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View Full Version : As a Writer, What is your idea of THE perfect novel?



KTC
04-05-2010, 12:32 AM
Mine is F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY. I'm reading it right now and the language, the dialogue, the everything just excites me so much. I read one perfect sentence after another and I just get so lost in its perfection. It is THE perfect novel for me. I'm sure we all have one. I have tons of favourites...but as a writer, this is the one I use for a yardstick against all others, including my own. WHAT IS YOUR PERFECT 'IT' NOVEL?


As a bit of an aside, but still slightly on topic - Here's a little homage I once wrote to Fitz...it has a line from Gatsby in it...my all-time favourite line from anything I've ever read.

Fitzgerald and His Two Young Women

And I will dig up his grave,
and wonder at the box
in which he is kept.
And I will adorn
myself with his bones,
wear them like a coat
enshrouding
my fragile body.
And if he be but dust
I will swallow
in handfuls
to have him inside me.
And all for the sake
of an image
he wrote,
will I suffer
the height
of my madness.
“and the curtains
and the rugs
and the two young women
ballooned
slowly
to the floor”.
And for that
I will adorn myself
with his bones,
wear them like a coat,
Wrap myself in wonder
and partake of his dust.



I'd love to hear about the novel you measure all others against. I'm looking for something new to read and if somebody has a book like I have Gatsby...it has to give something to the writer inside...please share.

scarletpeaches
04-05-2010, 12:34 AM
I would say Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True but for the Hollywood ending. Still, it's as near as dammit as I've ever found in a bookshop.

KTC
04-05-2010, 12:35 AM
I would say Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True but for the Hollywood ending. Still, it's as near as dammit as I've ever found in a bookshop.

Oh man! I would love to find this one for the first time again. It mesmerized me. An excellent choice. I gushed over this one too. It's beautiful.

HelloKiddo
04-05-2010, 12:39 AM
Very tough.

I recently read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and I would be hard pressed to find a better book than that. Absolutely perfect, except for the ending, which I thought was slightly imperfect. But I could not name a single book I thought was better done.

gothicangel
04-05-2010, 12:52 AM
No novel is perfect.

Even my favourite books: Red Riding Quartet; Killing the Shadows; etc all of them had flaws.

I like flaws. :D

KTC
04-05-2010, 01:27 AM
No novel is perfect.

Even my favourite books: Red Riding Quartet; Killing the Shadows; etc all of them had flaws.

I like flaws. :D

Yes...but I'm talking about books that you use as a yardstick. Everybody thinks, 'damn, that book was perfect!' about one book or another. Don't be so literal.

KTC
04-05-2010, 01:28 AM
Very tough.

I recently read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and I would be hard pressed to find a better book than that. Absolutely perfect, except for the ending, which I thought was slightly imperfect. But I could not name a single book I thought was better done.

This one is actually on my re-read list. It's one book I don't have...and I haven't read it in years. I'm going to read it again soon.

Adam
04-05-2010, 01:44 AM
Terry Pratchett - Reaper Man.

Hilarious, great characterisation, loved it.

jennontheisland
04-05-2010, 01:47 AM
Ones that I actually remember I figure are the good ones:

Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
The Skystone by Jack Whyte
Skye O'Malley by Bertrice Small (yes, it's now considered a purple prose 80s bodice ripper, but it's been highly influential on my own writing and imo on the genre as we know it today)
Shadowland by Peter Straub

SPMiller
04-05-2010, 01:48 AM
I do not regard any novel I have read as anywhere close to perfect. Perhaps one day I will find such a book.

scarletpeaches
04-05-2010, 02:06 AM
Oh man! I would love to find this one for the first time again. It mesmerized me. An excellent choice. I gushed over this one too. It's beautiful.One of the great tragedies of my reading life is that I can only experience Lamb's works for the first time, once.

bigb
04-05-2010, 02:27 AM
Breakfast of Champions, in many ways, oh so many years ago made me want to read novels. Vonnegut, not perfect but great.

Love Fitz, I recently finished, The Beautiful and Damned

Of course I have a thing for drunks, including Bukowski and Kerouac, so what do I know.

Cyia
04-05-2010, 02:50 AM
One that sells.

KTC
04-05-2010, 03:24 AM
Of course I have a thing for drunks, including Bukowski and Kerouac, so what do I know.


me too. (-:

Jamesaritchie
04-05-2010, 05:49 AM
I just have to love reading a book. Whetehr it's a Louis L'Amour Sackett novel, a Dean Koontz suspense novel, or a Stephen King horror novel, if I'm glad I read it, it was a perfect novel.

When I'm writing, I want the same thing for my own novel. If it's good enough for someone to buy and like, it's perfect.

SirOtter
04-05-2010, 06:07 AM
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett is, IMHO, the perfect hard-boiled mystery novel.

