Classics and the Western Canon discussion

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General > Planning for Fall 2011 read

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Before we get engrossed in The Republic, let's choose our next book to follow Plato. After two heavy philosophical works, people may want to stick with philosophy or may want to switch over to something else, fiction or epic or history. (I haven't forgotten the Gibbon reading, but might wait until Fall when people aren't distracted by summer tasks or diverted from having as much time as possible to commit to Plato.)

In preparation for the random selection of potential works from our Bookshelf, if there are books you want us to consider reading that aren't on the bookshelf, and that fit in the Classics and the Western Canon genre, either add them to the bookshelf (on the "to read" shelf, please) or if you don't feel confident in your ability to do that, recommend them here and I'll add them.


message 2: by Kristen (new)

Kristen | 28 comments Wow, what a list! I'd love to tackle The Divine Comedy or Faust, since they're both on my TBR and on the bookshelf. Everyman, do you choose from the bookshelf, or is there a vote? What's the process?


message 3: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Kristen wrote: "Wow, what a list! I'd love to tackle The Divine Comedy or Faust, since they're both on my TBR and on the bookshelf. Everyman, do you choose from the bookshelf, or is there a vote? What's the process?"

The process is that I run a random number generator to select about eight titles from the bookshelf. In addition to that, each moderator gets to add one title of their choice (you're free to lobby the moderators if you want to, but no promises!) That list is then voted on by the group members.

Sometimes there is a clear winner; more often there is a run-off vote. If two books emerge as essentially co-winners we have in the past decided to go ahead and read them both in succession.

I've considered from time to time taking the runner-ups from past polls and making them the list to vote on, since they have already excited some interest, but haven't gotten to that point yet.

The reason for this procedure, btw, is that it offers a manageable list and gives lesser known works a fair chance to compete for selection. The other reason is that so far it has worked well in picking books that have garnered excellent discussions (several of which I was dubious about but proved the wisdom of the group's vote), so since it ain't broke, I ain't fixin' it!


message 4: by Kristen (new)

Kristen | 28 comments Sounds like an interesting process. I like the idea of giving lesser known works a chance through the random number generator.


message 5: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Aristotle would approve of this process, I think. :) Because it combines the features of democracy (selection by lot), aristocracy (selection by vote of the moderators) and monarchy (your final decision). Not a small feat!


message 6: by Ibis3 (last edited Jul 13, 2011 10:15PM) (new)

Ibis3 | 53 comments I'm watching, waiting to vote, but not suggesting this time around. I just hope that this time the winner is a book I haven't read yet. :)

ETA: I may add some of the books I have read to the group bookshelf, but only after we choose our next selection.

EAgainTA: Oh, jeez. I just took a look at the group bookshelf & it's looking like it needs some additions after all. I'm a little wary of adding anything from the 20th century unless an author is already represented, but otherwise...I've got a whole bunch of TBRs that would be quite comfortable sitting there. (I imagine if you have any objections, you'll just remove them, Everyman?) I'll do a few now and some more tomorrow when it's not 1 in the morning.


message 7: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Nemo wrote: "Aristotle would approve of this process, I think. :) Because it combines the features of democracy (selection by lot), aristocracy (selection by vote of the moderators) and monarchy (your final dec..."

NICE observation, Nemo!


message 8: by Ibis3 (new)

Ibis3 | 53 comments Okay, I added a bunch of new titles to the group bookshelf. I tried to keep the general composition roughly the same by adding prose/poetry/non-fiction and classical/medieval/renaissance/enlightenment/modern in about the same ratio as the status quo. Can't wait to see what the random generator throws out.


message 9: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Ibis3 wrote: "I'm a little wary of adding anything from the 20th century unless an author is already represented,..."

Probably a good idea. Classics need time to be recognized as such -- the number of books that have won various prestigious prizes over the years but have sunk out of sight is large. Staying power is a major component of being a classic, IMO. (There's a whole thread here somewhere on what constitutes a classic!)


message 10: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Ibis3 wrote: "I've got a whole bunch of TBRs that would be quite comfortable sitting there.

