Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: The Classics Are Rubbish Too

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  • Che Tibby,

    <sigh> <writes "hadyn" in the little book.>

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2024 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    JKR, I'm looking at YOU...

    It's my suspicion that some authors of series which become hugely popular, are all like, <i>now I have the power and I can leave in all the tedious nonsense they cut out of the first two if I like</i>.

    I mentioned elsewhere that I gave up about 1% away from the end of The Order of the Pheonix. Shortly after Dumbledore explained that he missed the climactic battle between good and evil because he was busy interrogating an elf.

    At the risk of crossing the streams with the copyright debates, Richard Stallman currently has a boycott out on the purchase of Harry Potter books, and not just because the average geek should know better anyway.

    I started on The Dav Vinci Code staying at someone's place on holiday, off their bookshelf. In the circumstances, I wasn't obliged to finish it. Nice link on that, Mr Brown.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1094 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    Please don't take this as a dis, Kerry,because as far as I'm concerned the house of literature has many mansions.

    Indeed it does. Wasn't implying any judgment on what sorts of stuff people read, more of a "why?" is SF/fantasy so strong. I did read Children of Men this year after seeing the film, have great intentions of reading more SF but not enuff time.

    Did you watch The Way We Live Now? Thought Matthew Macfadyen wonderfully odious as Felix Carbury. I enjoyed it, but have never read Trollope - I might now.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I loved TSH too mostly because I had a very strong sense of having known most of the characters and therefore having to uneasily wonder if people in my circle would behave the same way given the same set of circumstances.

    Yes, that's what makes a book for me. That's why I like Banks - the characters have this reality around them. (Obviously relatively few of my friends have the plate/maggot thing going on. Or have murdered siblings my floating them off over the ocean in a hot air balloon. But some of them work for evil huge global businesses that have secretly existed since the Romans).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4361 posts Report Reply

  • Josh Addison,

    And last but not least, if your life is too short (and your patience too short) for Neil Stephenson

    Hear hear (for everything post-__Snow Crash__, at least). From The Diamond Age onwards, the man's literary career consists of little more than wanking on about how much research he's done and how knowledgeable he is about the subjects he's writing on, before reaching a point where the ending can be inferred and just stopping rather than bothering to write it for us. And then there's the underage sex/rape and obsession with ejaculation.

    I read Cryptonomicon to impress a girl. Wasn't worth it.

    Onehunga, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 297 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    At the risk of crossing the streams with the copyright debates, Richard Stallman currently has a boycott out on the purchase of Harry Potter books, and not just because the average geek should know better anyway.

    Stallman always reminds of the UK leftist (mentioned in a book by Mark Steel I think) who refused to travel on the Jubilee Line in London because to do so would be to endorse the monarchy. Even at the cost of considerable detours when attempting to get from Canary Wharf to Waterloo.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4361 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Did you watch The Way We Live Now? Thought Matthew Macfadyen wonderfully odious as Felix Carbury. I enjoyed it, but have never read Trollope - I might now.

    Ah, so Andrew Davies isn't totally evil! :) But doesn't it say a lot about TVNZ that they've sat on this for almost seven years, drop-kicked it into the same graveyard slot as Bleak House (which I was stunned by, and I can't stand Dickens as a rule but let's not go back there) and they passed on __Cranford__ entirely, which is now screening on Sky's UKTV channel.

    But I digress. I can nit-pick the adaptation to shreds, but given the time and financial constraints I actually thought The Way We Live Now was a pretty good attempt. I do have to give you fair warning though, that the book is long, and Davies took a chainsaw to the sub-plots. But it worth sticking with, especially when you turn out mind to the ticklish notion that the way we live right now is more like Trollope's pitch black vision of London 135 years ago than is comfortable.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11784 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    reaching the unanimous conclusion that yes, [character from TSH] was exactly like [dear friend who now works for the Ministry of (Redacted)].

