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 Great Literature - the Benefits

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyMon 22 Aug 2016, 09:31

This trail may well lead me to yet another sacrificial death in the Res Hist bog but here goes, anyway. keep faith in resurrection, my friends.

As I have just read, 'Mediocrity is an unworthy aim but as a result it's OK.' Mmmmm.

So come on folks, let's have some definitions, argument, (oh Gawd) and examples of what Great Literature has done for you, us or them uvvers.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyTue 23 Aug 2016, 14:21

I don't think you've been sacrificed at all, Priscilla. And is there a Res His peaty bog somewhere? I do hope not.

I'm a bit confused as to what you are trying to get from us here. Do you want us to talk about what makes a great - rather than a mediocre - book, give details of the literature we have enjoyed (where does one start?), or comment on the teaching of literature to "uvvers", or what?

Could you clarify the topic a little for us?
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyWed 24 Aug 2016, 09:11

Clarification? Not really. I opened a thread on great literature for a waffle-along on the subject in any form anyone wants to explore. I added the benefits bit - apart from being as ever a tad giggly - because I assume that great literature is always a benefit? Will that do for starters? 
I  have the Ency. Brit set of  Great Books.....and have read many. Some are devoted to science; Faraday, for instance, which might be ever so great but not exactly gripping. And I expect there might also be  some given over to assorted bangs of various sizes to explain the universe that would thrill the logical among us. Perhaps we might discuss literature of other kinds. I am not even sure what defines greatness.....I shall now get a coffee and consider scrubbing the whole notion..... I  do know That I am as likely to trip into my own bog as get pushed.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyWed 24 Aug 2016, 22:05

Priscilla,

I had already something in mind as reply, but it is quite complicated and just haven't time enough...still with my comparison of French and English nobility in the 18th century and now with a thread about that on Historum....and already again 11 o'clock PM here near the Belgian North Sea coast...tomorrow again up at 6 o'clock in the morning...

Your faithfully Paul.
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 25 Aug 2016, 10:20

Whilst attempting suggested works for this thread, looking backwards because no modern work of recent times came to mind. I am drawn to authors who absorbed what was about them for source material and to project social comment into their weave. Thomas Hardy comes to mind though which of several novels I would proffer  for consideration is difficult. The entire set makes for a worthy nominee.

Modern novelists seem to be greatly influenced by media characters who are often the product of directors and actors development and not  extracted from the  first hand experience of contact with a diversity people nor the breadth of real experience. Hardy absorbed the clay about him and moulded it. Much as Dylan Thomas also did. 'Milkwood' rings true. Having 'performed' most of the women's parts in it, I realised then how true to root stock it was. I already knew those characters and had lived among them, albeit in mudflat Essex yet about whom no one had before found the right words to project. Yet Chaucer had done the same yonks ago. - and even during the irritated acne years of my enforced study his truths rang out enough to admit recognition of his truths. And Dickens too......though I venture to suggest that he went on to plagarise his own notions.

This is but an opening gambit. I am not well read nor as literate as many of you here. But I am more a reader of people. Perhaps other posters will have more and better to say on Great Literature. Here's hoping.


Last edited by Priscilla on Thu 25 Aug 2016, 10:23; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Trying to improve lousy grammar - First attempt, anyway)
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 25 Aug 2016, 10:37

This is a huge and daunting subject.

I should like to respond with a few questions.

What exactly do we mean by "literature"? When did "literature" begin - when did mere written record-keeping become something else? Who started "literature" Smile (sorry, I'm starting to sound like Philomena Cunk here)? Those clever old Greeks come immediately to mind, of course - was Homer the daddy of them all? But what about the ancient writers of China, of India and, of course, the great Jewish poets?

Friedrich Nietzsche, of all the unlikely people, wrote: "In the Jewish Old Testament, there are men, things and speeches in so grand a style that Greek and Indian literature have nothing to compare to it. One stands with awe and reverence before these tremendous remnants of what man once was... "

And of course for whom was this ancient literature actually written? Was most of it, in one way or another, religious? And most people couldn't read, but they could listen. But how many actually did?
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 25 Aug 2016, 15:11

Well, I quite like Shakespeare, who will always be for me now - post-Res His - Willie Wobbleweapon. That's a name worthy of the great Cunk. Here is the Cunk documentary on the Bard. I love this girl: she went to school in Bolton (the northern town notorious for dead grannies in its Chinese chippies), and I could well have taught her. In fact I think I did. She clearly does not think Shakespeare was of much benefit to the world, and offers the opinion that WW "wrote boring gibberish with a feather".





I have just been watching Cunk on Philosophy: she is a great admirer of Des Carts. Aren't we all? The "philosophy lady" from  the University of Oxford does her best to cope with Philomena, but she does seem rather taken aback at times. I like Cunk's suggestion of giving oneself "a nip" to see if one in fact exists. A nip is as good a test for the reality of our being as anything, I suppose. Must try it.


PS Sorry, Priscilla - have tried to be serious today, but am not doing very well. Self-immolation in the Res His peaty bog for me, I think, but I shall try to post something sensible about Rizzio first.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 25 Aug 2016, 18:40

Try this then.


Great Literature - the Benefits Ecosse-benromach


Unless you mean the other Glaswegian meaning of 'nip' - 'to get a nip' meaning the same as 'to get a lumber'.

Oh dear, sorry P, I will now join Temp in the bog (the wet, peaty kind rather than the lavatorial variety).
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 25 Aug 2016, 21:43

This is becoming an over crowded bog. Did you bring any great literature. I assume it stops you from getting bogged down. Jude the Obscure might not be beneficial in these circumstances.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyTue 30 Aug 2016, 21:51

@Priscilla wrote:
This trail may well lead me to yet another sacrificial death in the Res Hist bog but here goes, anyway. keep faith in resurrection, my friends.

As I have just read, 'Mediocrity is an unworthy aim but as a result it's OK.' Mmmmm.

So come on folks, let's have some definitions, argument, (oh Gawd) and examples of what Great Literature has done for you, us or them uvvers.

 Priscilla,

to start with...

When I was young (12 to 17 years...) I got nearly addicted to read novels...all kind of novels...mostly translations of English language ones...sometimes three a week...my parents although educated only to their sixteens and merchants read mostly Sundays from the  local library...and I read then in the week further from their choice and my own one...that means I read adolescent books mixed with grown up ones...really addicted in that way that I neglected my studies...no sports...or it had to be the physical helping in all kind of jobs going even to bricklaying...
That said, I read already Anna Karenina at 15, Wuthering Heigths at 16

Although we were pushed at school in our French lessons to read about Victor Hugo,François Mauriac I didn't read that much of French writers or instead the not recommended because he was a Leftist: André Malraux...
From the Dutch language writers we received a series at home from a library founded to push the Dutch language in Belgium...but I only remember one worth reading and it was not even in this series: The Captain from Jan de Hartog
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_de_Hartog
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Captain_(novel)
I am nearly sure I read also a novel from him about the Chicago slaugtherhouses...

As I said I read "Wuthering Heigths" but found it at 16 not that attractive and had even forgotten the plot...recently saw the BBC episode 2 of it with Dutch subtitles...but in the time my mum said that I had to read it, because it was high literature...
I only saw at the end that the BBC episode was about the Bronté novel...and although it was BBC quality I still find it  a bit "dead"...