Ptolemy's Almagest is certainly a classic, but would you really want to spend two months reading and discussing it? We toyed in the past with Newton's Principia, also a true classic but also not a book with a great deal of discussion value for a group like ours. But the discussion about discussing it was itself worthwhile.

The only one you added that I think really might not belong is Five Weeks in a Balloon. But since it's a Verne, we'll let it sit and see what people think if the random generator comes up with it.


message 11: by Ibis3 (new)

Ibis3 | 53 comments Everyman wrote: "Ibis3 wrote: "I've got a whole bunch of TBRs that would be quite comfortable sitting there.

Ptolemy's Almagest is certainly a classic, but would you really want to spend two months reading and dis..."


Hmm. Yes, a discussion could prove a little sparse to keep up. Perhaps books such as Almagest & Principia & Euclid's Elements, Aristotle's scientific works etc., would work as side reads once Decline & Fall is done?

I added Five Weeks in a Balloon because it's the next Jules Verne for me (after having "skipped ahead" to read 20000 Leagues Under the Sea & Journey to the Centre of the Earth). It's really at the dawn of the science fiction novel & might be interesting from that perspective. As well, there could be some imperial/colonial subject matter to explore. Anyway, it might appeal as a light read after the heavy stuff the group has been reading. I agree with letting it sit, but I won't be torn up if you decide to toss it (though if you do that, I'd request replacing it with one of the more major Vernes).


message 12: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments The Random Number Generator has done its thing. It has come up with a very mixed assortment of goodies, several novels, some political philosophy, some biography, two epic poems, and a literary criticism.

One of the items picked was Proust's In Search of Time Past. I think some people might vote for reading just Swann's Way, while others might favor tackling the whole work next fall and winter while (with apologies to our Southern Hemisphere friends) enjoying reading in front of a crackling fire watching the snow drift down. So I thought about offering both choices -- just Swann's Way or the whole work. But that would divide the Proust vote unfairly. So if Proust makes it to the final cut, I'll have a vote for whether to do just Swann's Way, or the whole six volumes. (I wish there were an option to allow voting for two or three works, but sadly there isn't. If this idea entices people, I suppose I could set up two identical polls and let people vote in each of them, on their honor voting for different books, so people can have their first and second choices count.)

Here is the set of works that the Random Number Generator picked for us. As is usual, I'll put it here for a few days to allow comments and lobbying, then set it up as a poll. It's ordered, as usual, alphabetically by author.

Anonymous, The Song of Roland
Byron, Don Juan
Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year
deTocqueville, Democracy in America
Dostoyevsky, the Brothers Karamazov
Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Mann, Buddenbrooks
Nietzche, The Birth of Tragedy
Proust, In Search of Lost Time*
Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel
Scott, Ivanhoe

* if picked, will vote on whether volume 1, or all 6 volumes


message 13: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Everyman wrote: "The Random Number Generator has done its thing. ..."

Could you link the title to the book page, so it's easier for members to get more info if they want to?


message 14: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Nemo wrote: "Could you link the title to the book page, so it's easier for members to get more info if they want to?"

I'm not a great fan of the GR linking system, since I'm not sure that it always gives the best information, and it's not always the translation we would want to use, but here it is.

Anonymous, The Song of Roland The Song of Roland
Byron, Don Juan Don Juan
Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year A Journal of the Plague Year
deTocqueville, Democracy in America Democracy in America
Dostoyevsky, the Brothers Karamazov The Brothers Karamazov
Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Mann, Buddenbrooks Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family
Nietzche, The Birth of Tragedy The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music
Proust, In Search of Lost Time* In Search of Lost Time (Remembrance of Things Past): Proust 6-pack
Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel Gargantua and Pantagruel
Scott, Ivanhoe Ivanhoe


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments If you read Lark Rise to Candleford or (as I did) watched the series (it's great fun), you'll probably recall Laura trying to hide her copy of Don Juan, and her (aunt? cousin?) admitting that she read and hid it as a young girl. I've always wondered what was so exciting and alluring (and apparently inappropriate!) about it. If we vote it in, I'll get to find out!

