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Subject: Persona 3: FES
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Date: 3rd October 2014 Time: 16:00 EST
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Author Topic: Opinions on modern literature  (Read 4586 times)
everluck
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« on: April 25, 2008, 12:07:05 AM »

I've heard an argument used against contemporary authors, stating that their work is pretentious and wordy, sacrificing style over substance. With a few authors, I can see this argument being true (ex: McCarthy, Guterson), but others seem to go against the rule (ex: Martel). I know that sentence is a totally obvious observation, but I'm curious as to your guys' opinions on whether or not the pretentiousness makes a story bad. Or do you not think those authors are pretentious?

I'm particularly interested in hearing the opinions of gamers, opinions of people living in the digital age, reveling in it. Game writing is growing up, but it's still not at the level of great lit, so I'm curious as to the gaming world's views on lyricism in novels. Do you think pretty words and glancing views at serious subjects are enough? Do you think it's more important for a book to grab a reader's attention through specific hard hitting descriptions, or more subtle, less tangible focuses? What do you think today's authors are missing, or do you think they're the greatest talents literature's ever seen?
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« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2008, 01:06:48 AM »

As a person who owns nearly 3000 books, I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I have never heard of any of the three authors you mentioned.
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« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2008, 04:26:55 PM »

I just have to mention this: "Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died."

I think today's authors are missing more quotes like that. I can't think of many authors who could put that line so well like George R R Martin. Well, I can think of a few, but I guess that's the point. Though what Martin does that most modern authors don't is that he writes dialogue so that the characters actually sound like they're from the 12th Century. Compare that to say, Garth Nix, or even Steph Swainston, whose main character sounds like he's from the 21st century - but then, her books are a bit odd anyway so I guess it's not that important there. If were talking about it in terms of games, ASOIAF is like Vagrant Story, and most modern fantasy books are like Tales games. SF is a whole different thing altogether.

For the record, I've heard of Gutterson. Please tell me you guys have heard of Garth Nix.
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Tooker
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« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2008, 07:56:47 AM »

Have heard of Garth Nix, but haven't read his stuff... because I have books 2 & 3 of a series, but not 1.
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everluck
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« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2008, 12:34:16 PM »

Nix is fantasy, right? I was more thinking of true-to-life writers when I made my post. Haven't read Nix, so I can't say if I like him or not.

Tooker (why the name change, and:) McCarthy wrote No Country for Old Men. His most recent book is The Road. His stories are good, but he writes in prose. Much of his stories read like streams of consciousness, with missing punctuation and abrupt shifts from one thought to another. My original post was asking if things like that are necessary. The stories are good, that's undeniable. But is that extra stuff necessary? Does it add anything to the story?
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« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2008, 02:06:10 PM »

Yeah, Nix is fantasy (right?).

Quote from: "everluck"
Tooker (why the name change, and:) McCarthy wrote No Country for Old Men.


I don't understand the parenthesis part of that quote. :(

I just watched that movie last Thursday on my plane ride home.  I can easily see how it would have come out of a book written as you describe it.  I guess I misunderstood part of your original question.  You're saying that some authors put the emphasis on the writing style rather than the substance, and asking if that's a good thing, right?  (That's the way I'm reading it now.)

While I do enjoy a good "form," I have always felt that it can't get in the way of the "function."  To cite another fantasy example (sorry, best one I can think of right now), Piers Anthony's Xanth series is one I have a love-hate relationship with.  He seems to be obsessed with puns (and panties, but that's another story), and some of his books are so riddled with puns that they get in the way of the story.  I like the stories, and to some extent, I even like the puns, but when you have to analyze everything that's going on to decide "is this a pun I'm supposed to be chuckling at," the form is blocking the function.

On the other hand, David Eddings is a guy with very simple form.  If you've read one of his fantasy series (or even the standalone Redemption of Althalus), you've read them all.  I'm reading a book he put out called "The Rivan Codex," which is about how he and his wife wrote two of their series (The Belgariad and The Malloreon), and he actually set down the formula pretty early on.  Despite that simple form, I've read all of his series at least once, and I've read most more than once.  (I believe I've read the five-book Belgariad series three or four times over the almost 20 years since I first started it.)

