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Archived General Discussions > July 2013 - Open Pick nominations

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message 1: by Daniel (new)

Daniel We're a few days late getting things started here, but it's time to nominate books for our July 2013 Open Pick poll. Everyone is allowed one nomination, but remember that eligible books must be works of fiction published from 2000-2013. As usual, selections that are overly genre or fail to meet the group standards of literary quality will not be permitted in the final poll.

Nominations will wrap up on June 11th and the poll will run for about a week following. Happy nominating!


message 3: by Matthew (last edited Jun 04, 2013 04:25PM) (new)

Matthew | 154 comments Considering the recent ongoing debate on Genre v. Literary fiction in another thread, I'm going to nominate one of the best books I've read in the last few years:

The City and the City by China Miéville.

Structured nominally as a police procedural ("The crime began in that country, and ended in this one. Who has jurisdiction?!?") and peppered with undeniable elements of fantasy/ magic unrealism/ weirdness ("But the two countries are in the same place!"), it's really a book about what we choose to see and what we choose to not see, and how different people can live different lives in essentially the same place (Bosnians and Serbs, "Occupied" and "Palestinian" West Bank, you and the ethnic enclave one block over.)

You might want to call in "genre fiction," but can it be if you can't decide what genre it fits into?


message 4: by Karen (new)

Karen Roman | 12 comments Matthew wrote: "You might want to call in "genre fiction," but can it be if you can't decide what genre it fits into?"

That's an interesting question which might deserve a discussion of its own. :)


message 5: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2104 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "Matthew wrote: "You might want to call in "genre fiction," but can it be if you can't decide what genre it fits into?"

That's an interesting question which might deserve a discussion of its own. :)"


I'll just point out that Mieville himself describes his writing as genre, most often as 'weird' fiction but he openly borrows from many different traditions, as you say. In fact, he is openly disdainful of those like Margaret Atwood who go to great lengths to try and distance their works from the label of 'genre'.


message 6: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 154 comments I'll just point out that Mieville himself describes his writing as genre, most often as 'weird' fiction

Yes. It is definitely "weird fiction." I think to be a genre, though, you need other writers to also fall into it. Otherwise, it is just weird "fiction."

Honestly, I think he describes his writings as "genre" because he doesn't want to sound pretentious. I think he is lying.


message 7: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2104 comments Mod
Matthew wrote: "Honestly, I think he describes his writings as "genre" because he doesn't want to sound pretentious. I think he is lying..."

I think we may be past the point of needing to move to a different thread, but I'll risk one more post. Obviously, I don't speak for Mieville, but I've seem him enough times and read enough of his articles to say with some certainty that labeling himself as genre is not some kind of false modesty. Just the opposite, as he doesn't buy into the BS that genre is somehow inferior. He has repeatedly stated his opinion that genre is where most of the exciting and innovative writing is occurring, while 'litfic' is getting more bogged down in self-reflexive irrelevance.

Um, moderators? Somewhere else we should take this? Maybe the already extant "Literary vs Genre vs Literary Genre " thread?


message 8: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Whitney wrote: "Um, moderators? Somewhere else we should take this? Maybe the already extant "Literary vs Genre vs Literary Genre " thread?"

That sounds like a great idea. We've had Miéville nominated before, and the general consensus was that we would let it stand in the poll. Although he revels in the trappings of genre, there is a definite literary tenor to his writing. I think the group as a whole can decide in the open poll whether they agree, but we're willing to go out on a limb with this particular author. Any further discussion can go in the thread Whitney mentioned or, if somebody would like to open up a more specific thread, please feel free to start a new one.


message 9: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) by Hilary Mantel

This is a book that won the Man Booker, was nominated for the Orange Prize and Costa Book Award and got a National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. It's also consistently been reviewed as very readable.

Guardian: "Wolf Hall succeeds on its own terms and then some, both as a non-frothy historical novel and as a display of Mantel's extraordinary talent. Lyrically yet cleanly and tightly written, solidly imagined yet filled with spooky resonances, and very funny at times, it's not like much else in contemporary British fiction"

New York Times: "Mantel has filled in the blanks plausibly, brilliantly. Wolf Hall has epic scale but lyric texture. Its 500-plus pages turn quickly, winged and falconlike. Trained in the law, Mantel can see the understated heroism in the skilled administrator’s day-to-day decisions in service of a well-ordered civil society — not of a medieval fief based on war and not, heaven help us, a utopia. “When you are writing laws you are testing words to find their utmost power,” Cromwell reflects. “Like spells, they have to make things happen in the real world, and like spells, they only work if people believe in them.” Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is both spellbinding and believable."


message 10: by Angie (new)

Angie | 32 comments I would like to nominate A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

It's a debut novel released in May of this year, but the best thing I've read in years. You can read the New York Times review of the book HERE. I hope you'll consider it.


message 11: by Karen (new)

Karen Roman | 12 comments Angie, thanks for nominating this. It was on my "short list" to nominate, and I cut it in favor of Mario Vargas Llosa. Glad to see it here.


message 12: by Deirdre (new)

Deirdre I'd like to nominate TransAtlantic by Colum McCann. Just got my signed copy at the weekend and looking forward to reading it! I loved Let the Great World Spin and Dancer.


message 14: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce Some great-looking nominations; I just added those last two to my to-read list (although i still want to read Wolf Hall most).


message 15: by Jen (new)

Jen | 68 comments Blood and Beauty looks great, but it's not released until mid-July - will that be too late?

