme during the English Renaissance) rather than only a description of the fall of Adam and Eve. [3]

Milton incorporates Paganism, classical mythology, and Christianity into the poem. While Milton's principal goal in the work is to give a compelling Theodicy, he nevertheless deals with a range of topics, from marriage to politics (Milton was politically active during the time of the English Civil War). Many difficult theological issues are deliberately addressed, including fate, predestination, the Trinity, the introduction of sin and death into the world, as well as the nature of angels, fallen angels, Satan and the war in heaven. Milton draws on his knowledge of languages, and diverse sources — primarily Genesis, much of the New Testament, the deuterocanonical Book of Enoch, and other parts of the Old Testament. Milton's epic is often considered one of the greatest literary works in the English language, along with those of Shakespeare.


message 6: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Kimberley wrote: "Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. It was originally published in 1667 (though written nearly ten years earlier) ..."


Thank you Kimberley!

Milton might be a good thematic complement to Goethe's Faust. It's been many years since I've read Paradise Lost. Will definitely add him to the list for 2013.


message 7: by Kimberley (new)

Kimberley | 10 comments Thanks, I have also read this poem but a long time ago. I look forward to discussing it with the group as it is such a complex poem and not for the faint hearted!

Can I suggest this edition:

Paradise Lost


message 8: by Kimberley (new)

Kimberley | 10 comments Thanks, and I look forward to discussing it with the group.

Can I suggest this edition:

Paradise Lost (Norton Critical Editions) by John Milton


message 9: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Kimberley wrote: "Thanks, and I look forward to discussing it with the group.

Can I suggest this edition:

Paradise Lost (Norton Critical Editions) by John Milton"


You can... I always enjoyed the Norton Critical editions, especially when I was in college. Good stuff in the notes.

I have this idea of for a long, multi-book read for 2013 forming in my mind. Milton is on the list...


message 10: by Kimberley (new)

Kimberley | 10 comments I truly believe that notes are a must for reading an epic poem such as Paradise Lost as this will help people understand it more.

Perhaps, we could also read:

The Divine Comedy


message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Kimberley wrote: "I truly believe that notes are a must for reading an epic poem such as Paradise Lost as this will help people understand it more.

Perhaps, we could also read:

The Divine Comedy"


I'm sure Dante is on a lot of people's TBR shelf, including mine. Consider him seriously under consideration.


message 12: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 47 comments Hmm, so after reading Faust, Paradise Lost and Inferno we are likely to have enough brain pain to be able to read Strindberg August's Inferno & From an Occult Diary. ; -)

Seriously, what about something less Western as a contrast? Perhaps from Japan or China? (E.g. would The Tale of Genji be too simplistic in its theme?) Regardless, it would be interesting to bring in a cultural counterweight, don't you think?


message 13: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 251 comments I was also thinking about a complete reading of Dante's The Divine Comedy, maybe even a comparison between 2 translations.

But Milton would also be a fascinating choice-he writes like a sculptor.


message 14: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 47 comments Or, something pagan and fundamental such as Ovid The Metamorphoses of Ovid as a contrast, while simultaneously connecting to the realm of the classical world?


message 15: by Kimberley (new)

Kimberley | 10 comments Haaze wrote: Or, something pagan and fundamental such as Ovid The Metamorphoses of Ovid as a contrast, while simultaneously connecting to the realm of the classical world?

I would be interested in reading that book, and it has been on my TBR shelf for some time now.



message 16: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Haaze wrote: "Hmm, so after reading Faust, Paradise Lost and Inferno we are likely to have enough brain pain to be able to read Strindberg August's [book:I..."

Haaze! You're making me homesick for the Bay Area!

Yes, when I was making 'The Spine' list, I was very much conscious of its Western makeup. Unfortunately, my knowledge of non-western literature is limited primarily to a few Japanese novelists and a few African novels. Given the predominance of English and the West, especially here on Goodreads, I selected six titles that were most commonly thought of as 'challenging' in western literature.

