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Old 07-01-2013, 12:59 AM   #1
sun surfer
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Highly Challenging Nominations • July 2013

Welcome to a new "year" for us and help us select what the MR Literary Club will read for July 2013!

The nominations will run for FOUR days until July 5 (we have added an extra day to nominations to see how it goes). Then, a separate voting poll will begin where the month's selection will be decided.

Note - We no longer aim for a certain number of fully nominated works; rather, we now aim for a certain length of time for nominations (now four days).


The category for this month is:

Highly Challenging


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!

*

Nominations are now closed. Final results:


The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - paola, issybird, fantasyfan, Hamlet53


Blurb for The Sound and the fury from the folio society:

The Sound and The Fury is acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of 20th-century literature. It takes the modernist narrative devices of stream-of-consciousness, time-shifts and multiple changes of viewpoint to an unprecedented level of sophistication. Faulkner was well aware that readers would find it difficult, and employed italic and roman type to convey its ‘unbroken-surfaced confusion’, but when his agent attempted to standardise and simplify the system this prompted an angry objection from Faulkner. He quickly jotted down eight time-levels in Benjy’s section, ‘just a few I recall’, and wished that it could be ‘printed the way it ought to be with different color types’, but he concluded pessimistically, ‘I don’t reckon … it’ll ever be printed that way’.


The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - Hamlet53, sun surfer, fantasyfan, desertblues


Approximately 1000 pages and a 1749 publication date. From Goodreads:

A foundling of mysterious parentage brought up by Mr. Allworthy on his country estate, Tom Jones is deeply in love with the seemingly unattainable Sophia Western, the beautiful daughter of the neighboring squire—though he sometimes succumbs to the charms of the local girls. When Tom is banished to make his own fortune and Sophia follows him to London to escape an arranged marriage, the adventure begins. A vivid Hogarthian panorama of eighteenth-century life, spiced with danger and intrigue, bawdy exuberance and good-natured authorial interjections, Tom Jones is one of the greatest and most ambitious comic novels in English literature.

Available as an ebook, including in the MR library.


The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - issybird, Billi, fantasyfan, Bookworm_Girl


An open Yale course on Don Quixote which might be enlightening.


Paradise Lost by John Milton - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - fantasyfan, issybird, sun surfer, Bookpossum


This is a gigantic, highly challenging poem by any standards and is considered the greatest epic in the English language and perhaps the greatest in Western Literature since Dante.

It has everything! There's the wonderful, Titanic figure of Satan, splendid, heroic, powerful, angry, and very seductive. The story spans the entire Creation as Milton conceived it and is filled with drama, huge battles, and dramatisations concerning the nature of free will.

It is written in a powerful, resonant, incredibly beautiful blank verse which has given us the adjective "Miltonic" to convey its special combination of poetic power, majesty and brilliant flow.


An excerpt describing Satan's Fall from early in the poem:

"Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th' Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defie th' Omnipotent to Arms.
Nine times the Space that measures Day and Night
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquisht, rowling in the fiery Gulfe
Confounded though immortal: "

This masterpiece is available free from Project Gutenberg and from other sources {not always free} including Amazon UK, Amazon.com, Kobo etc.


The History by Herodotus - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - issybird, Bookpossum, Billi, Hamlet53


What is apparently the most accessible translation is under five bucks at Amazon.

Here's the squib:

David Grene, one of the best known translators of the Greek classics, splendidly captures the peculiar quality of Herodotus, the father of history.

Here is the historian, investigating and judging what he has seen, heard, and read, and seeking out the true causes and consequences of the great deeds of the past. In his History, the war between the Greeks and Persians, the origins of their enmity, and all the more general features of the civilizations of the world of his day are seen as a unity and expressed as the vision of one man who as a child lived through the last of the great acts in this universal drama.

In Grene's remarkable translation and commentary, we see the historian as a storyteller, combining through his own narration the skeletal "historical" facts and the imaginative reality toward which his story reaches. Herodotus emerges in all his charm and complexity as a writer and the first historian in the Western tradition, perhaps unique in the way he has seen the interrelation of fact and fantasy.

