How much time do you spend reading Literary classics versus Genre fiction?

GOLLUM

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There are others of us out there who like Genre and non-Genre fiction as long as it's enjoyable and well written too you know....:rolleyes:
 

Connavar

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There are others of us out there who like Genre and non-Genre fiction as long as it's enjoyable and well written too you know....:rolleyes:

Of course i know members like you who read non-genre classics more often than 10% of the times they read. I didnt want to put myself in the same level as you and Jay who has read many of the non-genre classics,modern greats i havent had the time for yet.

I see you get all those classic books, great authors that isnt SFF and get very jealous :)
 

GOLLUM

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I see you get all those classic books, great authors that isnt SFF and get very jealous :)
PM me your delivery address. I'm currently donig a clean out of my library and may have some stuff for you. I can indicate what I have and confirm anything to be sent on to you, all via PM.

Cheers.
 

woodsman

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Recently I've been reading a lot of 'Genre classics' Dunsany, Lovecraft, Cabell and others. I enjoy them and find it interesting to see where fantasy came from.

Looking at that list I've read more classics than I though but again mainly because I enjoy them. i do think a good number are worth reading just because of the impact they have on society - how many people have high and mighty opinions about communism yet have read neither Marx or Engels? A number of those works, especially some of the philosophical ones have really informed a lot of, well, concepts(?) that are discussed today.
 

Connavar

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Recently I've been reading a lot of 'Genre classics' Dunsany, Lovecraft, Cabell and others. I enjoy them and find it interesting to see where fantasy came from.

Looking at that list I've read more classics than I though but again mainly because I enjoy them. i do think a good number are worth reading just because of the impact they have on society - how many people have high and mighty opinions about communism yet have read neither Marx or Engels? A number of those works, especially some of the philosophical ones have really informed a lot of, well, concepts(?) that are discussed today.

Thats why most of us read classic lit i think genre or non-genre ones. It feels like literature was more important,series social tool in earlier times. Even melodrama plays was written to say something about their times.

I read most of my classic non-genre because they said something about their times. Specially where i live in sweden, there is for example Strindberg who was real backward guy that suited his times while others was more progressive.
 

Extollager

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Namely, How much time do you spend reading the classics as opposed to SF or literary fiction? AND "Is there more to be gained from reading so-called literary classics than Genre fiction?

"


In recent years, I've read more literary classics than genre fantasy or science fiction. One factor in that was that for eleven years I hosted a campus-community reading group. People sometimes really mean to read various classics but don't get around to it or don't stick with it. Having a weekly reading group helped with that -- and discussions were lively. Some very fine people (mostly retirement-age) participated. I will try to post the list of what we read in a moment.

But I want to say that the reading group's list of classics could reinforce a mistaken impression -- that when we talk of literary classics, we may tend to mean "19th-century and early 20th-century novels."

In fact, the realm of the literary classics is, of course, enormously varied! The reading group never read, for example, Njal's Saga from medieval Iceland, but that's a literary classic.
 

Extollager

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Reading Group list -- here are some good reads! My hat's off to the folks who made those sessions such fun. We met for about an hour a week.

You'll note I did include a few genre classics!

