Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1926

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Poll Results

The Castle by Franz Kafka 5
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway 3
Moravagine by Blaise Cendrars 2
Lud-In-The-Mist by Hope Mirrlees 1
The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie 1
The Death Ship by B. Traven 1
Mary by Vladimir Nabokov 1
Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner 1
Le Paysan De Paris by Louis Aragon 0
The Last Of Chéri by Colette 0
The World Of William Clissold by H.G. Wells 0
The Treasure Of The Lake by H. Rider Haggard 0
The Snake's Skin by Grigol Robakidze 0
The Final Shedding Of Tears by Iñigo Ed. Regalado 0
Don Segundo Sombra by Ricardo Guiraldes 0
The Embezzlers by Valentin Kataev 0
The White Collar by Mikheil Javakhishvili 0
Those Who Live On The Sea by Yoshiki Hayama 0
Truth And Justice by A. H. Tammsaare 0
R.V.S. by Arkady Gaidar 0
The Black President by Monteiro Lobato 0
One, No One And One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello 0
The Charwoman's Shadow by Lord Dunsany 0
Mad Toy by Roberto Arlt 0
The Secret Of An Island by Faustino Aguilar 0
Lao Zhang's Philosophy by Lao She 0
These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer 0
The Terrible People by Edgar Wallace 0
Summer Fruit by Dornford Yates 0
Beau Sabreur by P.C. Wren 0
Adam's Breed by Radclyffe Hall 0
Under The Tonto Rim by Zane Grey 0
Show Boat by Edna Ferber 0
My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather 0
Early Autumn by Louis Bromfield 0
The Chinese Parrot by Earl Derr Biggers 0
The Benson Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine 0
Under The Sun Of Satan by Georges Bernanos 0
The Book Of Brownies by Enid Blyton 0
Clouds Of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers 0
The Stooping Venus by Bruce Marshall 0
The River Flows by F.L. Lucas 0
The Plumed Serpent by D.H. Lawrence 0
Payment Deferred by C.S. Forester 0
ODTAA by John Masefield 0
No.17 by Joseph Jefferson Farjeon 0
Nell Gwynn by Marjorie Bowen 0
A Man Could Stand Up by Ford Maddox Ford 0
The Land Of Mist by Arthur Conan Doyle 0
Soldier's Pay by William Faulkner 0

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 17 December 2020 16:04 (nine months ago) link

A Man Could Stand Up by Ford Maddox Ford

'A boy could kick a ball in the street...'

emil.y, Thursday, 17 December 2020 16:06 (nine months ago) link

I value Kafka too much not to vote for him a second time. Bernanos would be my second pick.

pomenitul, Thursday, 17 December 2020 16:09 (nine months ago) link

The Castle is my favourite Kafka, so will have to vote for it too, some serious competition here though.

٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶ (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Thursday, 17 December 2020 16:13 (nine months ago) link

Yeah, I think Kafka has this one; only other contender in terms of popularity is Hemingway and his stock's so low these days...

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 17 December 2020 16:14 (nine months ago) link

Roger Aykroyd is a top-tier Christie with a great twist, not worth voting for but worth noting anyway.

٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶ (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Thursday, 17 December 2020 16:22 (nine months ago) link

Torn between Enid Blyton, Earl Derr Biggers, and Radclyffe Hall for most 1920s-sounding name.

jmm, Thursday, 17 December 2020 16:31 (nine months ago) link

Didn't notice Radclyffe Hall on here. I was recently given a copy of The Well of Loneliness, maybe I should get to it before 1928 comes around.

emil.y, Thursday, 17 December 2020 16:34 (nine months ago) link

those are strong Golden Age mysteries from Sayers, Christie, and Van Dine

The Sun Also Rises is cruel, self-absorbed, bitchy, and much better than it has any right to be

we're several decades past the period of peak Hemingway hype and have better context now for thinking about toxic/broken masculinity, so I think his stock may be on the rise again

Brad C., Thursday, 17 December 2020 17:29 (nine months ago) link

That Pirandello is pretty solid, though it's pretty close to a novelization of Henry IV.

justfanoe (Greg Fanoe), Thursday, 17 December 2020 17:47 (nine months ago) link

It's too bad Traven's The Death Ship is so little known because it is superb. I'll stan for it all day long. The Castle would be an equally solid choice, but I'm tossing the B. Traven my vote to ensure it gets play here.