"Reading Herodotus in English has never been so much fun. . . . Herodotus crowds his fresco-like pages with all shades of humanity. Whether Herodotus's view is 'tragic,' mythical, or merely common sense, it provided him with a moral salt with which the diversity of mankind could be savored. And savor it we do in David Grene's translation."—Thomas D'Evelyn, Christian Science Monitor

"Grene's work is a monument to what translation intends, and to what it is hungry to accomplish. . . . Herodotus gives more sheer pleasure than almost any other writer."—Peter Levi, New York Times Book Review


On the Nature of Things by Lucretius - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - paola, Billi, desertblues, Bookpossum


(330 pages)

De rerum natura/on the nature of things


Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - sun surfer, paola, Bookpossum, caleb72


It was specifically mentioned as the principal reason that Mann won the Nobel Prize for Literature.


From Goodreads:

Buddenbrooks, first published in Germany in 1901, when Mann was only twenty-six, has become a classic of modern literature.

It is the story of four generations of a wealthy bourgeois family in northern Germany facing the advent of modernity; in an uncertain new world, the family’s bonds and traditions begin to disintegrate. As Mann charts the Buddenbrooks’ decline from prosperity to bankruptcy, from moral and psychic soundness to sickly piety, artistic decadence, and madness, he ushers the reader into a world of stunning vitality, pieced together from births and funerals, weddings and divorces, recipes, gossip, and earthy humor.

In its immensity of scope, richness of detail, and fullness of humanity, Buddenbrooks surpasses all other modern family chronicles.


Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour - desertblues, Hamlet53, Billi, caleb72


Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels, the most important one, of Chinese literature; written in the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty.

The novel is a fictionalized account of the legendary pilgrimage to India of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang, and loosely based its source from the historic text Great Tang Records on the Western Regions and traditional folk tales.

This monk travelled to the "Western Regions" during the Tang Dynasty, to obtain sacred texts (sutras). The bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin), on instruction from the Buddha, gives this task to the monk and his three protectors in the form of disciples — namely Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing — together with a dragon prince who acts as Xuanzang's steed, a white horse. These four characters have agreed to help Xuanzang as an atonement for past sins.

Journey to the West has a strong background in Chinese folk religion, Chinese mythology and value systems; the pantheon of Taoist immortals and Buddhist bodhisattvas is still reflective of Chinese religious beliefs today. Enduringly popular, the tale is at once an adventure story, a spring of spiritual insight, and an extended allegory in which the group of pilgrims journeying toward India represents individuals journeying towards enlightenment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_to_the_West

It is an epic novel of about 1400 pages….highly challenging. The story alternates long verses descripting battles with poetry and descritions of supernatural happenings. Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism are, sometimes physically, battling. In a sense, it is a modern story through life with it's pitfalls.

"The earth is black in front of the cliff, and no orchids grow.
Creepers crawl in the brown mud by the path.
Where did the birds of yesterday fly?
To what other mountain did the animals go?
Leopards and pythons dislike this ruined spot;
Cranes and snakes avoid the desolation.
My criminal thoughts of those days past
Brought on the disaster of today."

Available as ebook

For free from project Gutenberg (in Chinese)
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/23962

and for about $6 from:
http://www.amazon.com/Monkey-Journey...ey+to+the+west
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Monkey-Journ...ey+to+the+West
http://www.amazon.ca/Monkey-Journey-...ey+to+the+west


Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs - 3
Spoiler:
In favour - paola, desertblues, caleb72

The blurb for Naked Lunch's 50th anniversary edition from amazon:

Naked Lunch is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century, a book that redefined not just literature but American culture. An unnerving tale of a narcotics addict unmoored in New York, Tangiers, and ultimately a nightmarish wasteland known as interzone, its formal innovation, formerly taboo subject matter, and tour de force execution have exerted their influence on the work of authors like Thomas Pynchon, J. G. Ballard, and William Gibson; on the relationship of art and obscenity; and on the shape of music, film and media generally. Naked Lunch: The Restored Text includes many editorial corrections on the text, several essays he wrote over the years about the book, and an appendix of 20 percent new material and alternate drafts from the original manuscript, which predates the first published version. For the Burroughs enthusiast and the neophyte, this volume is a valuable and fresh experience of this classic of our culture.