[FONT=&quot]14 Jan.-30 March 2000 The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky -- founding of the reading group
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2000-2001 academic year[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Sept. 2000-1 Mar. 2001 The Divine Comedy, Dante[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]6 Mar.-5 Apr. 2001 Emma, Jane Austen[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2001-2002 academic year[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]20 Sept.-2 Nov. 2001 The Betrothed, Manzoni[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]15 Dec. 2001- 8 Feb. 2002 Villette, Charlotte Brontë[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2-21 Apr. 2002 Persuasion, Jane Austen[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2002-2003 academic year[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]7 Sept. 2002-30 Jan. 2003 War and Peace, Tolstoy[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2 Feb.-6 Mar. 2003 Demons, Dostoevsky [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]29 Mar.-5 Apr. 2003 Notes from Underground, Dostoevsky [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2003-2004 academic year[/FONT][FONT=&quot][/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]31 Aug.-19 Oct. 2003 Little Dorrit, Dickens[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]23 Oct.-24 Nov. 2003 Mansfield Park, Jane Austen[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]18 Jan.-28 Feb. 2004 The Heart of Midlothian, Scott[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Old Mortality, [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Scott[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2004-2005 academic year[/FONT][FONT=&quot][/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]6 Sept.-17 Oct. 2004 Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]ca. 16-24 Nov. 2004 The Secret Agent, Conrad[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]17-19 Feb. 2005 King Solomon’s Mines, Haggard[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]16 Mar. 2005 The Time Machine, Wells[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]26-30 Apr. 2005 The Thirty-Nine Steps, Buchan[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2005-2006 academic year[/FONT][FONT=&quot][/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]19 Aug.-9 Oct. 2005 Martin Chuzzlewit, Dickens[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2 Jan.-12 Jan. 2006 Under Western Eyes, Conrad[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]20-21 Jan. “The Steppe,” Chekhov [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]14 Jan. 2006 “Master and Man,” Tolstoy [other short work?] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]26-28 Jan. 2006 The Cossacks, Tolstoy[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]23 Feb.-4 Mar. 2006 Dead Souls, Gogol[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2006-2007 academic year[/FONT][FONT=&quot][/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]3 Sept.-21 Oct. 2006 David Copperfield, Dickens[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]25 Oct.-4 Nov. 2006 Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]10-12 Nov. 2006 (approx.) Childhood, Tolstoy[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2-13 Jan. 2007 The Master of Ballantrae, Stevenson[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The Bride of Lammermoor, [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Scott[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Emma,[/FONT][FONT=&quot] Austen [encore][/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The Shadow-Line,[/FONT][FONT=&quot]Conrad[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2007-2008 academic year[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]12 Sept.-12 Oct. Bleak House, Dickens[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]23 Oct- Wives and Daughters, Gaskell[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Fathers and Sons[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Turgenev[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]War and Peace[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Tolstoy [encore][/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Demons, [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Dostoevsky [encore][/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2008-2009 academic year[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Sense and Sensibility, [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Jane Austen[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Great Expectations[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Dickens[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Nostromo[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Conrad[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Twenty Days with Julian and Little Bunny by Papa[/FONT][FONT=&quot], and “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Hawthorne[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The Turn of the Screw, [/FONT][FONT=&quot]James[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Our Mutual Friend, [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Dickens[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The Man Who Was Thursday, [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Chesterton[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2009-2010 academic year[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Oliver Twist[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Dickens[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Jane Eyre[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Charlotte Brontë[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Domestic Manners of the Americans[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Fanny Trollope[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Anna Karenina[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Tolstoy[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The Country of the Pointed Firs[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Sarah Orne Jewett[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Giants in the Earth[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Rolvaag[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Fall 2010[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Doctor Th[/FONT][FONT=&quot]orne, Anthony Trollope[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]North and South, [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Elizabeth Gaskell[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The Old Curiosity Shop[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Dickens[/FONT]

[reading group meetings suspended]
 

j d worthington

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I wonder if when we got into the middle parts of the 20th century that authors began to think they had to separate into different camps for some reason or the other so that now you wouldn't see "serious" authors write science fiction or fantasy.

No, and not quite.:D This is a point which has been discussed a great deal over the years, and what it boils down to is: There has always been something of a dividing line between the literary classics and popular literature, though things would sometimes cross from one to the other (usually popular would become classic, not the other way around). This began to increase with a greater literacy rate; the more readers you have, the more people will read, and the majority (not being particularly well-educated, rather insular in their experiences with life, etc.) will read popular trash -- by which I do not mean simply popular literature, but things such as the "penny dreadfuls" and dime novels; stuff which was frankly often atrociously written, but very sensationalistic and therefore, like the tabloids of today, sold like hotcakes (as the saying goes). Opposed to that, you had writers who were actually aiming for self-expression, to address various issues they felt needed attention, or who simply wished to write as beautifully and as skillfully as they could.

For a very long time, this last class would also write things we would consider fantasy or horror or whatnot (Poe, Walpole, Dickens, Shelley, Byron, Keats, Brown, Hawthorne, etc., etc., etc.); but the divisions began to widen, as more literary critics began to make a distinction between "serious" literature and literature which relied on such fantastic tropes. This is largely the product of America (and, to a lesser degree, England), where such fabulist writing has always tended to be rather suspect; part of our Puritan heritage, many believe (and I tend to be one of them); the same sort of thinking which banned any sort of theatrical productions at the drop of a hat, because it was "frivolous" at best and "against the interests of the community" at worst.