The focus for 2012 is on formal elements rather than theme. For 2013, I believe we can expand to include a parallel "Spine" based on thematic complexity. Liz and Kimberley have thrown out some heavyweight stuff with Goethe, Milton and Dante. I can foresee a year-long read based on the theme of good vs. evil, or some similar way to label it.

How familiar are you with non-western literature that might explore the nature of good and evil? Any books from Asia, Middle East, Africa, that explore the territory, but from within their own cultural perspectives would be an excellent way to round out our exploration of the theme.

BTW, I'm currently introducing myself to the works of Haruki Murakami. I don't know what others think of him, but my perception is that he is writing as a cross-cultural hybrid. An Asian writer, well-studied in Western culture, writing a contemporary East-West literature. Or something like that...

Anyway, I'm very much open to reading outside the Western Canon, so please suggest early and often!


message 17: by Liz M (new)

Liz M Jim wrote: "How familiar are you with non-western literature that might explore the nature of good and evil? ..."

Not on the level of complexity and difficulty as the other works mentioned here, but I would be interested in hearing people's thoughts on Silence by Shusaku Endo


message 18: by Mark (new)

Mark (MAB1) | 29 comments Someday I will get to The Arcades Project, but I think that I need help.

I would also like to add Life: A User's Manual to the potential mix.


message 19: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 349 comments Liz M wrote: "...Not on the level of complexity and difficulty as the other works mentioned here, but I would be interested in hearing people's thoughts on Silence by Shusaku Endo..."

I have not read Silence, but his The Samurai was my favorite (quest) book last year.

Not obviously complex, but I found Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (Nobel, Literature, 1968) hauntingly beautiful and sad. (From one commentator: "dense in implication and exalting in its sadness", although not certain I would choose the word "exalting".) I enjoyed the side story on chijimi -- it would be interesting to explore what Kawabata was doing with its inclusion.


message 20: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Mark wrote: "Someday I will get to The Arcades Project, but I think that I need help.

I would also like to add Life: A User's Manual to the potential mix."


Thanks Mark! I'm thinking that The Arcades Project would fit in our 'Lit Crit and Other Mind Benders' section. I just downloaded a pdf of the book. Will peruse and let you know what I think about integrating it into the Brain Pain reading.

And yes, Georges Perec is short-listed for 2013. Also considering An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris. I coincidentally happened to have spent a pleasant afternoon in that same spot in Place Saint-Sulpice, and have been wanting to read this book.


message 21: by El (new)

El Mark wrote: "Someday I will get to The Arcades Project, but I think that I need help.

I would also like to add Life: A User's Manual to the potential mix."


I agree to both, particularly The Arcades Project. I've flipped through it a time or... ten... at the bookstore, and I have to say I don't quite understand the concept. Which is, of course, absolutely thrilling to me, if a little scary. I need my posse to have my back on that one.


I do have a copy of Life: A User's Manual at home, so I'm prepared to read that one if-ever anyone is interested. That's another good suggestion.


message 22: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Lily wrote: "Not obviously complex, but I found Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (Nobel, Literature, 1968) hauntingly beautiful and sad. (From one commentator: "dense in implication and exalting in its sadness", although not certain I would choose the word "exalting".) I enjoyed the side story on chijimi -- it would be interesting to explore what Kawabata was doing with its inclusion..."

Snow Country was the first Kawabata I read many years ago and is still my favorite. I'll have to think about how to incorporate him. I don't know much about literary movements/theories from Asia and so I'm not sure how to present Kawabata as a challenging read. If you have ideas about this, please let me know.


message 23: by El (last edited Nov 29, 2011 09:13AM) (new)

El I would like to suggest Alexander Theroux's Darconville's Cat. I came across it once when I worked in a bookstore in my early 20s. I tried reading it at that time, and only seem to remember having to look up the definitions of every other word or so. If my memory is any good (which it really isn't) I want to say the book is large and rather experimental. But that's as far as I recall. I probably didn't make it past page 5.

I haven't come across a copy of it since, but then I haven't been searching for it either. If people have access to a copy, I think that might be a good one to read as a group.

