Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1941

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Poll Results

Thomas The Obscure by Maurice Blanchot 3
The Real Life Of Sebastian Knight by Vladimir Nabokov 3
Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain 3
Ida by Gertrude Stein 2
Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton 2
The G String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee 2
Julie de Carneilhan by Colette 2
The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson 1
Surfeit Of Lampreys by Ngaio Marsh 1
As For Me And My House by Sinclair Ross 1
An Béal Bocht by Flann O'Brien 1
Between Two Worlds by Upton Sinclair 1
Don Giovanni In Sicilia by Vitaliano Brancati 0
Yawar Fiesta by José María Arguedas 0
Reflections In A Golden Eye by Carson McCullers 0
The Twins At St.Clare's by Enid Blyton 0
Malela Jeev by Pannalal Patel 0
Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan 0
The Gobi Desert by Pierre Benoit 0
The Man In A Hurry by Paul Morand 0
Eric In The Land Of The Insects by Godfried Bomans 0
The Lion Of Yanina by Stoyan Christowe 0
The Hammer Of God by Bo Giertz 0
A Leaf In The Storm by Lin Yutang 0
Hawk's Nest by Hubert Skidmore 0
Ride This Night by Vilhem Moberg 0
Ariel by Alexander Belyaev 0
Random Harvest by James Hilton 0
The Monarch Of The Glen by Compton Mackenzie 0
The Man In Grey by Eleanor Smith 0
My Theodosia by Anya Seton 0
The Hills Beyond by Thomas Wolfe 0
The Giant Joshua by Maurine Whipple 0
Delilah by Marcus Goodrich 0
China Sky by Pearl S. Buck 0
Blood On The Forge by William Attaway 0
The Black Stallion by Walter Farley 0
The Outsiders Of Uskoken Castle by Kurt Held 0
In This Our Life by Ellen Glasgow 0
Metuselah's Children by Robert A. Heinlein 0
A Fish Dinner In Memison by Eric Rucker Eddison 0
Evil Under The Sun by Agatha Christie 0
Between The Acts by Virginia Woolf 0
The Living And The Dead by Patrick White 0
The Battlers by Kylie Tennant 0
What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Shulberg 0
Storm by George Rippey Stewart 0
Out Of This Furnace by Thomas Bell 0
Mars In Aries by Alexander Lernet-Holenia 0

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 11 February 2021 15:18 (four months ago) link

No idea what the canonical pick is going to be here - Hangover Square? Mildred Pierce? Black Beauty??

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 11 February 2021 15:26 (four months ago) link

I got nothing for this year. I should really read Mildred Pierce!

horseshoe, Thursday, 11 February 2021 15:46 (four months ago) link

I've read nothing. Voting for The G String Murders.

jmm, Thursday, 11 February 2021 16:03 (four months ago) link

Fucking LOVE An Béal Bocht but haven’t read it in forever. Just remember it being funny as fuck. It’s a pastiche of all those misery type memoirs like Peig. I’ve only read it in English though so can’t comment on the original. Strangely, the Irish original is by Myles na gCopaleen?

scampless, rattled and puce (gyac), Thursday, 11 February 2021 16:41 (four months ago) link

xps to Daniel Black Beauty isn’t here, alas, or I would have slammed the vote button for that. 1877!

scampless, rattled and puce (gyac), Thursday, 11 February 2021 16:42 (four months ago) link

the Nabokov is the only one I've read here, I think.

my mom was a big mystery fan in the 70s and I vividly remember all the Ngaio Marsh books on her shelves

Überschadenfreude (sleeve), Thursday, 11 February 2021 16:45 (four months ago) link

I chose the Ngaio just because that's one helluva title.

yes gyac sorry I meant the Black STALLION

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 11 February 2021 16:46 (four months ago) link

Think I may have read the Stein, Heinlein and Wolfe, but the only one I really remember, overall and in some words on the page, is Colette's Julie de Carneilhan, which motivated me to type several grafs into What Are You Reading? several years ago: she's not so young yet still restless, an Indian Summer babe in the country---the worn, dusty vintage family farm--and the city, with for instance, in the passage I quote, a younger man, whose attentions she craves whose solicitude she resists, taking it as a marker of her age, though she wants to swoop down and defend him from "these bitches" all over town, other things going on, as we run around Paris: a novella, tight enough and layered and lambent and jostling too.

dow, Thursday, 11 February 2021 17:29 (four months ago) link

whose attentions she demands and craves.

dow, Thursday, 11 February 2021 17:34 (four months ago) link

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight is good but this has to be Hangover Square. Poor George Bone.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Thursday, 11 February 2021 18:22 (four months ago) link

Not read a whole lot but this is easily 'Thomas the Obscure' by Blanchot for me. A staggering stream-of-consciousness work that is at times blissfully dreamy, at times utterly nightmarish. Catnip.