What a difference with Anna Karenina...that I still remember after all those years...a bit...? a bit French...? It's difficult to explain my preferences of style...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Karenina
Apart of the boring of describing the long meals and the difficulty of remembering all the many Russian names involved in the story I found it a great novel.

I stop here for not loosing my message due to the many inserts from my internet research...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyTue 30 Aug 2016, 22:24

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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyWed 31 Aug 2016, 03:11

@PaulRyckier wrote:

 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_de_Hartog
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Captain_(novel)
I am nearly sure I read also a novel from him about the Chicago slaugtherhouses...

..... re the Chicago slaughterhouses, are you not thinking of 'The Jungle' by Upton Sinclair?
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyWed 31 Aug 2016, 09:18

Ah - Paul mentions A.J. Cronin. I devoured him when I was young. He's mainly remembered for the Doctor Finlay stories, but I preferred his novels: The Keys to the Kingdom, The Stars Look Down, The Spanish Gardener - all excellent. But my favourite was The Citadel. Wiki has this to say about that book:

His best-known novel was The Citadel, about a doctor in a Welsh mining village who quickly moves up the career ladder in London. Cronin had observed this scene closely as a Medical Inspector of Mines and later as a doctor in Harley Street. This book promoted controversial new ideas about medical ethics which largely inspired the launch of the National Health Service.

Cronin was scathing about the greed - and incompetence - he had witnessed in private health provision.

Cronin's writing was not considered to be "great literature", just as the work of Somerset Maugham (who, like Cronin, had trained and worked as a doctor) was not, but I think learnt a lot from both authors. Both writers triggered my interest in the lives of ordinary people - their hopes, aspirations and, of course, their despair. I always remember Somerset Maugham's observation - I think it was in Of Human Bondage - that people do not, as is generally supposed, commit suicide because they are wretchedly lonely, or because they have found only unhappiness in love: people kill themselves because they have no money.


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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyWed 31 Aug 2016, 21:50

@Meles meles wrote:
@PaulRyckier wrote:

 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_de_Hartog
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Captain_(novel)
I am nearly sure I read also a novel from him about the Chicago slaugtherhouses...

..... re the Chicago slaughterhouses, are you not thinking of 'The Jungle' by Upton Sinclair?

 Meles meles I checked the Wikipedia aand I seems to have nothing read from Upton Sinclair... Embarassed

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyWed 31 Aug 2016, 22:21

@Temperance wrote:
Ah - Paul mentions A.J. Cronin. I devoured him when I was young. He's mainly remembered for the Doctor Finlay stories, but I preferred his novels: The Keys to the Kingdom, The Stars Look Down, The Spanish Gardener - all excellent. But my favourite was The Citadel. Wiki has this to say about that book:

His best-known novel was The Citadel, about a doctor in a Welsh mining village who quickly moves up the career ladder in London. Cronin had observed this scene closely as a Medical Inspector of Mines and later as a doctor in Harley Street. This book promoted controversial new ideas about medical ethics which largely inspired the launch of the National Health Service.

Cronin was scathing about the greed - and incompetence - he had witnessed in private health provision.

Cronin's writing was not considered to be "great literature", just as the work of Somerset Maugham (who, like Cronin, had trained and worked as a doctor) was not, but I think learnt a lot from both authors. Both writers triggered my interest in the lives of ordinary people - their hopes, aspirations and, of course, their despair. I always remember Somerset Maugham's observation - I think it was in Of Human Bondage - that people do not, as is generally supposed, commit suicide because of they are wretchedly lonely, or because they have found only unhappiness in love: people kill themselves because they have no money.

 Temperance I am nearly sure I didn't read "The Citadel"...But yes in my opinion a "great" writer he was. I compare him with the Australian Maureen Mc Cullough, from whom I read much more, but I still find Cronin better...

"Both writers triggered my interest in the lives of ordinary people - their hopes, aspirations and, of course, their despair. I always remember Somerset Maugham's observation - I think it was in Of Human Bondage - that people do not, as is generally supposed, commit suicide because of they are wretchedly lonely, or because they have found only unhappiness in love: people kill themselves because they have no money."

" I think it was in Of Human Bondage - that people do not, as is generally supposed, commit suicide because of they are wretchedly lonely, or because they have found only unhappiness in love: people kill themselves because they have no money."

Temperance, I have occasionnaly a lot of suicides in my inner circle and even in the broader one (Lucky not in my own "bllood" family, because some say that it also can "sit" in the genes...)
And when I look to all the individual cases it are all cases where the difficulty to lay contacts make a lonier of someone, when as in the case of my wifes closest family ther was some youngster, who couldn't "digest" his being for the manly side...he sought all kind of contacts and in the end he stood alone because of shame? for his tendecies?, because he in that time hadn't a person he could trust and explain his problems...?
Another one who had his second wife hospitalized by a stupid accident, eating and without some minutes air supply to the blood and the brains...as she had to stay hospitalized I suppose, he saw it not to being alone in the house...and there was a train accident...
Another young lady was struggling with herself, I suppose because she wanted to stay with her mother, angry to her father because he left with another woman and she hanged herself in her mother's house to punish her father...?
Another young lady not happy at home, travelling the world out of the beaten tracks came back I think from Indonesia in a as she had lived, some very simple raw wood coffin...I was in the Mass...

And that are just some of the cases in the same trend that I know...

Kind regards, Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 01 Sep 2016, 06:57

Yes, I would agree that isolation and utter despair - emotional states which can be caused by many things, not just lack of money - are the reasons that drive people to take their own lives. I thought the Somerset Maugham observation was strange; perhaps that's why it's stuck in my mind all these years. Yes, and anger too, which you also mention - don't they say suicidal depression is often anger turned on oneself?

That said, in one of Thomas Hardy's novels, Jude the Obscure, three children commit suicide because they think they are a financial burden on their parents. A note is left - one of the most harrowing things in literature - stating simply: "Done because we are too menny" (sic).
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 01 Sep 2016, 22:22

Thanks Temperance for your balanced reply.
Back ot my message now from the day before yesterday:

Lost again my message:

My list and comments tomorrow while already nearing midnight at the European peninsula and tomorrow up at 6 o'clock...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cruel_Sea_(novel)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Monsarrat
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Keys_of_the_Kingdom
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Keys_of_the_Kingdom_(film)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._J._Cronin
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Pocketful_of_Rye
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevil_Shute
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevil_Shute


Of course mentioning the "Cruel Sea" is talking about a subject nearly put to dead on several fora.
But rememberence is an odd thing. After all those years I just remember that it was a marvellous novel and only this sequence:
about a woman married to a saylor and committed aldultery in the former conjugual bed with a "paper" clerk from an office. And Monserrat described it in full, pointing to the phenomema and all that while their husbands were risking their lives first on lonely ships, but still with the "convoy systeme there was still a huge dead ratio among the sailors...

Nevil Shute that was one of my favourites. i came first to him by seeing the film:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevil_Shute
A town like Alice
I much later read On the Beach
As it is so deprimating I am not sure I have read it to the end. Optimist that I am, I was a bit frustrated by my "hero" Wink , who wrote "such" things...

