Up Front by Emma Hart

Read Post

Up Front: The Classics Are Rubbish Too

302 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 13 Newer→ Last

  • Sayana,

    Back to the classics, well, Victor Hugo gets way too much respect. What do you mean, the love of your life is the former neglected fosterling of the man who saved your father on the battle of Waterloo and her foster sister is her hopeless rival for your affections? Unlikely coincidence? Never. And about those hundred page diversions on the sewers, or slang, or Waterloo. It's like a soap-opera, but educational.

    Gaah. Back when I was a wanky pretentious teenager, I tried to read Les Miserables in french. What a tedious bunch of rubbish.

    Since Sep 2008 • 50 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    The second series was a repeat of the first series, which a couple of characters changed, taking place on a different continent, with many of the same things happening. Rather terrible.

    I find The Redemption of Althalus strangely fascinating in that he manages to take his standard plot and characters and package it all up into one book, although this also tells you something about the quality of all the series that use the same plot and characters.

    If you really want to be horrified and amused, read the book he wrote where he details the standard elements you need to write a fantasy series; I'm not sure whether he was serious or laughing hysterically about having made a pot of money with stereotypes, revealing his tools, and still making a pot of money. I really, really hope that was the case.

    Speaking of fantasy: I *loathe* A Song of Ice and Fire. Every time you like a character (after hating them for a couple of books) they die; in fact, as soon as a character gains the tiniest shred of sympathy they die. Explicit rape and incest with added violence may attract some people, but I'm not one of them. And it's all just so goddam depressing. (I actually really enjoyed the one short story Martin wrote in this universe, in the Legends collection, but the main series is ghastly.)

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    . Back when I was a wanky pretentious teenager, I tried to read Les Miserables in french. What a tedious bunch of rubbish.

    As I've never read it I'll take your word on that. However the French version that screened on Australia's SBS a few years back, with their trademark super-legible subtitles - Gerard Depardieu as Valjean, John Malkovich as Javert - was a bloody ripper.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'll bet then that you haven't read Confessions of a Crap Artist. Maybe it's because it's - as far as I know - the only non-SF thing he ever wrote.

    Philip K. Dick wrote quite a few so-called "mainstream" novels -- lall published posthumously. Two others were completed in the mid-50's, but the manuscripts were lost.

    I like Dick a lot more than Che does, which isn't saying much, but there is a hell of a lot of crap under his by-line. I don't think you could say otherwise about any genre writer whose livelihood depended on churning out material for people who weren't going to give you a generous advance and wait while you spent a couple of year shuffling commas.

    Having said that, for all his flaws (and he's another writer I admire but would have no desire to let in the house without a taser to hand), I would die a very happy man if I'd written anything as good as The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and dozen or so of his best stories.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    misogynistic talking anuses

    Wait, who mentioned Kiwiblog?

    Don DeLillo sucks

    Now, I have to disagree. I must admit that Underworld didn't quite live up to my expectations or its own promise, but the only reason I had trouble reading White Noise is that I had to stop about twice per page to marvel at the sheer brilliance of his sentences. Not only that, but there's an undertow of melancholic menace that is chilling for all the right reasons, and a way of looking at the hypercommericalised postmodern world of information that links it back to a mediaeval sense of signs and wonders. Some of his preoccupations and stylistic tics lose their gloss in other novels, but White Noise alone is enough to justify his reputation IMO.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1037 posts Report Reply

  • Pete,

    Rousseau's "Social Contract"
    Great first line then steadily defending absolute bollocks.
    Naomi Woolf's "Beauty Myth" was one idea turned to fit many situations and she's sooo annoying

    Since Apr 2008 • 75 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Some of his preoccupations and stylistic tics lose their gloss in other novels, but White Noise alone is enough to justify his reputation IMO.

    I'd be happy to have a temperature of 37.5C for as long as I live in exhange for being the guy who wrote White Noise.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Wait, who mentioned Kiwiblog?