    My guess would be either:
    Henry - Treasury
    Bunny - Internal Affairs

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4361 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    While I'm copping to reading YA books, two others I've enjoyed lately are

    - The Carbon Diaries 2015 (Amazon)

    - The Mysterious Benedict Society (Wikipedia)

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 451 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Quite surprised we made it all the way to page 7 without someone mentioning JKR.

    It's my suspicion that some authors of series which become hugely popular, are all like, <i>now I have the power and I can leave in all the tedious nonsense they cut out of the first two if I like</i>.

    Stephen King went one better once he realised that not only could he pay the piper, but could probably afford to buy the band outright if he chose to. He actively revisted books of his that had been heavily edited when they were first released, and made his publisher put the pages back in for later editions. 'The Stand', for example, is now three to four hundred pages longer than the original version.

    He know how to write, he just doesn't know how to stop....

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2326 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    You seem to be under the impression that I actively studied White Noise as part of an academic exercise, or that it appealed to me because it was set partly on campus. Not at all: I haven't formally studied literature since the 6th form, and I've never been an academic. I read it for pleasure, but my interests in poetry and philosophy meant that "reading" for me isn't just about following a story but about everything that language can do.

    No Tom, I'm not assuming any of that. I do rather wish that I'd read White Noise in the wild as you did, rather than as a set text. It's my resentment at how the book was presented, almost as if it were some kind of insightful polemic, with little scope for meaningful discussion. Whatever DeLillo's intentions, it's the way he's allowed himself to be drafted as some kind of seer-savant that rankles with me. A bit like the role Martin Amis seems to fulfil in the UK. I don't think that White Noise is a thoroughly bad book, just ridiculously overrated, and quite possibly misrepresented.

    That you were able to make the mediaeval connection via Eco is testimony to the book's power to evoke, and it's a take that I appreciate. For me the best literature works on a personal level. Perhaps I should reconsider White Noise in that light, although it would help if DeLillo would distance himself from the false acclaim that he's attracted.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3326 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Oops, forgot to put Lyndon's bit in quotes.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2326 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    <sigh> <writes "hadyn" in the little book.>

    Talk about 500 page epics :) I'm going to have my own chapter soon.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2081 posts Report Reply

  • Josh Addison,

    It's my suspicion that some authors of series which become hugely popular, are all like, now I have the power and I can leave in all the tedious nonsense they cut out of the first two if I like.

    It certainly happens in movies -- see the Matrix sequels, which the Wachowski brothers freely admit contain every idea for a film they've ever had, in the absence of someone to give them a slap and tell them to focus.

    Onehunga, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 297 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    the ticklish notion that the way we live right now is more like Trollope's pitch black vision of London 135 years ago than is comfortable.

    Yeah, I've just done a history paper on the Victorian age and I kept thinking 'But I've heard that self-same rubbish trotted out by politicians/pressure groups just the other day'. The deserving/undeserving poor, Smilesian self-help whereby anyone can be rich & successful if they try hard enough, virtues of team-sport and discipline, equating virtue and material wealth....

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Deborah - yes, that's exactly the bit I was thinking of about the Pelennor. We appear to have spent out teenage years in similar fashion :-)

    "why?" is SF/fantasy so strong

    Good question. There's an element of sheer fun to the genres in their speculative nature that gives you scope for a bit of wish-fulfilment. So do spy novels and the like, but science fiction lets you explore the universe and fantasy does away with the laws of physics entirely. Harry Potter is classic wish-fulfilment - oppressed kid finds out he's really special, etc. Fantasy also has roots in the very oldest storytelling traditions, where monsters and gods were just part of the landscape. It's only in modern times that we've done away with them.

    So that explains the popularity of pulp SF and sword and sorcery. But there are a handful of authors who take it beyond the stereotypes and use the broader rules of the genre to explore more complex ideas. The impact of technology on society is a classic science fiction theme, and the critiques of various kinds of societies taken to an extreme. Good vs evil is the archetypical fantasy theme, but I've also seen free will vs pre-determination, tradition vs innovation and even how music can save the world. Terry Pratchett uses a fantasy-like setting to satirise all kinds of things from Shakespeare to the free market reforms of the 80s.

