The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

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message 1: by Nemo (last edited Oct 17, 2010 02:17PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) "The man who does not read good books
has no advantage over the man who cannot read them."
- Mark Twain

A recent shopping experience (read it here) got me re-thinking about my approach to book reviews /recommendations. I'd like to get everyone's feedback on it.

What criteria do you use to judge whether a book is worth reading? What is a good book review or recommendation to you?


message 2: by Historybuff93 (last edited Oct 17, 2010 08:16PM) (new)

Historybuff93 | 287 comments A good review, to me, is something that takes into consideration the skill of the writing, the writing style, and personal taste. If someone doesn't like a book, I'd like to hear why--and the reverse, if the reader feels the opposite.


message 3: by Jan (last edited Oct 18, 2010 07:14AM) (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 485 comments What criteria do I use....?
1. If a book is a 'runaway bestseller', I run away and don't even look at it.
2. If I've heard an interesting review on the radio, this might send me looking for the book.
http://abc.net.au/rn/bookshow
3.If I'm in a shop or a library, I might read the blurb, the first page and then open it to the middle somewhere to sample another page or two, to see if it's still interesting in the middle.
4. I like Sandybanks' reviews(she's in this group)as they are entertaining and informative. However we don't always agree. (see my review of A Thousand Days in Venice A Thousand Days in Venice (Ballantine Reader's Circle) by Marlena De Blasi and compare with her review of same)

Edit: in a later post (see #6 below)Sandybanks pointed out this was not correct. The book with the differing reviews isThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer


message 4: by Linda2 (last edited Oct 17, 2010 09:53PM) (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments I read reviews in the NYTimes, NPR and the New Yorker, and some literary magazines online. And like Jan, I don't necessarily look for bestsellers. I don't read reviews here, as many are questionable and not based on the quality of the writing.

Also, like Jan, I read the blurbs on the covers and thumb through. But recommendations by friends are totally useless to me, as taste in reading are very subjective. That's also why I don't write reviews here.

HB--Why I don't like a book-- it's poorly written or the story isn't captivating to me (I presume you're talking about fiction) or it's too derivative or predictable. A book with NO likable characters doesn't interest me.

I usually wait to see if a book has some lasting value before I buy it, therefore, I rarely buy current books. Most of the books I've bought recently are 2-10 years old, not counting classics.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Nemo wrote: ""The man who does not read good books
has no advantage over the man who cannot read them."
- Mark Twain

A recent shopping experience (read it here) got me re-thinking about my approach to book rev..."


I think your yogurt buying experience is spot on, Nemo. I like reviews that have a bit of the reviewer invested in them. What did they like, what infuriated or intrigued them. I do look at the reviews on GoodReads and have found them more useful than professional reviews. A review in a magazine or a newspaper might interest me enough to look into a book, it rarely will sell me on actually reading it.


message 6: by Grace Tjan (last edited Oct 18, 2010 12:07AM) (new)

Grace Tjan Jan wrote: "What criteria do I use....?
1. If a book is a 'runaway bestseller', I run away and don't even look at it.
2. If I've heard an interesting review on the radio, this might send me looking for the boo..."


Clad you like my reviews, Jan. But I've never reviewed A Thousand Days in Venice. : )


message 7: by Jan (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 485 comments Sandybanks wrote: "Jan wrote: "What criteria do I use....?
1. If a book is a 'runaway bestseller', I run away and don't even look at it.
2. If I've heard an interesting review on the radio, this might send me looking..."

Sandybanks....SORRY.....I got my books mixed up! It was the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that we reviewed quite differently!
I would recommend A Thousand Days in Venice...perhaps you should read it Sandybanks...I would like to read your review!


message 8: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Rochelle wrote: "Most of the books I've bought recently are 2-10 years old, not counting classics. "

Only 2 years? Gosh! Almost all the books I buy, except nonfiction, are at least fifty years old. Any newer fiction I get out of the library, no matter how good its recommendations, because I'm unlikely to want it on my shelves. I'm not sure that there are more than five books (again, fiction) written in the past twenty years that I've read all the way through. They just worth taking time away from Plato, Dante, Milton, Hardy, Dickens, Thackeray, Lamb, etc. etc. etc. I keep trying, but not finding.


message 9: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Jan wrote: "It was the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that we reviewed quite differently!"