But there really isn't a bad choice in the bunch, is there? Several that I wouldn't pick up on my own, but could make for very interesting discussions. The picks that I at first think "oh no, why did the group pick this?" have so far always turned out to be very rewarding to read. So here we go again!

Of all these books, only two -- Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Gargantua and Pantagruel -- we on the St. John's curriculum when I went through the program. We read other Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil)


message 16: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Everyman wrote: "Of all these books, only two -- Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Gargantua and Pantagruel -- we on the St. John's curriculum when I went through the program...."

Not Brothers Karamazov or Remembrance of Things Past? Both of them are listed in the Britannica version of the Canon.

I'd be happy to read Nietzsche too, if there are Nietzsche scholars in this group.


message 17: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Nemo wrote: "Not Brothers Karamazov or Remembrance of Things Past? Both of them are listed in the Britannica version of the Canon. "

Nope. BK was not read in my day, though it is today. Proust would be too long to fit easily into the curriculum, plus we read very few novels -- I only recall Middlemarch and Pride and Prejudice in my day.

But I see that Tocqueville is read currently also, and perhaps it was then and I've forgotten.

You can find the current seminar reading list for the Annapolis campus, where I went, here:
http://www.stjohnscollege.edu/academi...
and for the Santa Fe campus, where I believe Thomas went, here
http://www.stjohnscollege.edu/academi...

I was frankly surprised to see so many differences between them. But the faculty at each campus set the lists for their campuses, so they reflect the different approaches of the tutors.


message 18: by Vrixton (new)

Vrixton Phillips (sirredcrosse) | 17 comments personally I vote for all 6 volumes of ISoLT by Proust or Birth of Tragedy [both of which I believe I have]

I want to vote for the Brothers Karamazov, but I just finished Crime and Punishment and need a break from Dostoevsky, even though he's wonderful haha.


message 19: by Kristen (new)

Kristen | 28 comments I'd be interested in reading Swann's Way. I've never read any Proust, so i'd rather start with one volume. :D
Buddenbrooks sounds interesting as well.
I think Democracy in America may be too long for a group read, personally, especially considering it's political.


message 20: by Ibis3 (new)

Ibis3 | 53 comments Yay! Only one is a book I've already read (Ivanhoe). The likelihood of my joining in this time is high.


message 21: by K. (new)

K. Everyman wrote: "Of all these books, only two -- Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Gargantua and Pantagruel -- were on the St. John's curriculum when I went through the program"

I "tried" Gargantua and Pantagruel as part of the "Great Books 10 yr. reading plan" years ago, and since then I have LONGED to have someone tell me what's so great about it. I have remained puzzled as to why it is included in that set. I vividly recall sitting with my dictionary and finding that all the words I didn't know were pretty dirty. Ha ha. It didn't create in me a desire to read further, I felt it was like reading some dirty old man's "in-his-dreams" memoir. I don't know if I could create the time to join the read, but your discussion would certainly hold my attention!

This looks like a fantastic group, Everyman. I have followed your discussions with great interest.


message 22: by Alias Reader (last edited Jul 18, 2011 09:35AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments I would be interested in reading

Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin


message 23: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Sounds like some diverse interests. The poll will be interesting!


message 24: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments The Birth of Tragedy would be a nice follow up to the handful of tragedies we've read. It's not really a work of "philosophy," at least not the philosophy that Nietzsche would later take up. It's more like literary criticism.


message 25: by Ibis3 (new)

Ibis3 | 53 comments Alias Reader wrote: "I would be interested in reading

Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin"


I'm somewhat interested in the inclusion of this on the shelf. I realise that Ben Franklin is a well-known person, and that his autobiography might be an interesting read for its historical value, but I've never seen it on any "great books" lists or included in any of the canon collections (or did I just miss it?). Is it considered part of the American canon (I ask as an outsider)? I'm not arguing against its inclusion, mind you. I'm just asking about the rationale since it might apply, for example, to books from the Canadian canon etc.


message 26: by Kristen (last edited Jul 18, 2011 01:30PM) (new)

Kristen | 28 comments Ibis3 wrote: "Alias Reader wrote: "I would be interested in reading

Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin"

I'm somewhat interested in the inclusion of this on the shelf. I realise that Ben Franklin ..."