    The opportunities to run riot with your imagination shouldn't be discounted as a factor either. It's just fun.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 781 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    Indeed it does. Wasn't implying any judgment on what sorts of stuff people read, more of a "why?" is SF/fantasy so strong.

    My theory about this (and I'm pretty sure it would hold for a large chunk of PA readers) is that there is an area of sci-fi/fantasy that neatly bridges the gap between children's and adult's fiction so people who read at an adult or near adult level whilst still children get introduced to the genre at an impressionable age. My form 2 teacher handed out Anne McCaffery novels to the "good readers" in her class. I may have moved on from that particular author but she led me to lots of interesting places.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Yeah, I've just done a history paper on the Victorian age and I kept thinking 'But I've heard that self-same rubbish trotted out by politicians/pressure groups just the other day'.

    I think it would be a rather nice idea if someone wrote a semi-sequel called The Way We Still Live Now with the descendants of the original characters. I could easily imagine a toxic branch of the Carbury family tree groaning with City wide boys, PR flacks and cold-eyed chancers still on the hunt for a profitable marriage (and even more profitable divorce).

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11784 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    'The Stand', for example, is now three to four hundred pages longer than the original version.

    And much the worse for it. It's his best book, and the extra material adds little compared to the pace it takes away. And "updating" it to 1990 makes a whole lot of it seem less believable that it was set in 1980 - Stuart's depressed East Texas and Frannie's mother's OMG you're Pregnant and Not Married in particular.

    The whole experience put me off director's cuts entirely. I'm a massive LOTR fangirl and even I think of some those additions detract from the films.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 781 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    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?

    Sounds like a criticism that could be made of Austen, Shakespeare just as much.

    And one of the main characters in LOTR was a gardener, and there are parts in the book where he is actually gardening. And they spend quite a bit of time talking about 'taters'.

    See also the farmers huddled in the caves under Helms Deep, and the various people that enter Gondor if you want to know where the farmers are.

    No of course it's not a real reflection of an economy. It's fantasy dude.

    The whole experience put me off director's cuts entirely. I'm a massive LOTR fangirl and even I think of some those additions detract from the films.

    A true fangirl would own both versions.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6150 posts Report Reply

  • Dinah Dunavan,

    No one has yet mentioned my favourite unfinished read - Pamela. Has anyone actually managed to read it all the way through? Why and how?

    I tried Tristram Shandy once, managed a page or three. I keep it on the shelf, just in case.

    As a teenager I would consume large quantities of papery words. Dune, LoTR, W&P, lots of Shaw, Candide, Bone People, to name a few. I think the intensity of teenage hormones helped me read with such intensity. These days I prefer a book I can read from cover to cover while in the bath, without using up all the hot water and bubble bath.

    I bet if I was still a teen I'd be eating up Harry Potter instead of thinking "what boring crap". I got through book one, because it met the above criteria, but after that ... aaargh. Reminds me of the day I read my third (or fourth) Blyton book and thought "what boring crap".

    Dunedin • Since Jun 2008 • 170 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    meh. i'm thinking these LOTR haters are the ones who didn't get the audition they were after.

    fran: "i'm sorry mr. green, there are no ginger elves"
    mr. green: "but i'm wearing my sequin tights!"

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2024 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I tried Tristram Shandy once, managed a page or three.

    You guys are killing me here, you really are.

    If anybody needs me, I'll be in the bathroom, crying.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    Anything by Jane Austen.

    Movie? Whew. I think it's not so much about the worst good movie, as the best bad one. Clearly, Chariots of Fire would have to be the worst bad one.

    Oh, wait. Anything by Goddard. Sure to cure your insomnia.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 191 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    Anything by Jane Austen.

    right on.

    the films are worse. a bunch of foofy tosh.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2024 posts Report Reply

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