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Craving discussions about classic literature? If so, then you are invited into the Classic Lit Oasis Tent.

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llyralen

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Sheer silk curtains? Pillows with tassels? Lavish embroidered rugs? Bare feet or soft socks and pajamas? Volunteer servants with falcons on their shoulders (whatever, pretend it's your own tent). Drinks and smoothies. Puppies and kittens. If you weren't enjoying the ambiance and food so much, you'd stay just for the conversation.

I so hope I can get my classic lit fix here with some of you!

--Bring up any author or book you think is one of the contenders of "great". Lets discuss! Good writing you love should be welcome here.
--Compare the best of the best. Their ideas, their minds, the beauty, the impact of their work.
--Quote passages or bring up the ideas that catch your attention and that you would love to share and discuss.

Are there other souls craving this kind of talk out there? There must be! Grab a pillow, get a foot bath, and LOVE classic lit here.
 
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I would like to start with a quote by Machiavelli that seems appropriate and maybe we can discuss whether we like him or not and if we think he did the world good or evil.

“When evening comes, I return home and go into my study. On the threshold I strip off my muddy, sweaty, workday clothes, and put on the robes of court and palace, and in this graver dress I enter the antique courts of the ancients and am welcomed by them, and there I taste the food that alone is mine, and for which I was born. And there I make bold to speak to them and ask the motives of their actions, and they, in their humanity, reply to me. And for the space of four hours I forget the world, remember no vexation, fear poverty no more, tremble no more at death: I pass indeed into their world.”
― Niccolo Machiavelli
 

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Cool thread! Thanks for starting it.

I read Machiavelli's The Prince a number of years ago. I think he's a little misunderstood in our time because he wasn't so much "war, war, war" but "war is useful so use it." My big takeaway from The Price, however, was that success or failure in war depends on a combination of nearly infinite factors that would be impossible to replicate. I suspect, without having studied it, he was more interested in impressing his pals (and benefactors) by praising the genius of those his audience admired, and vilifying their enemies as fools. The confirmation bias is strong with this one. But as Tolstoy takes pains to point out in War and Peace (one of my ten classics to take to another planet), chance and randomness play so large a role in success or failure that the idea of "military science" is ludicrous. I'm with Tolstoy on this one.
 
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llyralen

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Cool thread! Thanks for starting it.

I read Machiavelli's The Prince a number of years ago. I think he's a little misunderstood in our time because he wasn't so much "war, war, war" but "war is useful so use it." My big takeaway from The Price, however, was that success or failure in war depends on a combination of nearly infinite factors that would be impossible to replicate. I suspect, without having studied it, he was more interested in impressing his pals (and benefactors) by praising the genius of those his audience admired, and vilifying their enemies as fools. The confirmation bias is strong with this one. But as Tolstoy takes pains to point out in War and Peace (one of my ten classics to take to another planet), chance and randomness play so large a role in success or failure that the idea of "military science" is ludicrous. I'm with Tolstoy on this one.
Yay! =)
I love Tolstoy as well.
My husband is a military historian and Clausewitz is a contemporary of Tolstoy whose book "On War" is considered equal to Sun Tzu's "The Art of War". Clausewitz's ideas are currently used at least in the American military. He is often less talked about for some reason that I don't know-- except that his concepts are really difficult and his book was difficult to translate, I guess. He addressed the confusion of war-- it's considered his most brilliant contribution-- he even had a term for the confusion of war that was almost the discussion of this whole class my husband took His genius really blew my mind. What I loved reading most was his ideas on different leaders and his address of the compassion for soldiers that a great leader has and an anger for the enemy that threatens their soldiers and also his writing of the sacrifices that the leaders have to make in war in order to push their aims.

On Machiavelli, he's a good one for me to start a conversation with because I'm really on the fence. I could lean either side depending on what people think. I read "The Prince". The time period he lived in in the late 1500's was pretty much the height of torture machines and all that jazz. I agree with you he was looking out for his own advancement for sure. It seems like his philosophies were philosophies that navigated that culture of pain and tyranny. If you're going to be a tyrant-- do it right, right? But I wonder with my modern eyes, did his ideas do anything to improve anyone's lives? Or did it make them worse? You'd think worse at first glace. I'm not sure. I kept wondering if he was thinking "don't prolong the suffering-- it makes more sense to come down hard immediately" basically as a way of not prolonging suffering and hurting as few people as possible? But then it still meant cultural genicide for some and anyway.... those are my questions but I have no conclusion.