Then came the pulp explosion, and increased marketing according to readers' tastes, and the result that almost universal literacy (albeit, in most cases, barely functional literacy) also meant that you had a tremendous audience, and not nearly enough quality writers to meet that demand... and so a correspondingly large number of mediocre writers or talentless hacks emerged to make a living... and the ghetto was well and truly born. Unfortunately, there are still a huge number of these sorts of writers writing in the genres and, as fans of these genres tend to be a bit more outspoken (and often less literate, in part because a lot of the noisier ones are, not surprisingly, in their teens), this gets more attention than the mediocre-to-bad writers of "mainstream" fiction. And, as those with less-developed tastes will often back anything they like, regardless of its actual artistic/aesthetic/literary merit... the genres are still looked on with a fair degree of disparagement... and, unfortunately, I'm afraid that is often well-deserved. One does not build a case for any type of work being as worthy as the genuinely lasting classics by being obstreperous, obnoxious, and undiscriminating in one's taste. One has to work at developing an understanding of the genuine literary canon and what separates these works from those which, whether they are excellent, good, mediocre, bad, or gawdawful, simply don't quite climb that high on the mountain.

So, really, it was much less the writers (though there have been a fair number of those who felt they were "too good for" this or that genre, despite the fact that Shakespeare, Marlowe, Poe, Hawthorne, et al., often wrote in just these genres) than the marketers, publishers, critics, and reading public... and, of course, the educational community... which has rigidified that distinction.

But... that distinction still has a fair amount of truth to it. And here we're getting back to the main point of this thread: Speaking for myself, while I grew up reading an enormous amount more of generic literature (especially sf/f and horror, but also mysteries, adventure stories, etc.) than literary classics, I've always read the latter as well... and of late years, these have tended to predominate. And I find that, yes, they do have more to offer than the vast majority of writing in the genres. They are, by and large, better written, more polished, more refined in both language and thought, and usually deeper, with more layers to them, than generic literature. This is not to say that the genres don't offer such now and again -- they do -- nor that these exceptions don't deserve to eventually make it on that mountain, and perhaps even up with the best of them; but, being popular literature which is aimed at a popular audience and quite often written with considerably more haste and less deliberation, genre literature far too often tends to fall into sloppy writing, loose thinking, or just plain shallow effect and sensationalism rather than actually saying anything about what it means to be human on more than a very superficial level. These are the things the "literary classics" tend to offer more consistently than do even the classics of the genres, generally speaking.

However... as readers simply interested in entertainment, with or without the other aspects mentioned above, will always outnumber those who do look for these levels, generic literature is always going to have a wider appeal in most cases than will the classics. This is not an insult to those who do read simply for entertainment; it is a distinction between the purposes of reading, and should be taken as such. For me, personally, I can still enjoy a great deal of genre literature, but I no longer find it as satisfying on deeper levels as I do the genuine literary classics. However... the waters get muddy here, as a great number of the literary classics (including Njal's Saga -- good choice, Extollager) also include elements of the fantastic, as it is only recently that these have been excluded from the literary mainstream; and even at that, they have never been successfully excluded for any length of time or in the great majority of works. (Ulysses being an excellent example of an exception; as is The Waste Land.....)
 

Connavar

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You cant say genre literature is not deep, quality writing either when genre greats today will become classics like Poe,Shelley of tommorow. Great writing will always survive genre or non-genre lit. Thats what im interested mostly in. Sure i read 50% of my genre books for entertainment only but there are many i read for their strong literary ability despite their modern genre ghettos...

I can say over here there is no classic authors that is too good for their genre in Academica. Poe,Gothic authors and co are hailed for their fantastic stories. I was surprised by that, i expected what you describe of in America,England.
 

GOLLUM

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But I want to say that the reading group's list of classics could reinforce a mistaken impression -- that when we talk of literary classics, we may tend to mean "19th-century and early 20th-century novels."

In fact, the realm of the literary classics is, of course, enormously varied! The reading group never read, for example, Njal's Saga from medieval Iceland, but that's a literary classic.
My interests and therefore collection basically encompasses the classics of all regions from the early days of Mesopotamian classic Epic Of Gilgamesh to the present. I basically have almost all of those works you listed for the Book Club and otherwise representative works by those authors certainly. The only author I do not have is Menzoni, so I've made a note of this now. I would have liked to attended that club....:)
 
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Extollager

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Gollum, the Penman translation of Manzoni's Betrothed seems to be the one to go with (Penguin Classics). That's what our reading group used, & it went over well. For Dostoevsky, in case anyone would be interested, I recommended the Pevear-Volokhonsky translations. For Dante, I personally used Mandelbaum, but the next time I read the Comedy I mean to read Esolen's.
 

j d worthington

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You cant say genre literature is not deep, quality writing either when genre greats today will become classics like Poe,Shelley of tommorow. Great writing will always survive genre or non-genre lit. Thats what im interested mostly in. Sure i read 50% of my genre books for entertainment only but there are many i read for their strong literary ability despite their modern genre ghettos...

