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View Diary: Bookflurries-Bookchat: Weaving a World for Readers (191 comments)

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  •  It's a lot easier to count the heads than to get (7+ / 0-)

    full measure of the largest men and women.

    But there could be a fascinating article, if done skillfully, comparing the deepest, most convincing, most alive characters of Pratchett vs. those of Dickens.

    That is, to me, the second highest measure of a novelist's artistry (after crafting a marvelous plot). If you can make one character so true that they live on, in the imaginations of your readers - one Quixote, or Karenina, or Holmes - then you're a demiurge.

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

    by Brecht on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 06:15:51 AM PDT

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    •  I don't know Dickens nearly well enough (5+ / 0-)

      to even venture into these waters.

      However, it could  be an interesting collaboration between a literature maven and a statistician (such as, e.g. me)

      As for characters that live on - Both Dickens and Pratchett have many.

      (And although it might be heresy, they may both do this better than Shakespeare; although Shakespeare had, I think, better mastery of language).

      •  It's a healthy heresy, in my book, as Shakespeare (5+ / 0-)

        is the most worshipped name in literature. That guy needs taking down a peg. I enjoy reading Tolstoy and G. B. Shaw tearing Shakespeare apart. I don't agree with them overall, but they score some points.

        However, Shakespeare does achieve powerful effects in a small space, with limited room to maneuver. If Dickens has, say, Pip from Great Expectations, or the even more fully drawn David Copperfield, then he'll take dozens of pages to look at his hero from every angle: They act, speak, he tells you what they wear, what they think, how their face and body move when they react, and we watch them grow from childhood to manhood.

        Compare that to Othello, Shakespeare's most concentrated tragedy. As you said, I don't know the noble moor nearly as well as Pip or David. But look at what an effect he makes, with so few lines comparatively, and seldom getting more than a few in a row of direct description.

        I'm not sure if you read the thread upstream, about authors who inundate us with detail, sometimes smothering the life of their storytelling. Well, Shakespeare is the antithesis of that. I can't think of another author, so skillful at writing the bare bones of a situation, in just such a way that you can't help but imagine the rest of it yourself.

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

        by Brecht on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 11:18:57 AM PDT

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        •  And of course it must be said (4+ / 0-)

          that Shakespeare was writing plays (and poetry): both forms that benefit from brevity and wit.

          Dickens was being paid by the word and still didn't sink his characters -- although I rather prefer Oliver Twist to David Copperfield, both as characters and as novels. Great Expectations is wonderful: but if Dickens had only ever written A Tale of Two Cities he would still be a master. Oh, and when it comes to characters:

          If you can make one character so true that they live on, in the imaginations of your readers - one Quixote, or Karenina, or Holmes - then you're a demiurge.
          there's a certain Ebenezer Scrooge, from a very short novel, who seems to have attained that status.

          Here's where I go all middlebrow on you, Brecht:

          I adore Macbeth. I think some of the comedies are eternal.

          Can't stand Hamlet. What a wuss.

          (^.^)

          Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

          by Youffraita on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 10:52:21 PM PDT

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          •  I like how you're aggressively middlebrow (4+ / 0-)

            and proud to proclaim it.

            Since getting into R&BLers, I'm thinking about books every week. That makes me more mindful, and more conscious of my reading choices. Most notably, I'm less escapist just-for-fun than I was. I usually read books that I think will yield something interesting, even new and challenging, to write about.

            But there were many seasons, in the last decade or two, when I got lost in SF/Fantasy binges. Last winter I reread all 10 of Zelazny's Amber books.

            Hamlet's good for clever speeches. Macbeth is more visceral. King Lear is my favorite. I like the comedies, but I find them much more engaging onstage than on the page.

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

            by Brecht on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 11:30:49 PM PDT

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            •  Well...I kinda like the stage. (4+ / 0-)

              I hardly ever get to see plays (my own fault: if I went by myself, I could see more, but I hate to go alone). And this burg doesn't really do Shakespeare: I should have gone to Shakespeare in the Park when I lived in Manhattan, but didn't.