What's your favorite passage or idea from Tolstoy?
 

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An attorney I used to work for asked me once what book I wish I'd written. I told him I needed to think about it, duly thought about it, and decided upon two, one of which was The Art of War. Upon hearing this, a different attorney gave me a copy of Clausewitz. I confess I could not struggle through all the words Clausewitz used to define his concepts. One of the things I admire about Sun Tzu's work is the succinctness.

When I was in high school, my wonderful composition teacher handed me back an assignment with "Wordy, dear!" inscribed in red at the top of the first page. I embraced the comment and have sought to make fewer words say more ever since. This is hard because I am naturally verbose. Hemingway is not my favorite author. In fact, I actively dislike Hemingway's stories, but every couple of years, I check one of his books out of the library and read it cover to cover. In doing so, I never fail to learn something about writing. Drives me nuts.:LOL:
 
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Chris P

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What's your favorite passage or idea from Tolstoy?

Hmm, tough to say. I've only read War and Peace. I got so annoyed with the lead characters of Anna Karenina I gave up about 100 pages in. One of the things I like about W&P is how he plays with contrasts, as the title indicates. Prince Andrey's meeting of Napoleon versus Rostov's meeting of Tsar Alexander is a case in point. Andrey is wounded and a prisoner yet sees the victorious and gloating Napoleon as insignificant, while Rostov meets Alexander at a point where the Tsar is in the depths of despair after the defeat at Austerlitz yet Rostov doesn't feel worthy to even approach. These examples litter the book and are fun to pick out. I also like Tolstoy's description of the indifferent clouds, skies, and stars during all of humankind's activities are cool too. Fits Tolstoy's philosophy of war being unnatural.

Hemingway is not my favorite author. In fact, I actively dislike Hemingway's stories, but every couple of years, I check one of his books out of the library and read it cover to cover. In doing so, I never fail to learn something about writing. Drives me nuts.:LOL:

Green Hills of Africa is the only Hemingway I've been able to stomach. This is partly because I know East Africa fairly well, but also because I knew I was reading a memoir of someone with a particular image of himself and his public persona, writing at a time when Western society had particular views of nature and our role in it. It's a time capsule and personal portrait in that way. His novels and his short stories? Nah, I've given up giving him a fair chance.
 
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llyralen

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By the way, I'm so glad you guys joined me here in the tent. All this silk fabric can't be just for me. Aren't these kittens cute? :)

I LOVED this (link below). Listen to Hiddleston read Tolstoy at 44.50. I watched it all through before but not today so hopefully I found the right spot, I think that's a passage from War and Peace. The comparison and the reading choices for both Dickens and Tolstoy are so interesting!

This is interesting that the 3 of us, so far, aren't really into Hemmingway. I try to keep an open mind about him, though, especially since I haven't really tried out his novels. I will pick up one of his short stories every once in a while to see if I get more from him. I probably like more feeling in general.

Anyone ever read a John Cowper Powys? I have. I really enjoy his writing. I remembered him and looked him up the other day to find one of his book titles and found this cool article: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/aug/12/featuresreviews.guardianreview14
 

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When I read Hemingway, I don't know what the hell he's talking about more often than I like to admit. I couldn't figure out the contention between the lovers in Hills Like White Elephants until I consulted a book of criticism that included the story. Sometimes he's too cryptic for me, but I do appreciate what a breath of fresh air his sparse prose must've been after decades of Victorian and Edwardian excess.

I'm not a very intellectual person and figure I'm out of my depth on this thread, but ya never know what's gonna be relevant, hmm?
 

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None of the authors mentioned here or in the OP are contemporary. The contemporary lit forum isn't really a sensible place for this discussion.

All of the authors mentioned are canon authors, but they come from several eras, and not all are novelists. I'm moving this to Bookclub, a better fit.
 