I can say over here there is no classic authors that is too good for their genre in Academica. Poe,Gothic authors and co are hailed for their fantastic stories. I was surprised by that, i expected what you describe of in America,England.

As I said, Conn, there are exceptions; but my statements still apply to the bulk of genre writing. All it takes is looking at the history of the various genres to see what percentage has floated, and how very, very much has sunk; or simply look at a decent run of any of the pulps, and read them in their entirety. There are some gems, yes; and even some very good stories that don't quite reach that level. But, once again, the bulk is pure bunkum: poorly written, sloppy, often wincingly bad, nearly always forgettable (and when not, usually for the wrong reasons....). Great writers will write great stories, whatever the material. But the nature of genres is, unfortunately, to feed an always-hungry maw regardless of quality... and the majority of the time (at least to a critical reader) it shows. The exceptions remain just that: exceptions. It isn't the type of material which is at fault, though; it's the situation surrounding such....

Question, Dale: How do you feel about Ciardi's translation of the Comedy? I personally found it a very enriching experience, but I'd be interested in your thoughts....
 

D_Davis

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I think it also depends on the reader. I've gotten far, far, far more substance, emotion, pathos and insight into humanity from reading genre fiction than I ever have from reading general lit. It's all about how the books connect with the reader, and really that's the only thing that even remotely matters. The rest is pure posturing.
 

j d worthington

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I think it also depends on the reader. I've gotten far, far, far more substance, emotion, pathos and insight into humanity from reading genre fiction than I ever have from reading general lit. It's all about how the books connect with the reader, and really that's the only thing that even remotely matters. The rest is pure posturing.

While I would agree that, for the individual reader, this may be the case, I take issue with your final statement. It is far from "pure posturing", but rather relies on a broader knowledge of general literature (among other things) and, as I've said before, one's critical judgment does not always match with one's likes and dislikes. A person can intensely dislike a book, but nonetheless recognize it as a superior piece of art -- it just doesn't connect with him or her personally....
 

Extollager

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JDW, I haven't read Ciardi's Dante translation. I know of no reason to doubt that it is good. But I can read only English!

I took a course on Dante about 25 years ago, taught by a professor of Italian, and I think he let us students choose our translation. I have a faint impression that he recommended Sinclair's, which I think is prose and, if so, could be a good choice for the many readers who have trouble sticking with poetry. I had Mandelbaum on hand and used that.

About the only thing I know as regards doubtful translations is that Sayers' for Penguin is not thought to be too great but readers have found her notes to be fantastic. She had a lot of sympathy for Dante; she was not an academic; and she could pass on to the general reader the insights of Charles Williams, who seems to have had a pretty profound reading of Dante to offer but to be sometimes difficult to read and not really an author who was aiming at first-timers. Dorothy L. Sayers was aiming at first-timers with her Penguin editions; she'd fallen in love with Dante and wanted others to do so too. She emphasized that he was a great storyteller -- and that is a take on Dante that should appeal to a lot of us here. I read all or most of her translation and, myself, I didn't find it bad, but I just have the sense that it's not regarded as first-rate. If that set is what anyone reading this note has on hand, I wouldn't discourage him or her from using it.

So far as I know Mark Musa's translation is regarded as good. His Inferno was my first reading of any of the Comedy. As I said, I intend to read Esolen's version (for the revived Modern Library) the next time I tackle the Comedy, but I'll have Sayers' edition at hand for the notes.

Incidentally, the Esolen has all (?) the Gustave Dore engravings. But when I reread Dante I will confer with one of my few lavish art books, a presentation of Botticelli's drawings for the Comedy. My recollection is that purchase of it was funded by liquidation of some of my remaining collectible comic books!
 

j d worthington

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I'll have to check out Sayers' translation some time, for the notes, if nothing else. One of the many things I like about Ciardi's translation -- which is an English translation, for anyone in doubt, and is still easily available -- is that he worked very hard at capturing Dante's use of the very difficult terzia rima metre, and did a fine job of it, with excellent use of enjambment... which, of course, aids tremendously in driving the narrative forward, as a thought is carried from the final part of one stanza to the beginning of that following. His notes are also copious, informative, and a mine of not only information but insight into Dante's time, his own difficult personality, his trials and tribulations, and the necessary alterations required to bring him to an English-speaking audience, while still remaining as true to the original as possible. Ciardi himself, of course, was a very well-known poet in his own right, so his feel for analogous terms in modern English -- things that would capture for a modern audience the sort of reaction Dante was attempting to convey to his contemporaries -- is very finely attuned to his subject. He also worked on his translation for, if memory serves, about 20 years....

