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Feb. 9th, 2009

01. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
02. Blindness by Jose Saramago
03. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
04. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
05. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
06. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
07. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
08. Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy
09. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
10. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
11. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
12. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
13. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
14. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
15. The Outsiders by SE Hinton
16. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
17. Time's Arrow by Martin Amis
18. Strangers by Taichi Yamada
19. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
20. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 10th, 2009 12:08 am (UTC)
Hi! XD

You know, I hadn't realised that until you said so. The answer to your question is that I read before I watched, if I watched at all. Ah, with the possible exception of The Outsiders, because that one's a hangover from my teenage years. I loved the film and the book equally and can't really remember which one came first.

If I see the film first, I often don't read the book until much, much later, if at all, simply because the director's view of it all has lodged itself into my head and I much prefer to come up with my own vision. If I read the book and love it, though, I'm very likely to seek out the film version. I'm often disappointed. I've given up on finding a Wuthering Heights that will satisfy me!

I think I'd most like to see After Dark, perhaps because some of it is very visual anyway, or perhaps because I have a fondness for Japanese horror and could imagine some of the more sinister aspects of the book translating well to film. That said, when I hunted down Strangers, I found I preferred my own imagination.
Feb. 10th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)
Here I am to be predictable. I'd ask you about Wuthering Heights, but I think you and I have discussed that before. So why Romeo and Juliet, of all Shakespeare? (Maybe we have discussed this before, too, but if so I forget.)

Or (also?) which books on your list would you most like to see teenagers introduced to? Or, alternately, are there books on your list that you think most people should wait until adulthood to read?

(You don't necessarily have to answer ALL of those. :) )
Feb. 10th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
I don't think we have!

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what makes me love Romeo and Juliet. It has the beauty of Shakespeare's language, but my favourite lines or verses tend to come from his other works. So although I love that about it, that's not why it's my favourite. I also love the characters - Juliet's journey from naivety to adulthood, Romeo's passion and fire, Mercutio's wit - though I'm not sure there aren't other Shakespeare characters I prefer. I love the way the narrative unfolds - the stunning theatricality of it all and the way the tension builds towards the climax - and enjoy the new insights that different performances bring. But that's hardly unique to this play, either.

So I think the best reason I can give is that my gut tells me it's my favourite. I'm a bit of a sucker for doomed, fateful tales of violent and passionate love (duh, Wuthering Heights) and this one ticks the right emotional boxes. I just know I keep going back to it for more.

Ooh, second question's a good 'un. Let me think. My instant reaction is that I'd like to beat Twilight-teens over the head with Wuthering Heights until they realise they're missing out on the real thing. But it's not a book for everyone, so I don't think that's my real answer. I'm quite evangelical about Blindness, but that's not necessarily the best choice for teenagers either. I think, overall, I'd choose All Quiet on the Western Front. It may be the teacher in me, but the reason is that I think it's too important a subject to be ignorant about. I only read it a year or so ago - after I'd helped out on a school trip round the battlefields in Belgium and France - and I wish I'd done so earlier. It has something important to say and I think young people should hear it through literature as well as history books.

There are no books on my list that I think people should wait until adulthood to read, but there are some that might need maturity to appreciate. I think that depends on the person more than their age, though.
Feb. 16th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
I totally thought I had already voted! Oops.
Feb. 10th, 2009 01:47 am (UTC)
So, I would have asked about the Shakespeare, but since others have gotten there first -

Why the Left Hand of Darkness? I love it, but I'm curious as to why it's on your list.
Feb. 10th, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC)
Well, it's another one of those complex relationship novels. ;) There are things I appreciate about Left Hand -- the layers of narrative and way it makes us question what we know and have heard, as well as the detailed descriptions of a world and culture beautifully painted -- but it's the second half of the book that I really loved. The first time I read it, I remember being completely enthralled by the way the relationship between Genly Ai and Estraven developed and changed. The way Genly's preconceptions about person and culture and gender shift, and how he starts to develop love and respect for Estraven - just writing about it makes me want to pick up the novel again! It's so long since I last read it that I'm fuzzy on some of the details, but the feeling I got from that first reading is still completely vivid. That's why I love it so much. It's an exciting book. And a relevant one -- not least because it helped shape some of my ideas about gender and society and what might be possible if we melted down some of our rigid ideas about roles and expectations.