              So, well, YouTube is my friend. They have, I think, been picking up rights. Or at the very least, allowing whole shows to be posted. In limited cases, but still...recently I have found several entire Broadway shows on YT, in one piece. I think YT is trying to get into the streaming online biz.

              Lots of people would agree with you about King Lear, and it's not one I've studied. I got Richard III in my high school Shakespeare class, and kinda really enjoyed it.

              Probably visceral is what appeals to high school students: it was about the same time as I saw Roman Polanski's Macbeth, on the local college campus, with a geek friend.

              Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

              by Youffraita on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 11:52:31 PM PDT

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            •  Oh, just remembered (4+ / 0-)

              quarkstomper is taking a hiatus, I believe. Anyway, he said he was. His series is strictly just-for-fun escapism: sf & fantasy (he has pretty good taste) so I think if you wanted to bridge the gap, you probably could.

              As someone who always tuned into his diaries after work Sunday nights, I would say that:

              Somebody should blog Gene Wolfe. The Book of the New Sun is epic; I thought the Latro novels were even better; and, well, he's done some other stuff and NONE of it is mediocre.

              Gene Wolfe is a national treasure; so is Samuel R. "Chip" Delany, author of Dhalgren and Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand, and The Bridge of Lost Desire.

              If you ever felt like doing something highbrow but genre, you can't go wrong with Wolfe and Delany. (Tim Powers, too.)

              Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

              by Youffraita on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:07:44 AM PDT

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              •  I think quarkstomper has a friend filling in for (4+ / 0-)

                now - there were some messages on the R&BLer board about it. I have had a couple ideas for SF lists, to diary, someday.

                The Book of the New Sun is epic - maybe even a little too epic. I'd certainly have to reread it, and take a lot of notes. Complicated stuff.

                In the same direction, but maybe easier to grasp in a diary, is his two book series, The Wizard Knight.

                I think those six are all the Wolfe I've read, besides several short stories. Yeah, he's rich with dreams and systems.

                And no Delaney at all - I got about 40 pages into Dhalgren, then put it back on the shelf. I don't know Tim Powers.

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

                by Brecht on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:41:03 AM PDT

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                •  I never read Dhalgren. (4+ / 0-)

                  A friend of mine once told Chip it was (paraphrase) too fat to fit in his pocket...ie, too much. Not a dumb guy: he meant too much in a whole lot of different ways, not just size of novel.

                  Love The Wizard Knight.

                  The Bridge of Lost Desire...oh, Wiki it. It's part of a fantasy series Chip wrote. It's in NYC and it's now all cleaned up and called the High Line Park.

                  When I first saw it, it was an abandoned rail bridge where lots of homeless people had set up tents.

                  Asked Chip at a party once, and he said yes, that was his inspiration for the Bridge of Lost Desire.

                  Sorry. Tired. Not making complete sense. But Chip Delany used the old (pre-fixed-up) High Line as his template for his Bridge of Lost Desire. Had I not known its source, I would have suspected London Bridge.

                  Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

                  by Youffraita on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 01:10:59 AM PDT

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                  •  I'm intrigued by Dhalgren. I like ambitious books, (4+ / 0-)

                    that set out for strange new territory. But I need to read a few more transparent Delaney's, to get a feel for his methods, before embarking to his Jupiter.

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

                    by Brecht on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 09:05:15 AM PDT

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                    •  Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Brecht, cfk, RiveroftheWest

                      struck me as more accessible than Dhalgren...then I got busy and never finished it, and lost my copy.

                      I would rec his fantasy series, Neveryon, that includes The Bridge of Lost Desires.

                      The Neveryon stories are as wonderful as all Delany's work is, but ... well, less "difficult" than some of his sf.

                      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

                      by Youffraita on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 01:13:45 AM PDT

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