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Joining the club of "not really into Hemingway". I've read Across the River and into the Trees, and my reaction was "well, okay, nice one, but what's all the fuss about?" Maybe one day I'll try reading him again.

When it comes to Tolstoy, I've noticed that Russian readers are generally divided into two camps - those who prefer Tolstoy and those who prefer Dostoevsky. Technically, I belong to the latter (sorry, Lev Nikolayevich, we stand too far apart when it comes to ideology)... actually, I'm so fed up with both of them (had to read, analyze, and write essays on them for: school, two state exams, first year at university) that I'm not planning to reread even Dostoevsky in the foreseeable future :)

My favorite classics, however, do mostly come from the 19th century (one of the most enjoyable exams I've taken was 19th-century European literature - I loved or at least liked almost everything from the reading list!).
 
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llyralen

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None of the authors mentioned here or in the OP are contemporary. The contemporary lit forum isn't really a sensible place for this discussion.

All of the authors mentioned are canon authors, but they come from several eras, and not all are novelists. I'm moving this to Bookclub, a better fit.
Okay =) I couldn't find anything on Classic Lit directly. Bookclub sounds good.
 

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Joining the club of "not really into Hemingway". I've read Across the River and into the Trees, and my reaction was "well, okay, nice one, but what's all the fuss about?" Maybe one day I'll try reading him again.

When it comes to Tolstoy, I've noticed that Russian readers are generally divided into two camps - those who prefer Tolstoy and those who prefer Dostoevsky. Technically, I belong to the latter (sorry, Lev Nikolayevich, we stand too far apart when it comes to ideology)... actually, I'm so fed up with both of them (had to read, analyze, and write essays on them for: school, two state exams, first year at university) that I'm not planning to reread even Dostoevsky in the foreseeable future :)

My favorite classics, however, do mostly come from the 19th century (one of the most enjoyable exams I've taken was 19th-century European literature - I loved or at least liked almost everything from the reading list!).
What are some of your favorites, Autumn? That's probably the bulk of what I read is 19th century European lit. Recently I realize I need to read more Asian and African, etc. I'm willing, I just need more exposure. But talking about the authors you're probably going to mention is something I crave.

I feel like Tolstoy is more relatable to me personally and I'm grateful for Tolstoy, but Dostoevsky fascinates me. I admire Dostoevsky very very much. He is in my top 5 greats, Enjoy his writing? Not really. It's so dark and the characters do things that to me are crazy and make no sense. I think they are mostly mentally ill. But I'm so darn curious about Dostoevsky's world view and comparing it to mine. He is one of the people I'd really love to sit on the side of the road with for a few hours under some trees and talk about everything with, I think his writing was so needed... SO needed.
 

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When I read Hemingway, I don't know what the hell he's talking about more often than I like to admit. I couldn't figure out the contention between the lovers in Hills Like White Elephants until I consulted a book of criticism that included the story. Sometimes he's too cryptic for me, but I do appreciate what a breath of fresh air his sparse prose must've been after decades of Victorian and Edwardian excess.

I'm not a very intellectual person and figure I'm out of my depth on this thread, but ya never know what's gonna be relevant, hmm?
You've brought up some great stuff! Glad you're here. Since you mention it, do you have any authors from that Victorian and Edwardian excess that you dislike? Dislikes are great to talk about too.
 

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I love Charlotte.

But this I know; the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master--something that at times strangely wills and works for itself. He may lay down rules and devise principles, and to rules and principles it will perhaps for years lie in subjection; and then, haply without any warning of revolt, there comes a time when it will no longer consent."- Charlotte Bronte​

 

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What are some of your favorites, Autumn? That's probably the bulk of what I read is 19th century European lit. Recently I realize I need to read more Asian and African, etc. I'm willing, I just need more exposure. But talking about the authors you're probably going to mention is something I crave.
Oh, I’ve got lots of favorites from that century, from all sorts of literary movements. I’ll try to keep it somewhat chronological…
Britain - Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, the Brontë sisters, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Jerome K. Jerome, Christina Rossetti, Arthur Conan Doyle
France - Madame de Staël, George Sand
Germany - Heinrich Heine, Wilhelm Hauff, Ernest Hoffmann, the Brothers Grimm
Russia - Vasily Zhukovsky, Alexander Pushkin, Nickolay Gogol
The US - James Fenimore Cooper, Mayne Reid (really amazing, how Reid has been extremely well-loved in Russia since the 19th century itself and is almost forgotten elsewhere)
Denmark - Hans Christian Andersen
 
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Chris P

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I'm not a very intellectual person and figure I'm out of my depth on this thread, but ya never know what's gonna be relevant, hmm?