At any rate, it is a generally very highly regarded translation, easily approachable, strong, vigorous, and easy to read; and I found it to be an utterly fascinating experience....
 

Oskari

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I'm a little confused.

First off, literary classic is a specific term or idea, which has much to do with time scale and, more importantly, how it was or had been recieved. Yes, many here have divided that term into genre and non-genre literature, but what I'm a little concerned about (or, perhaps, simply wanting to add my two cents to this discussion) is the potential confusion over what distinguishes these two types of writing. And, I suppose, I'd like to point out some of the merits of non-genre writing, because I think it's not only valuable but also imperative that any aspiring writer read outside of genre.

Okay, I'm handing over my two cents ...

It's my belief that one of the biggest distinctions between the two styles is that genre writing is weighted towards a plot and non-genre writing is more concerned with character. And because of that it has an influence on the usual themes explored by the writer. Generally, the themes explored in genre fiction are quite limited compared to those explored in non-genre fiction.

Plot driven writing is popular. It is one of the biggest single driving forces of Hollywood. When used well it can move the pages of a book like nothing else can. On the downside, when used clumsily, it can make the writing superficial and boring - especially when you become more discerning about what you are willing put into your 'body'.

Character is a lot more difficult, and it requires nothing less than writing that is honest, vulnerable, insightful, challenging - I think you get the idea. And, no, I'm not suggesting that one type of writing is either/or. The very best writing - like most things in life - is a beautiful alchemy of the two.

But having said that, the different types do tend towards their own gravity (plot or character) and its because of this that readers easily find their preference.

Having read both types and considering myself an aspiring writer, my preference leans towards non-genre fiction or that somewhat elitist term, literary fiction. But at the end of the day I just want solid writing that is genuinely the honest 'voice' of the writer. Whether it becomes a classic is another thing - not everyone can win or be short-listed for the Booker or Pulitzer!

I do have a soft spot for science fiction, but it doesn't often satisfy me. But what do I know. I have to be humble, because genre fiction genuinely opened a time of enlightenment for me when I was younger. I'd always been interested in outer space. I've always had an active imagination. These ingredients alone are often enough to wade through the genre of science fiction, even when it felt like I was flogging-a-dead-horse.

I really think it's an age thing, too. As I mature my tastes in so many things 'mature'. This is not something I can fully express or want to harp on about. It's very personal, of course. But what I'm most excited about is that beautiful line between the two types of writing. To this end, if and when I write my SF novel, I hope to be able to explore this genre with at least an eye on non-genre or character-driven fiction. A very tough thing to do, but it has been done before ... there's hope!
 

Connavar

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As I said, Conn, there are exceptions; but my statements still apply to the bulk of genre writing. All it takes is looking at the history of the various genres to see what percentage has floated, and how very, very much has sunk; or simply look at a decent run of any of the pulps, and read them in their entirety. There are some gems, yes; and even some very good stories that don't quite reach that level. But, once again, the bulk is pure bunkum: poorly written, sloppy, often wincingly bad, nearly always forgettable (and when not, usually for the wrong reasons....). Great writers will write great stories, whatever the material. But the nature of genres is, unfortunately, to feed an always-hungry maw regardless of quality... and the majority of the time (at least to a critical reader) it shows. The exceptions remain just that: exceptions. It isn't the type of material which is at fault, though; it's the situation surrounding such....

Question, Dale: How do you feel about Ciardi's translation of the Comedy? I personally found it a very enriching experience, but I'd be interested in your thoughts....

My post was somewhat emotional because it depends on the reader's long experience of genres or not. I havent read many weaker works in the genre, the few authors i have read are most classic authors, legend, modern greats. I havent had to deal with the huge number of low quality works. In my limited experience genre lit is Hammett,Lord Dunsany,Poe,Jack Vance type authors to me. Those great authors literary levels are hardly the majority in the biggest genres.....

I agree really the problem with genre literature is when it started to mass produce for cheap entertainment. The more i read fav genres the more i see alot of weak stuff that the writer knows doesnt have to be good to sell. I try to avoid those, i have too much respect for literature in general.
I could easily live on classic lit only if i had your great experience of having read the best authors several genres has to offer. Im a newbie in comparison experience dealing with low quality books.