I got sucked into trying to read it by all the hype. Should have known better. The beginning was mildly interesting. After that, back to the library it went.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

A good book is one that interests you amd when you finished it you feel it got through to you. It's not how many books you read but how many books stick with you and influence your perspective. We are what we do, but we're influenced by what we read.

How do you find such books?

My first source is other books I have read. If it's a novel it may mention other books in the introduction, or characters of other books in the text of the novel.
I find the bibliography in non fiction books helpful.

Author I've enjoyed in the past.

I will read reviews but I usually do not find them very helpful unless I know the person quite well. I look at best sellers list but usually the non fiction section. If there is a book on a subject I am interested in I may take a look.

If I know a person quite well, I may read books he has enjoyed in order that we can better connect. It sometimes surprises you. It happened to me with "Paradise Lost" by Milton. Many people disliked it because it was taken in an English class. I know two people that think it's a great book, and I was surprised to find it a worthwhile and enjoyable read.

An interesting subject mentioned in a novel or a side bar in non fiction.

eg.I recently finished reading "Herzog" and "Steppenwolf" and both mention Faust and Goethe. I'm now reading Faust Part 1.

e.g. John English is a good Canadian historical biographer. I read two disappointing bio's of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. English's recent bio of him is excellent. If I knew he was going to write his bio I probably would have waited.


message 11: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan Jan wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "Jan wrote: "What criteria do I use....?
1. If a book is a 'runaway bestseller', I run away and don't even look at it.
2. If I've heard an interesting review on the radio, this mi..."


Sounds like an interesting book, Jan.


message 12: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan Everyman wrote: "Jan wrote: "It was the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that we reviewed quite differently!"

I got sucked into trying to read it by all the hype. Should have known better. The beginn..."


I have to agree with you on that, EMan. But apparently I'm in a minority.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Sandybanks wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Jan wrote: "It was the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that we reviewed quite differently!"

I got sucked into trying to read it by all the hype. Should have known b..."


I thought the beginning was interesting and had a lot of promise, then it deteriorated into romantic drivel. Your minority is growing.


message 14: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan Kate wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Jan wrote: "It was the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that we reviewed quite differently!"

I got sucked into trying to read it by all the hype. ..."


My review of the book, if anyone is interested:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


message 15: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments Patrice wrote: "So true Glen. A bad book is usually any book I had to read in school."

That would be a bad teacher, not necessarily a bad book.


message 16: by Linda2 (last edited Oct 18, 2010 09:51PM) (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments I read several books by Anne Tyler about 20 or 30 years ago, and didn't understand her at all. I tried her again in my 60's (I'm 64 now,) understood her perfectly, now I'm a Tyler fan. Sometimes we don't have the life experience or insight to understand certain books until the right time. That's true of some books that are presented to us too early in high school, and even college.

And conversely, some books that we thought in our youth were marvelous, turn out to be garbage when we view them again as adults. We fall for a lot of romantic claptrap when we're young. Some of us outgrow it, others stay in the same groove their whole lives, and never grow as readers.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Rochelle wrote: "I read several books by Anne Tyler about 20 or 30 years ago, and didn't understand her at all. I tried her again in my 60's (I'm 64 now,) understood her perfectly, now I'm a Tyler fan. Sometimes ..."

Very true. People's reading tastes change with time. I'm not sure that means things we liked when we were younger are garbage so much as they don't suit us as we get older. I've gone the other way with Tyler. I used to enjoy her books 20 years ago. Now I can't finish them.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

You are obviously correct Rochelle. The teacher makes a big difference. But I found that you had to write a better paper if you were going to disagree with the insgtructor's interpretation of the book. Natural bias which is difficult to control. "Paradise Lost" is something like discussing religion where many people have strong feelings that impact on their interpretation. Try to write a negative paper on " Silent Spring" with a professor who is an environmentalist. I can think of many other examples.

Northrop Frye states everyone has their own interpretation relating to their own personal experiences. None of us can fully understand an intelligence different from our own.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

A quote from Richard G. Nixon.

" I suggest the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little further down our particular path than we have yet gone ourselves."


message 20: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Glen wrote: "A good book is one that interests you amd when you finished it you feel it got through to you. It's not how many books you read but how many books stick with you and influence your perspective. We ..."

I agree. We seem to have similar ways of finding good books.

Many of the books I've enjoyed were written by influential thinkers who made a lasting impact on history, and whose lives were an outgrowth of the ideas and ideals reflected in their writings.

BTW, I noticed you gave Pierre Trudeau's Memoirs two stars. Why is that?