I certainly hope the leather chairs and tweed jackets (where's my brandy and meerschaum pipe?--oh yeah, I don't drink or smoke) wasn't off-putting or excluding. I do love some heady discussion but there's room here for however one feels like contributing.

With 250 years of novels before the WWII era, there's just so many! Where would someone even begin?

I'll ask that as a serious question: If someone who had never explored "classic" literature before asked you which books to start with, what would you say? (I'll chime in with my answer later).
 
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*raises the tent flap* Hello, can I join? I brought crumble cake!
With 250 years of novels before the WWII era, there's just so many! Where would someone even begin?

I'll ask that as a serious question: If someone who had never explored "classic" literature before asked you which books to start with, what would you say? (I'll chime in with my answer later).

I'd say it depends. For English-language readers, I would recommend my old friend Mr Anthony Trollope (especially Barchester Towers and The Way We Live Now), if you like interesting characters, especially women characters, plots that are cosy but also riveting, and a gentle and friendly narrator who talks directly to you. Seriously, Trollope is so much fun. Just ask @Lakey ;) We have a little Trollope fan club, and Barchester Towers was the first book we read together!

I think I like all the books/authors mentioned in this thread so far, except for The Prince (which I haven't read) and Hemingway (whose stuff I have).

:troll
 
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I'll ask that as a serious question: If someone who had never explored "classic" literature before asked you which books to start with, what would you say? (I'll chime in with my answer later).
As @Tocotin said I am a big fan of Trollope (his wisdom even has pride of place in my sig here). But as an answer to your question, Chris, I would recommend starting with Jane Eyre. The narration is so engaging, and so fun; Jane is a wonderful presence and I would like to think she could draw anyone in despite Charlotte Brontë’s, uh, eccentric use of punctuation.

I also might venture to recommend Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, because it’s really very funny. Like Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, it’s a satire; Vanity Fair skewers several different strata of English society. Above all, though, its anti-heroine Becky Sharp is a textbook sociopath, before there were textbooks about such things. It’s just a super-fun romp all the way through.

For the more intellectual-minded, I would recommend George Eliot’s Middlemarch. It’s also quite wry and drily funny (this is a common element in much of my favorite writing, whether from the 19th or the 20th century) and spans a very broad space of English society, politics, religion—it really has everything, and is just loaded with brilliant characterization, brilliant writing and social commentary.

:e2coffee:
 

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I also might venture to recommend Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, because it’s really very funny. Like Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, it’s a satire; Vanity Fair skewers several different strata of English society. Above all, though, its anti-heroine Becky Sharp is a textbook sociopath, before there were textbooks about such things. It’s just a super-fun romp all the way through.

Ooh ooh I absolutely second this. I love Vanity Fair and reread it regularly. I wish I had a Becky Sharp plushie.

:troll
 
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Chris P

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Ha! @Tocotin and @Lakey, I was on an airplane once and a group of college students sat near me. The others were teasing one woman because she had bought Vanity Fair at the airport bookstore. They all looked surprised when I spoke up in favor of the book, and it shut down their jibing when I told her it was worth the slow parts but to remember folks thought differently about social class at that time, and they told stories differently. But it was definitely a good read. As an aside, I saw a theatrical production of Vanity Fair that was top rate.

Would I start someone off on Vanity Fair? Hmmm, not sure but it's a good candidate. For other books of the time period, although different genres and slightly later, I would recommend Picture of Dorian Gray (it's as fresh as if it were published today!) and Huckleberry Finn.
 

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I like to listen to Jane Austen on CD, but I have the hardest time plowing through her stories in a print book, which is strange for me. A writers group friend, recently deceased, adored Jane and wrote a lot of what I think is called fan fiction and Jane-esque romances. This lady moved to the US from Scotland fifty years ago and never lost the accent. Listening to her read her work was a fine experience.