D.A.G.
04-05-2010, 06:08 AM
I recently read Anthony Burgess' "A Clockwork Orange." Though I was disappointed to find that the slang wasn't completely invented by the author, I will be using it as my comparison standard for some time. Also, as far as specific characters go, I've yet to find a stronger male/female character than Scarlett O'Hara.

MissAimee
04-05-2010, 09:30 AM
The book I love the most is one that keeps me reading.

gothicangel
04-05-2010, 10:49 AM
Yes...but I'm talking about books that you use as a yardstick. Everybody thinks, 'damn, that book was perfect!' about one book or another. Don't be so literal.

So what is wrong with being literal?

Trying to write a 'perfect' book is like trying to fit into a mould of the 'perfect' woman. It's a myth, it's subjective.

Trying to persue perfection is destructive, it leads people to destroy sellable manuscripts with years of editing until they are empty shells.

The pursuit of perfection is probably the biggest evil in the world today. I could read the next Ian Rankin and say it's the perfect crime novel, the next reader could come along and say it was too long, the prose too literary etc.

Don't sweat the small stuff. The issue of perfection is one for the critics. :D

Namatu
04-05-2010, 05:55 PM
So what is wrong with being literal?So how about "perfectly enjoyable"? What books do you get lost in, revel in?

I've been slowly working my way through Edith Wharton's novels, enjoying the characters trapped by tradition and society into roles they do not want, and the subtle underplay of wit and humor that spark the nonconformists.

DeleyanLee
04-05-2010, 05:59 PM
I do not regard any novel I have read as anywhere close to perfect. Perhaps one day I will find such a book.

QFT

Chris P
04-05-2010, 06:05 PM
One that surprises me.

I personally like novels with a good pace, a good mix of action and internal elements, interesting word plays and plot twists, and one that entertains me but also changes me by altering my outlook in some way.

C.M.C.
04-05-2010, 06:31 PM
I'm still going with the obvious joke: mine.

Sunnyside
04-05-2010, 07:08 PM
The Grapes of Wrath. One of the very few novels I find myself reading over and over again. And I love it because Steinbeck writes the way people talk -- and when he writes people talking, it's absolutely amazing.

Phaeal
04-05-2010, 08:16 PM
I'd love to match the world-building economy and pace and plotting of Ira Levin's This Perfect Day, the beauty and wit and imagination of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and the sense and sensibility of all of Jane Austen's novels.

Plus I get to mention the narrative voice and bravura detail of Salinger's Franny and Zooey, which KTC unaccountably does not mention, him not really being Z. as I am. ;)

BrooklynLee
04-05-2010, 08:31 PM
I remember the first time I read "A Prayer for Owen Meany" (I was still a teenager at the time) and when I finished it I put it down and just thought it was perfect. So complete, in terms of how the story and all the themes came together.

As an adult I have a few more quibbles with the book than I did then, especially with the main character when he himself is an adult. But I still think that John Irving, in that book, manages to pull together all these characters and this story that is almost unbelievable and make it satisfying and complete. It feels *right* at the end. Things fall into place, and make sense, but not too soon, and not without you feeling like you have all the pieces you need.

I've read other novels that have given me that feeling, since then, but that was the first, so it looms in my mind.

KTC
04-05-2010, 08:36 PM
Plus I get to mention the narrative voice and bravura detail of Salinger's Franny and Zooey, which KTC unaccountably does not mention, him not really being Z. as I am. ;)

Have I not killed you yet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Being as I am Zachary, this is also the bestest most perfectest novel ever.

Phaeal
04-05-2010, 08:51 PM
We are all Zooey. Unless we're Franny. Or possibly Bessy or Les. I was even at a conference once with several Buddies and one beatified Seymour.

KTC
04-05-2010, 08:54 PM
oh...there are so many Seymour's out there, buddy.

Shadow_Ferret
04-05-2010, 08:56 PM
I'm glad I've never found the "perfect book," because I would think that would spoil it for all the other books I love.

stormie
04-05-2010, 09:03 PM
I remember the first time I read "A Prayer for Owen Meany" (I was still a teenager at the time) and when I finished it I put it down and just thought it was perfect. So complete, in terms of how the story and all the themes came together.

Then for that reason, you might like The Cider House Rules by the same author (John Irving). Each character was so fleshed-out and each sub-plot fit together perfectly. I've read that book three times now.

CaroGirl
04-05-2010, 09:27 PM
Off the top of my head, I can think of four novels that I truly felt came close to perfection, two of which have already been mentioned.

The Great Gatsby
A Prayer for Owen Meany
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
A Fine Balance

EFCollins
04-05-2010, 09:36 PM
Mine is F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY. I'm reading it right now and the language, the dialogue, the everything just excites me so much. I read one perfect sentence after another and I just get so lost in its perfection. It is THE perfect novel for me. I'm sure we all have one. I have tons of favourites...but as a writer, this is the one I use for a yardstick against all others, including my own. WHAT IS YOUR PERFECT 'IT' NOVEL?