The nominations here are great, I want to (or have) read them all. Wolf Hall is the best book I've read this year.


message 16: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments It's out in this county. OK; forget it. I'll choose something else.

Yes, Wolf Hall is BRILLIANT!


message 17: by Angie (new)

Angie | 32 comments Karen wrote: "Angie, thanks for nominating this. It was on my "short list" to nominate, and I cut it in favor of Mario Vargas Llosa. Glad to see it here."

Glad to see there are others who are interested in A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. I should finish it today and will really miss the characters I've encountered.


message 18: by Donna (last edited Jun 06, 2013 09:44AM) (new)

Donna (drspoon) I will nominate Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden. I have not read it but it's been on my list for a while. A reviewer wrote: "Three Day Road is that rarest of books. It works on different levels for different readers. It can be enjoyed as a military history, a study of the tragedy of First Nations people in Canada or simply as a strong literary novel set against a First World War backdrop. Read it and see for yourself."


message 19: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments I've been eying Boyden. Be neat to have an excuse to read him


message 20: by Jen (new)

Jen | 68 comments Sophia wrote: "It's out in this county. OK; forget it. I'll choose something else.

Ah, sorry I'm in Canada!



message 22: by Thing Two (new)

Thing Two (thingtwo) The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood because she's the most nominated/not read author from our polling.


message 23: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  | 22 comments I would like to nominateThe Plot Against America by Philip Roth.


message 24: by Thing Two (new)

Thing Two (thingtwo) This is going to be a difficult decision.


message 25: by Matthew (last edited Jun 09, 2013 10:38AM) (new)

Matthew | 154 comments I'm surprised that everyone liked Wolf Hall. I found it practically unreadable, although I did force my way to the end (only to be horrified to learn that she had written a "Book 2" in the series.)

Unlike some books that were action packed, or others where "nothing happened," this book bored me like a Greek Drama, where a lot of stuff happened, but it all happened "off-stage," and most of the book was people sitting around talking about what was about to happen or had just happened between scenes.


message 26: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Ghana must go is amazing.


message 27: by Thing Two (new)

Thing Two (thingtwo) Matthew, I detested Wolf Hall, but am enjoying Bring Up the Bodies so much it's making me wonder if I wasn't in that good reading-place. I'd be open to a re-read if the group selects this it.


message 28: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 154 comments Thing Two -- What flavor of masochism inspired you to try Book 2 of a series after you "detested" the first one?

Sometimes I will finish a book if I think it might get better, but that seems to be pushing it!


message 29: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce Everyone has something that just doesn't push their buttons at all, that everyone else seems to love. I can't stand Heart of Darkness or Moby Dick, and couldn't get on with Gravity's Rainbow, but plenty of people love those books pretty hard.


message 30: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I would like to nominate Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


message 31: by Deirdre (new)

Deirdre I too loved Wolf Hall. I liked Bring up the Bodies, but didn't feel quite as bowled over by it. Perhaps simply because I loved the first one so much. I've stopped recommending it to everyone I meet, though, because some didn't exactly thank me! I guess if we all liked the same things life (and books) would be very boring.


message 32: by Donna (last edited Jun 09, 2013 01:13PM) (new)

Donna (drspoon) Deirdre wrote: "I too loved Wolf Hall. I liked Bring up the Bodies, but didn't feel quite as bowled over by it. Perhaps simply because I loved the first one so much. I've stopped recommending it to everyone I meet..."

Wolf Hall is one that people seem to either love or hate. I am in the former category. Bring Up the Bodies is more accessible - more straight narrative with less of Cromwell's introspection/memories - but not as good in my opinion.


message 33: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments I felt 'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring up the Bodies' were very different books. I thought 'Wolf Hall' was incredible - it really did feel like Mantel had come with a new way to write a novel. Accordingly I was disappointed with 'Bring up the Bodies', which felt like just another novel... And not the same sort of book as 'Wolf Hall', at all.


message 34: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Deborah wrote: "Ghana must go is amazing."

I avoided it for a little while, because of all the hype. But it's stunning.


message 35: by Thing Two (new)

Thing Two (thingtwo) Oh, no! That means I probably was in that reading-place and won't like Wolf Hall any better the second time. Sorry, Terry, I guess you've lost my vote!

What made me read the second? I'm enslaved by the need to read all of the award winning books.


message 36: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Matthew wrote: "I'm surprised that everyone liked Wolf Hall. I found it practically unreadable, although I did force my way to the end (only to be horrified to learn that she had written a "Book 2" in the series...."

I listened to Wolf Hall and was intrigued by the attempt to provide Cromwell's perspectives. Did I get a lot out of it? Probably not. But, I would revisit it one day, perhaps after reading a good historian's treatise of the period.


message 37: by Carly (new)

Carly Kohanski | 5 comments Lily wrote: "Matthew wrote: "I'm surprised that everyone liked Wolf Hall. I found it practically unreadable, although I did force my way to the end (only to be horrified to learn that she had written a "Book 2..."

Wolf Hall! Wow, a great read. I never reply to these posts, but as a reader of four books a month I had to chime in. If you love historical fiction this is great. Some of Matal earlier works are slightly more difficult to get through. I will admit my taste is wide.


message 38: by Deirdre (new)

Deirdre My mother used to say, 'Each to their own, as Mary said when she kissed the bull!'


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