From Wikipedia:
Darconville's Cat is a novel by Alexander Theroux, first published in 1981. The main story is a love affair between Alaric Darconville, an English professor at a Virginia women's college, and one of his students, Isabel.

The style relies on complex syntax and unusual words. The satire is broad, and uses southern culture cliches but is often very funny. Some of the names of the girls at the school, for example, are Mimsy Borogoves, Barbara Celarent, and Pengwynn Custiss.

The story is said to be based on Theroux's years of teaching at Longwood University, and places described in the book are easily recognized buildings on the campus.



message 24: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 349 comments Jim wrote: "...I'm currently introducing myself to the works of Haruki Murakami. I don't know what others think of him, but my perception is that he is writing as a cross-cultural hybrid. An Asian writer, well-studied in Western culture, writing a contemporary East-West literature...."

Jim -- since you are reading Murakami, you might enjoy this blog by Ilana Simons of 2008 when her infatuation with his writing sent her on a quest to visit where he lived and wrote -- only to discover he was in Boston for the month. (I don't believe there are any spoilers here, just Ilana's fascination.)

http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t...

Ilana basically introduced me to Murakami and I was appalled and mesmerized by Kafka on the Shore. I followed that with the easier, but less (or at least differently) touching, Norwegian Woods.

With his mixing of cultural and world media and economic influences, as well as fantasy, I think of Murakami as postmodern in his writing although I don't know what the literary critics say.

Since I have had the privilege of exploring some of the "big" classics elsewhere with Laurel, I am looking for places that at least mix in some of the challenging modern literature. I am glad David Foster Wallace is among those being considered.

When I audited a Postmodern Lit class, one of the authors we studied was Nuruddin Farah (Maps). He certainly brings questions of gender, identity, nationalism, militarism, colonialism, ..., to the table with their attendant complexities of good and evil. (Farah received the Neustadt prize in 1998. His home country is Somalia.)

Is DeLilo (Underworld) challenging enough for consideration? Or J.M. Coetzee? Or Mario Vargas Llosa? Certainly Herta Muller's works could qualify?


message 25: by Mark (new)

Mark (MAB1) | 29 comments El wrote: "I would like to suggest Alexander Theroux's Darconville's Cat. I came across it once when I worked in a bookstore in my early 20s. I tried reading it at that time, and only seem to ..."

El, I would love to do Darconville's Cat and think that it would fit perfectly. Unfortunately, I have been looking for it and it is a very hard get; out-of-print and a very pricey secondary market.


message 26: by El (new)

El Ack, bummer. I was afraid of that.


message 27: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
El wrote: "Ack, bummer. I was afraid of that."

Fear not! You have a whole year to find a copy.

The Oulipo writers, especially Perec, Queneau, and Calvino, are planned for 2013. Maybe sooner...


message 28: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 349 comments Jim wrote: "Snow Country was the first Kawabata I read many years ago and is still my favorite. I'll have to think about how to incorporate him. I don't know much about literary movements/theories from Asia and so I'm not sure how to present Kawabata as a challenging read. If you have ideas about this, please let me know...."

Not the person who can really help you. Hopefully, someone else here can step in and give some suggestions. This excerpt of a reader review may provide some clues: "The haiku-like images that make up their surroundings also lends insight into their character. This is an novel of nuance and atmosphere, of bare essentials and hidden meaning, of spaces and silences and hanging threads."

It fascinates me that Kawabata lived in Japan through WWII. I ask myself, how is that found in his writing?


message 29: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey (Korrick) Liz M wrote: "Not on the level of complexity and difficulty as the other works mentioned here, but I would be interested in hearing people's thoughts on Silence by Shusaku Endo "

I'd be interested in that as well. I get the feeling that I'd appreciate the book a lot more if I had people to discuss it with. Reading it by myself was a bit of a depressing slog.


message 30: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 47 comments @Jim

I agree with you in terms of bringing in non-western works in the Brain Pain realm. The new perspectives can be insightful, but we will likely need to work harder (brain pain)as most of us are not used to those angles (including myself). I am perhaps more daring than wise as I venture into the non-western realms. Still, one has to step into the deeper waters at one point... Got towels?? :)


message 31: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Haaze wrote: "Got towels?? :)..."

