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Post 20

Thursday, September 22, 2005 - 9:08amSanction this postReply
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V.S. Naipaul.  any comments?



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Post 21

Thursday, September 22, 2005 - 2:15pmSanction this postReply
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This poll asks readers to:
Name the greatest English languge novelist in history.
Am I the only one who noticed the misspelling of "language" in this question?  What kind of poll asks about great English language novelists and then misspells the central word of the question?

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 9/22, 2:16pm)




Post 22

Thursday, September 22, 2005 - 4:19pmSanction this postReply
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Anyone else seen this sort of thing?
According to a sutdy at Hrravad Unerstiivy msot pelope can raed and unadetnrsd any mxied up wrod as lnog as the frsit leettr and the lsat lteter are in palce. This is bcesaue we raed wrods as a wolhe and not as leretts in oderr.

I was never able to find the study or find anything on Snopes, but that'd explain why we didn't catch it.

Sarah



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Post 23

Thursday, September 22, 2005 - 4:24pmSanction this postReply
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Robert Davison questioned the question with:

"How can anyone answer such a question?  It's like asking someone to name his favorite blade of grass."

My favourite blade of grass is Zoysiagrass. In particular, I like Korean velvet grass or Mascarene grass, Zoysia tenuifolia. It is a very fine textured species, but not very tolerant of cold weather (like me). Zoysia tenuifolia is native to the Far East and was introduced in the U.S. from the Mascarene Islands.

Walter
Sometimes likes to watch grass grow 




Post 24

Thursday, September 22, 2005 - 10:20pmSanction this postReply
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...one of the reasons some people (my sister, for instance) prefer We the Living to the other novels. It too is a 'straight' novel in that the integration of philosophy to explain the actions of the characters is at a minimum (an integration that was absolutely necessary given the themes in the other two)



Thanks, Tom. And well said.


V.S. Naipaul.  any comments?


I read A Bend in the River in a book club once upon a time. The discussion was interesting and the book was somewhat interesting at the time but I've all but forgotten the plot and characters. I remember something about a boat and maybe an Arab trader.

What do you think of Naipaul?




Post 25

Thursday, September 22, 2005 - 10:35pmSanction this postReply
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"What kind of poll asks about great English language novelists and then misspells the central word of the question?"

I agree, Luke. I 2 find it outriggerus that people can't master the Queen's Inglus. The author of the poll was probably under the whether when he did it.



Post 26

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 5:29amSanction this postReply
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Keith,

V.S. Naipaul for a long time was one of my favorites, starting with "A House for Mr Biswas". I havent read him in awhile, but that paticular novel remains one of the best I have ever read.

Derek Walcott for epic poetry, especially "Omeros" is another of my favs.

John



Post 27

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 7:10amSanction this postReply
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Jamie,

I think your assessment is right on about being a great adventure yarn. And in the  relationship between Tom and Huck we certainly do have a picture of two boys fighting their background in the name of what could be rather than what is. I can see why you like it, while disagreeing on placing it at the top of the list. A matter of different tastes, surely.

Tom




Post 28

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 8:57pmSanction this postReply
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Dame Barbara Cartland.



Post 29

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 9:06pmSanction this postReply
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I guess there's always one.



Post 30

Saturday, September 24, 2005 - 2:21amSanction this postReply
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Yes, I was wondering when this was going to show up...



Post 31

Sunday, September 25, 2005 - 9:43amSanction this postReply
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Walter,

What is wrong with your answer to my question?  Hint I didn't say it was like naming your favorite variety of grass, now did I? 

I also find it interesting that although the question asks about English language authors no one, unless I have overlooked something, has mentioned a British author.




Post 32

Sunday, September 25, 2005 - 10:41amSanction this postReply
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Robert D.
Good point, particularly since E.M. Forster is in the poll choices. (Not suggesting I would've chosen him; just pointing out that at least one Britisth novelist is in the list.)
Jeff




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Post 33

Sunday, September 25, 2005 - 11:01amSanction this postReply
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I also find it interesting that although the question asks about English language authors no one, unless I have overlooked something, has mentioned a British author.
Um er... Barbara Cartland!   :-)
 
...and you know what?  I was serious when I brought her up.  I helped take care of my bedridden grandmother for quite a few years.  She was a cranky old bat, and the older she got, the crankier she got.  Granted, she was racked with pain and her life wasn't very pleasant in her last few years, so we cut her a lot of slack.  Had any other family member treated me like that, I would have belted them one and cut them out of my will.
 
Honestly, the only times gramma ever seemed to have any respite from her agony were during her daily "serial" (Another World) and when we read her Barbara Cartland novels.  We tried many other authors, but to no avail.  For what it's worth, Barbara Cartland managed to take her to another place and time where she didn't feel quite so much pain.
 
To be honest, as much as I love Rand's work, her love scenes ("I hate all you stand for... I must have you") don't hold a candle to Cartland's.
 
Yeah, Dame Barbara wasn't much of a philosopher and a lot of her books tend to blend together after a while - but for purely sentimental reasons and for the brief moments of pleasure she brought to an old sick lady, Barbara Cartland will always hold a special place in my heart.  When I think of my gramma, I'll always think of Barbara Cartland - and vice-versa.