    *sigh* I can't complain that someone took a shot at the open goal. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    . . White Noise alone is enough to justify his reputation IMO.

    Two-dimensional lesser-mortal characters who blunder about driven by a mumbling fear of death, in a way that DeLillo's intended gentle readership is encouraged to treat with detached scorn? Sorry, academics who praise White Noise's take on consumerism would gain more insight from a night spent stacking shelves at Pak 'n Save. That said, I'm quite prepared to concede that the book went right over my little head.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    Yeah? I loved it from the get-go. Not the violence part, but the incredible detail and plot. Arquebuses! Brigantines! Milanese full-plate armour! Carthaginian Visigoths!

    I think that's the thing with highly detailed works like that though - if it goes into enormous detail about stuff that's your bag you'll love it if you were already a bit meh about armour and visigoths then reading it will just feel like a chore.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 690 posts Report Reply

  • Cecelia,

    Craig from a while back - I really love Jane Austen - I've read P and P dozens of times and don't like commercial fiction but Twilight was eminently readable. The way she describes Edward; the way she shows a girl's first feelings of sexual attraction: I think it's pretty impressive. I can't quite put my finger on it but the underlying values are pretty awful I think - especially if you are a vegetarian and don't like co-dependent relationships! That's what I'm struggling with - not the quality of Meyer's writing.
    And my all time favourite author at this point in time is Coetzee: Disgrace is the best and I loved Diary of a Slow Year. So generally I like a thoughtful read and like male writing. Beats me how I lapped up such girlie stuff as the Twilight saga.

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 505 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    I think that's the thing with highly detailed works like that though - if it goes into enormous detail about stuff that's your bag you'll love it if you were already a bit meh about armour and visigoths then reading it will just feel like a chore.

    I'm not so sure about that - see, I like armour. I like Visigoths. If it were financially viable and I had three or four lifetimes to do stuff in I'd be a medieval history professor. Stories of alternate history are to me as nicotine to a smoker. And I *still* couldn't finish the damn book.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    __Crusoe swims naked to the wreck then fills his pockets with biscuits__

    then yells 'Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker' and shoots all the cannibals. This cross-over idea is growing on me.

    Oh god, thank you for that. Made my evening. Pictured him doing it with cut feet and all.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    I'll bet then that you haven't read Confessions of a Crap Artist.
    Maybe it's because it's - as far as I know - the only non-SF thing he ever wrote.
    Also The Man in the High Castle isn't half bad.

    arse. all of it.

    half the problem is that i read a biography of him first. which made all the motifs *incredibly* transparent and contrived.

    the other half is that i stopped taking drugs a long time ago.

    two of the three books craig mentions i haven't read, but am afraid to because of over-exposure to steaming piles of crap in the form of his pulp novels.

    on other news, i did read, and enjoy the crying of lot49. i only got as far as the S&M nazis in gravity's rainbow before i was distracted by a shiny object that wasn't written in the longest most convoluted and mind-numbingly confusing sentences piled one atop each other in an attempt to create a style of prose i experimented with years ago and rejected because the other people who got into it were stoners that i happened to be living with at the time and were genuinely amused at the sorts of crazy ideas i was coming up with and regurgitating for them in these long crazy stories that would have driven any sane person round the fcking twist.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2018 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    i only got as far as the S&M nazis in gravity's rainbow before i was distracted by a shiny object that wasn't written in the longest most convoluted and mind-numbingly confusing sentences piled one atop each other in an attempt to create a style of prose i experimented with years ago and rejected because the other people who got into it were stoners that i happened to be living with at the time and were genuinely amused at the sorts of crazy ideas i was coming up with and regurgitating for them in these long crazy stories that would have driven any sane person round the fcking twist.

    Laundromats. Took me around nine months of weekly washes to finish GR. It was the 70s, and it was fun. For some reason I assumed that it'd be a book that would remain beyond the reach of academia. Now the buggers think they own it.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    Took me around nine months of weekly washes to finish GR.