Yes, of course, and they're all monogrammed with the number "42"...

What I'm curious about is whether or not non-western literary cultures are as 'obsessed' with new forms as 20th century western lit seems to be. Not sure how to research that, but it's on my radar.

BTW, for Central and South American writers, like Cortazar, I consider them to be Western writers because of their European Colonial roots and their Christian roots. Do most others look at it that way?


message 32: by Bill (last edited Nov 29, 2011 10:56PM) (new)

Bill (BillGNYC) | 443 comments Kimberly wrote Perhaps, we could also read The Divine Comedy?

Here, here! Let's do it.

Also -- How about some non-narrative poetry:

The Waste Land -- the pre-eminent poem in English in the 20th century with regard to influence and famously obscure (we could also look at original drafts.

Selected Poems of John Donne (both love poems and holy sonnets)-- famously difficult to untangle the metaphysical "wit" and just figure out what he's saying

Wallace Stevens, again, lush without always being straightforward, but increasingly the major American poet after Eliot this century, if you think Eliot is an American poet (I do)

Yeats poems, from about 50 onward in conjunction with reading A Vision, his own private mythology Again, not always clear but (I think) the finest 20th century poet writing in English

Man does not live by narrative alone.


message 33: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey (Korrick) Bill wrote: "The Waste Land -- the pre-eminent poem in English in the 20th century with regard to influence and famously obscure (we could also look at original drafts."

Yesssssss. This please.


message 34: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Aubrey wrote: "Bill wrote: "The Waste Land -- the pre-eminent poem in English in the 20th century with regard to influence and famously obscure (we could also look at original drafts."

Yesssssss. This please."


What's that I smell on the breeze? A Brain Pain Poetry section?

Let me run that by the committee and see how we could structure that.


message 35: by Alasse (new)

Alasse Oooh, I'd be up for a reading of The Waste Land!

re: Latin American authors, I'd never considered not seeing them as Western authors - isn't that division meant to separate the Asian tradition from, well, everybody else?

Of course, maybe that's because they belong in my personal tradition more than many English-speaking authors. Will you believe I read Pedro Páramo at school, yet I never got to Shakespeare until this year? (We read Cervantes for the 16th century).


message 36: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Alasse wrote: "Oooh, I'd be up for a reading of The Waste Land!

re: Latin American authors, I'd never considered not seeing them as Western authors - isn't that division meant to separate the Asian tradition fro..."


Pretty much yes. There is the indigenous culture influence in Central and South America, so I was wondering what people thought about that.

Another thumbs up for The Waste Land. Stay tuned!


message 37: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 251 comments Totally adore The Waste Land & would happily participate in a group read. Or side read. Whatever.


message 38: by Liz M (new)

Liz M Jim wrote: "What I'm curious about is whether or not non-western literary cultures are as 'obsessed' with new forms as 20th century western lit seems to be. Not sure how to research that, but it's on my radar...."

Jim wrote: "How familiar are you with non-western literature that might explore the nature of good and evil? Any books from Asia, Middle East, Africa, that explore the territory, but from within their own cultural perspectives would be an excellent way to round out our exploration of the theme...."

Perhaps non-Western works can be explored as difficult thematic novels, rather than as works that challenge traditional forms. I know very little about non-Western cultures, but have to wonder if the good-versus evil dichotomy is going to be as prevalent in cultures that traditionally have had many gods.


message 39: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 60 comments Jim wrote: "What I'm curious about is whether or not non-western literary cultures are as 'obsessed' with new forms as 20th century western lit seems to be. Not sure how to research that, but it's on my radar."