Have again to stop, more than eleven PM and tomorrow 6 o'clock...

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 01 Sep 2016, 22:24

Addendum.



Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyFri 02 Sep 2016, 21:01

Addendum.

Couldn't resist...Have just watched the Shute film "A Town like Alice"...with Greek subtitles Islanddawn...enjoyed it again as that many years ago...as such lost some time to do serious stuff...

Nostalgic Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptySat 03 Sep 2016, 10:02

@PaulRyckier wrote:
Addendum.

Couldn't resist...Have just watched the Shute film "A Town like Alice"...with Greek subtitles Islanddawn...enjoyed it again as that many years ago...as such lost some time to do serious stuff...

Nostalgic Paul.




Regarding "A town like Alice", and many other tales by Nevil Shute, he was one of my favourite authors as well, but I've been told that the Britain - and the anglophile Australia - he wrote of, generally was past tense even as he wrote his books.




Reason for editing, orthography - or lack thereof.


Last edited by Nielsen on Sat 03 Sep 2016, 13:46; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptySat 03 Sep 2016, 11:47

Very good observation there Nielsen regarding the 'immediate nostalgia' of books such as A Town Like Alice. This phenomenon is actually quite common in literature and the arts generally. And it doesn't only apply to great literature and high culture but can also be found in popular entertainment. In England, for example, the television soap opera Coronation Street (first broadcast in 1960) actually hearkened back to the close-knit urban communities of the preceding 40 years (i.e. 1920-1960). From 1960 onwards those communities would begin to change quite markedly, yet the story-lines and casting of the series would be very conservative and would only slowly (and almost begrudgingly) reflect those changes sometimes by a factor of 10 or even 20 years in delay.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptySat 03 Sep 2016, 13:24

Vizzer and Nielsen mention 'immediate nostalgia".  That's an interesting point - I remember either hearing in a documentary (or was it in a course) that the countryside Thomas Hardy described in his Wessex novel was already becoming old-fashioned if it had not already become so at the time Hardy was writing in the late (or mid to late?) nineteenth century.

Temps mentions 'The Citadel' by A J Cronin - now I've never read it though I heard a radio dramatisation and later watched a TV dramatisation. It is indeed a striking revelation of the difficulties undergone by poorer members of society before the NHS (and perhaps worth bearing in mind now when the NHS is under threat - they've just closed children's A&E at my local hospital for fornication's sake).  However, the thing that upset me most was when the doctor's wife was run over after they'd not long reconciled.

Thinking about the Chicago slaughterhouse - no, I've not read that book but I remember my late mother telling me that she read something by an American writer (can't recall which) where the writer's friend had fallen into an acid VAT in a factory where they made I think "American Pure Lard". You used to be able to buy the American Lard in the UK at one time and my mother never bought it after reading that book.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptySun 04 Sep 2016, 22:17

@Vizzer wrote:
Very good observation there Nielsen regarding the 'immediate nostalgia' of books such as A Town Like Alice. This phenomenon is actually quite common in literature and the arts generally. And it doesn't only apply to great literature and high culture but can also be found in popular entertainment. In England, for example, the television soap opera Coronation Street (first broadcast in 1960) actually hearkened back to the close-knit urban communities of the preceding 40 years (i.e. 1920-1960). From 1960 onwards those communities would begin to change quite markedly, yet the story-lines and casting of the series would be very conservative and would only slowly (and almost begrudgingly) reflect those changes sometimes by a factor of 10 or even 20 years in delay.

 Vizzer,

I have a lot to say to you and to Nielsen, even to Lady in retirement on all kind of sociologic matters, but sadly I was occupied yesterday and this evening on Historum in a thread: If the phoney war was not phoney...
And tomorrow the whole day in pretransplant kidney examinations and have to stay in hospital tomorrow evening...and my day starts tomorrow at six o'clock...thus see you Tuesday evening again...

Kind regards to all, Paul.

PS: I sought yesterday for some books of Nevile Shute or Cronin in the local library of Bruges Belgium and there were none left from both of them, not in the English section, not in the French one and amazingly even not in the bigger Dutch section Sad
PPS (I learned it from Temperance): I wanted also to comment the more modern novelists: Ben Elton: "Two brothers" and the Australian Richard Flanagan: "The narrow road to the deep North"
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyMon 05 Sep 2016, 02:32

Actually I think Shute goes further into this 'immediate nostalgia' in his 'Requiem for a WREN'.
Whether he considered himself to suffer from this I can't know [the word 'suffer' is wrong, and when I think of one better it will be edited out.]

Addendum
Without knowing whether I'm debasing the OP word 'great litterature', and still off on the tangent of 'immediate nostalgia', yet in another place, in Agatha Christie's 'A Murder Is Announced' published in 1950, an elderly lady comments on the younger generation, implying those recently de-mobbed, and without remembering much of the times pre WWII, wondering at times when one just bought what was wanted or needed without considering rationing or the bureaucracy involved, only whether what was bought actually was what one wanted - as in much of Christie's litterature, this relates to those 'comfortable or well off', lesser personages had their places as servants or refugees.




Edited to put in the addendum.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyMon 05 Sep 2016, 17:47

Slightly off-topic but I'm sorry to hear Paul R is having health travails and hope he will soon feel better.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyWed 07 Sep 2016, 01:19

I have a full set of Nevil Shute somewhere in our shed but not accessible to me really.  As a teenager I loved Pastoral – it was the first novel I read that had a hint of sex in it.  And I read Requiem for a Wren in 2009.  I did read Pied Piper on a trip to France once and was a little surprised it was published in 1943, in the middle of the war, and was about someone bringing a group of children out of France.  It was excellent. 
I have read a great many books over the years, but great literature?  Mostly in English or by writers in English.  And mainly at university many years ago.  I have read in recent years a number of Dickens – I don’t think I liked him much at University, but I have just finished Great Expectations and loved it, and not many years ago I read Bleak House and very much liked it too.  My favourite “classic” is Vanity Fair, oddly really because I don’t usually like books where I dislike the main character.  Of modern classics my favourite is The Remains of the Day by Kazou Isiguro.  At university I read a few books in French – the only one that has stayed in my mind is L’Etranger by Albert Camus, though I know I read Le Rouge et Le Noir. 
But really my reading is not very deep and doesn’t include any Greek or Roman philosophy or Asian literature (unless you count Khaled Hosseini and Rohinton Minstry).  It does include New Zealand literature, especially Witi Ihimaera.  When I was young I did read the Bible a bit and I feel I shoud read it more now, but have not even dipped into the Koran.

I do read a lot of light crime novels and authors such as Maeve Binchy.  Not very much actual chick lit. As a child I devoured the Anne series, and Sue Barton, Little Women, and other similar ones where the heroine grew older, not the generic ones like Cherry Ames.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyWed 07 Sep 2016, 10:44

@Caro wrote:
At university I read a few books in French – the only one that has stayed in my mind is L’Etranger by Albert Camus, though I know I read Le Rouge et Le Noir. 

