The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

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Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
I have gone through and carefully reviewed all of the excellent suggestions that have been proffered associated with selecting our group reads. All of you had some really great ideas too. A couple of primary themes really came through loud and clear, including--
(1) You are all quite interested in reading novels, within the period, from all nationalities and cultures; and
(2) You are all interested in looking at the selected novels 'holistically' through looking at literary and cultural themes and movements, related poetry and other background information
So, for our next three group reads I propose that we try the following book selection process--
(1) Each interested participant submits three books for consideration;
(2) After duplicates are culled, a list is generated, and a random number generator will be used to assign a number to each title;
(3) Then I will post a poll with the top 1-6, or 1-8, and we can all vote; and the novel with a simple majority will be chosen as the next group read; and
(4) For the next group read the books would be randomly re-numbered and the process repeated.
So, there we are. Does this sound like a reasonable approach. It builds up a nice little 'hopper' of books that we all feel keenly about reading, and gives fairly decent odds of being a pretty good cross-section of our membership.

I am also suggesting that we would start Group Read No. 2 on November 7th (shortly after the conclusion of our Scary Short Story read). Therefore, in order to give everyone time to find a copy of the novel and begin reading, I suggest that we open the floor for nominations on September 26th, and would close on October 3rd. I will compile the list, generate the numbers, and create and post the poll on October 4th. Voting on the poll would be held October 4-11. This will give people about three weeks to find the book and get started. To recapitulate--
(1) Nominations of three books each--September 26th through October 3rd;
(2) Poll including 6-8 selections posted on October 4th through October 11th;
(3) Group Read No. 2 commences on November 7th.
Don't forget to give some thought to themes and other interesting topics we can explore in the context of each of your nominations. For example, Ami expressed an interest in reading a novel written during the period of the Napoleonic wars in Europe in the late-18th century and early-19th century. Another example could be that I nominated Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure with an eye toward discussing marriage and divorce and the Shelleyan ideal.

So, how does this sound to all of you?


message 2: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 21, 2010 03:34PM) (new)

Christopher wrote: "I have gone through and carefully reviewed all of the excellent suggestions that have been proffered associated with selecting our group reads. All of you had some really great ideas too. A coupl..."

I think you should limit the nominations to one/person and let people change their choice up until the cut off date. This will make their choice harder and we'll get better picks than if they have multiple options. I'd also like to let people combine related choices. Someone suggested doing Byron and Wuthering Heights together. You could let people put in a nomination that has multiple parts: Say "Huck Finn" with "Life on the Mississippi" or "Frankenstein" and "The Prisoner of Chillon" kind of thing.

Another alternative is that Chris-the-Moderator could pick a theme, a period, or a poem and the nominations could be connected somehow to that topic.


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
Kate wrote: "Christopher wrote: "I have gone through and carefully reviewed all of the excellent suggestions that have been proffered associated with selecting our group reads. All of you had some really great..."

Good suggestions all, Kate! I think you are probably right about one nommie per person. I also like the idea of folks suggesting their theme and companion-pieces. Nice!


message 4: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments I like "Chris-the-Moderator could pick a theme or a period." It's such a vast period with many literary movements.


message 5: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Good idea to be thinking ahead, Christopher! I think you have made a good and very doable proposal. We can try it for the first three reads, then if it needs tweaking, we would be free to tweak it. But let's give it a try.

I would keep the three nominations per member, but make them give a priority order. Then, if there were too many to deal with comfortably, limit the final list to the top one or to two choices of each person.

I also suggest for consideration not culling the list of duplicates, but giving those books as many places in the list as there are nominations, which would improve their odds of being picked by the random generator, which seems logical if several people have nominated them and want to read them.

Themes are an intriguing option, but there are so many fuzzy sides to a theme. I mean, a book like War and Peace could fit into themes on family, love, war, politics, class, and on and on.

Finally, do you really want to limit it to novels? I suspect that they will be the vast majority of suggestions, but there may be some interest in at least being able to consider reading other forms of literature -- examples might include Byron's Don Juan, Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha, The Education of Henry Adams. If people didn't want to read these, they wouldn't win the voting, but should they be excluded outright from consideration?