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Glen wrote: "A quote from Richard G. Nixon.

" I suggest the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little further down our particular path than we have yet gone ..."



Very apt quote. I agree with him.


message 22: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Kate wrote: "I like reviews that have a bit of the reviewer invested in them. What did they like, what infuriated or intrigued them...."

Me too. I read reviews for the same reasons I read books, to learn about other people's ideas and perspectives. The more personal the reviews are, the better I can understand them.

The problem is, there are so many books and reviews, it's hard to find the good ones, especially for someone new to Goodreads like me.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

Nemo wrote: "The problem is, there are so many books and reviews, it's hard to find the good ones, especially for someone new to Goodreads like me."

The trick is finding people whose tastes and approach to books are similar to yours. Then you can mine their bookshelves and follow their reviews. It takes a while to build a circle of like-minded friends, but it's a big help in cutting through the noise level on GoodReads.


message 24: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Patrice wrote: "A GREAT book crystallizes ideas, human nature, the way of the world. It makes my heart pound with excitement because I feel the thrill of understanding. It puts words to something I may have known on some level, but had no words for...."

Beautifully put!

I see that you have quite a few books by Plato on your shelf. Have you read his The Statesman and Laws?


message 25: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Kate wrote: "The trick is finding people whose tastes and approach to books are similar to yours..."

I've yet to figure out how to do that. :)


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Nemo

Trudeau was a private man and he left many subjects out of his memoirs. Pearsons and even Mulroneys and Crechtien's are better in my opinion. B.C.'s most famous premier W.A.C. Bennett, never wrote an autobiography. He wasn't interested so he didn't bother. Knowing Trudeau's great analytical skills , I felt the book was a poor effort on his part. I didn't expect Churchill but I expected better. Some reveiwers felt the same way.

What is the picture of?

Patrice

I find the ancient philosophers hard to relate to in an historical context. I prefer reading Ralph Waldo Emerson or John Stuart Mills. Anything from about 1800.

You may enjoy " The Golden Mean" by Annabel Lyon. Artisotle is the narrator and related more to his relationship with Alexander the Great when he was his student.
.


message 27: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Rochelle wrote: "Patrice wrote: "So true Glen. A bad book is usually any book I had to read in school."

That would be a bad teacher, not necessarily a bad book."


Bingo.


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Rochelle wrote: "Sometimes we don't have the life experience or insight to understand certain books until the right time. ... And conversely, some books that we thought in our youth were marvelous, turn out to be garbage when we view them again as adults. "

True, true, true.

I didn't like Dickens when I was young. Wasn't ready for him. Now I understand how superb a novelist he is.

Conversely, as a child I loved Stephen Meader. Read everything from him I could find. I a burst of nostalgia, I tried to re-read him a decade or so ago. I couldn't believe that I ever thought he was more than a low-mediocre writer.


message 29: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Glen wrote: "I found that you had to write a better paper if you were going to disagree with the insgtructor's interpretation of the book."

Again, bad teaching. I loved it when students intelligently disagreed with me. And was totally uninterested in papers that just regurgitated my ideas back at me without compelling support for their views.

But I agree that many teachers aren't that way.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Everyman wrote: "Rochelle wrote: "Sometimes we don't have the life experience or insight to understand certain books until the right time. ... And conversely, some books that we thought in our youth were marvelous,..."

It's funny how our concept of what makes a good writer changes over time. I'm not actually convinced that the child's appreciation of an adventure story is a less valid way to to measure good writing than a more sophisticated adult's enjoyment of someone like Dickens.

I'm kind of with Patrice on the idea that a bad book is one you had to read in school, perhaps before you were ready to appreciate it. Being forced to read Great Expectations in 7th grade permanently poisoned that book for me. It doesn't matter whether it was the teacher's fault or not, that one remains on my "never going to touch with a 10-foot pole list". Does that make it a "bad book"? Well since all those kind of judgements are completely personal, my answer is "yes".


message 31: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Glen wrote: "Trudeau was a private man and he left many subjects out of his memoirs. Pearsons and even Mulroneys and Crechtien's are better in my opinion. ..."

I read Mulroney's Memoirs when it first came out, and learned a lot about Canadian history and politics from him. Then I read Trudeau's to get "the other side of the story". One of the reviewers put it best, "You learn more about Trudeau from his Wikipedia page than from his own Memoirs."