Why do you like it? (Am I allowed to ask? It's obviously not a challenge; I'd just really like to know.)
Feb. 16th, 2009 04:18 pm (UTC)
Oops, forgot I hadn't voted.

I should confess that I haven't read it in years. Essentially I read a lot of Le Guin's work as a kid, was freaked out & fascinated by it in equal parts, stopped reading her for years, and then fell in love with her once more. I love science fiction and it changed the way I felt about the genre: having her meditations on gender & sexuality & sex challenge my own preconceptions was - really startling. And it made me feel like there was so much potential. I think that's a very basic and awkward response because I need to reread the novel.
Feb. 10th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
To be totally predictable... I'm going to ask a question about plays. Or, maybe even 2!

a) What are your top 5 Shakespearian plays? In a particular order. (I'm pretty sure from previous conversations that you've read at least 5, if not, I apologize).

b) What are your favorite non-Shakespeare plays?
Feb. 10th, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)
a) A particular order? O.O It'll be hard enough getting it down to five! Okay, well - for me, the experience of a play is bound up in seeing it performed as much as reading it on the page. So I'll use that to help me choose. I'm assuming we're excluding Romeo and Juliet from this list.

1. King Lear: thanks to Robert Stephens, Owen Teale and Simon Russell Beale -- it was my first ever RSC performance, I was 17 and that was that. One of the few Shakespeare plays that I saw performed before I read it, and I've always kept a bit of the performance in my head. For once, this is a GOOD THING.
2. The Merchant of Venice
3. Hamlet
4. A Midsummer Night's Dream: I like this performed WAY more than I like it on paper. In fact, I really didn't care for it too much until I saw it performed and realised quite how funny it is. I love how different it is every time I see it. It really comes alive.
5. Richard III

Ask me again tomorrow and there'll be a different five there, in a different order.

b) Probably my weak area, this. I have a history with classical theatre and have had some stunning theatre experiences (Iphigenia at Aulis at the Odeon of Herodicus Atticus under the Acropolis was one of the most amazing things I've seen) but they didn't necessarily leave me with a great love for the plays themselves, divorced from that. The one play that I can say I enjoyed most from them all was Lysistrata by Aristophanes. My other four choices would be The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus by Marlowe, An Inspector Calls by Priestley, Blue Remembered Hills by Dennis Potter, and The Birthday Party by Pinter. I was going to include A Cream Cracker Under the Settee by Alan Bennett, but I don't think it actually counts as a play.

Edited at 2009-02-10 10:12 pm (UTC)
Feb. 16th, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC)
Sure. I understand that not everyone reads a lot of plays. Lysistrata is wonderful. I was actually part of a reading of it back in 2003, when Bush was first heading to war.

The particular order was a little tricksy, I admit. Making lists is difficult as it is. Thanks for humoring me, though.

I actually really enjoyed your answers to clytemnestra215 and raggedclause.

Why is it that plays are your weak area?
Feb. 16th, 2009 12:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Yes
By weak area, I suppose I mean that I don't enjoy plays on the paper as much as I do other types of literature. Like I said above, I love plays in performance and my experience and appreciation of them is bound up with the performances I've seen. I don't feel I can fully appreciate a play just by reading it, so a lot of plays seem rather thin to me after reading. Shakespeare is a notable exception. ;) On one hand, I believe that plays are meant to be performed, but on the other hand, I believe that the inability to appreciate them on paper is my weakness and not theirs. Does that make sense?

Feb. 16th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Yes
I think that in that regard a lot of 20th century drama (especially the stuff being written in the first few decades is much more readable. A lot of the playwrights of that era were hyper aware that their plays were more likely to be read than be seen in many instances--which is why plays from that period have such a proliferation of "stage directions". In The Voysey Inheritance by Granville-Barker, the stage directions are sometimes a couple of paragraphs long, for example.

