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Reading Any Current Literary Novels?

markdf pointed out an article on Atlantic.com.

I hear talk about classics. Works by Dickens, Clemens, Bronte, Melville. And I hear talk about works that are "current" -- i.e., works written since the turn of the century. There are enough LJ posts in the book challenges I can pick and choose something that isn't genre fiction, branching out from our little "ghetto" here.

I'm curious, though, as to what current "literary" novels people read more than once?

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
ex_chrisbil
Aug. 30th, 2007 12:50 pm (UTC)
Does Chabon count?
stevenagy
Aug. 30th, 2007 01:00 pm (UTC)
I would count him, yes. Though I tend to think of his latest works more as examples of literary genre fiction. It's just that he's more popular outside the ghetto than, say, ianmcdonald and his latest offerings.

Genre fiction has a lot to offer that makes you think. It's just that we're not tapped by Oprah for mass consumption.
(Deleted comment)
stevenagy
Aug. 30th, 2007 02:11 pm (UTC)
But will you read it again? :-)

There are certain expderiences, while poignant and moving, people shy away from experiencing more than once. For example, I loved Lost Boys by Orson Scott Card. I literally sobbed at the end, but I'm a softie, I cry every time I watch most any version of A Christmas Carol on television or video. (And I'm not ashamed to admit that; it's embarassing, but my wife and kids are OK with it and find it endearing, so all is well with the world.) But as much as I enjoyed the experience, I'm hesitant to go through it again.

It might be a situation where I'm leery because it's a book and that's more immersive and/or time-consuming than a movie. Days vs. two hours.

BTW, you might like The Ruins by Scott Smith if you liked The Road.
jimvanpelt
Aug. 30th, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
I'm always reading what I'm teaching, so I'm hilt deep into Camus's THE STRANGER right now. Then I'll move on to A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, followed by THE GREAT GATSBY.
stevenagy
Aug. 31st, 2007 12:05 am (UTC)
I'm pressed to find something current, though, that I don't approach with feelings of trepidation. I'm such a genre person, slumming in SF, F, mystery, thriller. Everything else seems overhyped. Not that there aren't gems. I look forward to exploring Chabon at great length. And I've flirted with the Aubrey and Maturin books. That's me being picky, of course.

I find that I fall back to works like Slaughterhouse Five or Catch-22, which I remember with great fondness. It's almost as if the "current" literary works have to stand a test of time before I'm able to give them due.

The last "literary" novel I picked up was The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, and that's so firmly rooted in genre fiction it probably doesn't count.
ruvdraba
Aug. 31st, 2007 02:49 am (UTC)
It's perhaps a loaded test, Steve, because many readers come back to novels after a decade or more - and a decade has yet to pass since your "current" cut-off.

But I've re-read a lot of 20th century classics for pleasure or interest, and I expect to do the same with 21st century classics over the coming decades. Ian McEwan's books will likely lure me back, for instance - but so will various genre classics.
stevenagy
Aug. 31st, 2007 04:39 am (UTC)
It could be loaded, but it's interesting to consider what sort of "shelf life" you need to build into your own work if you admit what brings you back to the books you read. And I think there's a distinction between stand alone work vs. a series or a multi-part book.
ruvdraba
Aug. 31st, 2007 09:04 am (UTC)
I've been reading Holly Lile's Culture Clinic design book recently, and a point she makes is that classics tend to stand alone culturally. In other words, if you take them out of their cultural context, the stories clearly tell you who wants to do what and why, and why you should care.

I'm not sure I fully agree with that, but allowing it for the moment, is it possible that a "classic" is simply a good story that transcends its cultural roots?

That being so, is this really the key determinant of the shelf-life of a book?
stevenagy
Aug. 31st, 2007 11:40 am (UTC)
"... is this really the key determinant of the shelf-life of a book?"

It makes sense. It's an application circular logic -- a rose by any other name ...

If a story can't work without its cultural roots, then it's not going to work for a different generation unless that generation holds similar tenets, likes and dislikes, experiences.
stevenagy
Aug. 31st, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
The more I think about your comment, the more I believe it's a variation on the idea of "write what you know." More specifically, "write what you like." :-)
ruvdraba
Aug. 31st, 2007 09:08 pm (UTC)
You've lost me, Steve. How does that follow?
stevenagy
Sep. 1st, 2007 12:02 am (UTC)
Well, what I thought was that those classics that thrive even when removed from their cultural environment because they're good stories are stories you naturally want to emulate in your own works, whether in tone, theme, or craft. For example, if you loved Stranger in a Strange Land or Dune, Lord of the Flies or The Count of Monte Cristo, you might bring that appreciation into your stories. Not because you're copying them so much as using the energy from that feeling.
ruvdraba
Sep. 1st, 2007 12:41 am (UTC)
Hmm. Well, one criterion for a classic is that it's influenced others - so it certainly has to be a good enough story to want to emulate.

And we've already talked about the importance of shelf life and cultural autonomy. This makes the story accessible to generations of people from all over.

But I think that there needs to be an element of originality too - otherwise, if it resembles some other story then people will emulate both. Writers began emulating Lord of the Rings because there just weren't any epic fantasies around. Writers emulated Raymond Chandler because there weren't any other detective stories that spoke so well to the soul of the setting and the sentiments of the era.
stevenagy
Sep. 1st, 2007 01:10 am (UTC)
Exactly.

Which is where the writer comes into the mix, bringing their own experiences. I'd like to believe I'll always try to bring something original to the stories I enjoy.

For example, the WiP is a vampire novel, but I'm trying to make it as original as possible.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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