I wouldn't be adverse to reading Franklin. Could be a good one. I'm wondering how much discussion would come from an autobiography though.


message 27: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments I've read Franklin's Autobiography, and I recommend it for reading. Franklin was born in obscurity in a remote colonial city, and became a national figure as a printer and writer, then a world figure as a scientist, inventor, and politician. The book gives fascinating insight into how he did this. It may not be one of the 100 greatest books of all time, but it has timeless value and is well worth reading.


message 28: by Everyman (last edited Jul 18, 2011 02:42PM) (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Ibis3 wrote: "I realise that Ben Franklin is a well-known person, and that his autobiography might be an interesting read for its historical value, but I've never seen it on any "great books" lists or included in any of the canon collections "

It's the first volume in the Harvard Five Foot Shelf of Books. [Edit: I see Patrice beat me to mentioning this!] It's the second lecture (the first is an introduction to the course) in the Teaching Company's course "Classics of American Literature" - the subtitle of the lecture is "The First American Story" (using the term American, I think, as opposed to British Colonial, but I haven't listened to the lecture). Whether or not one wants to read it, I think this suggests that it belongs on the bookshelf.

But I'm not surprised if you hadn't heard of it. I hadn't myself until I inherited the Harvard Classics set from my inlaws and realized that it was one of the books in the set (there were a few others in the set I hadn't recognized either, but I knew or knew of most of them.)


message 29: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Kristen wrote: "I wouldn't be adverse to reading Franklin. Could be a good one. I'm wondering how much discussion would come from an autobiography though. "

That's a question worth pondering as people vote. It's not just the reading that is important in making a selection, it's also that the book be one that will generate a good discussion.


message 30: by K. (new)

K. We discussed it a few years ago in my town bookgroup. Yes, it was actually a very good discussion!


message 31: by Ibis3 (new)

Ibis3 | 53 comments [perhaps better suited for another forum--apologies for the slight derailment]So the Franklin bio counts as an American lit classic?

[aside] I just looked up the contents of the Harvard Classics. All the rest of the volumes contain works that are obviously canonical in the WC sense, but this one is an anomaly -- John Woolman (whom I don't believe I've ever heard of) and William Penn (the founder of Pennsylvania I think?). I was actually expecting to see the whole set weighed more heavily to Americans, taking the first volume as an indicator of the editors' intention, but that's the only one. Rather an odd choice if those are the only three US authors you're going to include?[/aside]

How does the group feel then about including classics of other national canons (presuming they're also part of the Western cultural tradition)? [/derailment]


message 32: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Ibis3 wrote: "How does the group feel then about including classics of other national canons (presuming they're also part of the Western cultural tradition)"

We have read both Don Quixote (Spanish) and Les Miserables (French). Do you consider those examples of classics of other national canons?


message 33: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments I once met a Professor of Slavic Literature, and racked my brains to come up with a Slavic writer I could make small talk about. I couldn't think of any, so I gave up and asked her what writers she studied. She said Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. I said, "That's not Slavic literature--that's world literature!"


message 34: by Ibis3 (last edited Jul 18, 2011 07:51PM) (new)

Ibis3 | 53 comments Everyman wrote: "Ibis3 wrote: "How does the group feel then about including classics of other national canons (presuming they're also part of the Western cultural tradition)"

Do you consider those examples of classics of other national canons? "


Of course they are, but I was trying to make a distinction between those works that are generally included in the overarching Western canon and those that are considered classics within a certain nation. I would say Don Quixote and Les Miserables are irrefutably top tier canon.

There are classics of national canons which don't usually make the Great Books lists--I'm most familiar with the English Canadian canon which is why I've used it as an example. I would put the Franklin autobiography on par with, say, Roughing It in the Bush.