A Scampo Darkly (Le Bateau Ivre), Thursday, 11 February 2021 19:49 (four months ago) link

Blood On The Forge by William Attaway -- brutal little masterpiece

The G String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee -- lots of fun, no wonder Carson McCullers had a crush on her when they shared a house together

Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain -- I know I've read this and it was good but overshadowed by his other more overtly crime stuff for me

The Real Life Of Sebastian Knight by Vladimir Nabokov -- Nobokov + chess is great, obviously

Reflections In A Golden Eye by Carson McCullers -- I really liked this, though Member of the Wedding is better

Storm by George Rippey Stewart -- fascinating book in which a massive storm in California is the main protagonist; individual humans only enter the plot briefly to be killed or to struggle

What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Shulberg -- another screenwriter-flailing-in-Hollywood book, of which I could read an endless supply

Between The Acts by Virginia Woolf -- wonderfully pitched social comedy , though I could have done with a fair bit less of the script of the actual performance itself

Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton -- one of my favourite books, really grim and genuinely funny comedy of obsessive, hopeless love and psychosis; poor George Bone indeed

Julie de Carneilhan by Colette -- even lesser Colette is full of beautifully judged observations and pitiless exploration of people on the make

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Friday, 12 February 2021 00:52 (four months ago) link

LBI otm

pomenitul, Friday, 12 February 2021 00:56 (four months ago) link

Evil Under the Sun is the only one I've read. It's fine. Not something I'd vote for.

wasdnuos (abanana), Friday, 12 February 2021 03:17 (four months ago) link

The Long Ships is great

badg, Friday, 12 February 2021 03:31 (four months ago) link

Three Swedish novels in this year btw, which is well above wikipedia average.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 12 February 2021 11:38 (four months ago) link

The G String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee -- lots of fun, no wonder Carson McCullers had a crush on her when they shared a house together Reminds me that my local library has this, think I might get it tomorrow:

Sherill Tippins, February House : The Story of W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof in Wartime America(2005)

Verified Purchaser Charles S. Houser describes it v. appealingly:

Sherill Tippins has done an amazing job of finding the significant narrative threads in the chaotic convergence of creative lives that occurred in the months before Pearl Harbor when Harper's Bazaar editor George Davis and British expatriate poet W.H. Auden rented a brownstone on 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn Heights and actively recruited other creative artists to live with them. Among the co-renters were Carson McCullers who had recently published her highly acclaimed first novel, "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter," soon-to-be famous British composer Benjamin Britten and his parnter, singer Peter Pears, unpublished novelists Paul and Jane Bowles, Broadway set designer Oliver Smith, writer Richard Wright and his wife, and burlesque sensation Gypsy Rose Lee, who it turns out was the most reliable in the rent-paying department and joined the little "creative commune" on the condition that she could bring her own cook and maid. Her fiscal reliability and drive along with Auden's willingness to take on the unpleasant role of house disciplinarian (collecting rent and other "dues" and establishing and enforcing many house rules) are probably sufficient explanation for why this menage managed to last the two or three years it did.

Tippins wisely focuses her attention on the leading figures (without neglecting to name the many others who partied but did not reside at 7 Middagh--Salvador and Gala Dali, Lincoln Kirstein, George Balanchine, Erika Mann and her brothers Klaus and Golo, to name a few). One passer-through, Anais Nin, christened the dwelling "February House" because so many of the residents had February birthdays. Tippins has a good knowledge of the works of these creative people and is able to see how one of the artists intentionally or inadvertantly influenced a subsequent work of one of his or her co-residents. For example, McCullers was struggling with the novel that would later become "The Member of the Wedding" when she was able to appropriate an experience from Chester Kallman's childhood to explain her heroine's profound sense of alienation and abandonment (Kallman was Auden's lover).