Post 34

Sunday, September 25, 2005 - 4:19pmSanction this postReply
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JR mentioned Dickens. I go with Ayn Rand for reasons not all literary. I think Atlas Shrugged is the greatest novel ever, but The Fountainhead is a better novel at least insofar as it doesn't creak with age. The older I get the harder it is for me to read Atlas. For instance, the moochers keep passing laws and destroying the economy because there is almost no discernable black market. Unreal. Francisco gives up Dagny!!!! and goes on strike!?!? Yeah, right. Only for the sake of the allegory. Ayn Rand said (it is reported somewhere) that several generations were compressed into one for the sake of the story.  Well, in real life that'd be an absolutely impossible sacrifice for anyone not completely out of touch with reality. So Rand writes this novel then decompresses into the real world and wonders where the Hank Reardens are who are supposed to repair to her banner, not realizing that for the most part they haven't even been born yet.

--Brant




Post 35

Sunday, September 25, 2005 - 9:55pmSanction this postReply
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His stories are intense, strange, nihilistic, insane, and engrossing. Chuck Pahlaniuk.



Post 36

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 6:58amSanction this postReply
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The question is not who is your favorite novelist or what is the best book ever; it is Name the greatest English languge (sic) novelist in history. 
 
No one here has attempted to do that, and who can blame them.  It is impossible to name a single greatest novelist, even when limited to the english language.





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Post 37

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 7:25pmSanction this postReply
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Phil Coates, in response to my vote for Charles Dickens as the greatest novelist to have written (so far) in English:

"That's a very strong statement. Care to explain? [I'm asking you, rather than some of the other posters, for elaboration because you are well-read, know a lot about literature, and have taught it.]"

I've taken a few days to reply to this question, because I've needed time to figure out how to do so *briefly*. I could write a book in reply to this question. My friend George H. Smith -- with whose work most Objectivists are familiar, I think -- is fond of quoting a letter in which Thomas Jefferson apologies to his fellow correspondent for having written at such length. "I hadn't the time to write a short letter," he explains. There is much wisdom in this.

Well, I still haven't figured out how to make my point briefly yet persuasively -- perhaps because of the distraction of having a couple of professional deadlines looming up before me, perhaps because of the distraction of having family in the path of Hurricane Rita. But I'll take a stab at it.

The skill of novel-writing is actually a combination of two major skills: the art of writing and the art of storytelling. To be a truly *great* novelist, in my opinion, a writer must be a master of both. The ranks of so-called "popular" novelists (see my recent article in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, "Ayn Rand's Influence on American Popular Fiction," for an extended discussion of the concept of "popular" vs. "serious" or "literary" fiction) are packed with people who are anywhere from pretty good to great at storytelling but are anywhere from pretty good to terrible at writing. The ranks of so-called "serious" novelists are packed with people who are anywhere from pretty good to great at writing but are anywhere from pretty good to terrible at storytelling.

The art of storytelling may be broken down into a number of more specialized skills, e.g., plotting, characterization, mixing "scenic" narration with "panoramic" narration, management of point of view, management of time, creation of "suspense," etc., etc., etc.

The art of writing (in the specific context of writing novels) may be similarly broken down into a number of more specialized skills, e.g., descriptive writing (static), descriptive writing (active), dialogue writing, management of rhythm, management of imagery, management of place and character names, management of parallel structures, etc., etc., etc.

Only a handful of novelists in our language are true masters of *all* the relevant skills that go into writing a great novel. Not only is Dickens one of them, but the level of mastery which he is able to sustain over the length of even a very long novel is positively astonishing. He not only does everything well; at his best, he does everything brilliantly. There is really no one like him. He is one of only two novelists with three titles in my Top Twenty-five Novels in English list (the other is William Faulkner). And Dickens's novels consistently outrank Faulkner's on the list. (That is, Bleak House outranks Absalom, Absalom! in the top ten; Great Expectations outranks Light in August in the second ten; and A Tale of Two Cities outranks Go Down, Moses" among the titles that come in between 20 and 25.)

There -- that's my stab at putting the matter briefly. I wish I could make my argument even clearer by defining each of the specific skills that goes into the writing of a novel more exactly and citing passages from various novels to illustrate degrees of excellence at each.

But at the moment, even if anyone on SOLO would like to read such an exposition, I haven't the time to go into it.

JR





Post 38

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 11:24pmSanction this postReply
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Wow! Jeff's post #37 packs more information and insight about literature into a brief post than I can recall seeing. Jeff, you and I disagree about a lot in the realm of politics but your analytical skill in literature (and original points) are absolutely brilliant here, and I will know listen to any argument you have to make in literature. And I'm now ready to read the Dickens and Faulkner works you recommend and see if I will agree.

>" I still haven't figured out how to make my point briefly yet persuasively"

Do it via example - a paragraph in which CD or WF does several of the things you cite (as Rand does with Hugo and other authors in her essays on literature).

This post of yours is so powerful, it should be expanded into an article or two....

Phil



Post 39

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 11:28pmSanction this postReply
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I also admire the fact that you take questions/challenges like this so seriously, that you took several days to write an answer so carefully reasoned out.

Phil



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