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Old 07-05-2013, 02:31 AM   #1
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Highly Challenging Vote • July 2013

Help us choose the July 2013 selection to read for the MR Literary Club! The poll will be open for THREE days (we have added an extra day to see how it goes).

The vote is multiple choice. You may vote for as many or as few as you like.

A discussion thread will begin shortly after a winner is chosen.

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:

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
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
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
An open Yale course on Don Quixote which might be enlightening.

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.

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,, Kobo etc.

Histories by Herodotus
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

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
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
Also known as “Monkey” and by other names that include “monkey”.

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.

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)

and for about $6 from:
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