However, I did get something out of it. The impression I got was that Trudeau's policies were from more of a intellectual, idealistic standpoint, whereas Mulroney showed personal experience and conviction behind his policies. As a result, Trudeau would change his position when the circumstances force themselves upon him, whereas Mulroney was more ready to stand by his own conviction and defy public opinion.

What do you think?

My profile picture was taken in Jasper three years ago (I don't remember exactly where). I went on a cross Canada coast-to-coast drive with a friend and took hundreds of scenic photos with my newly bought digital camera. It's a pity I didn't mark the location of each photo.


message 32: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary | 180 comments Everyman wrote: "Glen wrote: "I found that you had to write a better paper if you were going to disagree with the insgtructor's interpretation of the book."

Again, bad teaching. I loved it when students intellige..."


My teachers in high school and undergrad were both wonderful and inviting intelligent disagreement, but I had one teacher in grad school who, I discovered, only passed paper she agreed with. That was a miserable class; it took many tears before I was able to chuck my principles out the window and do some regurgitating just so I could pass. UGH!


message 33: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary | 180 comments Everyman wrote: "Rochelle wrote: "Patrice wrote: "So true Glen. A bad book is usually any book I had to read in school."

That would be a bad teacher, not necessarily a bad book."

Bingo."


Oh yeah. I had one teacher, in 9th grade English, who was just brilliant. Anything she taught I fell in love with (well, except Great Expectations. Ugh. Just wasn't the right time).

She came and read Frost at my wedding. She was such a blessing!


message 34: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary | 180 comments Nemo wrote: ""The man who does not read good books
has no advantage over the man who cannot read them."
- Mark Twain

A recent shopping experience (read it here) got me re-thinking about my approach to book rev..."


Okay, to actually answer the question (after all my off-topic posts) . . .

Depends on what kind of book I'm picking out. I hate most modern fiction. It tends to be either overly miserable and depressing and I can't relate, like Don DeLillo going on and on about the misery of these middle class professors and I can't connect at all, or it's platitudinous, literary pablum.

Therefore, when I pick out fiction for myself, I pick out classics. Except for trashy romance novels, which I read on occasion like going to the movies, I almost never pick out modern fiction for myself, as I am so often disappointed.

I will, however, take an occasional recommendation from someone who knows me personally, and whose taste I trust. Although my dad and I have different tastes in topics, we have similar tastes in style, and he has a knack for knowing what I'd like even if he wouldn't. My aforementioned high school English teacher also will occasionally recommend something to me, as will my husband.

I pretty much forget about reviews from people I don't know.

I do read a large amount of modern non-fiction, and I most of my poetry collection is also modern. I find that much easier. I have very different standards for non-fiction. If it's a subject I'm interested in (natural history, theology, medicine) I can read a few pages and assess the style and I'm good to go. Poetry is even easier. Reading just a couple of poems by someone gives me an idea about their entire body of work.

I should wear a button on these classics forums: "Talk to me about modern poetry!" While there are, of course, a number of older writers I love (Frost and Hopkins at the top of my list), I still mostly read (dare I say prefer?) the modern poets. This is partially because I have a dear, dear, attachment to the New England literary tradition and especially our poetry.


message 35: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments You have to distinguish between a bad book and a book you don't like. A bad book is written poorly, one you don't like is just a subjective taste. I read many bad books when I was younger, because I couldn't recognize poor writing, but at the time I enjoyed them.

I read this yesterday, and although it's lengthy, hang in and you'll get the message:

http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/aga...


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Rochelle wrote: "You have to distinguish between a bad book and a book you don't like. A bad book is written poorly, one you don't like is just a subjective taste. I read many bad books when I was younger, because ..."

I don't think that distinction holds up. "Written poorly" also tends to be a matter of subjective taste or current literary fashion. You might say that Henry James writes poorly because his sentences go on for an entire lengthy paragraph. Or that Oscar Wilde writes poorly because he indulges in too many aphorisms. That's just taste. The only definition of "bad" that works for me is a book that fails to communicate. At that point it has failed in its purpose. So using my definition of "bad", Great Expectations is a bad book. On the other hand, The Old Man and Sea isn't a bad book at all, I just detested the story it was telling me.


message 37: by Linda2 (last edited Oct 19, 2010 07:26PM) (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments Kate wrote: "Rochelle wrote: "You have to distinguish between a bad book and a book you don't like. A bad book is written poorly, one you don't like is just a subjective taste. I read many bad books when I was ..."