    LOL. i have a sneaking suspicion this took place in australia.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2018 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    i have a sneaking suspicion this took place in australia.

    Yes.
    BTW, considering the sheer wealth of Good Ideas in Pynchon's first three novels, I find it surprising how few authors have stolen from them. The World War Two backstory of Zadie Smith's White Teeth takes place in a setting that's rather reminiscent of The Zone in Gravity's Rainbow. Nice imaginative bit of literary thievery.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    and Virginia Woolf topped herself --, so with a little effort you can squint past how their exquisite sensibilities and professed socialisim never quite extended to being civil to the servants (or the rough trade picked up in foreign climes, if you were Lytton Strachey) or avoiding making crass and offensive anti-Semitic comments in front of Leonard.

    Virginia Woolf - puke. Loathed Mrs Bloody Dalloway, set text for english, managed to avoid writing about it at all. But I bring her up (sic) because, if you haven't come across her before, Virginia's sister - Vanessa Bell - was far more interesting. A painter and very Bloomsburyish, but much nicer than most of them. She really had a good crack at being a painter and a mother and a wife and lover (of Duncan Grant). Lucky she was married to an MP (who led his own life but financed the family) so never had to worry about money.

    I loved Die Hard 4! We've created our own character called "Brarnold" - a BruceWillis/Arnold Schwarzenneger combo - but I can't figure out how to post an image on here and I suppose it's breaking all sorts of copyright anyway...

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Kerry:

    I went through my Bloomsbury phrase -- who was it who said the Bloomsbry set lived in squares in loved in triangles? -- but the interest was more biographical than literary. You can be a good writer and a château bottled shit (otherwise I wouldn't like Evelyn Waugh as much as I do), but it doesn't hurt to make the distinction.

    Craig from a while back - I really love Jane Austen - I've read P and P dozens of times and don't like commercial fiction but Twilight was eminently readable.

    Cecelia: ITA, and wouldn't call Meyer unreadable -- although the narrative arteries clog with adjectival and adverbial plaque more often than I like, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with an old school blue pencil copy edit. (The latter Harry Potter books, IMNSHO, should have been edited with a hedge trimmer and a bull whip to keep the author in line.) When you get right down to it, perhaps her books are software that just isn't compatible with the emotional/literary operating system of a near-middle aged man. I've got over my teenage angst, and on reflection I think that's what subtly grossed me out about Twilight. Perhaps the world is full of teenagers who are so socially insecure, unnerved by their own sexuality and bodies, they really want some Byronic Ken doll to strip them of their very humanity.

    I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was fourteen or fifteen, and it went so far over my head I couldn't even see the front cover as it flew by. You can read them on the surface as empire-line Sloan Rangers on a hsuband hunt, but when I came back to it after having both my pride and prejudices bitch-slapped by life a little, I was ready.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    To return to LOTR for a moment:

    Craig, firstly, Tolkien may have been horrified at the genre his work spawned, but spawn it did. Frankenstein too regretted his monster (and that's a great, great book).

    From that article:

    But The Lord of the Rings isn’t just a novel, with a plot and a dreadful prose style. It’s a whole world, with its own half-hidden structure and shifting layers.

    This is exactly the thing which he's always praised for, and it's exactly wrong. Because whole worlds usually have things like economies -- hence my question about Frodo at the Prancing Pony. We're told there's a whole wonderful history to be found in these pages, but in fact all we get is some made up languages and a bunch of crap about goodies in the West and baddies in the East. How do the people of Gondor feed themselves? Do they trade with anyone? How are hobbits able to sustain themselves on such an apparently small patch of land without trading with neighbours for grain? What do orcs eat when they're hanging out in Mordor? (and if the answer is each other, then how has Sauron prevented a civil war, when all he can do is look at people?) The basic material conditions of the lives of these people (except for elves, because they have bread that never goes stale) are never more complex than 'Hobbits like to grow things'. We are never told, do they sell their products to one another, or are they a bunch of communists?