Respectfully Yours, (Aimless), Thursday, 17 December 2020 17:53 (nine months ago) link

The Castle is the only one I've read, embarassingly enough---how is that Cendrars? Been thinking about trying him.

dow, Thursday, 17 December 2020 18:57 (nine months ago) link

Dammit how many unread Travens do I have somewhere?

dow, Thursday, 17 December 2020 18:58 (nine months ago) link

I haven't read any of his novels but his poetry, starting with his most famous work, La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France is quite classic. I have no idea what it sounds like in English, though.

pomenitul, Thursday, 17 December 2020 19:01 (nine months ago) link

Lolly Willowes is pretty extraordinary. Amazes me that it was published in 1926.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Thursday, 17 December 2020 19:05 (nine months ago) link

Yeah, Lolly Willowes might get my vote here, now that I've already voted for a Kafka. The Cather is a minor Cather but still a great book.

Roger Aykroyd is a top-tier Christie with a great twist, not worth voting for but worth noting anyway.

I'd argue it's her only interesting book, so it's also a shame that she nicked the twist from an Anton Chekhov novel from 42 years earlier.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Friday, 18 December 2020 01:33 (nine months ago) link

Was not aware of the Chekov novel, must have been done several times before though, sure there is a Poe story with the same, or a Maupassant.

My favourite Christie is the fairly obscure The Sittaford Mystery, purely for personal reasons, but I think And Then There Were None probably has the best plot (shame about the ludicrous level of racism)

٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶ (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Friday, 18 December 2020 08:01 (nine months ago) link

Lud-in-the-Mist is a really lovely book, and i think going to be my vote here. it also doubles as a really good critique of fantasy and its relationship with 'reality' i think.

Fizzles, Friday, 18 December 2020 12:19 (nine months ago) link

Since Kafka will walk this, I'll vote for 'The Last Of Chéri' by Colette.

'Under Satan's Sun' (as it's titled now, it seems?) was on my annual xmas-book-buying-binge and is on the way!

A Scampo Darkly (Le Bateau Ivre), Friday, 18 December 2020 13:51 (nine months ago) link

Cather and Lawrence's worst novels published this year.

Patriotic Goiter (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 18 December 2020 15:45 (nine months ago) link

What is Under Satan's Sun? Title reminds me of my piece about California via Buck Owens music, "We'll Sin in the Sunshine." I only know about Bernanos via passing mentions of "Diary of a Country Priest" by Pauline Kael (think she briefly reviewed a screen version?) and the narrator of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, still want to read that one too (is it good?)

dow, Friday, 18 December 2020 17:13 (nine months ago) link

Diary of a Country Priest, I mean--respect!

dow, Friday, 18 December 2020 17:14 (nine months ago) link

i've *just* bought lolly willowes. will bump it up my list.

koogs, Friday, 18 December 2020 17:34 (nine months ago) link

I think the Cendrars is the only one I’ve read, been a whole but I liked it. Anyone read the Arlt? I was a little underwhelmed by The Seven madmen.

JoeStork, Friday, 18 December 2020 20:07 (nine months ago) link

those are strong Golden Age mysteries from Sayers, Christie, and Van Dine

otm, voted Christie

howls of non-specificity (sleeve), Friday, 18 December 2020 20:17 (nine months ago) link

i don’t really like the murder of roger ackroyd. i see it’s a tour de force or whatever, but something about it - and i’ll try and be a bit more cogent in literary thoughts now i’ve got some time off over christmas - doesn’t work for me.