So I guess for me, the choice is function.  I want a good story.  If you can make it fancy too, more power to you, but when the fancy stops me from enjoying the story, I'm putting the book down and moving on to something else.
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everluck
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« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2008, 03:55:44 PM »

Yeah, that was my question. Good answer, that's the kind of stuff I'm interested in.

Forget the parenthesis part of my post; I thought you were someone else. Sorry.
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« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2008, 07:06:04 PM »

I don't think any of the authors listed in this thread really constitute "modern literature."  

Still, the form and function argument is interesting. Modern literature has turned to form, or method, because that's all there is left to do that can still provide something new and fresh.
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Azrael
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« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2008, 09:06:46 PM »

I would hardly say that modern literature is too pretentious, I choose to instead question what defines modern literature.  I think instead it is those people who have come to define it make it pretentious.  I feel like there is this need to make "literature" inaccessible.  If it's too easy for too many than it is for some reason not true literature which I have had problems with for a while.  For instance, No Country For Old Men I thought was utter utter garbage.  It seems almost that it has become a trend to me that leaving plot holes and leaving things to "interpretation" suddenly constitutes this great amazing work of art.  I think McCarthy focuses FAR too much on his form.  My friend loaned me The Road to read and after maybe a chapter I put it down because it was just painful to read.  Books like that become a chore to read.  

But honestly, I feel that people like McCarthy make up a very small minority of modern literary authors, but people seem to focus on them because they are so artistic in their method.
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everluck
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« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2008, 09:51:09 PM »

Quote from: "Azrael"
But honestly, I feel that people like McCarthy make up a very small minority of modern literary authors, but people seem to focus on them because they are so artistic in their method.

Critically it seems like authors like these are most successful. I think that's why they tend to be the standouts; they're the ones the public are told are worth reading. Usually they're the ones winning awards.

I like a good story, but as Azrael said: complicating things really doesn't help draw in an audience. My view is that if you have a statement to make, make it so that the most people possible will be able to understand it. Be simple; don't toy with prose and vagaries just to impress elitists and appear artistic.

I believe McCarthy makes some good points in his stories, but they're mostly drowned out by the noise around them. When you drown something in words it loses its impact, I feel. And sometimes it makes it seem like there's no point at all.
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« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2008, 10:18:12 PM »

I think calling the people who define literature prententious says more about a lack of understanding modern literature on the part of the reading public than anything. There is a difference between a book and a work of literature.

I also don't think it's fair to call material that you don't grasp as easily intentionally vague and artistic for the sake of being artsy. If that were the case, then I would agree that it would be pretentious. These writers, such as Cormac, have developed their craft just as precisely as any other writer. They are, whether they succeed or not, trying to further the craft in their respective school of writing.
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« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2008, 09:50:49 AM »

Quote from: "Azrael"
I feel like there is this need to make "literature" inaccessible.


Amen, brother.  I don't think I would call the authors I mentioned "literature," because I know there is supposed to be a distinction between that and "just a book," but I've read some of the truly great literature and felt like it was very accessible, and my thought has always been "why don't people realize you can write literature like this?"

Of course, maybe that's part of why it's great - because not everyone CAN write literature like that.

The other literary criteria I'm not a fan of is the celebrity factor.  This is purely a guess, but I'd guess that if you asked many people in the USA, they'd qualify just about any book from the Oprah Book Club as literature.
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« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2008, 11:17:00 PM »

Still, some of the "great literature" I've read has been just plain tedious. I don't think every writer should write in such a way everyone, no matter the age, can get it with a minimal effort.

My favorite author, Henry Miller, has a very distinct approach to the novel. His writing is a dense, long-winded swirl of free assocations and surrealistic imagery. If he dumbed it down so that everyone could pick it up without having to focus as hard, it just wouldn't have the impact that it does. There's nothing particular artsy about it either. It's not inaccessible. What Miller does is write about his life with such candor, such force and tenacity, that if you're not as ecstatic to read it as he was to write it then it will go over your head.  

Someone, I think it was George Orwell, called him a Whitman of the Corpses.
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« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2008, 05:40:28 AM »

Quote from: "everluck"
Nix is fantasy, right? I was more thinking of true-to-life writers when I made my post. Haven't read Nix, so I can't say if I like him or not.
You mean people actually read those books? Dammit, I wouldn't have posted if I'd known that...
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