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Old 07-01-2012, 03:19 AM   #1
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Highly Challenging Nominations • July 2012

Help us select what the MR Literary Club will read for July 2012! (and Happy Canada Day, Canada!)

The nominations will run for up to THREE days until July 4 (Happy Independence Day, U.S.A.!) or until five works have made the list.

Final voting in a new poll will begin by July 4, where the month's selection will be decided.


The category for this month is:

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


In order for a work to be included in the poll it needs FOUR nominations - the original nomination plus three supporting.

Each participant has FOUR nominations to use. You can nominate a new work for consideration or you can support (second, third or fourth) a work that has already been nominated by another person.

To nominate a work just post a message with your nomination. If you are the first to nominate a work, it's always nice to provide an abstract to the work so others may consider their level of interest.


What is literature for the purposes of this club? A superior work of lasting merit that enriches the mind. Often it is important, challenging, critically acclaimed. It may be from ancient times to today; it may be from anywhere in the world; it may be obscure or famous, short or long; it may be a story, a novel, a play, a poem, an essay or another written form. If you are unsure if a work would be considered literature, just ask!


The floor is now open!

*

Note - (edited) I ended up with good enough internet access during nominations, hooray!


Nominations closed. Final results:

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - orlok, issybird, Bookworm_Girl, caleb72

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 - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - issybird, orlok, sun surfer, fantasyfan

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 - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - issybird, fantasyfan, Synamon, paola

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 - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - sun surfer, fantasyfan, issybird, paola

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 - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - fantasyfan, Synamon, sun surfer, paola

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.

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs - 1
Spoiler:
In favour - caleb72

Naked Lunch (sometimes The Naked Lunch) is a novel by William S. Burroughs originally published in 1959. The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order. The reader follows the narration of junkie William Lee, who takes on various aliases, from the US to Mexico, eventually to Tangier and the dreamlike Interzone. The vignettes (which Burroughs called "routines") are drawn from Burroughs' own experience in these places, and his addiction to drugs (heroin, morphine, and while in Tangier, "Majoun" — a strong marijuana confection - as well as a German opioid, brand name Eukodol, of which he wrote frequently).

The novel was included in Time magazine's "100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005". In 1991, David Cronenberg released a film of the same name based upon the novel and other Burroughs writings.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy - 3
Spoiler:
In favour - caleb72, orlok, Synamon

Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West is a 1985 Western novel by U.S. author Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy's fifth book, it was published by Random House.

The narrative follows an adolescent run-away referred to only as "the kid", with the bulk of the text devoted to his experiences with the Glanton gang, a historical group of scalp hunters who massacred North American tribes and others in the United States–Mexico borderlands in 1849 and 1850. The role of antagonist is gradually filled by Judge Holden, a large, intelligent man depicted as entirely devoid of hair and emblematic of violence and conflict.

Although the novel initially generated only lukewarm critical and commercial reception, it has since become highly acclaimed and is widely recognized as McCarthy's masterpiece.

Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

Last edited by sun surfer; 07-03-2012 at 07:57 PM.
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Old 07-01-2012, 08:44 AM   #2
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I'd like to nominate The Aeneid, by Virgil, 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.

I think Americans (can't answer for others) are less familiar with the stories of The Aeneid than they are with the epic poems of Homer, but it's as compelling a story. For those who have been on the epic journey here at MR, it dovetails nicely.
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Old 07-01-2012, 08:59 AM   #3
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I'll second The Aeneid, and add my own nomination, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I last read this in my late teens, and remember it as a challenging read due the future-slang employed by Burgess, a hybrid English/Russian argot. I kept having to refer to the glossary/dictionary at the back of the book to work out what was being said - difficult to start, but soon it started to flow. But be warned, this book is a real tolchock in the yarbles!

Quote:
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?"
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Old 07-01-2012, 12:10 PM   #4
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I'll second Clockwork Orange, difficult indeed. I was not able to get over the hump in my teens; I'm game for another stab at it.
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Old 07-01-2012, 01:24 PM   #5
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I'll third Clockwork Orange. I read it as a teenager too and have been wanting to re-read it.
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Old 07-01-2012, 03:20 PM   #6
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Since I mentioned U.S. Independence Day, I have been alerted that today is Canada Day! I'll edit that into the first post.

ETA - And I'll third Aeneid.

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Old 07-02-2012, 05:47 AM   #7
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I'll fourth Clockwork Orange.
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Old 07-02-2012, 05:56 AM   #8
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I'm not sure if people think this qualifies, but could I humbly suggest: William S. Burroughs with Naked Lunch.

Quote:
Naked Lunch (sometimes The Naked Lunch) is a novel by William S. Burroughs originally published in 1959. The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order. The reader follows the narration of junkie William Lee, who takes on various aliases, from the US to Mexico, eventually to Tangier and the dreamlike Interzone. The vignettes (which Burroughs called "routines") are drawn from Burroughs' own experience in these places, and his addiction to drugs (heroin, morphine, and while in Tangier, "Majoun" — a strong marijuana confection - as well as a German opioid, brand name Eukodol, of which he wrote frequently).

The novel was included in Time magazine's "100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005". In 1991, David Cronenberg released a film of the same name based upon the novel and other Burroughs writings.
And if you'll permit me to be particularly greedy, I'd like to nominate Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.

Quote:
Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West is a 1985 Western novel by U.S. author Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy's fifth book, it was published by Random House.

The narrative follows an adolescent run-away referred to only as "the kid", with the bulk of the text devoted to his experiences with the Glanton gang, a historical group of scalp hunters who massacred North American tribes and others in the United States–Mexico borderlands in 1849 and 1850. The role of antagonist is gradually filled by Judge Holden, a large, intelligent man depicted as entirely devoid of hair and emblematic of violence and conflict.

Although the novel initially generated only lukewarm critical and commercial reception, it has since become highly acclaimed and is widely recognized as McCarthy's masterpiece.

Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.
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Old 07-02-2012, 10:23 AM   #9
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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!
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Old 07-02-2012, 03:45 PM   #10
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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?
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:08 PM   #11
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I'll fourth The Aeneid. and second Memoirs of Hadrian.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 07-02-2012 at 04:12 PM.
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:12 PM   #12
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I just nominated this in the general club a month ago and it was close to making the final run-off there, and I know that we can't nominate the same thing so soon again in that club, but...this is a different club with (even if cross-over) different membership, so I want to nominate it here for its highly challenging length and breadth:

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.
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:18 PM   #13
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I'll second Middlemarch.
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:21 PM   #14
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All Comac McCarthy books are challenging due to his writing style.
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:23 PM   #15
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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?
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