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View Diary: Books Go Boom! How 'Lord of the Rings' is Not a Very Good Book - and Yet, is a Great One (296 comments)

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  •  Happens sometimes when writers (12+ / 0-)

    are right in line with the political/social Zeitgeist: they're heavily lauded while the Zeitgeist lasts, but forgotten later on.  Good cast study: Maxim Gorky.  Used to be synonymous with great Soviet literature, because his work was in good political alignment with the state (err... sometimes).  Now he's mostly an historical rather than literary figure, apart from one or two works - The Lower Depths in particular.   He has some very good short stories, and his memoirs are a lot of fun to read, but Gorky is nowhere near the capital-G Gorky he used to be.

    Or just scroll through the list of earlier Nobel prize laureates. It's a graveyard of forgotten names: of the first twenty, maybe three or four are still widely read?

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

    by pico on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 07:13:58 PM PDT

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    •  I've never read Gorky-- (7+ / 0-)

      I secretly (well, not anymore) believe that he's related, somehow, to Martin Cruz Smith.

      I wonder if there's a length of time that locks in Greatness. If  a book is considered Great for X decades, it can't be ungreatified.

      "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

      by GussieFN on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 07:38:48 PM PDT

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      •  More likely to be forgotten (5+ / 0-)

        than ungreatified, I think?  Or little-read if not forgotten.  I know we talk about Sterne sometimes, and how much the massive success and influence of A Sentimental Journey hasn't continued (I don't know a single person who's read it), while the less-liked Tristram Shandy is now the typical point of reference for Sterne fans.  So I guess we could say ASJ has been ungreatified, but does anyone even have an opinion on it anymore, for that matter?

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

        by pico on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 10:08:33 PM PDT

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        •  I have, by chance, read 'A Sentimental Journey' (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, GussieFN, No Exit, pico

          I'm a huge fan of Tristram Shandy, so I tried a second helping of Sterne. It had several charming patches, but only a fraction of Tristram's humor and thoughtfulness. It's worth reading once, only because it's short.

          Journal to Eliza was even less impressive. His very first work, the mock epic A Political Romance, was a little funny for the parish gossip behind it. They were in the same book as A Sentimental Journey, which I picked up second hand for about $1.

          A better direction to travel from Tristram Shandy is to all the writers Sterne influenced, to produce books like Jacques the Fatalist, The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr, and The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas.

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

          by Brecht on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 01:08:30 AM PDT

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        •  Well, being forgotten or little-read is (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dandy lion, pico, No Exit, Radiowalla, Brecht

          the inevitable fate of Good books, I suspect.

          I'm trying to think of recent books that have been hailed as Great. The Secret History? Gilead? Infinite Jest? The Corrections, Harry Potter (as timeless as Beowulf according to the New Yorker), Kafka on the Shore?

          Is it even possible for a book to be Great anymore? Or do books no longer command sufficient attention and authority, as they now compete with other media?

          "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

          by GussieFN on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 09:54:43 AM PDT

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        •  I remember Tristam Shandy (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pico, Monsieur Georges, Brecht

          and thought it was hilarious at the time.  One of my favorite bits was the hobbyhorse to which I often refer when someone belabors and belabors a topic.

          A Sentimental Journey?  Yikes.  I don't know it.  

          It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

          by Radiowalla on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 06:04:38 PM PDT

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