In terms of non-western cultures obsessed with new forms one book that comes to mind is Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel by Milorad Pavić (which I've been meaning to read for ages). Very little is known about the historical Khazars because as a small, non-Western people they were gradually swallowed up by the big political powers and cultures around them so Pavić invents them a complex history. The book is made up of three different encyclopaedias (Christian, Jewish and Islamic, denoting the three major religions with which the historical Khazars came into contact) which are cross referenced. Not only does the book not have a real discernible plot line, but like any other dictionary, it's not really meant to be read in any particular order.


message 40: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Andreea wrote: "Jim wrote: "What I'm curious about is whether or not non-western literary cultures are as 'obsessed' with new forms as 20th century western lit seems to be. Not sure how to research that, but it's ..."

Whoa! I think we're on to something here...


message 41: by Bill (last edited Nov 30, 2011 07:13AM) (new)

Bill (BillGNYC) | 443 comments Jim wrote, What's that I smell on the breeze? A Brain Pain Poetry section?

Let me run that by the committee and see how we could structure that.


Jim, um, "the committee"? There's a committee? I guess I missed something. I thought it was just you. :-)

Also, I don't know that you want to separate it. Integrate it with the narratives -- and plays for that matter.

One great thing about lyric poems or groups of lyric poems is that we can all finish them before starting the discussion and we can talk about it.

However, while there a ground swell of enthusiasm for "The Waste Land" -- I noticed no one mentioned John Donne or Wallace Stevens.

So if there's really an interest in poetry out there, speak up?

What poems would you like to read?

As I said, Donne, Yeats and Wallace Stevens are at the top of my own list -- and I'd be interested in doing Shelly as well.

And then there's theater. I realize that part of this is about long, big books. But if the essence of Brain Pain is difficulty not length -- well, great, then allows in poems and plays.


message 42: by Bill (last edited Nov 30, 2011 07:13AM) (new)

Bill (BillGNYC) | 443 comments Andreea,

I think the notion of searching for new forms in Eastern visual art is strikingly different from the West -- although my sense is that in the West it has resulted in the loss of painting as something central to Western culture.

But what's the West exactly? You referred to Pavic who's Serbian. That's Europe.

When I think non-Western I think Asian and African -- not Latin America or Eastern Europe.


message 43: by Filipe (new)

Filipe Russo (russo) | 93 comments Bill, I think the essence of Brain Pain is not difficulty in itself because if it were we could just skip the talk and read algorithms. I think the essence of Brain Pain is a rewarding difficulty in literature, something worth the attention and effort invested.

About the Western and non-Western literature, it depends in what parameter we are using to define it, like geographical (Greenwich or continents), cultural (widest religion believed or less affected by european colonization).

I would like to see more latin literature or anything less euro/north american -centric.


message 44: by Alasse (last edited Nov 30, 2011 08:46AM) (new)

Alasse Wow, this group is getting really international really fast! Awesome :D I've never been that interested in that sort of Western vs. non-Western distinction, actually. Same reason why I don't really like book lists - the boundary is just too artificial to get heated up about.

I've always felt rather ambivalent about poetry, but for some reason I feel really curious about The Waste Land, and I know it's not going to happen without support. Besides, it seems like a perfect fit for this group, which I interpreted as focused in alternative, more difficult forms?

I wouldn't mind being eased pushed towards more euro stuff, actually. Ever since I joined GR, I've been spending too much time around English-speaking people, and it shows. But that's just me.


message 45: by Andreea (last edited Nov 30, 2011 08:54AM) (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 60 comments Bill wrote: "Andreea,

I think the notion of searching for new forms in Eastern visual art is strikingly different from the West -- although my sense is that in the West it has resulted in the loss of painting ..."