Ulysses by James Joyce - 1
Spoiler:
In favour - sun surfer


From Amazon:

Ulysses has been labeled dirty, blasphemous, and unreadable. In a famous 1933 court decision, Judge John M. Woolsey declared it an emetic book--although he found it sufficiently unobscene to allow its importation into the United States--and Virginia Woolf was moved to decry James Joyce's "cloacal obsession." None of these adjectives, however, do the slightest justice to the novel. To this day it remains the modernist masterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to splendid extremes. It is funny, sorrowful, and even (in a close-focus sort of way) suspenseful. And despite the exegetical industry that has sprung up in the last 75 years, Ulysses is also a compulsively readable book. Even the verbal vaudeville of the final chapters can be navigated with relative ease, as long as you're willing to be buffeted, tickled, challenged, and (occasionally) vexed by Joyce's sheer command of the English language.

Among other things, a novel is simply a long story, and the first question about any story is: What happens?. In the case of Ulysses, the answer might be Everything. William Blake, one of literature's sublime myopics, saw the universe in a grain of sand. Joyce saw it in Dublin, Ireland, on June 16, 1904, a day distinguished by its utter normality. Two characters, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, go about their separate business, crossing paths with a gallery of indelible Dubliners. We watch them teach, eat, stroll the streets, argue, and (in Bloom's case) masturbate. And thanks to the book's stream-of-consciousness technique--which suggests no mere stream but an impossibly deep, swift-running river--we're privy to their thoughts, emotions, and memories. The result? Almost every variety of human experience is crammed into the accordian folds of a single day, which makes Ulysses not just an experimental work but the very last word in realism.

Both characters add their glorious intonations to the music of Joyce's prose. Dedalus's accent--that of a freelance aesthetician, who dabbles here and there in what we might call Early Yeats Lite--will be familiar to readers of Portrait of an Artist As a Young Man. But Bloom's wistful sensualism (and naive curiosity) is something else entirely. Seen through his eyes, a rundown corner of a Dublin graveyard is a figure for hope and hopelessness, mortality and dogged survival: "Mr Bloom walked unheeded along his grove by saddened angels, crosses, broken pillars, family vaults, stone hopes praying with upcast eyes, old Ireland's hearts and hands. More sensible to spend the money on some charity for the living. Pray for the repose of the soul of. Does anybody really?" --James Marcus

Last edited by sun surfer; 07-05-2013 at 03:06 AM.
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Old 07-01-2013, 05:30 AM   #2
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I'll open things up with a nomination I made a good while back. I think that a book can be nominated again after 6 months and I think that this qualifies. Please let me know if it doesn't and I will withdraw it.

My nomination is Paradise Lost by John Milton. This is a gigantic, highly challenging poem by any standards and is considered the greatest epic in the English language and perhaps the greatest in Western Literature since Dante.

It has everything! There's the wonderful, Titanic figure of Satan, splendid, heroic, powerful, angry, and very seductive. The story spans the entire Creation as Milton conceived it and is filled with drama, huge battles, and dramatisations concerning the nature of free will.

It is written in a powerful, resonant, incredibly beautiful blank verse which has given us the adjective "Miltonic" to convey its special combination of poetic power, majesty and brilliant flow.


I'll conclude with an excerpt describing Satan's Fall from early in the poem:

"Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th' Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defie th' Omnipotent to Arms.
Nine times the Space that measures Day and Night
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquisht, rowling in the fiery Gulfe
Confounded though immortal: "

This masterpiece is available free from Project Gutenberg and from other sources {not always free} including Amazon UK, Amazon.com, Kobo etc.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 07-01-2013 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 07-01-2013, 06:38 AM   #3
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I nominate Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en
Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels, the most important one, of Chinese literature; written in the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty.
The novel is a fictionalized account of the legendary pilgrimage to India of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang, and loosely based its source from the historic text Great Tang Records on the Western Regions and traditional folk tales.
This monk travelled to the "Western Regions" during the Tang Dynasty, to obtain sacred texts (sutras). The bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin), on instruction from the Buddha, gives this task to the monk and his three protectors in the form of disciples — namely Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing — together with a dragon prince who acts as Xuanzang's steed, a white horse. These four characters have agreed to help Xuanzang as an atonement for past sins.