I'm impressed Caro (and also with Paul when he said his local library didn't have a particular Nevil Shute book in Dutch, so he looked for it in either French or English) ..... Although my French is pretty good, I still cannot read for pleasure in any other language than English. I can read French newspapers and magazine articles, but for anything much longer it all becomes a bit of an effort and is just not enjoyable. As a learning exercise I managed to get through the first three Harry Potter books in French (the language is fairly simple, being written primarily for children) and I even managed Sartre's Huis Clos (which was written as a play and so is quite short with a lot of dialogue), but then when I started on Umberto Eco's Le Nom de la Rose (which in English, as The Name of Rose, is a book I adore and have read several times), I gave up as I just wasn't enjoying it. (Although maybe that's a problem of already knowing the story and having read it beforehand in another language ... I genuinely enjoyed Huis Clos, but then I've only ever read that in French).

I have inherited quite a lot of novels in French, and Camus's L'Etranger is among them, so emboldened by your comment I might give that a go. It isn't too long, I've never read it in English translation, and I know it is often recommended as a text for students learning French. I wonder also, since it was originally written in French, whether that might make a difference.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyWed 07 Sep 2016, 22:24

@Caro wrote:
I have a full set of Nevil Shute somewhere in our shed but not accessible to me really.  As a teenager I loved Pastoral – it was the first novel I read that had a hint of sex in it.  And I read Requiem for a Wren in 2009.  I did read Pied Piper on a trip to France once and was a little surprised it was published in 1943, in the middle of the war, and was about someone bringing a group of children out of France.  It was excellent. 
I have read a great many books over the years, but great literature?  Mostly in English or by writers in English.  And mainly at university many years ago.  I have read in recent years a number of Dickens – I don’t think I liked him much at University, but I have just finished Great Expectations and loved it, and not many years ago I read Bleak House and very much liked it too.  My favourite “classic” is Vanity Fair, oddly really because I don’t usually like books where I dislike the main character.  Of modern classics my favourite is The Remains of the Day by Kazou Isiguro.  At university I read a few books in French – the only one that has stayed in my mind is L’Etranger by Albert Camus, though I know I read Le Rouge et Le Noir. 
But really my reading is not very deep and doesn’t include any Greek or Roman philosophy or Asian literature (unless you count Khaled Hosseini and Rohinton Minstry).  It does include New Zealand literature, especially Witi Ihimaera.  When I was young I did read the Bible a bit and I feel I shoud read it more now, but have not even dipped into the Koran.

I do read a lot of light crime novels and authors such as Maeve Binchy.  Not very much actual chick lit. As a child I devoured the Anne series, and Sue Barton, Little Women, and other similar ones where the heroine grew older, not the generic ones like Cherry Ames.


Caro and others,

instead of one day in hospital it became unexspectly three days. As such already eleven o'clock PM overhere. But further to my future comments on this thread already this:

" I did read Pied Piper on a trip to France once and was a little surprised it was published in 1943, in the middle of the war, and was about someone bringing a group of children out of France.  It was excellent. "

How I could forgot this one, one of his bests...
I read it first and saw later the film. I find the film good but less than the book. Great story, worth of Shute's mastership
I didn't find the entire film but only this, if you want you can download it...


http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=16629


About the book:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Piper-Vintage-Classics-Nevil-Shute/dp/0099530228
http://www.nevilshute.org/Reviews/piedpiper2.php

Kind regards Caro and BTW happy to see you once again on the boards...Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 08 Sep 2016, 06:24

Thanks for that, Paul and MM.  I can't read French to any degree now (not that I have even tried recently) and don't suppose I ever read it for pleasure.  I read it to pass exams, though I suspect many students just read the books in English and learnt a few phrases from them in french.  I did at least read them in the originals.  I still remember the start of L'Etranger, which I have probably mentioned before.  You will be able to tell me if I have remembered it accurately.  "Au'jourdui Maman a mort.  Ou peut-etre hier, je ne sois pas."  Our lecturer/tutor stressed this so much I still remember it though not how to spell aujourdui which just looks wrong here. Apparently this showed the existential nature of this book and how the protagonist felt lost? or uncertain? or just uncaring? Je ne sois pas either.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 08 Sep 2016, 09:39

I read Camus when I was young: he depressed me unutterably, although I thought he was brilliant. I think he denied being an existentialist like Sartre (didn't they fall out over something?), but claimed he was more an absurdist writer than an existentialist. I hated him and loved him - found his writing very disturbing, especially The Outsider.

The Outsider (I think it's more often called The Stranger these days, although I prefer the earlier translation) to me was all about that old-fashioned religious term (sorry) "accidie" - that awful malaise of the soul which is worse than depression. "Accidie" is when you just don't care about anything, and, what is worse, you don't care that you don't care. People say it's a modern condition, but I think that's nonsense: it's as old as the human soul. Accidie was Mersault's problem - that and his honesty. I always remember one phrase from the book which struck me as odd: Camus refers to the "benign indifference of the universe". I never understood how indifference could be benign: surely indifference is just that - indifferent? The character of Mersault appears in A Happy Death too, which is a sort of first sketch for The Outsider. Mersault still seemed able to feel in that novel; I remember him being close to tears at one point. I think he was staring out of a train window and feeling glum - like you do. Trains are great for delicious melancholy. If you can still cry, you can still feel: it's the numbing of the soul that is so destructive.

I actually prefer other writers of the absurd: I love Samuel Beckett, for example. The French philosophers/writers are such a miserable, intense lot - the Irish writers of the absurd, although recognising the futility of it all, can at least be funny about our ridiculous human predicament.

That said, Camus did find salvation in something: football. He was a very good goalie and was quoted as replying, when asked which he preferred, football or the theatre, "Football, without hesitation."


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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 08 Sep 2016, 10:38

A goalmouth is surely an excellent place wherein to reflect on the absurd, life in general and cold knees in particular. Jus' sayin' as William - of great literary benefit in my growing years - used to say. Those years, not being completed yet, perhaps I ought re-read. Gosh, but when will I know when I'm grown -up?
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 08 Sep 2016, 12:14

@Priscilla wrote:
A goalmouth is surely an excellent place wherein to reflect on the absurd, life in general and cold knees in particular...



Several footie/philosophical musings inspired by that observation. I am thinking somewhat ruefully of all the brilliant own goals I have scored in my life. But I've just read the Wiki entry for "own goal" and I see that there is an "own goal rule" that I was unaware of. I don't understand this rule. I am now wondering if in fact rather more corner kicks should have been awarded during the course of my life. Lousy referees, you see. A knotty philosophical point and I wonder what Camus - or William for that matter - would conclude.

The Laws stipulate that an own goal cannot be scored directly (i.e., without any other player touching the ball) from a throw-in, free kick (direct or indirect), corner kick, dropped ball or goal kick. Should any of these situations occur, a corner kick is instead awarded to the attacking team.

I love Philip Larkin's poetry, miserable old atheist sod that he was.

Oddly enough, I've never got on with Dickens - I'm rather ashamed of that.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 08 Sep 2016, 20:47

@LadyinRetirement wrote:
Slightly off-topic but I'm sorry to hear Paul R is having health travails and hope he will soon feel better.

Yes, hope all is going well with your treatment, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 08 Sep 2016, 21:39

@Temperance wrote:
@LadyinRetirement wrote:
Slightly off-topic but I'm sorry to hear Paul R is having health travails and hope he will soon feel better.