The problem with Great Expectations was not the book, but that you didn't understand it. It's not a bad book, only one that you didn't like. It has managed to communicate to millions of other people for 150 years. You missed something, as Patrice did. Henry James has something important to say that overcomes his endless sentences. I don't "get" Plato, Aeschylus or Aristotle, but it would be chutzpah to say they didn't know how to write. "Poorly written" is not subjective. If it were so, every piece of garbage that's published would become a classic.


message 38: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Patrice wrote: "I too stared at Great Expectations in school and felt such revulsion! I really tried to care but I just didn't. And ever since, whenever I've tried to read Dickens, I just can't! Silas Marner was another one! "

Oh, do go read SM. I was force fed it in 9th or 10th grade and hated it. I had the kind of teacher whose exams had nothing to do with meaning or nuance and everything to do with "what was the name of the person who Silas first talked to in the tavern>", nothing to do with whether you understood the book or whether it had any relation to your own life or whether you know people who have similar characteristics to any of the characters and how you relate to them, just questions trying to test whether you read the book. Awful!

For some reason, about age 30, I casually picked up Silas again and loved, loved, LOVED it. What a powerful story of human emotion, of cruelty and kindness, of the re-flowering of a once closed heart. Glorious. Do go back and read it afresh!


message 39: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments S. Rosemary wrote: "Oh yeah. I had one teacher, in 9th grade English, who was just brilliant. "


My great teacher experience was in 7th and 8th grade, the teacher who read Paradise Lost to us, a half-hour every day after lunch. Imagine any teacher even trying that today!


message 40: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments S. Rosemary wrote: "I should wear a button on these classics forums: "Talk to me about modern poetry!" While there are, of course, a number of older writers I love (Frost and Hopkins at the top of my list), I still mostly read (dare I say prefer?) the modern poets."

And I'll take the button that says "Talk to me about non-modern poets." All the way from Homer through Chaucer and Donne and Wordsworth up to the WWI poets. There are a few poets since then that I like, some of e.e. cummings, but my mother-in-law is an avid reader of modern poetry and after trying for twenty years to find more than one or two modern poems a year that I liked, she's finally given up.


message 41: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Patrice wrote: "I'll have to go back to Silas Marner at some point, you made it sound great."

And I wasn't even doing it more than marginal justice!

It fits into our time frame here -- I'll make sure it's on the bookshelf and maybe it will come up at some point and we can vote it in.


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

Rochelle wrote: "Kate wrote: "Rochelle wrote: "You have to distinguish between a bad book and a book you don't like. A bad book is written poorly, one you don't like is just a subjective taste. I read many bad book..."

Just because something is a classic doesn't mean it is well written. James Fennimore Cooper anyone? Any number of rather bright people have complained over the years that Dickens is a poor writer (including Henry James, by the way). Others have claimed the opposite. My point was that "good" and "bad" are always subjective judgements.

It is absolutely reasonable to judge a "classic" the same way you would any other book you read. Does it resonate, does it make you think, does it change you? A certain level of popularity for 150 years does not mean you have to suspend your own critical faculties and accept conventional wisdom about a book.


message 43: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Kate wrote: "Just because something is a classic doesn't mean it is well written. James Fennimore Cooper anyone? Any number of rather bright people have complained over the years that Dickens is a poor writer (including Henry James, by the way). Others have claimed the opposite. My point was that "good" and "bad" are always subjective judgements. "

There are many things that go into writing. For example, I agree that Cooper was a highly unrealistic writer (I adore Twain's essay on Cooper's Literary Offenses), but the guy could spin a compelling tale. I think as a pure stylist Dickens leaves quite a bit to be desired, but his characters and settings are magnificent. And so on.


message 44: by Historybuff93 (new)

Historybuff93 | 287 comments Everyman wrote: "Kate wrote: "Just because something is a classic doesn't mean it is well written. James Fennimore Cooper anyone? Any number of rather bright people have complained over the years that Dickens is a ..."

Even my literature text book from last year lets the reader know that Cooper wasn't the best writer.


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

I found James Joyce could writes incredible passages but he always seemed to be manipulating the reader. Ulysses may be a narrative of literature but it lost a great deal of the reading audience confirming to many that great literature is pretenious. Lolita, with the unraliable narrator also seemed quite manipulative to me. Yet I felt no problem with Dostoyevsky or Hesse.


message 46: by Historybuff93 (new)

Historybuff93 | 287 comments Glen wrote: "I found James Joyce could writes incredible passages but he always seemed to be manipulating the reader. Ulysses may be a narrative of literature but it lost a great deal of the reading audience co..."