Anyway, I didn't mean for that question to be a follow-up challenge or anything. I was just genuinely curious. Also, I feel that way about a lot of literature--in regard to the inability to appreciate some pieces being my own weakness and not the weakness of the piece. (Although sometimes the weakness is in the work).
Feb. 16th, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Yes
It's alright - I didn't take it as a challenge. I figured that sort of question is what this community is for, right?
Feb. 13th, 2009 11:40 am (UTC)
Glad to see you enjoy The Left Hand of Darkness. The second half was definitely what made it great for me, and I was especially attracted to the religious/spiritual concepts that wove in so well. I caught myself breathing fast and giddy more than a few times, from the rush I got out of the pure beauty of the language.

I was just asked my top five poetry collections, and I'm passing the inquiry to you because I'm always interested in seeing what poetry people read (and I see that you have poetry on your list, so I'm assuming you enjoy it at least moderately).

Also, it's not difficult to see a theme of dark and twisted popping up constantly in your favorites. What attracts you to books with that sort of mood, and can you think of any notable books you'd recommend that have genuinely happy endings instead?
Feb. 13th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
I was a bit of a late starter with poetry. I don't think school helped -- my poetry teacher was lazy and unpleasant, to the point that although I've recovered from most of it, I still can't stand any Chaucer! Anyway. My favourite poet is Carol Ann Duffy. Until recently, my list would have had The World's Wife in the place of Rapture, and it's the first work of hers that really grabbed me. So that's on the list, for a start. The other four would be Wilfred Owen's War Poetry, Coleridge's Collected Works, Philip Larkin's The Whitsun Weddings and TS Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

Ha, yes. It's not hard to read my preference, is it? I'm not just attracted to books with that sort of mood, although I think literature most fuels my imagination. I enjoy the dark corners and strange shapes lurking within them; the feeling of being unnerved or unsettled. I also find the darker characters fascinating - often they seem to me to be more complex or layered - and I enjoy the ambiguity they bring with them. I often find the philosophy or ideas within those novels challenging, relevant or just interesting to think about.

I think there are different types of darkness represented in my choices: the 'sinister' darkness of supernatural occurrences and the mystery they bring with them; the darkness of human passion, with its destructive but thrilling nature; the darkness of humankind's capacity for evil and the warnings it brings to us; and the darkness of dystopia, which I suppose is an extension of the latter. I think all of those books have something to offer in terms of making us think, or making us feel, or making us fear. I generally just enjoy that process. I'm currently reading House of Leaves and am really enjoying it. I suspect if I'd finished reading it by the time I posted this list, I'd have added it on.

As for genuine happy endings, I enjoy Austen - so, I suppose Pride and Prejudice is the obvious one. I do love it, especially when they have their conversation about how wrong they've both been. I really enjoy the complexity of their relationship unravelling itself as they strip away their own layers. I like Jane Eyre, too, and I think that can be counted as a happy ending? Other than that, do you know, it's hard to think of any off the top of my head. I'd go into the study and have a good scour of my bookshelves -- then I'm sure a good number of light bulbs would pop on -- but it's freezing down there, so I'm going to hope that's enough for now!
Feb. 15th, 2009 06:22 am (UTC)
All for it.
Feb. 16th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
Challenge Question
Talk about the theme of death/life after death as it relates to your list.

ETA for clarification: interpret "life after death" as loosely or as strictly as you wish.

Edited at 2009-02-16 08:34 pm (UTC)
Feb. 18th, 2009 11:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Challenge Question
Ah. Just wanted to let you know I'm not ignoring you, but I don't think I'm going to get to this before I get stamped. You asked on the day the stamping was due and I've been meaning to get to it -- but I've been swamped with other stuff so haven't got beyond thoughts in its general direction. I'm off to Spain in a few hours, and by the time I get back the app will have been open for two weeks. By the time I catch up with rl, it'll have been open for three. Since I answered all the other challenges in good time and have my 75% approval on them, I'm hoping that won't be counted against me. I'm assuming that's what the delay is, so I thought I'd better say something rather than leaving it hanging for another fortnight or so.
Feb. 21st, 2009 09:59 am (UTC)
Remembered I still had to do this before I left for a week. Welcome! You're good to go.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )