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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?


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.
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?
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.
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." :-)
Aug. 31st, 2007 09:08 pm (UTC)
You've lost me, Steve. How does that follow?
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.
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.
Sep. 1st, 2007 01:10 am (UTC)

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.

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