This is going to sound so strange, as I write horror and the two books I'm going to mention are not.

Holocaust by Gerald Green
Almonds and Raisins by Maisie Mosco

I try to match the depth of emotion in these books. Both brought me to tears more than once. The subject matter may be difficult for some to read, but in a way, they held their own horrors. I've never felt such awe in a book as I have for these two. They are beautifully written. Green's novel is delivered in two ways, a journal of an SS officer, and the travels a Jewish young man named Rudy. The back and forth between the two makes for an interesting read as well as a touching one. Mosco's book is one of the most stunningly beautiful, heart-wrenching novels I've ever read.

I came across these books while researching for an alternate history novel I was writing (and completed). And they influenced the way I write today, even though I've gone past my trunked alternate history novel and moved on to horror, where I belong... I'll always remember these books. I'll always strive to bring my readers that kind of emotion. I'll always admire the authors, who may not be as known as they should be. Those books were life changing for me.

Dawnstorm
04-05-2010, 10:11 PM
Trying to persue perfection is destructive, it leads people to destroy sellable manuscripts with years of editing until they are empty shells.

My attitude as well. This:


I have tons of favourites...but as a writer, this is the one I use for a yardstick against all others, including my own.

And this:


I'd love to hear about the novel you measure all others against.

As a writer, I'm quite irreverant. There are no yardsticks, and I don't measure greatness at all. Instead, I sneak around at dawn scavanging what I can. My current fantasy WiP has a lot of structural parts from Middlemarch (George Eliot), for example. But of course I needed to give them special adaptation treatment, or they wouldn't have fit.

Also, a novel to measure all others with? How would that work? How can I measure something like Ulysses against Pride and Prejudice or vice versa. That's just... [impolite term censored].

KTC
04-06-2010, 01:13 AM
Also, a novel to measure all others with? How would that work? How can I measure something like Ulysses against Pride and Prejudice or vice versa. That's just... [impolite term censored].

Again. ARGH to all those who are taking me so literally. FUCK.

There is no PERFECT. we all know this.

I measure not the NOVEL The Great Gatsby, but my perception of its perfectness. The way it makes me feel...I want all novels I read to make me feel that way...I want to reach that level of "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" I huff its sentences, inject them into my veins as I read them. I am sure I could find a thousand blemishes...but I don't want to. It's THAT book for me. As writers, I thought we might all be able to come up with that book that does that for you. I want to write a book exactly like Gatsby...for somebody else. Not the same words, the same sense of wonder. I won't measure each sentence, I won't copy it word for word... I want to write that sense of wonder into its pages so that even 1 reader may stumble upon it and say, "wow. that's perfect. just perfect. i'm in love."

But if people want to go ahead and dissect my use of the term PERFECT...or argue semantics, by all means...go for it.

KTC
04-06-2010, 01:14 AM
Off the top of my head, I can think of four novels that I truly felt came close to perfection, two of which have already been mentioned.

The Great Gatsby
A Prayer for Owen Meany
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
A Fine Balance

yes to all four.

Another one i can't go without reading every few months: A SEPARATE PEACE. I want the recipe for the emotions that book explodes in me...so i can put it between the words i write.

willietheshakes
04-06-2010, 01:17 AM
A Fine Balance?

A FINE BALANCE?!?!!?!?

(makes imaginary gun out of fingers, puts barrel in mouth, pulls trigger)

:)

KTC
04-06-2010, 01:21 AM
lol. i will admit to having to read it twice.

scarletpeaches
04-06-2010, 01:50 AM
I've never read it, but it's on my mountainous...well, Mount TBR.

Shadow_Ferret
04-06-2010, 01:55 AM
I want all novels I read to make me feel that way...I want to reach that level of "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

They all do.

CaroGirl
04-06-2010, 02:01 AM
A Fine Balance?

A FINE BALANCE?!?!!?!?

(makes imaginary gun out of fingers, puts barrel in mouth, pulls trigger)

:)
Ppphhttttthhhtthhhh!! I loves it. Soo me.

Dawnstorm
04-06-2010, 05:06 AM
I measure not the NOVEL The Great Gatsby, but my perception of its perfectness. The way it makes me feel...I want all novels I read to make me feel that way...I want to reach that level of "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" I huff its sentences, inject them into my veins as I read them. I am sure I could find a thousand blemishes...but I don't want to. It's THAT book for me.

I don't get it. I get the passion, but not what it's about. I never want to go hunting for blemishes; not even for mildly entertaining novels. I read stuff, and, sure, I enjoy some more than others. But whenever someone asks about favourites I have to stop and think. Answers depend on mood; they're not reliable. But you seem to talk about more than favourites. I'm out of my depth. I don't get it.