Fizzles, Friday, 18 December 2020 20:18 (nine months ago) link

oh god that’s an awful post. i like the *technique* of golden age tec fic and i think ackroyd is an example of something else (which is clever and good) but i don’t like the way it’s raised above other stuff from the period.

Fizzles, Friday, 18 December 2020 20:36 (nine months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Sunday, 20 December 2020 00:01 (eight months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Monday, 21 December 2020 00:01 (eight months ago) link


Daniel_Rf, Monday, 21 December 2020 17:14 (eight months ago) link

Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1927

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 21 December 2020 17:14 (eight months ago) link

I stan Faulkner and Nabokov but Mashenka and Soldier's Pay are both pretty meh.

Faulkner will completely pwn 1929. Nabokov may need to wait until 1955 but I hope he gets at least some love in 1941 for The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

coup coup kajoo (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 21 December 2020 17:30 (eight months ago) link

Lud-in-the-Mist is a really lovely book, and i think going to be my vote here. it also doubles as a really good critique of fantasy and its relationship with 'reality' i think.

― Fizzles, Friday, December 18, 2020 12:19 PM (two weeks ago)

would be interested to hear more about this. i think it could be read as an allegory of any number of things, but what most struck me about it was the outright ambiguity. 'fairy fruit' is unquestionably like a hard drug in its effects - it fucks you up and the only cure is more fairy fruit - and its purveyors are at best unscrupulous ne'er-do-wells, at worst murderers and tyrants. yet it's ultimately deemed as essential, even good, for the dorimarites, rescuing them from their rather humdrum and kitsch lives of contentment (not joy), affection (not love), and sadness (not grief).

ledge, Monday, 4 January 2021 11:13 (eight months ago) link

two weeks pass...

― Fizzles, Friday, December 18, 2020 12:19 PM (two weeks ago)

would be interested to hear more about this. i think it could be read as an allegory of any number of things, but what most struck me about it was the outright ambiguity. 'fairy fruit' is unquestionably like a hard drug in its effects - it fucks you up and the only cure is more fairy fruit - and its purveyors are at best unscrupulous ne'er-do-wells, at worst murderers and tyrants. yet it's ultimately deemed as essential, even good, for the dorimarites, rescuing them from their rather humdrum and kitsch lives of contentment (not joy), affection (not love), and sadness (not grief).

― ledge, Monday, 4 January 2021 11:13 bookmarkflaglink

belatedly redeeming my 'lud-in-the-mist answer' token for ledge.

i'd been meaning to re-read it to clarify my thoughts on it, and this question finally prompted me to. I'd reiterate that it's a really lovely book: beautifully written on a sentence by sentence level, and really making full use of the potential for exploring the unusual patterns or versions of emotion that fantasy can deliver; nostalgia, longing and hiraeth are explored with a great deal of subtlety, garden and farmland/rural forms of pastoral are warmly described (I get strong Walter de la Mare vibes from it).

One of the key modes that allows this subtlety is, as you say, ambiguity. It's not at all clear to the reader until very near the end whether, to put it rather bluntly, latter day Dorimarites are repressed or legitimately trying to withstand decadent forces that would make them ill and destroy their pleasant civic idyll. Or are they pompous, complacent, unimaginative burghers, out of touch with those they govern who are repressing not just themselves but others around them, and who, like the people they govern, would find fulfilment with a liberality of love, imaginative life, sadness and beauty, and 'what one can only call the tragic sense of life,' as the book calls it? This ambiguity is managed very well by hiding the inner motivations and histories of the key characters, the unravelling or revelation of which is critical to resolving Dorimare's 'problem,' which forms the main content of the plot. The ambiguity is maintained through much of the imagery, most obviously in the figure of Duke Aubrey, "a hunchback with a face of angelic beauty" who rumour tells is both given to capricious largesse and who was said to laugh when he made a Fool hang himself.

All of which is taking quite a long time to come round to saying that I'm not sure why LitM has such a high degree of chemical valence, as it were, for the fantasy genre. I'll have a go at a theory, but I don't think it's rock solid.

My view, which will have been formed piecemeal and without any rigour, is that 'magic' largely in any form (apart from perhaps its historical form) can be understood as 'discontinuity'. Whether that's a person vanishing from a box on stage, or some children going through a door in the back of a wardrobe to another world. I sort of see one aspect of 'realist' art, as the preservation of energy throughout the work – the classical unities is one version of this. another one might be ensuring there's a gun on a mantelpiece early on if it's going to be used later, or the distaste for a detective novel being solved by something unknown to the reader because not contained in the book. Magic (and gods) breaks this – it is in fact 'energy out of nowhere'.

(The reason I said earlier that this doesn't necessarily hold for 'historical' magic, is that this the pursuit of the chain whereby energy can be tapped or forced from *somewhere*. That might be via the control of and communication with kakodaimons/daemons, or via topographically significant 'thin' places, or nemeton, where other worlds are available. Although I tend to associate 'magic' with renaissance thinking, it seems most analogous to scholastic humanism. That is to say rather than the literary humanism of the renaissance, it's a scientific humanism – they were aggregators of information – designed to fathom the doctrinal structure of the universe, which required the supernatural as the necessary completion of the natural world. This is about finding scientifically continuous channels whereby the energies can be derived rather than the discontinuity of literary or show magic.)

I think what Lud-in-the-Mist does is take a large number of archetypal aspects of folklore, the fantastic, and magic 'rules' and put them in a place of historical and geographical continuity. Both of these things allow the mechanics governing the relation between the fairy and the 'real' to be spatialised (chronologically and geographically) and dramatised. On the chronological/historical scale, the burghers overthrew a feudal system and replaced the fictional magic of fairy fruit with the fictional magic of jurisprudence and the law: Mirrlees and the book is quite explicit about this parallel.

The men of the revolution, he said, had substituted law for fairy fruit. But whereas only the reigning Duke and his priests had been allowed to partake of the fruit, the law was given freely to rich and poor alike. Again, fairy was delusion, so was the law. At any rate, it was a sort of magic, moulding reality into any shape it chose. But, whereas fairy magic and delusion were for the cozening and robbing of man, the magic of the law was to his intention and for his welfare.

With this parallel, the reader in their irl world (ie us) is being given a dramatisation of 'our' relationship with the world of the imagination. I'm not so sure that this is deliberately intended as a capitalist interpretation of the feudal to capitalist transition of the second millennium AD, it's just the tools and images that transformation offers are used to clothe the allegory: Dorimare and its burghers, as well as its plebeians, are characterised strongly in a late renaissance (16th C) Dutch manner.

Effectively there is a triangle of interpretation for the reader, whose points are Dorimare, the world in which the reader is sitting in and reading the book, and the fairy/fantastical/fabulistic/exemplars, all of which communicate with each other to generate ambiguity and insight.

Put into this epistemological map, and available for examination in the framework so created, are various standard rules and tropes of fantasy, folklore and fairy. I've just itemised the ones that occur to me:

  • delusion: gold turning to straw outside of dorimare (but straw as a mercantile item): a common folkloric trope: gold turns to straw in the morning. straw can be sold for financial value in the mercantile world: the transaction is continuous and tangible rather than magical.
  • monde renversé
  • puckish misrule and mischief
  • taboo: fairy things becoming vice in the new civic/mercantile/legal world and becoming more vicious as a consequence: 'to eat fairy fruit was regarded as a loathsome and filthy vice, practised in low taverns by disruptiable and insignificant people, such as indigo sailors and pigmy Norsemen.'
  • the association of the fairy with death opens up a whole new space of unresolved loss, longing, sadness and tragedy, which is seen to be insufficiently realised by mercantile Dorimare.
  • the relationship to art, and the relation between that which is symbolised and its symbol - art without ongoing fruits of imagination being a mere poncif uncomprehending of that which it is symbolising (the landscape of the imagination).
It is itself quite a magical book, I think, in terms of what it does. My general assumption about magic, fairy and the like is that it requires framing to believe, it needs proscenium arch so to speak, to retain its magic for the sceptical or enquiring mind, a mechanism for enable the willing suspension of disbelief. It's the book's magic i think that the mechanism used for that suspension is itself something that enables enquiry and scepticism, and toys with that scepticism with its ambiguity.

I think 'other reading' here would be The Ethics of Elfland in GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy, which as well as being really good apologetics, i think, is also very good on the rules of fairy tales/fantasy.

Fizzles, Sunday, 24 January 2021 12:00 (seven months ago) link

I don't know that much about the history of fantasy, but this may be a very early example of what I've noticed in contemporary fantasy and genre-mixes, of magic as an extension of technology and other Real systems---and the Renaissance connection you make is right: while Leonardo designs flying machines and pre-Gatling Guns and so on, someone else is writing a an alchemy textbook (I thought of alchemy when first heard of 3-D printing).
The presentation of fairy fruit in context of this society makes me think of some debates re LSD when it became illegal and much more widely used, getting away from Leary's set and setting to the Pranksters' let it all hang out, the more popular or widely used approach---what could the benefits to society be, if any, of using it---also the careful guidance toward use of peyote, the climatic ritual, in the Neo-American Church, vs. rando party tricks (NAC usage eventually outlawed too)
And in the Duneverse, the sanctioned use of the drug commonly known as spice as subsitute for forbidden cybernetics, after the Butlerian Jihad: so for instance space navigators take it---no more HALs out there---it's a griot or oracle universe cartography, also morphing-distorting toward the image of the God Emperor of Dune, the planetary source of spice (actually He turns out to be a tiresome prankster Mr. Natural knock-off, but that does add to the druggy warpage)
What else did Hope Mirrlees write??

dow, Sunday, 24 January 2021 19:12 (seven months ago) link

(Also makes me think of Le Guin novels like The Dispossessed: societies faced w risk, whether to take a chance on a variable/wild card element, or try to hang on to things as they are)

dow, Sunday, 24 January 2021 19:26 (seven months ago) link

like brexit? oh no we weren't faced with any risks. except for the immigrants coming over here and taking our jobs.

thanks fizzles, lots to mull over as usual. and lots of indigestible chesterton gristle to chew on too! sorry. will try and respond more fully (and - slightly - more generously re: chesterton) later.

ledge, Sunday, 24 January 2021 21:12 (seven months ago) link

the chesterton element is a bit of a distraction tbh, i was just thinking “who else has taken a meta approach to the theory of fairy stories?”

and tbh i think the weakness of my... whatever it is.. too grand to call it an argument or theory... is well, don’t many fantasy stories do this to a degree? ie posit a relationship between the world of the reader, an internally representative world, and fantastic or fairy elements?

i would probably answer “maybe, but LitM more so”.

one common rule, which isn’t present in LitM, is the idea of “ageing out” beyond pubescence, eg Susan in Narnia, and... also Susan in Greenwitch. (making me realise it’s not a v common name any more). is that post LitM? (i can’t remember whether it’s present in the five children and it stories). in litm that childhood capability actually belongs to a period of history rather than a period of one’s life.

dow - hope mirrlees is a p interesting if minor figure.
lrb did this recently on her interesting and strange sounding poem Paris.