    And don't try and tell me that it's more of a chronicle-style history than a modern one, because even Holinshed knew the effect on population growth on food prices. I'm not asking for Melville-style descriptions of looming or anything, just a suggestion that the author of this apparently intricately-realised world has given a thought to how the people in it sustain their populations.

    I would add that I'm not adverse to the genre. I'll always have a soft spot for Lloyd Alexander, and think that The Hobbit is a terrific children's book. But LOTR, give me a break.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    (The first was Robert Heinlein's Number of the Beast.)

    Testify!

    Craig:Is that the one where the hero jumps in a time machine and gives a whole new slant to the already vile acronym MILF (don't ask),

    No, though it's part of the same series.
    That happens in Time Enough for Love, which was an earlier sequel to Methuselah's Children. (Heinlein revisited that episode in worse detail in To Sail Beyond the Sunset -- but to get to that book, you'd first have to get through Number of the Beast and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: A Comedy of Manners. And if you found Number hard to swallow, then, well, things didn't improve.)

    or transplants his brain into his conveniently dead nubile secretary's body and spends quite a lot of time rubbing her nipples and trying to get knocked up with his own sperm (really, don't ask)

    No, that's I Will Fear No Evil.
    Which started well, with an interesting premise, then got taken over by the usual bunch of Heinlein-proxy characters exhibiting behaviour frankly unbelievable even within a fantasy world.

    I much preferred Job -- and still can't forgive Heinlein for cynically reworking that book's subtitle to help sell The Cat..., which sure as hell wasn't a "comedy" of anything, let alone "manners". A private joke, maybe, but not a comedy.)

    or... Seriously, the sixties have a lot to answer for, including apparently destroying Robert Heinlein into a bar room bore.

    Number of the Beast is the one where Heinlein sets up a (literal) plot device whereby his characters can move between alternative worlds, which it soon becomes apparent are fictions. Shortly thereafter, it's the one where he most explicitly becomes an utter wanker -- playing with his own plots and characters for no other reason than that he can. My personal hurl point was reached when he had one of the characters complain that they were "up against an Author", i.e. Heinlein.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 808 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    Ultra condensed classic Titus Andronicus in lolcat by a PA reader

    I really can't decide whether to be proud or depressed that this is my most famous piece of writing. Both, perhaps.

    Otherwise:

    - Liquid Sky is the worst film I've ever seen.

    - I seem to have mercifully blocked out all the bad novels I've read. I truly dislike The Rainbow Fish, however.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 450 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    @joe

    The World War Two backstory of Zadie Smith's White Teeth takes place in a setting that's rather reminiscent of The Zone in Gravity's Rainbow. Nice imaginative bit of literary thievery.

    you're assuming she read it.

    @jake

    How do the people of Gondor feed themselves?

    sigh. lembas jake. two nibbles and you've enough strength to take up the quill and continue to be gondor's financial centre. you're overlooking that much of the third age was peaceful, we just got the bit where the wheels fell off.

    which is good. because the place is pretty fricking dull otherwise...

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2018 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    How learned you all are. Me, not so much, owing to the speed with which I read, and the amount of books I read. Can never remember a thing about most of them. As testament to this, I have lived in Harry Potter land for the last week and a half, reading 1-7 for the 100th time. Don't ask me what happens in most of them. I couldn't tell you. I'll have to read them again before the next movie comes out, and so on and so on. Carry on with the erudite discussion.......

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3112 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    <Pops in to see what going on 100 comments in...>

    How do the people of Gondor feed themselves?

    sigh. lembas jake. two nibbles and you've enough strength to take up the quill and continue to be gondor's financial centre. you're overlooking that much of the third age was peaceful, we just got the bit where the wheels fell off.

    <Backs out quietly>

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2079 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 13 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.