As writers, I thought we might all be able to come up with that book that does that for you. I want to write a book exactly like Gatsby...for somebody else. Not the same words, the same sense of wonder. I won't measure each sentence, I won't copy it word for word... I want to write that sense of wonder into its pages so that even 1 reader may stumble upon it and say, "wow. that's perfect. just perfect. i'm in love."

I once wrote a story (about a unicorn) that was cringingly bad. I was - and am - embarrassed that I had ever written it. I still have it, but I'm in no hurry to go and find it. Someone raved about it. Loved it to bits. Why? And worse, how do I deal with that? I mean, it's illicit enjoyment. Nobody should love that story, but there you go. It would have been okay, if I could have pretended it wasn't me who has written it...

It's my experience that there's precious little connection between what I think about a book, and what someone else thinks about a book. Unless we talk about it. Raving about it's greatness and perfection gets you passion points, but it's exhausting and - ultimately - repetitive.

Books, to me, are pubs not shrines - if you get the metaphor. Maybe that disqualifies me for the thread?

illiterwrite
04-06-2010, 05:30 AM
I'm reading Revolutionary Road right now, and the portrayal of the little details in the breakdown of a marriage is, so far, brilliant and perfect.

PortableHal
04-06-2010, 05:36 AM
Huckleberry Finn.

gabbleandhiss
04-06-2010, 10:03 PM
American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis

. . . because I tend to write transgressive fiction. This is the book that made me realize my wheelhouse.

brokenfingers
04-06-2010, 10:06 PM
For me, the perfect novel would massage my back and get me a cold drink when I need it.

aadams73
04-06-2010, 10:07 PM
My perfect book is The Thorn Birds. Yes, really. It's epic.

willietheshakes
04-06-2010, 10:24 PM
I'm reading Revolutionary Road right now, and the portrayal of the little details in the breakdown of a marriage is, so far, brilliant and perfect.

Painfully so.

Jamesaritchie
04-07-2010, 01:36 AM
Again. ARGH to all those who are taking me so literally. FUCK.

There is no PERFECT. we all know this.

I measure not the NOVEL The Great Gatsby, but my perception of its perfectness. The way it makes me feel...I want all novels I read to make me feel that way...I want to reach that level of "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" I huff its sentences, inject them into my veins as I read them. I am sure I could find a thousand blemishes...but I don't want to. It's THAT book for me. As writers, I thought we might all be able to come up with that book that does that for you. I want to write a book exactly like Gatsby...for somebody else. Not the same words, the same sense of wonder. I won't measure each sentence, I won't copy it word for word... I want to write that sense of wonder into its pages so that even 1 reader may stumble upon it and say, "wow. that's perfect. just perfect. i'm in love."

But if people want to go ahead and dissect my use of the term PERFECT...or argue semantics, by all means...go for it.


I'm not sure anyone took you wrong. But at the same time, a Batman comic can make me feel just the way you describe.

And the criticisms of perfection apply, even with your new description.

scarletpeaches
04-07-2010, 01:40 AM
For me, the perfect novel would massage my back and get me a cold drink when I need it.Then turn into a pizza, right?
My perfect book is The Thorn Birds. Yes, really. It's epic.My ex used to dress up as a priest and-

No, wait. I'll keep that for emails.

Tallent
04-07-2010, 01:49 AM
One the grabs my brain and warps my perspective. Philip K. Dick is good at that. I can't handle a couple of his books though. Catch 22 is a good one for that.

aadams73
04-07-2010, 01:50 AM
My ex used to dress up as a priest and-

No, wait. I'll keep that for emails.

*Runs to check email*

My other perfect books would have to be I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb and Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. But there are so many books I absolutely love that provide me with the perfect read.

kurzon
04-07-2010, 02:32 AM
I don't measure books against each other (at least, not in a "this is a standard the rest of you aren't achieving" way). There are certain books and genres I reread and enjoy each time, but usually for different things.

"The Daughter of Time" by Josephine Tey, because it reminds me that history isn't real.
"A Surfeit of Lampreys" by Ngaio Marsh, because it is so funny and yet centres around a horrible act.
"Beauty" by Robin McKinley, because it so completely makes me care about the people and their lives.

And many others.

LOG
04-07-2010, 04:26 AM
Not sure about the perfect one, but I think perhaps the closest I've found are the Harry Potter and Dresden Files series.
Both have great characters(although at time HP are kinda lackluster), good plots, they don't exasperate with either dialog or narration, and their language is still very succinct.

SirOtter
04-07-2010, 04:40 AM
"The Daughter of Time" by Josephine Tey, because it reminds me that history isn't real.

Great book.

Rose English
04-07-2010, 05:16 AM
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.