The heavy, classic literature

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12tone
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The heavy, classic literature

Post by 12tone » Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:30 am

I got my feet wet yesterday and bought three books (technically four) of some old classics. Not that I need any more at the moment but am curious to know what else is out there.

I bought: Great Expectations (plus Hard Times coupled with GE in one book), Pride and Prejudice and War and Peace.

Any other classic, core literature along the lines of these? Not necessarily story-wise but just...'core literature'.


BTW, the reason? A not-too-much older person I know went and saw Pride and Prejudice at the movies. I got interested from what they said and read some reviews of the book. Thusly...

Teresa B
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Post by Teresa B » Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:44 am

Wow, I think you've got enough for awhile, with War and Peace in there.

I'm no expert on the Classics, but for some classic humor, get Mark Twain's "Innocents Abroad" or "Roughing It." If you haven't read "Huckleberry Finn," do. Some have called it the greatest American novel.

All the best,
Teresa
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herman
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Post by herman » Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:52 am

Those are three truly great novels, and very different ones.

Pride and Prejudice views the world through a young woman's eyes; even though it looks like it's about the problem of finding a good husband / wife, it is really about the various ways we deceive ourselves, psychologically.

Great Expectations is a great Dickens novel, and perhaps the modern favorite. I'm suspecting it would be the best book for you to start with. It's been quite a while since I read it, and I only remember a couple scenes. It's a beautiful book.

War & Peace is a great epic novel set in Russia in Napoleonic times, so to speak. Interestingly there's a kind of Jane Austen novel hidden in W & P, in the story of Natasha Rostova beng betrothed to a good man and running off with a bad man. There's also a lot of philosophy in W&P - Tolstoy felt history wasn't shaped by "great men" but by impersonal forces of history. This may often be true, but ironically Napoleon's Russian campaign was uniquely the idea of a great, foolhardy man, so I guess Tolstoy was wrong. Again, as with the other two novels - perhaps even more so - this is a great psychological novel. Tolstoy's descriptions of euphoria (in love, on the battlefield, or just plain alcohol) are unforgettable.

(I reread W&P only this year, for a review, and I'm scheduled to reread it again in 4 months, in yet another translation, for another review. Sometimes a guy gets lucky!)

I think you'll last quite a while with these three books, but when you're done and you're eager for more of this great type of fiction I'd say:

Thackeray, Vanity Fair
Stendhal, The Red and the Black (French)
Flaubert, A Sentimental Education
Bellow, Humboldt's Gift (USA)

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Post by Haydnseek » Sun Dec 04, 2005 12:13 pm

Good choices! Those are highly entertaining novels as well as "Great Literature." The great nineteenth century novels are a wonderful starting point to begin exploring the "core" works of literature. If you find you have a taste for Dickens, Austen and Tolstoy try some of their other works like David Copperfield, Emma, or Anna Karenina. Dickens is my favorite novelist. Some other famous novels:

Thackeray: Henry Esmond, Vanity Fair
George Eliot: Middlemarch
Balzac: Old Goriot
Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers
Hugo: Notre Dame, Les Miserables
Walter Scott: Waverly, Rob Roy
Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov
Charlote Bronte: Jane Eyre
Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights
Hawthorne: The House of the Seven Gables, The Scarlet Letter
Twain: Huckleberry Finn

You might try some 18th century novels too like Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones by Henry Fielding.

If you want to move beyond the old novels give Shakespeare a try.

Of course there is so much poetry, drama and fiction one could list. I hope you have as much fun reading the great works of the past as I do.
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Post by Ralph » Sun Dec 04, 2005 12:27 pm

There are so many fine classics.

May I suggest "Crime and Punishment" and Dickens's "Bleak House." The latter isn't read much these days but it's a tale of law gone berserk in the service of lawyers.

