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Old 07-02-2012, 03:59 PM   #16
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What is it that makes a book challenging? Is it a challenge to read because it's so heavy (not weight) like Ulysses or is it because the ideas are a challenge?
That's an interesting question; I can only speak for myself and what I was thinking of creating the category.

I actually forgot to add the parentheses to the category title in the first post that I used last year (that I've now edited in again after your comment reminded me of it) which is:

(especially difficult or long works we may be hesitant to choose otherwise)

I remember a year ago deciding whether the category should be "Highly Challenging" or simply "Challenging". I went with the former even at the risk of sounding over-emphatic because I thought it more accurate. "Highly Challenging" is even open to interpretation, but "Challenging" would be so open to interpretation as to possibly include most anything considered literary.

To your specific question, I'd say both "heavy" books and books with challenging ideas could qualify, but anyone else can chime in with their thoughts on the matter if they'd like.

Last edited by sun surfer; 07-02-2012 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:01 PM   #17
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What is it that makes a book challenging? Is it a challenge to read because it's so heavy (not weight) like Ulysses or is it because the ideas are a challenge?
Both probably apply. As long as it's challenging to understand or decipher because the language or ideas are difficult to grasp, rather than because it's just rubbish, then I think it qualifies.
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:41 PM   #18
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Third Middlemarch, and that's my last nomination.
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Old 07-02-2012, 06:50 PM   #19
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JSWolf has mentioned Ulysses by James Joyce. So I'll rise to the bait and use my last nomination to suggest that novel. 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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Old 07-02-2012, 06:59 PM   #20
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I'm out of nominations, so all I can offer is moral support. Ulysses is a key work in appreciation of culture in the 20th century and while difficult, is not inaccessible to the reader who is willing to take it slowly. It well rewards the effort and it's a work that everyone should read, IMO.
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Old 07-02-2012, 08:48 PM   #21
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I'll third Memoirs of Hadrian and Blood Meridian and second Ulysses.
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Old 07-02-2012, 08:55 PM   #22
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Third Ulysses.
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Old 07-03-2012, 04:14 PM   #23
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Less than half a day left for nominations.
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Old 07-03-2012, 05:15 PM   #24
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I'd like to nominate Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar. Jacob Epstein in the WSJ had this to say about it: (spoilered for length, not spoileriness)

Spoiler:
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.


Now where's Paola? I know she wants to read this!
yeah! definitely fourth Memoirs of Hadrian. Now mulling over it a little more for the rest of my nominations...
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Old 07-03-2012, 05:22 PM   #25
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next one, I'll fourth Middlemarch, and keep thinking whether I can afford Ulysses, as this would close the nominations.
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Old 07-03-2012, 06:27 PM   #26
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ok, if I am still in time, i'll fourth Ulysses.
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Old 07-03-2012, 07:00 PM   #27
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Yes, paola, you're still in time and that concludes it. We now have five fully nominated works and nominations are closed.

The poll will be up shortly.

caleb72, I wanted to say both your nominations were interesting and both are books I'd like to read eventually. I've read The Road by McCarthy and he's a great writer, and I've never read Burroughs but I'd like to try him.
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Old 07-10-2012, 04:52 AM   #28
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I'll second Blood Meridian. I've been wanting to read this for a while.

Just out of curiosity, caleb, why do you think it's challenging?
Sorry I never responded to this. As JSWolf stated later, it's more to do with the writing style.

I've never read this author, but I've read on a number of occasions that his prose is challenging (distinct lack of punctuation etc..) and given that his works receive literary acclaim I thought it would be a good fit for the theme and the club.
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Old 07-10-2012, 04:54 AM   #29
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caleb72, I wanted to say both your nominations were interesting and both are books I'd like to read eventually. I've read The Road by McCarthy and he's a great writer, and I've never read Burroughs but I'd like to try him.
Thanks for that. They were two authors that popped into my head when given the theme. I don't actually have any immediate plans to read either so it was less selfish than my usual nominations.
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Old 07-10-2012, 05:26 AM   #30
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Sorry I never responded to this. As JSWolf stated later, it's more to do with the writing style.

I've never read this author, but I've read on a number of occasions that his prose is challenging (distinct lack of punctuation etc..) and given that his works receive literary acclaim I thought it would be a good fit for the theme and the club.
I've read The Road, and it was very good. Even though it didn't win, Blood Meridian is now firmly on my TBR .
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