Yes, hope all is going well with your treatment, Paul.


Temperance and Lady, yes now my pretransplant investigation is finished. The last one was a "coronaire" going with a sonde I presume in the main artery to the heart? And my heart was fine too. Thus I am ready now it seems for the transplant. Where it got wrong monday was that where the needle was introduced in the groin, there was what they called a "pseudoaneurisma" and they tried first with pressing on the groin but that didn't work and everytime an echo that made already three hours time and finally they decided to try a punction with a product to clot that aneurisma, the first attempt the needle was not ok, second trial with the very expensive product was succesful, otherwise they had to operate me and fix the artery... But yes at the end all well, but it took three days instead of one...and still to be a bit careful to let fix the clot...and still pain in the groin...But as said all the difficulties were not for nothing...

And I thank you both for asking about my health.

Kind regards to both from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 08 Sep 2016, 22:01

@Meles meles wrote:
@Caro wrote:
At university I read a few books in French – the only one that has stayed in my mind is L’Etranger by Albert Camus, though I know I read Le Rouge et Le Noir. 

I'm impressed Caro (and also with Paul when he said his local library didn't have a particular Nevil Shute book in Dutch, so he looked for it in either French or English) ..... Although my French is pretty good, I still cannot read for pleasure in any other language than English. I can read French newspapers and magazine articles, but for anything much longer it all becomes a bit of an effort and is just not enjoyable. As a learning exercise I managed to get through the first three Harry Potter books in French (the language is fairly simple, being written primarily for children) and I even managed Sartre's Huis Clos (which was written as a play and so is quite short with a lot of dialogue), but then when I started on Umberto Eco's Le Nom de la Rose (which in English, as The Name of Rose, is a book I adore and have read several times), I gave up as I just wasn't enjoying it. (Although maybe that's a problem of already knowing the story and having read it beforehand in another language ... I genuinely enjoyed Huis Clos, but then I've only ever read that in French).

I have inherited quite a lot of novels in French, and Camus's L'Etranger is among them, so emboldened by your comment I might give that a go. It isn't too long, I've never read it in English translation, and I know it is often recommended as a text for students learning French. I wonder also, since it was originally written in French, whether that might make a difference.


Meles meles,

"Although my French is pretty good, I still cannot read for pleasure in any other language than English."

you haven't to be ashamed. It is easy for me exposed from childhood on to the French language at school and later during my factory "career" many times talking with francophones from Brussels; we had a factory in Dijon too and the French technician came also many times to me. And when I was young I bought a second hand television for my parents with my money that I had earned as assistant bricklayer during schoolvacation and we could best receive the French transmitting station Lille, much better than the Dutch speaking Belgian broadcaster.... about that TV set from end of the fifties; what an evolution in a mere fifty years...and on vacation I read always French and English language books, dozens of them...as for practice...

But oddly, as I by circumstances became that fluid in German and reading in German is no difficulty for me and even more easy listening to German broadcast I don't like to read in German and I cannot explain it why...even the French/German ARTE, although I have the choiche as you have too, I always listen to the French version...

Kind regards from your friend Paul.

PS: as usual I enjoyed your last "dish of the day".
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 08 Sep 2016, 22:14

@Temperance wrote:
I read Camus when I was young: he depressed me unutterably, although I thought he was brilliant. I think he denied being an existentialist like Sartre (didn't they fall out over something?), but claimed he was more an absurdist writer than an existentialist. I hated him and loved him - found his writing very disturbing, especially The Outsider.

The Outsider (I think it's more often called The Stranger these days, although I prefer the earlier translation) to me was all about that old-fashioned religious term (sorry) "accidie" - that awful malaise of the soul which is worse than depression. "Accidie" is when you just don't care about anything, and, what is worse, you don't care that you don't care. People say it's a modern condition, but I think that's nonsense: it's as old as the human soul. Accidie was Mersault's problem - that and his honesty. I always remember one phrase from the book which struck me as odd: Camus refers to the "benign indifference of the universe". I never understood how indifference could be benign: surely indifference is just that - indifferent? The character of Mersault appears in A Happy Death too, which is a sort of first sketch for The Outsider. Mersault still seemed able to feel in that novel; I remember him being close to tears at one point. I think he was staring out of a train window and feeling glum - like you do. Trains are great for delicious melancholy. If you can still cry, you can still feel: it's the numbing of the soul that is so destructive.

I actually prefer other writers of the absurd: I love Samuel Beckett, for example. The French philosophers/writers are such a miserable, intense lot - the Irish writers of the absurd, although recognising the futility of it all, can at least be funny about our ridiculous human predicament.

That said, Camus did find salvation in something, however: football. He was a very good goalie and was quoted as replying, when asked which he preferred, football or the theatre, "Football, without hesitation."

 Temperance,

I had today in the local library Bruges Belgium "L'étranger" in my hand from Camus. Yes when i read the flap I became aware that it was not my "cup of tea". You are completely right with your description in my humble opinion...and I as an optimist certainly are avoiding that kind of difficult and life without issue descriptions. Not that I don't love "depth"...but then on a realistic and optimistic way...

For that I prefer André Malraux:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9_Malraux


Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyThu 08 Sep 2016, 22:25

@PaulRyckier wrote:
@Vizzer wrote:
Very good observation there Nielsen regarding the 'immediate nostalgia' of books such as A Town Like Alice. This phenomenon is actually quite common in literature and the arts generally. And it doesn't only apply to great literature and high culture but can also be found in popular entertainment. In England, for example, the television soap opera Coronation Street (first broadcast in 1960) actually hearkened back to the close-knit urban communities of the preceding 40 years (i.e. 1920-1960). From 1960 onwards those communities would begin to change quite markedly, yet the story-lines and casting of the series would be very conservative and would only slowly (and almost begrudgingly) reflect those changes sometimes by a factor of 10 or even 20 years in delay.

 Vizzer,

I have a lot to say to you and to Nielsen, even to Lady in retirement on all kind of sociologic matters, but sadly I was occupied yesterday and this evening on Historum in a thread: If the phoney war was not phoney...
And tomorrow the whole day in pretransplant kidney examinations and have to stay in hospital tomorrow evening...and my day starts tomorrow at six o'clock...thus see you Tuesday evening again...

Kind regards to all, Paul.

PS: I sought yesterday for some books of Nevile Shute or Cronin in the local library of Bruges Belgium and there were none left from both of them, not in the English section, not in the French one and amazingly even not in the bigger Dutch section Sad
PPS (I learned it from Temperance): I wanted also to comment the more modern novelists: Ben Elton: "Two brothers" and the Australian Richard Flanagan: "The narrow road to the deep North"

 Vizzer and Nielsen and others,

I started already a thread about the Liberalism versus Socialism, which had not that much attention. Somewhat as Temperance, Priscilla and Nordmann are focused on religion and philosophy I am more involved with sociologic questions. But as it is out of subject overhere I will start a new thread about it...also perhaps about the new sociological changes of the last century....
Still a lot to say on this thread, but more than 11 PM overhere and tomorrow to be up at 6 o'clock I have to leaave the board now...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyFri 09 Sep 2016, 05:17

@PaulRyckier wrote:
Quote :
...

