Help us choose the August 2013 selection to read for the MR Literary Club! The poll will be open for three days.
The vote is multiple choice. You may vote for as many or as few as you like.
The Rotating nominator (this month - sun surfer) may not vote in the poll.
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 (where the Rotating nominator again may note vote). In the event that the run-off poll also ends in a tie, the tie will be resolved by the Rotating nominator.
Select from the following works:
Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx
Also known as "Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and Other Stories"
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author of The Shipping News and Accordion Crimes comes one of the most celebrated short-story collections of our time.
Annie Proulx's masterful language and fierce love of Wyoming are evident in these breathtaking tales of loneliness, quick violence, and the wrong kinds of love. Each of the stunning portraits in Close Range reveals characters fiercely wrought with precision and grace.
These are stories of desperation and unlikely elation, set in a landscape both stark and magnificent -- by an author writing at the peak of her craft.
-The Beast in the Jungle
-The Turn of the Screw
-A Passionate Pilgrim
From Wikipedia on "The Beast in the Jungle":
Almost universally considered one of James' finest short narratives, this story treats appropriately universal themes: loneliness, fate, love and death. The parable of John Marcher and his peculiar destiny has spoken to many readers who have speculated on the worth and meaning of human life.
From Goodreads on "The Turn of the Screw":
"The Turn of the Screw" is an intense psychological tale of terror. It begins in an old house on Christmas Eve. It is the story of a Governess who comes to live with and take care of two young children. The Governess loves her new position in charge of the young children, however she is soon disturbed when she begins to see ghosts.
From Goodreads on "Daisy Miller":
Henry James' 1878 publication that brought him international fame, "Daisy Miller" is subtitled "A Study in Two Parts." The plot centers around a Europeanized American man named Winterbourne, who meets a nouveau riche American woman going by the name Daisy Miller. A short novel, James wields the sword of fiction to craft a "study" of the roles of men and women, social relationships, cultural intersection, the allure of money, foolishness and wisdom, the responsibilities of parents, and the impact of one's life upon others.
From Wikipedia on "The Birthplace":
A witty satire on the excesses of bardolatry, the story reflects James's skepticism about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. Beyond the narrow scholarly issue, the story also shows a typically imaginative Jamesian protagonist inventing an alternative reality in his lecture on the Bard's supposed childhood activities.
Morris Gedge is a librarian at a dull provincial library in England that is "all granite, fog and female fiction." He gets a welcome offer to become the custodian of the Shakespeare house at Stratford-on-Avon.
The story of a butler who loses his vocation.
From Wikipedia on "A Passionate Pilgrim":
Set in England, the tale shows James' strong interest in the contrast between the Old World and the New. In fact, the difference between America and Europe erupts into open conflict in the story...
The narrator meets fellow American Clement Searle at an old-fashioned London inn. Searle has long wanted to settle in England to escape what he considers his arid life in America. But he is physically ailing, and he's also depressed because his lawyer cannot uphold his claim to a share in a country estate currently owned by Richard Searle, a distant relation.
Some ebook availability-
All stories are extensively available, including most individually on Amazon, and in collections such as here in the MR Library in epub in James, Henry: Complete Works.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
From the trade paperback edition:
Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.
Set in Dublin, At Swim, Two Boys follows the year to Easter 1916, the time of Ireland's brave but fractured uprising against British rule. O'Neill tells the story of the love of two boys: Jim, a naive and reticent scholar and the younger son of the foolish aspiring shopkeeper Mr. Mack, and Doyler, the dark, rough-diamond son of Mr. Mack's old army pal. Doyler might once have made a scholar like Jim, might once have had prospects like Jim, but his folks sent him to work, and now, schoolboy no more, he hauls the parish midden cart, with socialism and revolution and willful blasphemy stuffed under his cap.
And yet the future is rosy, Jim's father is sure. His elder son is away fighting the Hun for God and the British Army, and he has such plans for Jim and their corner shop empire. But Mr. Mack cannot see that the landscape is changing, nor does he realize the depth of Jim's burgeoning friendship with Doyler. Out at the Forty Foot, that great jut of rock where gentlemen bathe in the scandalous nude, the two boys meet day after day. There they make a pact: Doyler will teach Jim to swim, and in a year, Easter 1916, they will swim the bay to the distant beacon of Muglins Rock and claim that island for themselves.
Ten years in the writing, At Swim, Two Boys has already caused a sensation in England and Ireland, earning lavish praise for its masterful portrayal of class, tradition, and the conflict that has haunted Ireland for centuries. Jamie O'Neill's poetic and evocative storytelling makes him a natural successor to James Joyce and Flann O'Brien (whose At Swim-Two-Birds the title plays on).
At its heart, At Swim, Two Boys is a tender and tragic love story that will resonate with all readers. But it is also a compelling and important work, a novel about people caught up in the tide of history -- set in a place and culture both unfamiliar and unforgettable.