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: "Good idea to be thinking ahead, Christopher! I think you have made a good and very doable proposal. We can try it for the first three reads, then if it needs tweaking, we would be free to tweak i..."

Excellent suggestions, Everyman!

I like your suggestion about prioritizing the nominations, and for not culling duplicates. Just for the sake of an example, let me walk through how that might work out. Let us assume that members nominate 32 books; one book is nominated five different times; the list is generated (keeping the duplicates); the random number generator is applied and the first eight (i.e., 1-8) are selected. In that group of eight, the duplicate title is represented three times. I would then reduce the poll to be voted on from 8 selections to six. In other words, the probability of that book being selected has been increased; first, by having an overall frequency that allows it to make it into the 1-8 grouping; and if it is then represented multiple times in the 1-8 grouping, by then reducing the final number of selections being voted on in the poll.

I also think you are on to something with the 'theme' issue. I think the theme, if appropriate, can be identified once the final selection has been made. Certainly, some themes are evident just based upon one title or another. For example, if Byron's Manfred is chosen (and I'd love to do this in a group read!), boy could we have a field day with ancillary, but related, materials.

I completely concur that folks should NOT be limited to nominating just novels. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to be able to vote for Tennyson's Idylls of the King?

I believe that I can accommodate your suggestions in the introduction to the nomination thread when it is posted.

Thank you for your valuable feedback, Everyman. I hope that others weigh in and leave their thoughts too. Cheers! Chris


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Christopher wrote: "I completely concur that folks should NOT be limited to nominating just novels. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to be able to vote for Tennyson's Idylls of the King?"

That would indeed be a fun work to read.

I'm not familiar at all with Byron's Manfred, but I see that it's included in my Oxford World's Classics edition of Byron's Major Works. So I now have moved from 169 to 170 works on my "top priority" TBR shelf. (I've totally stopped counting whats on the second priority TBR shelf. I would have more luck counting the grains of sand on our beach.)


message 8: by Historybuff93 (last edited Sep 22, 2010 12:20PM) (new)

Historybuff93 | 287 comments What if we did a theme of imperialism/colonialism? For that we could read Heart of Darkness, Kim, and The Four Feathers. Although it wouldn't have to be those books--I was just naming off some possibilities.


message 9: by Historybuff93 (new)

Historybuff93 | 287 comments I also would like to read some Lord Byron. I have always thought about reading more of his work than what I have for school, but have put it off for a while.


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
Please save all of these wonderful thoughts for the nomination thread that will be posted on September 26th.


message 11: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 24, 2010 02:48AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments For poetry I would like us to stick with the Romantics because they fit in with our 1800-1910 theme. It was also an international movement so we could perhaps include some Tagore, which Sandybanks might be familiar with.

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/author...

Like Hbuff, I would like to read some Byron and would nominate his satirical Don Juan:-

http://bob-blair.org/donjuan.htm

But it may count as an epic and be too long, so Manfred might be better.

One 'theme' we could try would be 'Controversy' because quite a lot of the novels and poems of this period were controversial and we could discuss why this was so and whether they have lost this aspect. The Woman Question and race, for instance, seem as controversial as they ever were.


message 12: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments I second the motion. Down with Eliot and Pound!!


message 13: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Rochelle wrote: "I second the motion. Down with Eliot and Pound!!"

I guess you don't think intellectual flagellation is good for you?


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
I can go with the "down with Pound," but balk at the "down with Eliot." Different strokes.


message 15: by Linda2 (last edited Sep 24, 2010 09:42PM) (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments Everyman wrote: "I guess you don't think intellectual flagellation is good for you?"

I get enough abuse from clients and my brother. Reading should be fun.


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
Rochelle wrote: "Everyman wrote: "I guess you don't think intellectual flagellation is good for you?"

I get enough abuse from clients and my brother. Reading should be fun."


You're gonna hate me for this, Rochelle, but "Reading is Fundamental."