Tippins other great achievement here was her ability to slice through history and palpably recreate the political atmosphere in pre-war New York and to do so in a way that reflects on both British and US perspectives. She takes a good hard look at the criticism expatriates like Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Britten, and Pears faced from the British press and fellow artists who chose to remain in Great Britian during the war. She is similarly insightful in her analysis of the role the Mann family had in trying to get an apathetic America to respond to the European crisis. A lesser writer might not have bothered with these issues and chosen to report only the salacious and saleable anecdotes about the goings-on of the February House residents.

I highly recommend this book to anyone even passingly interested in one of the artists who lived at 7 Middagh Street (you're sure to learn something new), to anyone who ever wondered how great works of art come about, or to anyone interested in knowing how history and art intersect...

dow, Friday, 12 February 2021 17:21 (four months ago) link

Yeah, February House is very entertaining

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Friday, 12 February 2021 22:46 (four months ago) link


budo jeru, Saturday, 13 February 2021 01:35 (four months ago) link

Think I've read Mildred Pierce certainly seen the film and heard the SY toon.

Also think I've read obrien cos I think I've read the main ones. Not read his Hard Life yet which I should correct.

& otherwise seem to have read too little from this year.

Stevolende, Saturday, 13 February 2021 08:29 (four months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Sunday, 14 February 2021 00:01 (four months ago) link

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

System, Monday, 15 February 2021 00:01 (four months ago) link

Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1942

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 15 February 2021 11:57 (four months ago) link

I loved studying Blanchot's criticism and had never read Thomas The Obscure, so I gave it a go. It is exactly the sort of book I usually love, but I found it lacking. A lot of the time I was drumming my fingers going "yeah yeah, everything contains its own negation, every self contains the other, get on with it". I thought that the death chapter and the final chapter had a bit more meat to them, but overall the writing wasn't beautiful enough to carry such a labouring of the point. I certainly didn't hate it, and I was reading on PDF which I dislike doing and that might have soured my mood, but my overall reaction is disappointment.

emil.y, Friday, 19 February 2021 18:49 (four months ago) link

I hate reading Blanchot in translation, so I can't say I blame you. His writing is a balancing act – it threatens to vanish into its own putative neutrality at every step of the way yet somehow does not, so I certainly don't expect that effect to carry over well into another language. This is especially true of his fiction btw. That said, you might like Death Sentence more, it's less Lautréamont-esque than Thomas the Obscure, which I think of as a work of prose poetry first and foremost.

pomenitul, Friday, 19 February 2021 18:55 (four months ago) link

I did wonder if it might be an issue with translation as well, though I imagine a lot of the people who expressed admiration for it here read the same translation. Would definitely be up for trying more, or hell, even trying again with Thomas in actual book form (my attention does wander when I read things online).

emil.y, Friday, 19 February 2021 19:04 (four months ago) link

I haven't even so much as skimmed the English translation of Thomas l'Obscur, so for all I know it's a stunning technical feat and my criticism is moot. It's best to take what I say with a grain of salt, since I tend to come down hard on translations in general ('traduttore, traditore' is 100% true as far as I'm concerned despite the superhuman efforts of critical theorists to argue their way around it).

pomenitul, Friday, 19 February 2021 19:15 (four months ago) link

Well, I agree that translations will never have the same meaning as the original. But I also believe that no reading will have the same meaning as the original either (yes, I am a crit theorist, how do you do?).

emil.y, Friday, 19 February 2021 19:41 (four months ago) link

no reading will have the same meaning as the original

Oh of course, that goes without saying. You could even take it a step further and state – dons sunglasses – that there is no original either. :)

pomenitul, Friday, 19 February 2021 19:43 (four months ago) link

I mean, most things I read and literally everything I write have, at their core, the impossibility of true communication with any other. We do our best with the tools at our disposal, translation included.

xpost lol, YES.

emil.y, Friday, 19 February 2021 19:44 (four months ago) link

Silly crit theory jokes aside, yeah, that's spot on, and Blanchot himself obviously agreed (see his essay on Benjamin's 'Task of the Translator', reprinted in Friendship). If anything, it's a hang-up of mine since I've done a fair amount of translation over the years and it's always a tremendously frustrating experience that requires you to own up to your inevitable failure (then again, when is that ever not true? Beckett knew a thing or two about this, incidentally).

pomenitul, Friday, 19 February 2021 19:49 (four months ago) link

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