ETA: How about this for clarification: acknowledged classics within a nation's borders, but not so well known beyond them.


message 35: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Ibis3 wrote: "Of course they are, but I was trying to make a distinction between those works that are generally included in the overarching Western canon and those that are considered classics within a certain nation. "

What's in the Canon is a fluid matter, but what I generally look to is what Robert Hutchins and Mortimer Adler called "The Great Conversation." That is, works which have been read by and have influenced succeeding generations of writers and thinkers. They are works which have presented ideas which have moved the Great Conversation onward (I won't say forward because sometimes they take us back out of a side alley back into the mainstream of thought.)

AS Hutchins wrote, "The tradition of the West is embodied in the Great Conversation that began in the dawn of history and continues to the present day. Whatever the merits of other civilizations in other respects,no civilization is like that of the West in this respect. No other civilization can claim that its defining characteristic is a dialogue of this sort... The goal toward which Western society moves is the Civilization of the Dialogue."

This group is dedicated to moving in that same direction -- and having a whoppin' good time doing it!


message 36: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Ibis3 wrote: "All the rest of the volumes contain works that are obviously canonical in the WC sense, but this one is an anomaly -- John Woolman (whom I don't believe I've ever heard of) and William Penn (the founder of Pennsylvania I think?)."

They were both central figures in the development and particularly the spread of Quakerism and Quaker ideals. For a period of time Quakerism was a strong influence in both England and the new America, and even into the 20th century its influence in intellectual circles was much greater than its numbers. The writings of Woolman and Penn had a significant influence on the history of the United States. Woolman was a leader in developing the moral basis for abolition, and Penn in developing the form of government in Philadelphia and the principle of freedom of religion (which the Quakers strongly espoused, unlike the Puritans, who were in favor of a theocratic state); in that respect, both were very important in developing some of the core principles which informed first the government created after the Revolution, and later the strong abolition movement which was one cause of the Civil War and the eventual bringing of freedom to all peoples.


message 37: by Ibis3 (last edited Jul 18, 2011 08:39PM) (new)

Ibis3 | 53 comments Yeah, I'm on board with the whole Great Conversation thing. Obviously, there's some gradation in the priority of voices, especially over time. And those books that are central to the history and experience of one country may not resonate far beyond the cultural geography or history when compared to other books.* Don Quixote is on every list that tries to nail down the canon. The writings of William Penn? Not so much. I don't think the group need limit itself to reading only the Don Quixotes or the Paradise Losts. The Autobiography of Ben Franklin or Roughing It in the Bush seem fair candidates to me. After all, we don't have to conform to a list of a set number or a series of books with a restricted number of volumes. There are limits of course, or there would be no such thing as a canon.

*ETA: Man, it's difficult to express this sort of stuff the right way. If a book doesn't resonate much at all, then it doesn't warrant being considered canonical in any case. What I'm trying to get at is that the perspective of the creator of the list gets factored into the equation. What might be included by the guys at Harvard Classics would be passed over by the guys at University of Sydney Classics. It's not that Woolman's not integral to the Quaker movement and therefore abolitionism in the States, it's that abolitionism in the States is not as central to someone compiling a canonical list in Australia. As I'm trying to say (not very well), we have the freedom to include those books too.


message 38: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) Everyman wrote: "Ibis3 wrote: "How does the group feel then about including classics of other national canons (presuming they're also part of the Western cultural tradition)"

We have read both Don Quixote (Spanish..."


The French canon viewed from a French perspective is quite different from the French canon viewed from an English perspective. To a Frenchman, Les Miserable might not seem as important or canonical as Hugo's poetry which had a far greater impact on French literature. I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to see how other Western cultures define the Western canon because the group might end up reading some very interesting and very good books - after all, Western civilisation extends beyond the US, you can't discuss it only from a strictly American perspective.


message 39: by Ibis3 (new)

Ibis3 | 53 comments I think I'm going to vote for Democracy in America. I'm currently reading The Old Curiosity Shop and I don't think I will be eager to plunge right away into another long novel. Of the remaining works, this one appeals most to my current interest (I'm writing something that is concerned with American culture). I think it will likely make for some good discussion.

