Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1955

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I didn't like Lolita at the time but I can't remember enough about it to re-read. Nabokov's critical method for evaluating novels is a bit boring (close reading without Empson style pay-offs). I'll give his Memoir a go because I like his writing and maybe a Proust style knock-off might get me back on it. Otherwise:

The Recognitions by William Gaddis
Conversations With Professor Y by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
After Dark, My Sweet by Jim Thompson
The Talented Mr.Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Its clearly Jim Thompson: 5x books in '53 and '54 and he really needs my vote.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 1 April 2021 14:04 (five months ago) link

Preda’s slavish realism bores me no less than Eliade’s fash fantasies, so that leaves the non-Romanians. I’ve never managed to get into Nabokov, unfortunately – every word of his rings hollow to my ears. Mordecai Richler is a bit of an eye-roller when viewed through a Montreal non-Anglo lens, so no thank you. I wish I’d read the Gaddis, which sounds like it would be up my alley. The Highsmith is fun, but not entirely my cup of tea either. On the francophone front, none of these are faves of mine tbh, so I’m ultimately going to vote for... the Tolkien, to offset his poor 1954 showing.

pomenitul, Thursday, 1 April 2021 14:27 (five months ago) link

Lolita is a good book but its reputation spiralled wildly out of control. I may well still vote for it, though.

Nabokov's critical method for evaluating novels is a bit boring

Oh god, I tried reading some of his critical work and remember it being mostly very bad indeed. My main recollection was thinking "how can someone who created Pale Fire be so tedious in his literary opinions?" But I guess the lesson is to not assume that just because someone created something you love that they actually share your sensibilities. (I've learnt this lesson a lot of times now but it never quite sticks properly.)

emil.y, Thursday, 1 April 2021 14:35 (five months ago) link

I think the way he can 'attack' a page can sometimes be wonderful. I really value his writing on Mansfield Park. Dostoevsky is where you can see the failings. He can only see a novel in terms of its technical achievement.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 1 April 2021 14:43 (five months ago) link

Technique also involves knowing when to let go of technique, or providing the illusion of letting go. My main gripe with him, actually.

pomenitul, Thursday, 1 April 2021 14:46 (five months ago) link

I am mad at the Gaddis because I just got sonned by the nyrb in a April fools beef

jammy mcnullity (wins), Thursday, 1 April 2021 14:49 (five months ago) link

Gaddis is kinda good in places but the overall didn't come together for me. I really want to tackle JR tho'.

Love Highsmith but that's not her best book (of the ones I've read, which aren't enough). Fucking great writer tho'.

xp = technique for Nabokov is inseparable to aesthetic pleasure you can gain from a work. This all comes apart in Dostoevsky.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 1 April 2021 14:49 (five months ago) link

It also is for me nine times out of ten, yet his strikes me as superficial. Oh well.

pomenitul, Thursday, 1 April 2021 14:50 (five months ago) link

I read "Lolita" a long time ago but don't remember it very well. I've had "The Recognitions" on my bookshelves for the longest time. I started it once. Maybe someday. For me, this would probably be "The Magician's Nephew" which is my favorite of the Narnia books, because the most sci-fi. It reminds me of "A Wrinkle in Time".

o. nate, Thursday, 1 April 2021 17:46 (five months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Sunday, 4 April 2021 00:01 (five months ago) link

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

System, Monday, 5 April 2021 00:01 (five months ago) link

Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1956

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 5 April 2021 10:42 (five months ago) link

two weeks pass...

I confess that I really like The Recognitions (and Gaddis generally) but it's hard to argue when Lolita is in the mix.

Jurassic parkour (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 22 April 2021 14:12 (five months ago) link


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