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Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 9:06amSanction this postReply
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I'm on the look out for some contemporary classics to read (aside from Rand). I want to know that someone alive today, or not long ago, has made something worth reading. The kind of literature that the PC crowd would deny exists so the mediocre writers don't get their feelings hurt. Genre is irrelevant. Any suggestions?

Sarah



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Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 9:11amSanction this postReply
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Try The Giver by Lois Lowry:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0440237688/qid=1127318986/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-8668960-4124047?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

It has echoes of Anthem but does not resolve itself nearly as satisfactorily.




Post 2

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 9:17amSanction this postReply
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Sarah,
I regret to say that what you're looking for is very unlikely to exist. As part of my research into the market in order to publish my own novels, I skim a lot of contemporary novels.  To the best of my knowledge there just ain't no such animal.

There are a few writers who write readable stories with characters who do *not* believe that life is too painful without Prozac.  But the characters tend to be cardboard cut-outs (Cussler comes to mind, and W.E.B. Griffin would also qualify.) and the plots are usually less complex than TV episodes.  That's a far cry from anything remotely approaching Rand.

Of course there are several who are trying, Noble Vision (Gen LaGreca, haven't read it) for example and Erika Holzer's books and Alexandra York's (will give opinion privately).  Dennis Hardin, who sometimes posts here, has written a novel, but I know only what I read on Amazon about that one.

If you gave a slightly more extended description of what you want, I might be able to recommend some books, but they'd most likely be forty years old or more.



Jeff

P.S. I'd be happy to be wrong!

(Edited by Jeff Perren on 9/21, 9:24am)




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Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 9:30amSanction this postReply
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I recommend:  the His Dark Materials trilogy; Harry Potter (of course you've read these already); Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character; What Do You Care What Other People Think? (more Feynman stories); the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and Wislawa Szymborska; The Unbearable Lightness of Being; The Passion, by Jeannette Winterson; Sexing the Cherry, or The World and Other Places, or any other book by Winterson; the Dark Tower series by Stephen King; Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, and the line of sequels that starts with Ender's Shadow.



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Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 9:34amSanction this postReply
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Hmm, there isn't much more to extend. I'm just looking for anything with a glimmer of value. I guess, what's something you've read from the 20th century that made you say "wow." I'm tired of resonating with the ancient dead.

Sarah



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Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 10:29amSanction this postReply
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One of my favorite novels from any period is A Tale of the Wind by Kay Nolte Smith.  It's a multigenerational saga of life in the French theater from Hernani in the 1830s to Cyrano in the 90s.  She's learned from Hugo, but she doesn't try to imitate him (you might say the same of Rand).  It came out in 1991 and didn't do well commercially, so you'll have to do some digging to find it.

Smith was part of Rand's circle in the 60s.  I've read most of her other novels and didn't much like any of them.

Good stories have always been rare; this isn't a special feature of our own era.

Peter

(Edited by Peter Reidy on 9/21, 10:31am)




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Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 10:54amSanction this postReply
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Sarah,
You couldn't possibly know how much I empathize.  'Wow' would be a bit strong in some cases, but:

since you said 20th century (I thought you meant published in the last few years), here's a partial list:

The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett (highly recommended -- this one I did say Wow about.)
Dangerous Fortune - Ken Follett
Eye of The Needle - Ken Follett

Cash McCall - Cameron Hawley

Trustee From The Tool Room - Nevil Shute
No Highway - Nevil Shute

A Kiss Before Dying - Ira Levin
This Perfect Day - Ira Levin

An Odor of Sanctity - Frank Yerby

Sarum - Edward Rutherford

My Antonia - Willa Cather
O Pioneers - Willa Cather

The Lion In Winter - James Goldman (play)
------------------
Not all of these will be to your taste, of course.  It would be illuminating to see a few, besides Rand, that you liked (outside the SF genre).

My recommended non-fiction list would be considerably longer.

Happy reading,
Jeff




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Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 11:26amSanction this postReply
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Crichton's "State of Fear" wouldn't qualify as a classic but for a pop novel, it is pretty well written and does value highly reason and rationality.

I think that has been the only contemporary novel I've read. I have a thing for dead people I suppose!




Post 8

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 12:25pmSanction this postReply
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Donald,
Here we have to disagree. Though I agree with many of the views expressed in State of Fear, the writing is among Crichton's worst, which was never very good.  The plot (apart from a few pages at the beginning) doesn't even begin until 180 pages into a 500 page novel and the style, as usual, is 8th grade at best. It's didactic throughout.  The plot, what there is of it, is interrupted frequently for miniature lectures on environmentalism which are badly integrated into the action.  The characters are cardboard cut-outs and even the best one is practically a cipher. Execrable.




Post 9

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 12:32pmSanction this postReply
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David Gulbraa's  Tales of the Mall Masters  is an excellent find... and for myself, I did enjoy the other novels of Kay Nolte Smith, especially Elegy for a Soprano... Shelly Reuben's Origin and Cause and Spent Matches are other good ones...

Vernor Vinge's books are also well worth looking into, as is John Cramer's Twistor and John Varley's The Golden Globe... Then, too, many of the works of Charles Sheffield are well worth reading...

(Edited by robert malcom on 9/21, 12:37pm)




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Post 10

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 11:03amSanction this postReply
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I second Peter Reidy's praise for Kay Nolte Smith's Tale of the Wind. Unlike Peter, I think her other novels are worth reading as well.

