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Old 07-03-2012, 08:37 PM   #1
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Highly Challenging Vote • July 2012

Help us choose the July 2012 selection to read for the MR Literary Club! The poll will be open for TWO days.

The vote is MULTIPLE CHOICE. You may vote for as many or as few as you like.

The discussion thread will begin shortly after a winner is chosen (to discuss everything selection-related before, during and after reading).

In the event of a tie, there will be a one-day non-multiple-choice run-off poll. In the event that the run-off poll also ends in a tie, the tie will be resolved in favour of the selection that received all of its initial nominations first.


Select from the following works:


A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Spoiler:
A vicious fifteen-year-old "droog" is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick's magnificent film of the same title. In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to "redeem" him—the novel asks, "At what cost?"

The Aeneid by Virgil
Spoiler:
The epic poem that tells the story of how Aeneas, a Trojan, fled Troy at the end of the war, and his wanderings and eventual arrival in Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Roman people.

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar
Spoiler:
Jacob Epstein in the WSJ had this to say about it:

Mme. Yourcenar wrote a good deal of fiction, but her imperishable work is "Memoirs of Hadrian," first published in French in 1951. The novel is in the form of a lengthy letter written by the aged and ill Emperor Hadrian, who ruled from A.D. 117 to 138, to the 17-year-old but already thoughtful Marcus Aurelius.

Roman emperors seem to be divided between monsters and mediocrities, with an occasional near-genius, like Hadrian, thrown in to break the monotony. Highly intelligent and cultivated, he was a Grecophile, always a good sign in the ancient world. As emperor, he attempted to pull back from the imperialist expansion of his predecessor Trajan and wanted, as the chronicler Aelius Spartianus put it, to "administer the republic [so that] it would know that the state belonged to the people and was not his property."

And yet Hadrian was also a Roman emperor, which meant living amid dangerous intrigue, wielding enormous power and being able to fulfill his erotic impulses at whim. He was, Spartianus writes, "both stern and cheerful, affable and harsh, impetuous and hesitant, mean and generous, hypocritical and straightforward, cruel and merciful, and always in all things changeable"—in short, not a god but a man.

Mme. Yourcenar has taken what we know of the life of Hadrian and from this sketchy knowledge produced an utterly convincing full-blown portrait. One feels that one is reading a remarkable historical document, an account of the intricate meanings of power by a man who has held vast power. Imagine Machiavelli's "The Prince" written not by an Italian theorist but by a true prince. Imagine, further, that he also let you in on his desires, his fears, his aesthetic, his sensuality, his feelings about death—in a manner at once haute and intimate, and in a prose any emperor would be pleased to possess.

Middlemarch by George Eliot
Spoiler:
Descriptions from Amazon:

It was George Eliot's ambition to create a world and portray a whole community--tradespeople, middle classes, country gentry--in the rising fictional provincial town of Middlemarch, circa 1830. Vast and crowded, rich in narrative irony and suspense, Middlemarch is richer still in character and in its sense of how individual destinies are shaped by and shape the community.

---

This panoramic work--considered the finest novel in English by many critics--offers a complex look at English provincial life at a crucial historical moment, and, at the same time, dramatizes and explores some of the most potent myths of Victorian literature. The text of this edition comes from the Clarendon Middlemarch, the first critical edition of the novel.

---

Set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during the years 1830-32, George Eliot's "Middlemarch" is a work of epic scope filled with numerous characters, which explores a plethora of themes including the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism and self-interest, religion and hypocrisy, political reform, and education. Considered one of the great works of the English language, George Eliot's "Middlemarch" was immensely popular upon original publication and remains one of the finest examples of the author's prolific and accomplished literary career.

Ulysses by James Joyce
Spoiler:
By any standards Ulysses is one of the most intellectually challenging books of the twentieth century, Joyce claimed that it would keep critics busy for a hundred years--and it would seem that he may well be proven right.

The book covers one day in Dublin centering primarily on Leopold Bloom. But the entire structure and events mirror Homer's Odyssey. In some ways it is an epic of the ordinary but is far fron ordinary in its subtle structure, its phenomenally virtuosic use of language, and brilliant characterization.

The 1922 first edition has long been available in the Public domain and is included in Project Gutenberg's library, but since January of this year, nearly all editions are now PD. If you really want a challenge you won't be disappointed with this astounding novel.
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