 Temperance,

I had today in the local library Bruges Belgium "L'étranger" in my hand from Camus. Yes when i read the flap I became aware that it was not my "cup of tea". You are completely right with your description in my humble opinion...and I as an optimist certainly are avoiding that kind of difficult and life without issue descriptions. Not that I don't love "depth"...but then on a realistic and optimistic way...

For that I prefer André Malraux:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9_Malraux


Kind regards, Paul.

Paul,

Please don't think that because we don't write of your health we then don't think og it and you - in these fora we are so few that we have to look out for one another.



Regarding Malraux, when reading up on the Spanish Civil War, I did an analysis of his L'Espoir - the Danish translated version, though - and became rather fascinated with the history of that human.



Kind regards, and with esteem from me.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyFri 09 Sep 2016, 21:55

"I wanted also to comment the more modern novelists: Ben Elton: "Two brothers" and the Australian Richard Flanagan: "The narrow road to the deep North"

As there are seemingly no oldies about the novelists in the local library anymore I am obliged to read more recent authors during my three times four hours of dialysis in the hospital. As such I can make a comparison with the past...
And in my humble opinion a good book remains a good book independent of the time it was written in. I agree a book from the 19th century has another style has those from the late twentieth century, but in essence when it is a good novelist one can appreciate it  even in whatever time it is written.

"Two brothers" by Ben Elton
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Elton
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13573400-two-brothers


It reads as an old one and an interesting plot, but the love of the two brothers for the same girl is perhaps a bit brushed to colourful and perhaps in the real world a bit out of credibility...but who am I to Judge...


"The narrow road to the deep North" by Richard Flanagan
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Flanagan
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17905709-the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-north

It reads also very well, but again my critique is if such an overpowering love between the doctor and an occasional encouter with a lady, who later seems to be the wife of his uncle is possible in reality...
There is a parallel story of the doctor in a japanese pow camp constructing the Birma Railway...
That's the most interesting part for me. But then he describes the life and the inner mindset of the japanese commandant of the powcamp and there I don't follow completely the author, because I doubt if he can with all his knowledge of the japanese mentality reconstruct as he does the inner thoughts of a japanese officer...
All in all for me it was a bit out of proportion and therefore I didn't like the novel that much, although some characters were brushed very well...
And I see that the book in Australia won some famous awards...perhaps I am too critical...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyFri 09 Sep 2016, 22:04

Started today to read the novel from Harry Thompson: "This thing of darkness"
and it seems very promising...
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/81961.Harry_Thompson
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/142050.This_Thing_of_Darkness
I first thought it was fiction but checking the real story as about the life of Robert FitzRoy:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_FitzRoy
it seems to be a real account of the life of FitzRoy in all its details...and by the way what a life and in connection with the Beagle and Charles Darwin and I sse now governor of New Zealand too...
Very promising indeed.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptySat 10 Sep 2016, 21:07

Further in my modern English writers I read from Jeffrey Archer and there you can't miss in my opinion, it is always entertaining and well written and I read from him already some years ago.
But only just this evening checked the name Wink
Hmm Wink , what a life...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Archer
In that article I read:
"Archer has been married to Mary Archer since July 1966.[12] They met at Oxford University, where Mary Archer (née Weeden) was studying chemistry at St Anne's College, Oxford.[83] She went on to specialise in solar power.[84]
First I thought when reading "Mary Archer": Could that be that she occasionally had the same surname as her man...but then I saw later in the sentence that it was Mary Weeden Wink . But yes in Germany it is still the same: Frau Angela Merkel is in reality Frau Angela Kasner...
I don' know how it is in France now, but here there is more and more a tendency to name the women with their original name, married or not...I think it is the same in Holland (The Netherlands)....

I read also "The darkest hour" from Patrica Erskine
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Darkest-Hour-Barbara-Erskine/dp/0007513127

I was already warned from the flap that she was interested in the supernatural, but wasn't aware that it got that far...
Reading the novel, I found it a good plot and in the beginning all well that went well, but gradually they changed the story to mix it with supernatural...to that point that I wanted to stop reading, but while I had only that book at the moment I nervetheless persevered...and to be honest it was nearly a detective plot... Wink . And perhaps as a non believer in that stuff, I can only be happy with my opinions Wink  a bit as a Socialist who only read socialist papers... Wink
And unbelievable, as I didn't remember her name, seeking on the internet with "reincarnation" I came on a lot of entries of, as in her story, reincarnated WWII pilots... Wink
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/63659.Barbara_Erskine
"Her books have appeared in at least twenty different languages"
She nevertheless have a large public for her combination of historian and supernatural...and yes, who I am to judge...after all there are that many religionists over the world, who believe in the supernatural...

Kind regards, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptySun 11 Sep 2016, 15:33

I'm not sure if the title of this thread, based on the responses so far, should not actually be merely "Nice books I've read". However I have given the title as it stands some thought in the spirit of the OP's directive;

@Priscilla wrote:
So come on folks, let's have some definitions, argument, (oh Gawd) and examples of what Great Literature has done for you, us or them uvvers.

Definition, as stated above, seems key to me, at least if one wishes to establish the basis of any supposed "benefit". In this case it appears to be not so much what defines literature (though this is by no means as straightforward a proposition as it may sound) but what makes some literature "great". The OP capitalises the term, and I agree with that if, as I assume, she means to imply that the term has become clichéd, which of course it has. But to me "great" in a literary sense has to mean two things above all - that what was written had a demonstrably significant impact on the evolution of thought in as wide a public domain as possible, and that it has somehow "stood the test of time" and retained a relevance of sorts long after its initial conception and impact.

This still leaves the scope suspiciously wide - "suspiciously" as it would seem to invite the inclusion within it of much that was written but is not considered literature in the standard sense, and for that matter much that is traditionally assumed to be literature which, though definitely recorded in a text, owes its origin to something other than the conscious invention of an author. However, that said, and since this is only a discussion thread on an obscure website read by very few, I would reserve that quibble for another occasion and take the cliché on its own traditional merits in order to discuss that other nefarious concept - its supposed "benefit".

On one hand the benefit of literature, great or indifferent, is self-explanatory. If literature is one facet of expression, and one of its more meaningful ones at that in terms of what we call culture and civilisation, then its beneficial contribution to both is almost impossible to exaggerate. It is perhaps easier to understand the concept by reversing the proposition and imagining humanity denied access to literature or the means to manufacture it, whether through decree or through ignorance of either the method or value of producing it. Either way the absence of benefit and the presence of huge detriment are both very easy to adduce within the scenario, both of which are nightmarish to contemplate. Neither, in any case, represents a world which we who place a value on thought, its expression, and the evolution of both, would like to inhabit.

So in that light it is easy to understand why we, collectively as an articulate species, would retain a tacit appreciation of the presence of literature as "a good thing", and by extension therefore why we would stratify that goodness in a scale at the top of which we would identify some contributions as "great". In fact by that score it is also indeed "great" that we accommodate much literature that is "mediocre" (as the OP also alludes to), and indeed downright "bad". All are necessary to support the notion of stratification by which we acknowledge that some examples achieve greatness, if even only within the narrow terms of the definition I assumed above. In fact one could go further and say that if the principal benefit of literature is to promote an evolution of thought in our species, one of the main attributes of which has to be the presence of dialogue and argument, then it does not take a genius to see that the mediocre and bad examples play as pivotal a role in that process. How else can we consensually attempt to isolate greatness except in comparison to lesser worth, and how can we do this in the area of literature without therefore having literary output of all shades in which to run these comparisons?