In many ways literature east of the Berlin Wall is strikingly different from that in Western countries, there is a completely different sense of time, place, history and identity in it (not to mention unique forms and genres) and a lot of things a Western text would take for granted are very problematic for a Central Eastern European one. For example, Milan Kundera said that one of the biggest contributions Central Eastern European literature can have to European literature (provided Western Europe allows it entrance into the sanctuary of European literary tradition) is the anxiety of unintelligibility which CE European literature has. While Western Europeans suffer from the anxiety of influence because they're anxious about their place in their literary canon, CE Europeans are more than happy to construct a literary tradition out of the chaos of their history and adopt it because it gives them a national identity. What they do worry about is that in a few decades/centuries their works will become unintelligible because their language and culture will die out (a lesson which both the Holocaust and the USSR have taught them). No matter how annoyed he might be about Americanization, no Frenchman (or, for that matter, no Englishman, North American, etc) writes thinking that his grandchildren won't be able to speak French, but writers like Pavić are pressed to write in the way they do precisely by this worry.

/very long digression

I just wanted to show my reasons for suggesting Pavic, but I'm comfortable reading texts which come from any part of the world.


message 46: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Bill! LOL! "The committee" is that dark corner of my mind where I process ideas and suggestions. Even I don't know what they do in there!

To all of you, here's what I use as a kind of baseline definition for "Western".

Cultures that are founded on Ancient Greek philosophy and dominated primarily by Christianity politically. This covers Europe, the Western hemisphere (not including indigenous peoples), and Australia and New Zealand. Let's call that a rough outline in terms of philosophical and cultural predominance in literature and the arts. Doesn't mean I'm correct, only means that's what I perceive to be "Western".

Alasse, yes, the focus is on form and its effect on theme and reader experience. I have more to say on that and will be sending out a group message in a few days further defining my vision for Brain Pain.

Filipe, Latin literature will be much more present in 2013. For this first year, I wanted to get through a stack of difficult euro-centric works to kind of clear the decks of our mental TBR lists. Hopscotch is just our first dip into the rich culture of romance language literature.


message 47: by Jim (new)

Jim | 2947 comments Mod
Andreea wrote: "What they do worry about is that in a few decades/centuries their works will become unintelligible because their language and culture will die out (a lesson which both the Holocaust and the USSR have taught them). No matter how annoyed he might be about Americanization, no Frenchman (or, for that matter, no Englishman, North American, etc) writes thinking that his grandchildren won't be able to speak French, but writers like Pavić are pressed to write in the way they do precisely by this worry..."

Thank you for sharing that perspective Andreea. We have much to discuss on this topic and that's what Brain Pain is all about - reading, discussing, and discovering what it means to be alive in the 21st century.


message 48: by Filipe (new)

Filipe Russo (russo) | 93 comments I don't have any Western vs. non-Western literary issue and also don't read book lists. I just like good books and diversity.


message 49: by Bill (new)

Bill (BillGNYC) | 443 comments Thanks for the digression, Andreea.

My problem is that it's very hard for me to think of Tolstoy as out of the Western Literary tradition -- being one of the most influential writers within it -- even though in War and Peace we have Russians who have been brought up with French learning Russian better because Napoleon's invasion made French unfashionable.

I don't know there is fear of future generations not knowing Russian.

I can acknowledge that different parts of the West might have different concerns -- and acknowledge your insights -- which I think are smart and valuable -- without necessarily making that distinction.


message 50: by Bill (last edited Nov 30, 2011 10:19AM) (new)

Bill (BillGNYC) | 443 comments Jim,

1)Aha. Then I'd luuuuv to see the minutes from one of your committee meetings.

2) I think it's going to take more than a year to finish the TBR lists. It could be just me, but I'm betting I'm not alone. I like the idea of mixing European and other literatures will as the norm.

3) Also, there is the special issue of the English language because, because it is the language native to most of the group. Reading translations -- which I do all the time -- is always somewhat problematic because, we're not reading the original text. I don't know what to do about it, I'm too old to learn ten languages, it's a continual problem -- like, well, the human condition. :-)


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Books mentioned in this topic

Faust, Part 2 (other topics)
Paradise Lost (other topics)
Paradise Lost (other topics)
The Divine Comedy (other topics)
Inferno & From an Occult Diary (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

Ovid (other topics)
Henrik Ibsen (other topics)
Pär Lagerkvist (other topics)
August Strindberg (other topics)
Snorri Sturluson (other topics)
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