Like Jeff Perren, I find Sarah's question a little vague. Sarah, if you're looking for fiction that shows a Randian influence or which resembles Rand's fiction in certain ways, check out my recent article in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies on "Ayn Rand's Influence on American Popular Fiction." It discusses dozens of recent novels that show that influence.

If you'd be happy with fiction that displays broadly libertarian, though not specifically Randian, values, I cannot recommend Ken Kesey's two novels -- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion -- too highly. Sometimes a Great Notion is the more impressive of the two. It may well be the long sought Great American Novel. Another broadly libertarian novel of very, very high quality is The Fool's Progress by the late Edward Abbey.

If, as you insist, you simply want "anything with a glimmer of value," anything "from the 20th century that made [me] say 'wow'" -- if you just "want to know that someone alive today, or not long ago, has made something worth reading" -- then I must confess I'm somewhat baffled by your predicament. The 20th Century is far and away the most magnificent century of achievement in fiction in our language in the entire history of fiction. There's no shortage of outstanding stuff here. It's all around us, in boundless profusion.

Have you read the greatest of all American novelists, William Faulkner? If not, try Light in August or Absalom, Absalom! followed by The Sound & the Fury. Have you read Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire? It's the most amazingly intricate and amazingly clever piece of fiction I've ever read -- a true masterwork.

Among immediately contemporary (living) fiction writers, several authors of science fiction and fantasy stand out as having made a particularly noteworthy contribution to American literature. Have you read Gene Wolfe? I highly recommend his early novel The Fifth Head of Cerberus, as well as his four-volume Book of the New Sun. Then there's Samuel R. Delany. His four-volume work Return to Neveryon (the first volume is Tales from Neveryon) is one of the great works of art of the 20th Century and an amazingly insightful fictional meditation on the evolution of human society.

I can go on like this for pages and pages and hours and hours. Maybe if you rattled off a list of novels or stories that have blown you away in the past, I could get a better feel for the kind of thing you like best.

JR



Post 11

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 2:16pmSanction this postReply
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Jeff R.,

I can take my favorite novels and find similar ones via Amazon. I'm trying to find new material through different means and already have a list going of books I plan to read that I never would've come across based on what I already like. I'll take whatever recommendations you want to give, even the barbed ones.

Sarah



Post 12

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 2:35pmSanction this postReply
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Sarah,

I found this one very entertaining. When Nietzsche Wept, by Irvin D. Yalom.




Post 13

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 2:37pmSanction this postReply
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Jeff, I agree completely. Most all popular fiction fits together into a category called "junk". I was just posting it as a novel the reflects better thinking, not so much for the content of the novel itself.

During the lecturing, I was reminded constantly of Atlas Shrugged. I thought it was kind of funny...
I'm going to follow this thread pretty closely because I want to see what is out there too.




Post 14

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 3:51pmSanction this postReply
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I recommend this and this.



Post 15

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 4:11pmSanction this postReply
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Jeff:
>Have you read Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire? It's the most amazingly intricate and amazingly clever piece of fiction I've ever read -- a true masterwork.

Seconded. Anything by Nabokov. Similarly, Martin Amis is also a stylistic master writing black comedy. "Money" particularly cracked me up. I don't read a lot of modern fiction currently, but thought Donna Tartt's "A Secret History" was top. And Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bones", but I had to stop reading it, because it was too sad.

This is shading out of the 20th C, but I am amazed at the number of people who have never read Bernard Shaw. He is a marvellous writer, and doubly interesting if you also want to actually understand something about the heyday of Socialism. Dickens holds up remarkably well too (my 13 year old is genuinely rivetted by "Great Expectations"). Oh, and anything Orwell, natch, especially his less well known stuff like "Down And Out In Paris And London", which is, unexpectedly, very funny.

More recently, a really beautiful and oddball novel is DM Thomas's "The White Hotel". But lists like this can go on and on.

- Daniel



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Post 16

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 4:35pmSanction this postReply
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Dear Sarah,

I heartily second the recommendations for His Dark Materials, and Ender's Game, but I haven't read many of the other books mentioned, or don't know about them.

However, since you really want to be thrilled, I second the recommendation for Vladimir Nabokov.  I picked up Lolita this summer, and I've since been fascinated by this incredible masterful prose, so much that I'm exploring some of the rest of his oeuvre, and am finding an intriguing, complex (strangely modernist) writer.  A gleam in the gloom.

I've actually been wanting to start a discussion on Nabokov or Lolita. Later, probably,
Michael




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Post 17

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 4:46pmSanction this postReply
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In literature, as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.
Andre Maurois
Andre Maurois, French writer



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Post 18

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 5:06pmSanction this postReply
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Jeff P.-
A big, fat sanction for that quote.

(Edited by Jody Allen Gomez on 9/21, 6:03pm)




Post 19

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 5:12pmSanction this postReply
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As a case in point, the number of people who like both Rand and Nabokov is surprising, since she hated him.  And DID you know that as a girl she attended school with his sister?

Robert Rodi is hard to sell on specifically Objectivist grounds, but I'll put in a plug for him anyway.  He writes thickly-plotted, very amusing farces aimed at gay readers.  Don't let that stop you.  Kept Boy is my favorite.  Fag Hag satirizes the libertarian / survivalist milieu.  Don't bother with his last one, Bitch Goddess, a roman clef about Joan Collins, even if you didn't ask "Joan Who?".

For an amazing piece of plotting, say what you will about sense of life, try Canone Inverso by Paulo Maurensig.  It's one story inside another, 3 layers deep, with a shock ending at each layer.

Peter




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