I would conclude therefore that the real benefit to humanity from literature is not therefore to be derived from having "great" examples, but from having literature at all - literature being one important part of that evolutionary process, signifying as it does the first opportunity in the history of our species for the author of a thought to communicate directly and with some clarity with a prospective audience of huge size over many generations without the certainty of implicit dilution, distortion or corruption of the thought by interlopers within the communication chain as pertains in oral diessemination, something that had been impossible prior to the advent of systematic and popularly adopted methods of recording those thoughts.

The principal benefit of literature therefore is that it has extended the dialogue over generations, something that had been impossible beforehand, and in doing so further affirms the huge importance of that dialogue to what we perceive as our innate humanity. All literature, by extension of the logic, is therefore "great", a truism that applies whether I speak as "me", one of "us", or one of the "uvvers".
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptySun 11 Sep 2016, 21:53

Nordmann,

thank you as ever for your excellent "essay".

"The principal benefit of literature therefore is that it has extended the dialogue over generations, something that had been impossible beforehand, and in doing so further affirms the huge importance of that dialogue to what we perceive as our innate humanity. All literature, by extension of the logic, is therefore "great", a truism that applies whether I speak as "me", one of "us", or one of the "uvvers"."

There I completely agree with you, as novels in my opinion gives always "something" from the author free, as it is in my opinion impossible to write a novel without giving up something from his own inner way of thinking and from his lifetime experience up to the moment of the writing. As such it is an exchange of the minds of the author and the reader, which is always an enrichment for the reader. And as you said, once written down it is available all around the world. And the availability exist during a long period as long as their is interest from the public. And certain works stay nearly forever as seen as "great" works and are therefore an enrichment to the whole world and to the history of that world.


And sometimes there is between the author and the reader an exclusive band, which is very personal and not always shared by others.
To give one example from my own experience: about the great poem from Herman Gorter: "May" that we studied at school. This text:
"Als 'n jonge vogel fluitend onbewust
Van eigen blijheid om de avondrust"
(as a young bird whistling unconscious
of the own joy for the evening rest)

And I saw it nearly physically for me as if I was there in the street and hearing it with all the accompagning effects on me... in the silent street filled with all the colours, odours, smelling of an early spring in May...and the spiritual enyoing of a new spring in the nature...

As it is a Dutch poem, I will try if I can find a description in English.

Kind regards, Paul.
https://www.vanoorschot.nl/winkel/verhalen-novellen.html?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage_vo.tpl&product_id=21940
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptySun 11 Sep 2016, 22:30

I found a description in English but unfortunately the translation stops at the twelfth line and mine is further in the poem 14th line I think
http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/cou_article/item/18434/Herman-Gorter-an-introduction/en
A newborn springtime and a newborn sound:         Een nieuwe lente en een nieuw geluid
I want this song like piping to resound                   Ik wil dat dit lied klinkt als het gefluit,
that oft I heard at summer eventide                      Dat ik vaak hoorde voor een zomernacht
in an old township, by the waterside –                   In een oud stadje, langs de watergracht –
the house was dark, but down the silent road         In huis was 't donker, maar de stille straat
dusk gathered and above the sky still glowed,        Vergaarde schemer, aan de lucht blonk laat
and a late golden, incandescent flame                    Nog licht, er viel een gouden blanke schijn
shone over gables through my window-frame.        Over de gevels in mijn raamkozijn.
A boy blew music like an organ pipe,                      Dan blies een jongen als een orgelpijp,
the sounds all trembled in the air as ripe                De klanken schudden in de lucht zoo rijp
as new-grown cherries, when a springtime breeze   Als jonge kersen, wen een lentewind
rises and then journeys through the trees.              In 't boschje opgaat en zijn reis begint
                                                                           Hij dwaald' over de bruggen, op den wal
                                                                           Van 't water, langzaam gaande, overal
                                                                           Als 'n jonge vogel fluitend, onbewust
                                                                           Van eigen blijheid om de avondrust.
                                                                           En menig moe man, die zijn avondmaal
                                                                           Nam, luisterde, als naar een oud verhaal,
                                                                           Glimlachend, en een hand die 't venster sloot,
                                                                           Talmde een pooze wijl de jongen floot.


Kind regards, Paul.





n
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptySun 11 Sep 2016, 22:48

Yes, one aspect to literature which qualifies it as "great" is indeed the conviction it instills in the reader that the communicator is almost in the same room, in fact partially inside one's own mind, and therefore the imagery, points and sentiments they evoke are as experientially conceived as if they were indeed occurring to one in "real life". I would include, for example, the philosophical writings of Marcus Aurelius and Wilde's "De Profundis" in that category. But I would also include many well written fictional narratives, as well as many narratives not obviously composed by one author but which, like the others, insinuate themselves into one's consciousness to a huge and immediate degree at the time of reading them and which, once absorbed, are as difficult to expunge from one's core as any profound realisation experientially conceived. These, by definition, and regardless of how subjectively they were selected or appreciated by the reader, have to be regarded as examples of great literature or else the term really has no meaning whatsoever.

It is the concept of "benefit" with which I struggled mostly in the context of the OP's request. To be so affected by reading any work can of course be considered a benefit though, equally obviously and logically, should that profound effect work against one's peace or stability of mind and affect one to the extent that one becomes a worse or less well person (something entirely possible through any medium powerfully exploited), then it is more difficult to prosecute this version of benefit as a de facto consequence. This is why I reckoned that, should benefit be ascribed at all, then it has to be through the cumulative effect of accommodating this dialogue and communication made possible through literature over many generations and experienced by a fantastically huge amount of people over that time. Then any notion of personal benefit is subsumed into a more transcendental notion of the benefit of communication per se, literature being one noble variant in that it preserves clarity of thought and impact of expression to a far higher degree than any other medium had hitherto been able to convey or achieve. In that sense one can easily see how "great literature" has been of benefit to us generally and fundamentally. Had it never existed, for example, try to imagine not just how many beautifully profound experiences such as the one you described would have been lost to you, but also how the very society in which you live would have been impoverished to the extent that even were such an opportunity for transcendental experience to arise you would have been completely uneqipped to avail of it.

Thank you for that poem, by the way, one I have only encountered in summary before and will seek out. It comes as a surprise to many people not conversant with Norse/Germanic mythology (normally perceived as a violent and regimented pantheon) the close affinity to nature that cycle represents in terms of source and expression, and therefore how many simply beautiful and insightfully pastoral interpretations of our universe those myths have given rise to, expressed in as many literary forms as human ingenuity has yet devised and with reference to everything from the nature of that universe to the simplest of human experiences. When May falls in love with the blind god Balder one can see where she's heading - and one can probably understand why this work gained great respect in of all places communist China. I will add this one to my collection, with gratitude.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyMon 12 Sep 2016, 20:11

Nordmann,

thanks again for one of your in depth messages. It says it nearly all, and you are right to point not only to the benefits, but as every medium it can have also a negative impetus on one's personal life and even on the life of a whole section of the population...

