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View Diary: Fairfax teen upset by "Beloved" reading assignment, mom cluches pearls while calling for book ban (287 comments)

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  •  Skip to the middle (13+ / 0-)

    The beginning of most novels, especially old ones, sets the scene and introduces characters. You get little 'save the cat' vignettes, sometimes, but no real action until the author convinces himself that you understand the environment and the players well enough for the story to begin.

    Old authors didn't have television and cinema distracting their readers, so their audience was much more willing to slog though the swamps to get to the high ground around page 125.

    "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

    by Orinoco on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:11:05 PM PST

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    •  Absolutely! (7+ / 0-)

      There's a palpable change in the way novels have been written since the advent of first movies, but more importantly, television.   They are faster, less wordy, and tend to start you with action rather than gently unfolding the scene for your perusal.  Something happens immediately to grab your attention.  

      I think future generations may have to be trained to read novels from say, 1940 on back, in the same way you have to be trained to read Shakespeare, or Greek philosophers.  I was lucky, I was trained by great teachers and parents who loved classics, and found myself laughing out loud at Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and something of Plato's -- I don't remember which one right now, but it was downright scurrilous, in a dead-pan sort of way.

      But trying to read a lot of of older novels, from Jane Austen to Bram Stoker, from Alexander Dumas to J.R.R. Tolkien, requires being willing to step into a world before television and movies, where the only way you got to see a story -- another country, another world, a part of your world you were unfamiliar with --  was through the art of the person writing it.

      History should teach humility and prudence, but America doesn't seem to learn. I've never seen a virgin who loses her innocence so often. -- Gordon Wood

      by stormicats on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 05:06:15 PM PST

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      •  de Lillo? (1+ / 0-)
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        Aemrican novels are often very very fat..... now

        Dickens was paid by the page, in effect, so of course he is verbose (I had to do Hard Times at school, no choice and boy is it dull) but try Wilkie Collins, about the same vintage, and super.

        •  Many American Novels are Badly Edited (6+ / 0-)

          There are a number of novels that, to borrow a quote, we would think more of if we saw less of them.  Especially the ones that become wildly popular, or are later books in series by popular authors.

          It seems like, at a certain point in popularity, every word by a best-selling author is golden.  Even when it isn't.   The best writer in the world can only be made better by a good editor, and I know enough authors to know that they sincerely appreciate an editor who can tell them what doesn't need to be there, because after months of writing, you are often too close to tell.

          Dickens was paid by the word.  So was Burroughs, Doyle, Wells, Asimov and a number of other writers.  That alone doesn't make them worse (or better).

          I do read "pre-movie" novels and have no problems with many of them.  I adore Kipling and Austen, Tolkien, Twain and Burroughs and Howard -- all "pre-movie" authors who effortlessly keep you (well, me, anyway) engaged and entertained.  And there are plenty of modern novels that move with the speed of glaciation and need to be edited with an exacto-knife.    So I'm speaking in broad generalities of writing style in general rather than focusing in on specific authors from either side of the divide.

          History should teach humility and prudence, but America doesn't seem to learn. I've never seen a virgin who loses her innocence so often. -- Gordon Wood

          by stormicats on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 06:48:14 PM PST

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      •  "Being willing to step into a world..." (1+ / 0-)
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        Thank you!  That concisely explains my great attraction to 18th and 19th century novels.  It's practically all I read at this point.

        Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

        by Smoh on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 07:04:10 AM PST

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