And don't leave out Plato and Aristotle.
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Post by operafan » Sun Dec 04, 2005 1:30 pm

There are many on the above lists that I really like, plus there are these

Voltaire - Candide
Kafka - Metamorphisis
Montesquieu - Persian Letters - not quite a 'classic' but helps explain his other writings in a delightful way.
Machiavelli - The Prince
Dante - probably everything
GB Shaw - I like his plays 'Man and Superman' and 'Pygmalion' so much that they make the list. For 'non fiction' you might try his commentary on 'Niblung's Ring'

Shakespeare never fails. Then there is Cervantes - Don Quixote and Rostand - Cyrano de Bergerac and the poetry of Francois Villon ... so much great literature and regretfully so little time.
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Haydnseek
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Post by Haydnseek » Sun Dec 04, 2005 3:09 pm

Ralph wrote:May I suggest "Crime and Punishment" and Dickens's "Bleak House." The latter isn't read much these days but it's a tale of law gone berserk in the service of lawyers.


I share your admiration for "Bleak House." The law, lawyers, courts and prisons run throughout the work of Dickens from that first tremendous case of Bardell vs. Pickwick in "Pickwick Papers" on through to "Our Mutual Friend." One of Dickens's finest novels is "Little Dorrit," in my opinion, much of which has to do with the institution of Debtor's Prison. A particular favorite of mine is the early "Nicholas Nickleby" - maybe the funniest and most dramatic of his novels, it really rips and roars.
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

herman
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Post by herman » Sun Dec 04, 2005 4:23 pm

All those lateish Dickens novels are great: Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Dombey & Son and the gloomy Our Mutual Friend (the title alone is genius).

Great Expectations is however a great start in Dickens.

Haydnseek
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Post by Haydnseek » Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:19 pm

herman wrote:All those lateish Dickens novels are great: Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Dombey & Son and the gloomy Our Mutual Friend (the title alone is genius).

Great Expectations is however a great start in Dickens.
"Our Mutual Friend" is a powerful and fascinating novel. It has much of the atmosphere of modern crime fiction but it's also reminiscent of late Shakespeare with its bittersweet tone and fairy-tale-like plot. It's a book that stays with you long after you've read it, if you know what I mean.
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:28 pm

Well, looks like I get to be the nay-sayer again and wonder why Dickens, who obviously got paid by the word and was trying to make a profit, is rated so highly. Of the late nineteenth century novelists, I can read the Russians, Melville and Conrad - and little else. I tried to read David Copperfield a few years ago and was surprised how much I disliked the writing. Probably just me.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Dec 05, 2005 1:17 am

Brendan wrote:Well, looks like I get to be the nay-sayer again and wonder why Dickens, who obviously got paid by the word and was trying to make a profit, is rated so highly. Of the late nineteenth century novelists, I can read the Russians, Melville and Conrad - and little else. I tried to read David Copperfield a few years ago and was surprised how much I disliked the writing. Probably just me.
Yeah. Me too. Spare me from fiction scribblers paid by the word. Melville is good. Whitman is good. Conrad is good. Twain is great. You can have my share of Dickens all those guys like him.
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herman
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Post by herman » Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:43 am

Haydnseek wrote:"Our Mutual Friend" is a powerful and fascinating novel. It has much of the atmosphere of modern crime fiction but it's also reminiscent of late Shakespeare with its bittersweet tone and fairy-tale-like plot. It's a book that stays with you long after you've read it, if you know what I mean.
That's funny. It's my personal favorite, too, even though I've only been able to read it twice...

Those late novels, with their powerful, long-spanning metaphors (the mist in Bleak House, the river and the dustheaps in OMF) are in some ways harbingers of high modernism.
Corlyss_D wrote:Yeah. Me too. Spare me from fiction scribblers paid by the word. Melville is good. Whitman is good. Conrad is good. Twain is great. You can have my share of Dickens all those guys like him.
If any writer was honest about demanding to be paid by the word it was Mark Twain. And I'm intrigued by your fiction writer Whitman - is he or she in any way related to the poet Walt Whitman?

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Post by karlhenning » Mon Dec 05, 2005 5:25 pm

Teresa B wrote:I'm no expert on the Classics, but for some classic humor, get Mark Twain's "Innocents Abroad" or "Roughing It."
There are some ways in which I think it never got as good again as Life on the Mississippi :-)
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