Probably my favorite Victorian novel is Dracula, which is the most sensual, frightening book I've ever read. Dorian Gray was also engrossing, but I enjoy whatever Oscar Wilde cared to write. Also like Wilkie Collins' novels and, of course, Sherlock Holmes stories are a delight. The Speckled Band remains one of my favorite stories, despite its departure from snaky reality. (The viper comes to a whistle and the reward of a bowl of milk? Ya gotta love it.)
 

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Would I start someone off on Vanity Fair? Hmmm, not sure but it's a good candidate. For other books of the time period, although different genres and slightly later, I would recommend Picture of Dorian Gray (it's as fresh as if it were published today!) and Huckleberry Finn.
I take your point; I am making an assumption that someone interested in dipping into classics is willing (even eager) to adapt to a different style of writing and unfamiliar settings. However: Vanity Fair and Dorian Gray are really not of the same time period. Vanity Fair was published in the 1840s, and is set in the 1810s, while Dorian Gray was published around 1890. It's true that Queen Victoria reigned a very long time, but there was a wee Industrial Revolution between those two books that really places them in vastly different contexts, socially and culturally.

:e2coffee:
 

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I take your point; I am making an assumption that someone interested in dipping into classics is willing (even eager) to adapt to a different style of writing and unfamiliar settings. However: Vanity Fair and Dorian Gray are really not of the same time period. Vanity Fair was published in the 1840s, and is set in the 1810s, while Dorian Gray was published around 1890. It's true that Queen Victoria reigned a very long time, but there was a wee Industrial Revolution between those two books that really places them in vastly different contexts, socially and culturally.

:e2coffee:
I was partially aware I was mixing apples and oranges when I posted, but couldn't quite verbalize it. In a word: genre. Someone who gets turned on to the literature by watching Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley isn't going to be impressed by reading Guy Mannering by Walter Scott, but Vanity Fair might catch their attention. On the flip side, I wouldn't send someone off to read The Red Badge of Courage because they liked Francis Ford Coppola's version of Dracula.

My (now adult) kids aren't strong readers, and the only books I recall them reading outside of school were Twilight, Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, and Narnia. You got it: they had seen the movies first.
 
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Ha! @Tocotin and @Lakey, I was on an airplane once and a group of college students sat near me. The others were teasing one woman because she had bought Vanity Fair at the airport bookstore. They all looked surprised when I spoke up in favor of the book, and it shut down their jibing when I told her it was worth the slow parts but to remember folks thought differently about social class at that time, and they told stories differently. But it was definitely a good read. As an aside, I saw a theatrical production of Vanity Fair that was top rate.
Vanity Fair is one of the books I read for my wonderful 19th-century European literature exam I mentioned earlier in the thread! :) Didn’t stop me from enjoying it thoroughly — though its tone is a bit too cynical for it to be in the first rows of my favourites.
Would I start someone off on Vanity Fair? Hmmm, not sure but it's a good candidate. For other books of the time period, although different genres and slightly later, I would recommend Picture of Dorian Gray (it's as fresh as if it were published today!) and Huckleberry Finn.
Picture of Dorian Gray is amazing! I believe the Sybil Vane subplot to be its strongest moment — maybe I’m too spoiled by modern fantasy and horror to be properly impressed by the actual, you know, picture. Although the moment when Dorian expects the painting to change because he wasn’t a jerk for once has some brilliant dark humour to it :)

Mark Twain is sadly one of the few authors that didn’t click with me at all. I tried several times and always ended up with a “meh” reaction; no idea why.
 
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Dorian Gray was also engrossing, but I enjoy whatever Oscar Wilde cared to write.
I somehow couldn't get into his plays - except for Salome, which is a huge favorite with me (and though I usually don't enjoy modern-day reimaginings, I love the adaptation with Jessica Chastain).

Wilde's fairytales are hauntingly beautiful, of course (The Star Boy, why, just whyyy... that ending was one of my biggest literary heartbreaks!).
 
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Elizabeth George's book Write Away