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View Diary: Bookflurries-Bookchat: Updated: BBC’s List of 100 Books You Must Read Before You Die (317 comments)

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  •  An impressive list. You're rather hip, but also (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, pico

    have your own taste and choose for yourself. Here's what I've read - but 55% of the rest are on my TBR list.

    Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
    Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
    (Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin - on my shelf)
    Mikhail Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time
    Herman Melville, Moby Dick
    Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls
    Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
    (Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons - on my shelf)
    Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons
    (Leo Tolstoy, Hadji Murad - on my shelf)
    Rudyard Kipling, Kim
    Evgeny Zamyatin, We
    Jaroslav Hasek, The Good Soldier Svejk
    James Joyce, Ulysses
    Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
    Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men
    Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
    John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces
    (Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day - on my shelf)
    (David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest - on my shelf)
    Roberto Bolano, The Savage Detectives

    Your list makes me a tad jealous, and I want to poke holes in it. But if these are your 50 favorite, they're the tip of the iceberg, and imply that you've read very widely indeed. I can find areas that appear under-represented; but perhaps you've read them, and they're just not your favorites. So I'll poke a bit, but it's really more of a tribute than a quibble. I only bother to attack a Canon if it's mostly sound.

    Only 3 women? You've got the two top current Japanese, but I think no other Asian. Middle East? More Latin America and Africa? Okay, those geographical pokes are unfair, when you have a far more international palette than most readers.

    So, really, one substantial poke so far. And my only other poke is, you're slanted very highbrow. Now, these are great choices, I feel. But where are mystery, thriller, SF (OK, We, Frankenstein, Slaughterhouse Five-ish), Fantasy (beyond magical realism). I won't say you're missing Romance, when Austen invented it. Aren't there any middlebrow bestsellers that just grab you?

    Then again, that meme-debunking purplecar post you linked to showed that the "BBC" list was specifically tweaked to be middlebrow. Your personal list is an order of magnitude better than that. Thank you.

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 12:38:21 PM PST

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    •  pico used to do literature diaries on DKos (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht, pico

      that were wonderful.  You can find them by clicking on his name.  The one on Edwidge Danticat who is female is a great one.

      A while back he did Ulysses with some of us at a different site and I was just amazed to be able to read it and enjoy it after years of being afraid.  He was a great teacher and very kind about my observations which were low brow.

      I would love to sit in on his classes at the University.

      I do sometimes hope he will read some of my favorites like Helprin's Winter's Tale and he smiles gently.  :)

      I know you are very busy, pico...


      Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 01:43:35 PM PST

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      •  Boy did he. Thanks for pointing me to those, cfk. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cfk, pico

        I don't need pico to debate with, I can debate his old diaries, like Debating the Canon!

        Ulysses is mindblowing, beautiful, and intimidating.

        You mention "my observations which were low brow" - well, that's why Ulysses is intimidating. By far the most important thing is whether you read carefully and with an open mind. But having background knowledge and a critical framework can help to clarify your literary ideas and how you articulate them, and pico has plenty of those. You do too, though, with all the reading, paying attention and thinking about books you've put in. He's just mastered the lingo and that expert voice thingy. And me, I have some of that, plus overconfidence.

        I hope to see more of pico in R&BLers. And I'm glad he's already left a big footprint.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 06:22:15 PM PST

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      •  Pshaw. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cfk, Brecht

        Hard to say you were too lowbrow for a book with so many fart jokes!

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 07:40:49 PM PST

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    •  Spot-on analysis: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, Brecht

      1. Definitely haven't read enough women authors.  I've been recently chomping through Zadie Smith and Joan Didion, but in both cases I consider them far superior nonfiction writers (Didion in particular... She's my favorite essayist ever.)  I also like a long list of poets - from Akhmatova to Dickinson - who weren't eligible because of the long-form fiction qualification.  But I do need to read more women fiction authors, and it's a substantial gap I recognize.