Great claims have been made for this little read poem. Julia Briggs, who produced a set of exhaustive and illuminating glosses reproduced in Faber’s centenary edition, described it as a ‘lost modernist masterpiece’. It has been called a precursor to and possible model for The Waste Land (in Paris the dead of the First World War people the city alongside the living, and it experiments with numbered explanatory notes); it has been called an example of the mythic method before Ulysses (it fuses classical ritual with the contemporary everyday); it has been called a model for Jacob’s Room (in its experiments with white space on the page), for Mrs Dalloway (as an account of a woman’s journey across a city in the course of a single day) and for Orlando (in its coded lesbian poetics). It has been celebrated as the first Cubist work in English, the first introduction for English readers to the typographic experiments and fragmentary collage of Cocteau, Cendrars and Apollinaire, and the prototype for modernist psychogeography.

‘A very self conscious, wilful, prickly and perverse young woman, rather conspicuously well dressed and pretty, with a view of her own about books and style, an aristocratic and conservative tendency in opinion and a corresponding taste for the beautiful and elaborate in literature’

was Virginia Woolf’s view.

Fizzles, Monday, 25 January 2021 09:05 (seven months ago) link

Do you think LitM is somewhat unbalanced in its depictions of Fairy and non-Fairy? The dilemma of Dorimare, particularly as personified by Chanticleer, is expertly realised. Little is explicitly said against them, aside from the fact that they are missing the 'tragic sense of life' their world is happy and harmless enough. But Chanticleer is half aware that he is living in a dream, so cosy and cossetted that to wake up seems a nightmare:

But after he had heard the Note a more stay-at-home and steady young man could not have been found in Lud-in-the-Mist. For it had generated in him what one can only call a wistful yearning after the prosaic things he already possessed. It was as if he thought he had already lost what he was actually holding in his hands.
This nostalgia for what was still there seemed to find a voice in the cry of the cock, which tells of the plough going through the land, the smell of the country, the placid bustle of the farm, as happening now, all round one; and which, simultaneously, mourns them as things vanished centuries ago.

This is the best and most explicit diagnosis of his - and by extension Dorimare's - spiritual malaise:

For he realized at last that the spiritual balm he had always found in silent things was simply the assurance that the passions and agonies of man were without meaning, roots, or duration.

I've suffered similar feelings and while many of us may occasionally take consolation that our passions and agonies are as nothing when measured against the inevitable heat death of the universe, to fervently wish this is a sign of sickness, and the other symptoms can be serious, as we learn when Chanticleer wakes up and goes to rescue his children from Fairyland:

"Well, well," said Peter Pease, "I warrant it'll be the first time in the history of Dorimare that a man has loved his son well enough to follow him yonder."

It's an appalling state of affairs when no-one loves their children enough to follow them into and rescue them from danger.

Contrast all this with the depiction of Fairy. "fairy magic and delusion were for the cozening and robbing of man" writes Chanticleer's father, which is surely self-serving, but the book and the narrator go along with it completely. Why isn't Fairy drawn with the subtlety of Dorimare? You say the Duke was given to capricious largesse but appearing at a village wedding with a cart-load of wine and cakes and fruit seems poor compensation for raping and murdering his subjects. Obviously there's a parody of parental and societal disapproval of poets and narcotics (and fairy tales), the insistence that one must grow up to become a doctor or lawyer or dissolution will be the end of thee:

(Fairy fruit) had, indeed, always been connected with poetry and visions, which, springing as they do from an ever-present sense of mortality, might easily appear morbid to the sturdy common sense of a burgher-class in the making

But why don't we see things from the other side? Chanticleer's son is brought to near mental collapse by eating fairy fruit, the fairies are child stealers, their drug mules are murderers and their Duke is a tyrant - seems like the burghers are not wrong in their judgement.

ledge, Monday, 25 January 2021 20:20 (seven months ago) link

Looks like "Paris, A Poem" is still available as Kindle and paperback.
Entry on her here mainly re: Lud-In-The-Mist:

dow, Tuesday, 26 January 2021 23:13 (seven months ago) link

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