Not sure what my second choice would be, but I think I'll be happy whatever ends up getting picked.


message 40: by Monique (new)

Monique | 6 comments Everyman wrote: "The Random Number Generator has done its thing. It has come up with a very mixed assortment of goodies, several novels, some political philosophy, some biography, two epic poems, and a literary cr..."

Oooh, Gargantua and Pantagruel! I've got that laying around on my shelves somewhere...


message 41: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments The poll has been posted. Remember that you can change your vote as the poll goes on, so if you first preference is gathering no adherents, you can switch to a second or third preference that looks like a close contender. The poll will end at 12:00 am on July 31, which really means midnight on the 30th.


message 42: by Kristen (last edited Jul 21, 2011 04:31PM) (new)

Kristen | 28 comments Aw, man. I'm not liking how the votes are leaning so far. Brothers Karamazov?? I can't stand that book. I think my loathing for it has grown since I finished it earlier this year.
Please, please people who have not yet voted, vote for something else. I would be willing to read almost anything else. haha.


message 43: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I am delighted to inform the group that Thomas has agreed to join the moderating team. Primarily, I want to make sure that there is continuity of leadership in case something should happen to draw me away from the group for awhile, but Thomas will also be an excellent resource in moderating any discussions he chooses to.

I thank Thomas for agreeing to be a group moderator.


message 44: by Kristen (new)

Kristen | 28 comments Everyman wrote: "I am delighted to inform the group that Thomas has agreed to join the moderating team. Primarily, I want to make sure that there is continuity of leadership in case something should happen to draw..."

Thanks for the update, Everyman. And thanks, Thomas.


message 45: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments I've read Crime & Punishment and enjoyed it a lot.

I own Brothers K. but have not read it yet. If it is anything like C&P it would be a good book to read with a group. I might join in if it wins. But I can't commit to that.

So... I voted for good old Ben F. :)


message 46: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Kristen wrote: "Aw, man. I'm not liking how the votes are leaning so far. Brothers Karamazov?? I can't stand that book. I think my loathing for it has grown since I finished it earlier this year.
Please, please ..."


I voted for Brothers K because I read it many years and vaguely remember liking it, though now I can't remember why. I could be persuaded to change my vote. So persuade away! What should we read instead -- and why?


message 47: by Kristen (new)

Kristen | 28 comments hahaha, yes! thank you, Alias Reader! I actually liked Dostoevsky's The Idiot, and plan on reading Crime & Punishment. But it will be another decade at least before I feel like I need to re-read The Brothers Karamazov. *shudder*


message 48: by Kristen (last edited Jul 21, 2011 09:38PM) (new)

Kristen | 28 comments well, there is an at least 30 page sermon by a monk in the first half of the book. i'm estimating low on the page numbers in an attempt to not exaggerate. honestly, it felt like 100 pages. mind you, i'm a christian and don't mind the occasional preachy part of classic novels-- and i was dying, dyyyyyiiiing during those pages, however many they were.
also, i have no problem tackling long chunky books for example, les miserables, anna karenina, war and peace, etc. but brothers karamazov is
so
dang
s
l
o
w
.

i will admit there are some really fantastic parts, but these comprise about 50 pages out of 776.
not worth it.


message 49: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "I voted for Brothers K because I read it many years and vaguely remember liking it, though now I can't remember why."

I have never gotten to it (shame on me), but my mother-in-law, who was an award winning high school literature teacher, considers it the greatest novel ever written. For what that's worth.


message 50: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Journal of the Plague Year. We need to understand how our ancestors lived, when a devastating plague could strike at any time and carry off half the population. Now we panic if bird flue downs half a dozen people. Defoe gives an account of the Great Plague of London in 1665, following in the tradition of Thucydides, Lucretius, and Boccacchio. But we don't know if it's a realistic novel or the edited journal of his uncle, who live through the plague.


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