I told you...you'd hate me!


message 17: by Linda2 (last edited Sep 24, 2010 10:04PM) (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments Remember, I still belong to that bookstore's book clubs. :P


message 18: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan "For poetry I would like us to stick with the Romantics because they fit in with our 1800-1910 theme. It was also an international movement so we could perhaps include some Tagore, which Sandybanks might be familiar with."

Madge, unfortunately, I'm largely ignorant of Tagore's works. But I agree, it would be interesting to compare works form different cultures from this period. Maybe also Lu Xun or Yasunari Kawabata? I know that the bulk of their works were written post 1910, but they were born within the era that we're focused on.


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
Sandybanks wrote: ""For poetry I would like us to stick with the Romantics because they fit in with our 1800-1910 theme. It was also an international movement so we could perhaps include some Tagore, which Sandybanks..."

Sandy, please do post some links to these poets if you are able. I would love to read them. I would love to be as broadly inclusive as possible for any literature that we evaluate here.


message 20: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan Christopher wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: ""For poetry I would like us to stick with the Romantics because they fit in with our 1800-1910 theme. It was also an international movement so we could perhaps include some Tagor..."

Lu Xun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lu_Xun

There are some links to the translations of his works, although I'm not sure of their quality.

I have only read a collection of his short stories, but not his poems. He doesn't write novels, as far as I know.

Yasunari Kawabata: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasunari...

I think his most famous work is Snow Country, which I haven't read. The only book of his that I've read is The Old Capital.


message 21: by Historybuff93 (new)

Historybuff93 | 287 comments MadgeUK wrote: "For poetry I would like us to stick with the Romantics because they fit in with our 1800-1910 theme. It was also an international movement so we could perhaps include some Tagore, which Sandybanks ..."

I like that idea about controversy, Madge! I'm sure we could find quite a few interesting books that fit under that category.


message 22: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Sandybanks wrote: "Christopher wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: ""For poetry I would like us to stick with the Romantics because they fit in with our 1800-1910 theme. It was also an international movement so we could perhap..."

Thanks for these recommendations Sandbybanks, which I have only just caught up with. I will explore them and hope that we might discuss one or two of them in a future group read.


message 23: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I hope folks are thinking of what to nominate for the next group read and that they are bearing in mind that those of us who tackled The Brothers Karamazov would now quite like to read something lighter, perhaps something humorous. Any ideas?


message 24: by Linda2 (last edited Dec 14, 2010 01:07AM) (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments Not too many humorous novels in that period.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/85...

1911, only one year too late, but I'm sure he started writing it in the previous year. :D


message 25: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments Which reminds me, why is the cutoff point 1910? Wouldn't 1914 be more logical?


message 26: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments That is a good point Rochelle because 1914 (the beginning of WWI) is often considered by historians to be the cultural end of the Edwardian period. However, technically speaking, it ended in 1910 because that was when King Edward died.


message 27: by Linda2 (last edited Dec 14, 2010 12:04AM) (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments Yes, but did a literary period end about 1910 or closer to 1914?? I know my taste in art ends around there, with the end of Impressionism.


message 28: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I don't think there is an answer to that because there is no agreement about it. You could ask Chris if he would like to change the date here to 1914.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwardia...


message 29: by Linda2 (last edited Dec 14, 2010 01:10AM) (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments That article is only about Great Britain and Europe. I see literature changing drastically when Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald started publishing, and modernist poets like Pound and Eliot. Hmm...

What do you think, Chris?


message 30: by MadgeUK (last edited Dec 14, 2010 01:30AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments But the 'Edwardian' era is about Britain and I thought the RR was about the Victorian and Edwardian eras but including American (and other) books which were written within the eras defined by those monarchs?

I happen to have Lord Roy Hattersley's book The Edwardians by my side and the blurb reads:-

'Edwardian Britain has often been seen as a golden sunlit afternoon - personified by its genial and self-indulgent King. In fact turbulent modern Britain was born during the reign of Edward VII, when politics, science, literature and the arts were turned upside down.'

Hattersley also writes: that the Edwardian age is [constantly described] as a congenial bridging passage between the glories of the nineteenth century and the horrors of slaughter in France and Flanders.'