I see some fans that read only one genre and anything for the story and rate everything highly only because of story thrill. Reading their reviews you would think every crime author today was Hammett, Hemingway level. If you read more than for fast paced fun you would rate books different.

Thats why i tend to read most older works that history has proven their literary strength acclaim wise. I wonder how i will rate, view certain genres in the future when i have had hopefully many years to read. I have changed in the way i rate books in few years and i wonder what i will be reading in 30 years.
 

Extollager

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At any rate, [Ciardi's] is a generally very highly regarded translation, easily approachable, strong, vigorous, and easy to read; and I found it to be an utterly fascinating experience....

Then there may be no need to try someone else's, but yeah, I do hope you'll use Sayers' notes next time.

By the way, I was mistaken when I referred to a translation by Sinclair. The Dante translator I meant was Singleton. His is the one I would use if I were going to read a prose version. My Dante professor recommended that one, as I recall (but this was 25 years ago).

I'm kind of curious to try Longfellow's Dante sometime. I read some Longfellow some years ago and enjoyed it. I made it a practice to read aloud to my children, and my middle daughter liked "stories about Indians"; I read Hiawatha to her (she was of an age to follow along in her copy, as I recall); we both enjoyed it. This poem probably ranks in the top ten of parodied poetic works, but it's still alive. Then I read John Derbyshire's essay on Longfellow, which you can find here

http://www.arabicnadwah.com/articles/fate_of_poetry-john_derbyshire.htm

and that spurred me to further investigation. He's by no means a dead letter. (Oh, and I was also moved by the material on Longfellow in a wonderful modest book, McFarland's Hawthorne in Concord.)
 

j d worthington

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Good post, Oskari, with some very thoughtful comments. In general I tend to agree with you on many things, but I would qualify one or two:

First off, literary classic is a specific term or idea, which has much to do with time scale and, more importantly, how it was or had been recieved.

To some degree, this is true. Strictly speaking, I suppose, "classic" should only refer to those things which were the product of classical Graeco-Roman civilization; and, for a very long time, this was (at least in its more pedantic rather than popular use) the case. However, it has been broadened to mean those things which are either accepted as a part of the literary canon or at least within that penumbra surrounding the core works. This is not always the case, as (for example) Joyce's Ulysses was recognized almost immediately as one of the most important works of modern fiction (rightly so) and very quickly adopted into the canon, achieving classical status at -- if you'll pardon the expression -- almost breakneck speed. Ditto Eliot's "The Waste Land". And, despite a tendency to rebel against the modernists, their solid worth has fairly well cemented them a place as literary classics for future ages as well.

On the other hand, Poe still, to some degree, holds a rather anomalous place, as there are some literary critics and historians who would even today deny him a place in the canon; while the majority accept him, albeit with certain reservations due to some of his excesses. The same seems to be happening with Lovecraft; though, to be sure, in the latter case, this judgment is based almost entirely upon his body of weird writing, which rather does the man an injustice as, like Poe, he wrote a wide variety of things good, bad, and indifferent. It is interesting that, in several countries, large collections of Lovecraft's work contain not only selections of his stories, but all sorts of relevant material: poems, essays, and letters or parts of letters. We see this with other canonical figures -- e.g., the Viking Portable Hawthorne contains one of his novels, selections from the others, several short stories, selections from his journals, and a smattering of letters; the Borzoi Poe, meant for both students and general readers, contains both his complete fiction (with a few minor exceptions, such as the unfinished "The Light House"), all the poetry which was, at the time of its issuance, accepted as in the Poe canon, some of his major critical work, a selection from a latter, and selections from his Marginalia series. Und so weiter....

Yes, many here have divided that term into genre and non-genre literature, but what I'm a little concerned about (or, perhaps, simply wanting to add my two cents to this discussion) is the potential confusion over what distinguishes these two types of writing. And, I suppose, I'd like to point out some of the merits of non-genre writing, because I think it's not only valuable but also imperative that any aspiring writer read outside of genre.

I tried pointing out some of this in my earlier post, and giving some of ths historical reasons for the trends you mention, but perhaps I wasn't clear enough on this points. At any rate, I fully endorse your contention that it is important for any aspiring writer to read -- and read heavily -- a wide range of writing; that's how a writer learns how to write, and write well. Sticking just to a favorite genre is a certain way to stultification for both one's career and imagination, in the end.

At any rate, as I said, a very good post, and good to see so many intelligent responses to the subject....
 

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