Journey to the West has a strong background in Chinese folk religion, Chinese mythology and value systems; the pantheon of Taoist immortals and Buddhist bodhisattvas is still reflective of Chinese religious beliefs today. Enduringly popular, the tale is at once an adventure story, a spring of spiritual insight, and an extended allegory in which the group of pilgrims journeying toward India represents individuals journeying towards enlightenment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_to_the_West

It is an epic novel of about 1400 pages….highly challenging. The story alternates long verses descripting battles with poetry and descritions of supernatural happenings. Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism are, sometimes physically, battling. In a sense, it is a modern story through life with it's pitfalls.

"The earth is black in front of the cliff, and no orchids grow.
Creepers crawl in the brown mud by the path.
Where did the birds of yesterday fly?
To what other mountain did the animals go?
Leopards and pythons dislike this ruined spot;
Cranes and snakes avoid the desolation.
My criminal thoughts of those days past
Brought on the disaster of today."

Available as ebook
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Old 07-01-2013, 08:16 AM   #4
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here are the first two:
The Naked lunch, by William Burroughs; and The sound and the fury, by William Faulkner.
The blurb for Naked Lunch's 50th anniversary edition from amazon:
Quote:
Naked Lunch is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century, a book that redefined not just literature but American culture. An unnerving tale of a narcotics addict unmoored in New York, Tangiers, and ultimately a nightmarish wasteland known as interzone, its formal innovation, formerly taboo subject matter, and tour de force execution have exerted their influence on the work of authors like Thomas Pynchon, J. G. Ballard, and William Gibson; on the relationship of art and obscenity; and on the shape of music, film and media generally. Naked Lunch: The Restored Text includes many editorial corrections on the text, several essays he wrote over the years about the book, and an appendix of 20 percent new material and alternate drafts from the original manuscript, which predates the first published version. For the Burroughs enthusiast and the neophyte, this volume is a valuable and fresh experience of this classic of our culture.
and for The Sound and the fury from the folio society
Quote:
The Sound and The Fury is acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of 20th-century literature. It takes the modernist narrative devices of stream-of-consciousness, time-shifts and multiple changes of viewpoint to an unprecedented level of sophistication. Faulkner was well aware that readers would find it difficult, and employed italic and roman type to convey its ‘unbroken-surfaced confusion’, but when his agent attempted to standardise and simplify the system this prompted an angry objection from Faulkner. He quickly jotted down eight time-levels in Benjy’s section, ‘just a few I recall’, and wished that it could be ‘printed the way it ought to be with different color types’, but he concluded pessimistically, ‘I don’t reckon … it’ll ever be printed that way’.
edit: both available as ebooks. I'll wait for more nominations to be out, as I only have two left!
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Old 07-01-2013, 09:31 AM   #5
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It would be so easy to second everything, wipe my hands and say, "Well, my work here is done." Lest the the race be to the swift, however, I think I'll selfishly limit myself to seconding two works that fit into my current reading goals and await developments.

I supposedly have a concentration on 17th century England this year, which I ruefully have to admit was in abeyance this spring. Back in the saddle, I'll second Paradise Lost..

And on my list of topics I mean to get to has been a revisit of Faulkner, whom I read when I suspect he was over my head. Recent rereads of Tender is the Night and Lolita among others have demonstrated my lack of discernment and appreciation in my salad days. So I second The Sound and the Fury.