If we stray much beyond the date of Edward's death, we will go into modernism, which wasn't the original remit here. We could, I suppose, start a post-Edwardian section.


message 31: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments We already have 2 groups covering modernism, Bright Young Things, and Between the Wars.

So he feels modernist British literature began about 1910? Does he cite any examples? I feel that in America it started later.


message 32: by MadgeUK (last edited Dec 14, 2010 02:10AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments 1914 I think, he defines Edwardian as being up to the First World War. He mentions H G Wells, Chesterton and Kipling, Forster, Lawrence (and others) as British novelists embracing the 'new spirit' of the post-Edwardian age. He writes that the American James 'celebrated the new century by shaving offf his whiskers, moustache and beard. He thought that changing the way he looked was symbolic of the different way in which he now looked at the world.'

I would have to reread the book to glean any more. I think Wharton is generally regarded as an American Edwardian writer. I would also include Scott Fitzgerald.


message 33: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments F. Scott wrote in a modernist style most akin to Hemingway --spare, little or no descriptive passages, mostly dialogue, often ambiguous and/or unhappy endings, and subjects dealing with the decadent Jazz Age. And his entire body of work was published after 1920.

And I don't think shaving makes James a modernist writer, LOL, although he might have been one because of his emphasis on psychology.


message 34: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Scott F. was born an Edwardian. I didn't realise all of his work was published after 1920. I see him as deploring the end of the fin de siecle and the ensuing decadence, so with the mindset of an Edwardian. And I think Roy meant that James was trying to be modern in his later writing. I am not well up on American lit generally although I have read all Scott F and some of James, most of Wharton. I don't read much mod lit because I prefer to escape into earlier periods.


message 35: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Scott F. was born an Edwardian. I didn't realise all of his work was published after 1920. I see him as deploring the end of the fin de siecle and the ensuing decadence... "

Absolutely not an Edwardian mindset. He both deplored the '20's decadence and reveled in it. He is the epitome of '20's hedonism and despair.

Anyway, back to the topic of where the era ends, but I think Chris is unavailable to comment


message 36: by Gail (new)

Gail | 91 comments I've read most of Fitzgerald's work and several works about him. He viewed himself, and is viewed by many an American critic, as having almost single-handedly created the image of the "Flapper", using his wife Zelda as a model; and as having explored the craziness of the world after WW I. I'd not thought of him as being born at the tail end of the Edwardian Era, because he seems to me to be completely a product of the 20th century. Interesting idea, Madge.


I'm not sure that there can be any final sort of answer to the division of periods into absolute years. There is, naturally, some cross-over. It seems that the WW I poets are a category unto themselves, for example. I really could go with either the 1910 or the 1914 date, but I'm not so familiar with the lit. of those four years that my opinion has any value. I think 1914 seems more natural because the dividing line--the war--is so very clear cut.


message 37: by MadgeUK (last edited Jan 14, 2011 09:15AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments In looking at Dumas' life I began to think about Balzac, his great contemporary and another master storyteller. Perhaps we could consider one of his novels in the future, especially as they tell about life in 'Victorian' France, which would make a change from Victorian England:). This is a blurb for one of his more humourous novels, Cousin Pons:-

'Mild, harmless and ugly to behold, the impoverished Pons is an ageing musician whose brief fame has fallen to nothing. Living a placid Parisian life as a bachelor in a shared apartment with his friend Schmucke, he maintains only two passions: a devotion to fine dining in the company of wealthy but disdainful relatives, and a dedication to the collection of antiques. When these relatives become aware of the true value of his art collection, however, their sneering contempt for the parasitic Pons rapidly falls away as they struggle to obtain a piece of the weakening man’s inheritance. Taking its place in the Human Comedy as a companion to Cousin Bette, the darkly humorous Cousin Pons is among of the last and greatest of Balzac’s novels concerning French urban society: a cynical, pessimistic but never despairing consideration of human nature.'


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The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910

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Snow Country (other topics)
The Old Capital (other topics)