What do you mean by manipulating the reader, Glen? I agree on the incredible passages, but I never felt like Joyce was manipulating me.


message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

I think the literature community sometimes uses the word "esoteric" or declares it "a wonderfull piece of art". To most it's an author making the understanding of the novel very difficult. I also read that an author may not have a message or any real reason for writing. More than one person who thinks a great deal of Joyce has told me not to take the plot too seriously. That's pretty hard to do with A Portait which I felt were good reads, particulary A Portrait. He blew my hair back in a couple of passages. That's as good as my literary theory gets. I know when I read something that I thought was special. Also enjoyed "Dubliners"

Ulysses on the other hand, would have been a complete waste of time without some help from the experts (?) on Joyce. I'm not sure whether Joyce (like Faulkner) equated difficulty of text with greatness or was just laughing about all the interpretations that others would be creating for his famous work. This novel I am sure, was meant for writers or people interested in literary theory. He was creating a book for literary history not for the reader. In my mind some of the literary styles in Ulysses were flat.However I found Bloom's relationship with his wife very interesting. Joyce had guts writing his wife's soliloquy.The realtlionship between the men didn't interest me much. Combinng music with the novel did not work for me as I don't usually read my literature to another person. They wouldn't want me to either. A good oral reader I'm not. I think he was doing so many things at one time, that he left the great majority of readers behind and reduced the quality of the book as a whole. The main thing I got out of Joyce was the encouragement. to read " Literary Theory, A Very Short Introduction." by Janathan Culler.


message 48: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Tolstoy wrote in What Is Art, "Art is an activity by means of which one man having experienced a feeling intentionally transmits it to others."

According to Tolstoy, infection is a sure sign of art, and the degree of infectiousness, which depends on three conditions, namely, individuality, clearness and sincerity, is also the sole measure of the excellence in art, apart from its subject matter.

I think infectiousness may not be universal, and that's why often times there is no universal agreement on whether a work is good. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed Les Misérables, but I know people who can't stand it. It depends on one's mental constitution. It's like a contagious disease, some people are immune to it because of their physical makeup. It's also true on an individual level. When our outlook on life changes as we grow up, our appreciation of art may change as well. It doesn't mean that our childhood or past favorites are not good, it just means that we have changed.


message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

Will put "What is Art" on my to read list.

Les Miserables, is one of my favourite books. Jean Val Jean is also one of my favourite characters in literature. When I was taking drawing lessons I thought I might tackle Jean Val Jean as a portrait. My ambitioin swayed and it would probably take a year to get back to where I was. I kept an illustration of him on a cover of a paper back of LM. I thought it was well done.

We read small parts of the book in Grade 7. I enjoyed it then and enjoyed it when I read the whole novel a few years ago. He was basically the good man with some human faults. I really enjoyed "The Hunchback of Notre Dame as well.

I sure didn't think I would be reading the classics at 65. I may not be smarter but I feel differently about many things.


I find Hesse so different from Joyce. His novels are easy to read and he definitely wants to communicate with you. I read Narcissus and Goldmund, Siddhartha, and Steppenwolf. In 1961 he put an author's note in the front of Steppenwolf because he felt the book was being misinterpreted by the young readers. He made the point that he wrote the book when he was 50 and was dealing with a 50 years old problems. I would suggest he basically was concerned for the reader. Of course it became big in the counter culture of the 60's.

My handle on another site was "thelatestarter" for obvious reasons. Why do I get the feeling I talking to someone that has a literature background or has been reading literature for a long time.

Hope you got my message re Tru. and Mul.Didn't think this thread was the appropriate place.


message 50: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Patrice wrote: "From one late starter to another, I don't understand how anyone young can come close to understanding and appreciating these works the way we do. I know my memory was better, my processing quicker..."

I think appreciate is the wrong word. I read many of these works as a teenager and did appreciate and enjoy them. But you're right, the way in which, and the extent to which, I understood them is much richer now with more life experience. For example, having had children you know things viscerally that you only know theoretically when you're younger. If you've been brought up in a relatively middle class home, you can understand intellectually but not pragmatically the fear of not having enough money to feed yourself and your family. And on and on.

I know that our culture tends to revere youth over age. But in that, our culture is dismissing a heck of a lot of wisdom.


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