      2. Definitely haven't read enough writers from Asia (although add Rizal to that list: he's Filipino.)  I have been through some other classic authors - really disliked both Murasaki and Mishima; I'm pretty fond of Akutagawa, but he's mostly short stories and my list is long-form.  Africa's an even bigger gap, although again some people I'd normally include on my list (Senghor!) were poets.  And nada from the Middle East, which is embarrassing.  My Latin American list would look slightly better if I could include Borges (all short-form) and more than one work by a single author (Cortazar!)

      3. Definitely slanted highbrow.  Somebody's gotta be that guy!  I do enjoy science fiction, but fantasy's never grabbed me much (including Tolkien).  What do you consider Middlebrow?

      All in all, very good observations... Thank you!

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 07:39:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "What do you consider Middlebrow?" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cfk, pico

        Two things occurred to me since my critique of your list.

        1) I was poking at things you could use more of; but there aren't any of your 50 I'd want to drop. So the simple answer is that you just need 50 more.

        2) I don't think you're biased against middlebrow, per se.

        Bloom says that what earns you a place in the canon is original vision: inventing a flavor that wasn't in fiction before you. That is something rarely found in middlebrow, and it's the quality that saturates your list.

        I think you find it more often in genre fiction. I'd say Poe (of course - though I think he only managed one novel), Chandler, William Gibson, China Mieville, even Stephen King, each brings a brand new voice to the table.

        You said "Definitely slanted highbrow.  Somebody's gotta be that guy!" I fully agree. The problem with the tweaked BBC list, the reason it's such a popular meme (with its taunt "most people only read 6 of these"), is there are millions of lazy, self-satisfied readers who want to believe in it.

        I looked at some of your old diaries. And I see your list. So I know you have both done the work, and think for yourself.

        I'll answer the rest of your points in another comment.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 10:55:25 PM PST

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        •  Thanks... I definitely need to check out Mievelle, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brecht, cfk

          about whom I've heard a lot.  Any recommendations where to start?

          Poe is fine, but his one novel is 3/4 junk and 1/4 brilliance (incidentally, I highly recommend Mat Johnson's Pym, which riffs on Poe's novel considerably.)  This may say a lot about me, but my favorite Poe story is one of his least known, "Silence".

          King is fine, too - he's fun to read, but nothing sticks with me a day or two later.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:21:07 PM PST

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          •  Mieville - I've read 7 of them. 3 starting points: (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pico, cfk

            1) Looking for Jake. Stories. He's almost too ambitious, so it's nice to see him focus on just one or two things at a time. Gives you many flavors (creepy, weird, comic, playful) of his writing.

            2) The City and The City. Unlike his other books - a simpler kind of strangeness? Somewhere between Chandler, Kafka and Borges in style. A mystery set in two overlapping cities, from parallel universes. Perhaps his most fully realized vision.

            3) Perdido Street Station. Strange, disturbing in parts. His second book, and he really lets his imagination rip. But the plot's pretty coherent, for him (incoherence is perhaps his biggest flaw. But he keeps pushing in many directions, and is brilliant).

            Embassytown is perhaps his most ambitious book, so far.

            "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

            by Brecht on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:32:46 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Well, unless I want to research this comment, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pico, cfk

        just to show off, that's about it.

        I keep saying this, but haven't said it to you. I've put in a few months compiling a 1000+ TBR from 7 books on books and 20+ lists. A very fun project. So I'm incredibly good at recognizing names of authors, and have a list to last 20 years.

        1) Good to know about Zadie Smith and Joan Didion.

        2) I agree about Murasaki and Mishima. I have several Asian names on my TBR, but I haven't read them yet. I have enjoyed the two Sosekis I read. Amos Tutuola's Palm-Wine Drinkard is definitely like nothing else I've read, and fun. Africa & Middle East, again, mostly names on my TBR. Latin America: I adore Borges. I keep touting Machado de Assis, because he belongs in the Canon and is clearly under-recognized. Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, trans. by Rabassa, good place to start.

        You may know these things already. I will, in time, look through your old book diaries. Then I'll have a fuller view of what you've read and love.

        Thanks for such good chat, pico.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:22:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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