A personal example: I think it was a novel from Dorothy Sayers
They find somewhere on a remote place a corpse, an old factory? A policeman is investigating and a great part of the novel is about that investigation, and at the end the policeman tries to place him in the circumstances of that environment of the old factory by sejourning alone in that factory. There is a pulley fixed before a door in the front of the building on the first or second floor used to bring material from the ground to the inside of an higher floor. And the corpse was found under this pulley. The policeman stays outside around this pulley and tries to investigate further. But the loneliness and the desolate environmnet starts to take its toll from him. At the end he becomes obsessed with the pulley and a rope that he found. In the last page he commit suicide with the rope and the pulley? Or he springs from the open door behind the pulley? As such he has found the scenario from the other dead...
For me that suicide of the policeman (I think I was only 18 then Wink ) was too much. I needed another end and as it was my own book, I nearly started to tore the last page from my book...

Other example: "Die Leiden des jungen Werthers" from Goethe and its impact on the German society.
I will first do the research and then publish it in an addendum to not loose my message overhere.

With esteem for these two excellent messages in this thread, kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyMon 12 Sep 2016, 20:20

Addendum to the previous message.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sorrows_of_Young_Werther


Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyMon 12 Sep 2016, 22:02

Meles meles,

somewhere in this thread you commented on my not finding Cronin or Shute in the local library Bruges Belgium. Not in the English, not in the French and even not in the bigger Dutch language section either. I don't find your comment anymore looking through the thread. I thinlk you said that it was amazing there was nothing left in the large Dutch section.In the time I wanted to comment and do it now.
I am already more than 45 years at that library and in the time they had many of both authors, but as Vizzer said it is now perhaps a bit "passé".
And yes the library reacts on base of the borrowing hits during the year and as a 'private" enterprise (although it is paid by our taxes as a government body) it wants to earn money. So it are the readers, who decide. If they want to read crap, than the library buys crap...Perhaps I am a bit exagerating Wink . Each year they sell a lot of old books for nearly nothing during two or three days. In the time I buyed some, but now as my bookshelf is overcrowded I even give them to a merchant for nothing. BTW: and one can find nearly everything on internet nowadays. And I suppose that all the valuable Cronins and Shutes are bought by enthusiasts, who have it now in their household library.
To come back on my exagerating: in one of these book sellings I asked to a responsable, that I knew very well, to keep the series of the Belgian/Chinese Han Suyin. Autobiographical work in five tomes. And they promised...but I see them anymore today...and who I am to ask from other readers that they join my tastes...
And to be honest again, because they didn't find anymore a non-fiction work of the French Marc Ferro about the Russian revolution they bought special for me, a brand new one, that is now in the archive where the old one before was. And I read it only once and it is still there, not borrowed by others I suppose in some years...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyTue 13 Sep 2016, 18:54

@nordmann wrote:


I'm not sure if the title of this thread, based on the responses so far, should not actually be merely "Nice books I've read".


I have to admit I too was a little stung by that comment. It could be interpreted as being a tad ungracious: our posts here may be puny, but we all do our best to please, you know. Actually, I thought the points made by Nielsen and Vizzer about about "immediate nostalgia" were very interesting, and I tried very hard to link my reading of A.J. Cronin to the history of the NHS. And the novels of Albert Camus are not generally thought of as "nice". You were unfair, sir.



@nordmann wrote:
But I would also include many well written fictional narratives, as well as many narratives not obviously composed by one author but which, like the others, insinuate themselves into one's consciousness to a huge and immediate degree at the time of reading them and which, once absorbed, are as difficult to expunge from one's core as any profound realisation experientially conceived. These, by definition, and regardless of how subjectively they were selected or appreciated by the reader, have to be regarded as examples of great literature or else the term really has no meaning whatsoever.


It is the concept of "benefit" with which I struggled mostly in the context of the OP's request. To be so affected by reading any work can of course be considered a benefit though, equally obviously and logically, should that profound effect work against one's peace or stability of mind and affect one to the extent that one becomes a worse or less well person (something entirely possible through any medium powerfully exploited), then it is more difficult to prosecute this version of benefit as a de facto consequence.



I agree with what you say in your two thoughtful and dauntingly erudite posts. I suspect the text I have made bold in the quotation above refers to the myths of both the Old and New Testaments. If one is honest, one cannot but agree with your comments. But perhaps I am wrong in my supposition.

Benefits - mmm. The study of literature can help us all understand our human predicament - we read to know we are not alone - but it can indeed also be a dangerous influence. I immediately thought of the Henry Miller remark: "Every man with a bellyful of the classics is an enemy to mankind". All those English public school boys (the bright ones, that is), stuffed full of Vergil and such - what dreams of Empire and manly glory those Roman and Greek writers inspired in their ardent young breasts! Not just the Latin and Greek literature either - privileged young men like Rupert Brooke read far too much Malory and Tennyson, and look where that got them. Brooke could write such hauntingly beautiful nonsense about war and glory and honour and such (see below for just one example): had he survived long enough to see some real fighting in the filth of the trenches (he died of an insect bite en route for Gallipoli and ended up buried on a lovely Greek island in the middle of the Aegean sea in a grove which smelt "of sage and thyme"), I suspect he would not have waxed so lyrical about the war. Died as he had lived - a romantic idealist, lucky little blighter.

The Dead
Rupert Brooke

Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain,
Honour has come back, as a king, to earth,
And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we have come into our heritage.
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PostSubject: Re: Great Literature - the Benefits   Great Literature - the Benefits EmptyTue 13 Sep 2016, 21:29

Temp wrote:
I suspect the text I have made bold in the quotation above refers to the myths of both the Old and New Testaments.

Not quite, though the works cited are definitely candidates within that category. However I would suggest the actual authorship collective (so many have contributed in this case) to which we owe our greatest debt in terms of these particular books was the one assembled to compose the English prose in the King James bible, in particular the ten members of the Second Oxford Company. While the world may or may not have been a better place had it been denied the sentiments conveyed in the bible, only a fool would argue against the huge impoverishment we would have suffered in terms of lyricism, succinct prose and complex philosophical and metaphysical concept conveyed with beautiful economy, had it not occasioned that particular composition in the first decade of the 17th century. One only has to read modern English renditions of the same sentiments to realise just how fortunate we are.

I would also only partially agree with your comment that "we read to know we are not alone". It goes further than that in my view . Reading the words of others - good, bad or indifferent in literary terms - affirms not only that we are not alone but that we are in fact members of a long continuum in terms of common human experience, and vital ones at that. The act of reading - the absorption of sentiments, thoughts and impulses generated at a remove from from us which can span hundreds of generations as easily as it can thousands of miles - is an act of communion with humanity that was almost impossible before the written word and as yet unmatched through alternate media in my view.

I have been ridiculed already today by the original poster for taking her question seriously, and now have been apparently  accused of causing slight for wondering earlier why no one else seemed to be doing the same. I apologise therefore if Priscilla only accidentally asked an intelligent question which I then foolishly took on face value should merit an intelligent response. Since anything longer than a few sentences from me is now allegedly a "dissertation" and unwelcome, I'll leave it at that.

You can all get back to whatever you were up to here.
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