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Old 09-19-2013, 04:26 PM   #1
Barty
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Middlemarch the greatest English language novel?

I was reading an article on George Eliot

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blog...liot-ugly.html

and this caught my eyes:

"the author of “Middlemarch,” widely considered the greatest novel in the English language"

Really? I don't think I've ever heard that before.

I've heard. For example, that Ulysses is considered (by those who are asked to consider such thing) as the greatest novel of the 20th century. Or that Citizen Kane was for a long time considered the greatest movie ever made, but I didn't realize Middlemarch had such a high reputation.
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Old 09-19-2013, 04:32 PM   #2
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Yes, Middlemarch had a very high rep on English literature. I've heard it referred to as one of the greatest novels ever written. I want to read it but I admit that I'm put off by the length. I've never been one to read 800 page novels. It seems too daunting for me.

Last edited by faithbw; 09-19-2013 at 09:46 PM.
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:00 PM   #3
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Maybe to literati it is the greatest novel ever, but I found it boring and very offputting.
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:16 PM   #4
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I favor Fielding's TOM JONES, myself.
But being neither british or a litfic'er...
(shrug)
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:46 PM   #5
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The Victorian 'triple-deckers' tend to be highly regarded - not only for overt/implied morality lessons, but also for their structures - you had to be really good to carry a story line over 3 volumes - and keep things coherent.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:57 PM   #6
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I'm hardly one of the literati, being mainly a devourer of sci-fi and fantasy, but I found Middlemarch simply wonderful. Is it the greatest English language novel? Of course not; no such book exists. To even suggest that it does is frankly pretty stupid.
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Old 09-19-2013, 08:13 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Istvan diVega View Post
Of course not; no such book exists. To even suggest that it does is frankly pretty stupid.
I agree that Middlemarch is quite good and also agree that, objectively, no best novel exists. However, there's nothing wrong with an intelligent enthusiast saying Middlemarch is the best, as here and here.

I'm going to say that the greatest one-volume biography is The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. Every time I start a biography, I hope it will let me know its subject the way Robert Caro let me know Robert Moses, and they all fall short. My judgment here is highly subjective and based on partial information, but most literary judgments are like that. If you had to prove that a book was good, you could never recommend anything.
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Old 09-19-2013, 09:44 PM   #8
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Interesting. It's one of the few well known English classics that I have never read - probably because the title is - to me - uninteresting.
I lived in England for a few months and bought any 50p classic I could find - then shipped a gigantic box filled with them back home. That was before Project Gutenberg. I think Middelmarch was in there, I just never read it.
Those books are long gone, but I will give MM a try if it's considered that good. Of course, The Scarlet Letter is to some the pinnacle of early American writing as well and I could care less about half of it (the one with all the weather and nature descriptions).
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Old 09-19-2013, 09:53 PM   #9
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As long as it's being discussed might as well post some links to the MR library.

Eliot, George: Complete Works a very nice ePub of Eliot's works put together by pynch (easily converted for Kindle)

Eliot, George: Middlemarch a Mobi put together by Harry
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Old 09-19-2013, 10:22 PM   #10
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^ Thanks!
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Old 09-20-2013, 09:12 AM   #11
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I have just read it and it was great (though I still do consider Ulysses to be the best novel ever written).

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnemicOak View Post
As long as it's being discussed might as well post some links to the MR library.

Eliot, George: Complete Works a very nice ePub of Eliot's works put together by pynch (easily converted for Kindle)
Thanks for the ad, AnemicOak! There will be an update very soon with some minor scanning mistakes fixed.
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Old 09-20-2013, 10:58 AM   #12
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Wish I would've chosen Middlemarch when I decided I needed to read some 19th Century novels. Instead I chose Pride and Prejudice. Let's just say that after 30 pages or so, I was cured of my desire to read any classic lit for awhile. When I've recovered enough to have a go at another 19th century novel, Middlemarch would be one of the top candidates.
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Old 09-20-2013, 11:45 AM   #13
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I thought Pride and Prejudice was quite readable, myself. I think I tend to prefer classics that read more like modern novels, and although it wasn't exactly all-action, P&P was fine.

I haven't read Middlemarch. I've been thinking I could do with a classic this year, but I was intending to go for Jane Eyre (so I can then read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, which I recently bought.)
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Old 09-20-2013, 11:52 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usuallee View Post
Wish I would've chosen Middlemarch when I decided I needed to read some 19th Century novels. Instead I chose Pride and Prejudice. Let's just say that after 30 pages or so, I was cured of my desire to read any classic lit for awhile. When I've recovered enough to have a go at another 19th century novel, Middlemarch would be one of the top candidates.
I wouldn't lump all 19th century literature together. Austen and other Regency era writers have a different style from Victorian era writers. Eliot is in the later group. If you didn't like Austen, maybe one of the Victorian writers will be better suited. I find Victorian novels to have a quicker pace and at times, to be a bit more dramatic than Austen.
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Old 09-20-2013, 05:01 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by usuallee View Post
Wish I would've chosen Middlemarch when I decided I needed to read some 19th Century novels. Instead I chose Pride and Prejudice. Let's just say that after 30 pages or so, I was cured of my desire to read any classic lit for awhile. When I've recovered enough to have a go at another 19th century novel, Middlemarch would be one of the top candidates.
Too bad you didn't enjoy it. I love English Romantic Period fiction (Ca. 1820-1860), with Jane Austen being my favorite writer in that period.
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