The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse
& Historia Calamitatum by Pierre Abélard
From Amazon on "The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse":
Abelard and Heloise are nearly as famous a pair of tragic lovers as the fictional Romeo and Juliet; their shared passion for knowledge, religious faith, and one another sealed their destiny. Abelard was a well-respected, 12th-century Parisian scholar and teacher, and Heloise was his talented young student. The two relate their story through a set of letters to one another and intimate acquaintances. Their ardor is unmistakable; as Abelard writes to his love, "So intense were the fires of lust which bound me to you that I set those wretched, obscene pleasures, which we blush even to name, above God as above myself..." This forbidden lust resulted in a pregnancy and secret marriage, and when their union could no longer withstand the challenges in its path, each lover sought refuge in the church--Abelard became a monk and Heloise an abbess. Their correspondence continued as both achieved success in their new careers but continued to struggle with their feelings for one another; the set of letters powerfully articulates the wide range of emotions they experienced. So timeless is their love story that--after eight centuries--their passion, their devotion, and their struggle still resonate with readers.
From Goodreads on "Historia Calamitatum":
The "Historia Calamitatum" of Pierre Abelard is one of those human documents, out of the very heart of the Middle Ages, that illuminates by the glow of its ardour a shadowy period that has been made even more dusky and incomprehensible by unsympathetic commentators and the ill-digested matter of "source-books." Like the "Confessions" of St. Augustine it is an authentic revelation of personality and, like the latter, it seems to show how unchangeable is man, how consistent unto himself whether he is of the sixth century or the twelfth--or indeed of the twentieth century. "Evolution" may change the flora and fauna of the world, or modify its physical forms, but man is always the same and the unrolling of the centuries affects him not at all. If we can assume the vivid personality, the enormous intellectual power and the clear, keen mentality of Abelard and his contemporaries and immediate successors, there is no reason why "The Story of My Misfortunes" should not have been written within the last decade.
I haven't done a thorough search of translations and editions, but I did come across a book called "Abelard & Heloise: The Letters and Other Writings" that includes both their letters and Abelard's Historia Calamitatum, translated by William Levitan. It seems to be a thorough book, including a few other writings that aren't part of the nomination (songs, poems, letters to others, etc.), but it also includes a map and chronology which could be of interest.
Some pbook availability on "Abelard & Heloise: The Letters and Other Writings"-
(Note that as the links farther up illustrate, this nomination is available in ebook in Australia, just not in this particular edition)
A Pale View of the Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
The highly acclaimed debut by the author of The Remains of the Day, this is the story of Etsuko, a Japanese woman now living alone in England, dwelling on the recent suicide of her daughter. Retreating into the past, she finds herself reliving one particular hot summer in Nagasaki, when she and her friends struggled to rebuild their lives after the war. But then as she recalls her strange friendship with Sachiko -- a wealthy woman reduced to vagrancy -- the memories take on a disturbing cast.
Thérèse Desqueyroux by François Mauriac
& Candide, or Optimism by Voltaire
I thought it could be interesting to nominate works together that don't have much if anything in common and come what may for discussion. It's really only by chance that these two happen to both be French or have any particular similarity.
From Goodreads on "Thérèse Desqueyroux":
Francois Mauriac's masterpieces and one of the greatest Catholic novels, Therese Desqueyroux is the haunting story of an unhappily married young woman whose desperation drives her to thoughts of murder. Mauriac paints an unforgettable portrait of spiritual isolation and despair, but he also dramatizes the complex realites of forgiveness, grace, and redemption.
Set in the countryside outside Bordeaux, in a region of overwhelming heat and sudden storms, the novel's landscape reflects the inner world of Therese, a figure who has captured the imaginations of readers for generations.
From Goodreads on "Candide, or Optimism":
Brought up in the household of a powerful Baron, Candide is an open-minded young man, whose tutor, Pangloss, has instilled in him the belief that 'all is for the best'. But when his love for the Baron's rosy-cheeked daughter is discovered, Candide is cast out to make his own way in the world.
And so he and his various companions begin a breathless tour of Europe, South America and Asia, as an outrageous series of disasters befall them - earthquakes, syphilis, a brush with the Inquisition, murder - sorely testing the young hero's optimism
Some ebook availability on "Thérèse Desqueyroux"-
(Note that the U.S. Amazon edition for some reason may not show up in a general search, but it is there, as in the link above)
Some ebook availability for "Candide, or Optimism"-
Available in various editions and translations, including here in the MR Library in various formats including in Kindle .prc format translated by Philipp Littell in Voltaire: Candide and in Kindle .prc format in an unpecified translation in Voltaire: Candide.
I've already read some of the Henry James stories and if that wins I'll read the rest, but I voted for Annie Proulx's Close Range: Wyoming Stories since it sounded wonderful and I enjoyed The Shipping News.
sunsurfer, I really love your selection and would happily read any of these books. Short of voting for all, I decided to go for the two I knew nothing about, Things fall apart and At swim, two boys - this book club is educating me big time!
And then there were two! It's been fun watching the vote. I'll post the one-day run-off poll a little later.
Originally Posted by issybird
I'd have preferred James or Mauriac or Abélard and Héloïse, but I liked Achebe best of the front runners.
My only issue with O'Neill is that I've planned to read At Swim, Two Birds for a long time and I figured I'd need to get that in first, and where's the time?
Heh, I had actually considered separately nominating Flann O'Brien's "At Swim-Two-Birds" as well! I'm not sure if there's much to worry about the two overlapping though - Boys seems a serious novel while Birds seems a comedic experimental work - but they could have similarities I'm unaware of and regardless, with the title name-play it does make it tempting to want to read the O'Brien first.