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Old 07-01-2013, 09:42 AM   #6
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I'll third The Sound and the Fury.
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:02 AM   #7
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I'll offer up a book that I've always wanted to read, but never gotten around to. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding. At approximately 1000 pages and a 1749 publication date it qualifies as challenging I believe. From Goodreads:

Quote:
A foundling of mysterious parentage brought up by Mr. Allworthy on his country estate, Tom Jones is deeply in love with the seemingly unattainable Sophia Western, the beautiful daughter of the neighboring squire—though he sometimes succumbs to the charms of the local girls. When Tom is banished to make his own fortune and Sophia follows him to London to escape an arranged marriage, the adventure begins. A vivid Hogarthian panorama of eighteenth-century life, spiced with danger and intrigue, bawdy exuberance and good-natured authorial interjections, Tom Jones is one of the greatest and most ambitious comic novels in English literature.
Available as an ebook, including in the MR library.
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:07 AM   #8
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Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en sounds interesting. I'll second that. I'll provide a fourth for The Sound and the Fury as well. With three nominations used already I will hold of on Paradise Lost as it may not need my help and I'd like to keep one vote available until I can see what else comes up.
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:43 AM   #9
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I nominate Ulysses by James Joyce.
Spoiler:
From Amazon:

Ulysses has been labeled dirty, blasphemous, and unreadable. In a famous 1933 court decision, Judge John M. Woolsey declared it an emetic book--although he found it sufficiently unobscene to allow its importation into the United States--and Virginia Woolf was moved to decry James Joyce's "cloacal obsession." None of these adjectives, however, do the slightest justice to the novel. To this day it remains the modernist masterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to splendid extremes. It is funny, sorrowful, and even (in a close-focus sort of way) suspenseful. And despite the exegetical industry that has sprung up in the last 75 years, Ulysses is also a compulsively readable book. Even the verbal vaudeville of the final chapters can be navigated with relative ease, as long as you're willing to be buffeted, tickled, challenged, and (occasionally) vexed by Joyce's sheer command of the English language.

Among other things, a novel is simply a long story, and the first question about any story is: What happens?. In the case of Ulysses, the answer might be Everything. William Blake, one of literature's sublime myopics, saw the universe in a grain of sand. Joyce saw it in Dublin, Ireland, on June 16, 1904, a day distinguished by its utter normality. Two characters, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, go about their separate business, crossing paths with a gallery of indelible Dubliners. We watch them teach, eat, stroll the streets, argue, and (in Bloom's case) masturbate. And thanks to the book's stream-of-consciousness technique--which suggests no mere stream but an impossibly deep, swift-running river--we're privy to their thoughts, emotions, and memories. The result? Almost every variety of human experience is crammed into the accordian folds of a single day, which makes Ulysses not just an experimental work but the very last word in realism.

Both characters add their glorious intonations to the music of Joyce's prose. Dedalus's accent--that of a freelance aesthetician, who dabbles here and there in what we might call Early Yeats Lite--will be familiar to readers of Portrait of an Artist As a Young Man. But Bloom's wistful sensualism (and naive curiosity) is something else entirely. Seen through his eyes, a rundown corner of a Dublin graveyard is a figure for hope and hopelessness, mortality and dogged survival: "Mr Bloom walked unheeded along his grove by saddened angels, crosses, broken pillars, family vaults, stone hopes praying with upcast eyes, old Ireland's hearts and hands. More sensible to spend the money on some charity for the living. Pray for the repose of the soul of. Does anybody really?" --James Marcus

And I second The History of Tom Jones and third Paradise Lost.

Last edited by sun surfer; 07-01-2013 at 12:13 PM. Reason: added blurb
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:59 AM   #10
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I'm going to nominate Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

I found an open Yale course on Don Quixote which might be enlightening.
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Old 07-01-2013, 12:27 PM   #11
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I'll third Tom Jones by Fielding.
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Old 07-01-2013, 12:33 PM   #12
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I'll fourth Tom Jones and second The Naked Lunch.

Spoiler:
(sorry, I vowed to never to begin on Ulysses again, I even tried the graphic novel, so I keep my fourth vote for the time being)
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Old 07-01-2013, 12:34 PM   #13
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I third Journey to the West and second Don Quixote.
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Old 07-01-2013, 01:29 PM   #14
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I'll finish my nominations by giving a third to Don Quixote.
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Old 07-01-2013, 01:53 PM   #15
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I will fourth Don Quixote.
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