Tuesday, July 12, 2016

100 Novels, Round 4

Hey all! Back after 2 years with another round of 100 novels. I wish I was reading more consistently, but this probably represents a pace I can actually maintain.

Over the course of round 3 I took part in my first two book clubs: Kelly Pappageorge’s excellent Women Authors book club and the small Vacek-Josh book club, consisting of only my father, brother, friend Josh and myself. With both Kelly and Josh having moved away, these closed shop, but other doors opened. I joined the St. Louis Science Fiction book club at the Clayton public library, met the wonderful Chance and joined his book club, and started GNIFty, a graphic novel and interactive fiction club, along with friends Sarah S. and Emre.


In addition, I enjoyed reading and discussing 2015’s Hugo nominees for science fiction with friends Ben and Katie W. It was the first year I’ve taken part in voting. Though it was inspired by a low-point in the SF community (a sabotage campaign by embittered right-wing internet trolls), it was fun to get back into my favorite genre. I managed 20 SF works and 6 fantasy; more than in recent memory.

This last round I also delved deeper into plays than ever before. For several months I was reading them exclusively, although I've found foreign plays very hard to track down in libraries. I’ve also made graphic novels a major part of my reading diet. I’ve decided to start listing them separately.

I fulfilled a goal of reading several major ancient classics by the likes of Homer, Virgil and Milton, as well as modern works that rely on an awareness of these and more prose poetry in general. I'd like to get into some ancient Eastern works at some point in the future (but they're all so long!).

The usual statistics:
US: 33
UK: 19
France: 5
Russia: 4
Canada: 3
Argentina, Australia, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Sweden: 2
Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Egypt, Finland, Iceland, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Romania, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland, Zimbabwe: 1

This was my first time reading novels from Belgium, China, Croatia, Finland, Iceland, Kenya, Romania, Senegal, Sudan, Switzerland and Zimbabwe. At this point I’m half way to my goal of reading a novel from 100 countries. I’m seriously considering a Novel Atlas (similar to the Film Atlas), though it is a very long term project.

I’ve seen movie adaptation of 19 of these books. Of them, I might argue that Casino Royale, Tom Jones, and The Guide are better than their sources. The Ladies of the Bois de Boulogne (adapted from Jacques the Fatalist), several of the many Dangerous Liaisons adaptions and Doctor Zhivago are also quite good. The 15 hour Berlin Alexanderplatz miniseries, however, was a colossal waste of time.

I find that despite a conscious effort to read more women authors, authors of color and authors who identify as LGBT, I’m still not doing a terribly good job. Of the 100 novels in this round, only 29 are by women (which is at least up from 22 last round, despite being in a women author book club). I’ve recently started tracking my progress on two awesome lists: Feminista’s 100 20th century novels by women and The Publishing Triangle’s 100 best lesbian and gay novels, which are filling in some of my blind spots.


Overall favorite: Voss
Best SF: Permutation City and The Sparrow
Best fantasy: American Gods and A Game of Thrones
Best crime fiction: Shadow without a Name and Kiss of the Spider Woman
Best graphic novel: Are You My Mother? and Ghost World
Best play: The Tragedy of Man (tragedy) and The Lieutenant of Inishmore (comedy)
Best romance: Dangerous Liaisons and The Passion
Best obscurities: Aniara (Swedish existentialist epic poem about a runaway spaceship) and Pointed Roofs (Unfairly neglected modernist work that gave birth to the “stream of consciousness” style)
Best premise: Zoo City (A Johannesburg detective and her sloth work a missing persons case in a future where criminals are bonded to animal familiars)
Most wasted premise: Accelerando
Best story: The Goldfinch and House of Suns
Best prose: Independent People and The Summer Book
Best structure: A Visit from the Goon Squad and I’m Not Stiller
Most Difficult: The Recognitions and The Death of Virgil
Longest: A Dance to the Music of Time (3013 pages)
Funniest: Cold Comfort Farm and The Napoleon of Notting Hill
Angriest: The Elementary Particles and Woman at Point Zero
Weirdest sex: Bear
Most fun: The Martian
Most depressing: The Land of Green Plums
Most energetic: The Sot-Weed Factor
Most emotional: Independent People
Most ambiguous: Pedro Paramo and The Southern Reach Trilogy
Most decadent: Against Nature
Most disappointing: The Castle
Best bookclub discussion of a book I liked: Are You My Mother?
Best bookclub discussion of a book I disliked: Geek Love
Best title: By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

Key:
** Excellent
* Very Good
[blank] Fair to Good
^  Bad  

The List:

-710: The Iliad by Homer (Greece)
-700: The Odyssey by Homer (Greece) *
-19: The Aeneid by Virgil (Italy) *
1664: Paradise Lost by John Milton (UK) *
1749: Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (UK)
1780: Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot (France) *
1782: Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (France) **
1839: The Charterhouse of Parma by Marie-Henri Stendhal (France)
1840: A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov (Russia) **
1854: Walden by Henry David Thoreau (USA)
1883: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (UK) *
1884: Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans (France) *
1891: Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (UK) *
1899: Dom Casmurro by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (Brazil) *
1904: The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton (UK) *
1908: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (UK) *
1910: The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke (Czech)
1911: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (USA)
1914: Kokoro by Natsume Soseki (Japan) *
1915: Pointed Roofs by Dorothy Richardson (UK) *
1926: The Castle by Franz Kafka (Czech) ^
1929: Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin (Germany) **
1930: The Foundation Pit by Andrei Platonov (Russia) ^
1932: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (UK)
1932: Light in August by William Faulkner (USA) *
1934: Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara (USA)
1934: Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (USA) **
1935: Independent People by Halldor Laxness (Iceland) **
1938: On the Edge of Reason by Miroslav Krleza (Croatia) *
1940: The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares (Argentina) *
1945: Pippi Longstockings by Astrid Lindgren (Sweden) ^
1945: By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart (Canada)
1945: The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch (Austria) *
1946: Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake (UK)
1951: The Hive by Camilo Jose Cela (Spain) **
1951: Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar (Belgium) **
1952: The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson (USA) *
1953: Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (UK)
1954: I'm Not Stiller by Max Frisch (Switzerland) **
1955: Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo (Mexico) **
1955: The Recognitions by William Gaddis (USA) *
1956: Aniara by Harry Martinson (Sweden) *
1956: Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin (USA) *
1957: Voss by Patrick White (Australia) **
1957: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (Russia) *
1958: The Once and Future King by T.H. White (UK) ^
1958: The Guide by R.K. Narayan (India) *
1960: God's Bit of Wood by Ousmane Sembene (Senegal) **
1960: The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth (USA)
1965: The River Between by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o (Kenya)
1966: Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih (Sudan) *
1966: To Each His Own by Leonardo Sciascia (Italy) *
1969: The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles (UK) **
1970: Moscow to the End of the Line by Venedikt Erofeev (Russia) ^
1970: Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume (USA)
1972: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (Finland) **
1975: A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell (UK) *
1975: Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi (Egypt) *
1976: Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig (Argentina) **
1976: Bear by Marian Engel (Canada) *
1977: Falconer by John Cheever (USA) *
1979: Kindred by Octavia Butler (USA) **
1979: On Wings of Song by Thomas M Disch (USA) ^
1980: The Color Purple by Alice Walker (USA) *
1984: Cassandra by Christa Wolf (Germany) *
1984: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (USA) **
1985: Eon by Greg Bear (USA) *
1986: The Sportswriter by Richard Ford (USA) *
1987: Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks (UK) ^
1987: The Passion by Jeanette Winterson (UK) **
1988: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)
1989: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (USA) *
1989: Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh (USA)
1989: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (USA) ^
1994: Permutation City by Greg Egan (Australia) **
1994: The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller (Romania) **
1996: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (USA) **
1997: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (USA) **
1998: The Elementary Particles / Atomized by Michel Houellebecq (France) *
2000: Shadow Without a Name by Ignacio Padilla (Mexico) **
2000: White Teeth by Zadie Smith (UK) **
2001: American Gods by Neil Gaiman (USA) **
2004: River of Gods by Ian McDonald (Ireland)
2005: Accelerando by Charles Stross (UK) ^
2006: Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan (China)
2008: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (China)
2008: House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds (UK) **
2010: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (South Africa) *
2010: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (USA) **
2011: The Martian by Andy Weir (USA) *
2011: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (USA)
2012: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters (USA)
2012: The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan (USA) ^
2013: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (USA) *
2013: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (UK) *
2013: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (USA) **
2013: The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey (USA) *
2014: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (USA)
2014: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Canada) *
2014: Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer (USA) *

Plays

-458: The Oresteia by Aeschylus (Greece)
-442: Antigone by Sophocles (Greece) *
-431: Medea by Euripides (Greece)
-411: Lysistrata by Aristophanes (Greece) ^
400: Shakuntala by Kalidasa (India) *
1510: Everyman by Anonymous (UK) ^
1592: Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (UK) ^
1602: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare (UK)
1605: Volpone, or The Foxe by Ben Jonson (UK) *
1619: Fuenteovejuna by Felix Lope de Vega (Spain) ^
1635: Life Is a Dream by Pedro Calderon de la Barca (Spain) **
1637: Le Cid by Pierre Corneille (France) *
1666: The Misanthrope by Jean-Baptiste Moliere (France) **
1677: The Rover by Aphra Behn (UK) *
1700: The Way of the World by William Congreve (UK) ^
1721: The Love Suicides at Amijima by Monzaemon Chikamatsu (Japan)
1746: Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni (Italy)
1773: The Barber of Seville by Pierre Beaumarchais (France)
1777: The School for Scandal by Robert Brinsley Sheridan (Ireland) *
1778: The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais (France) *
1799: Wallenstein by Friedrich Schiller (Germany) **
1837: Woyzeck by Georg Buchner (Germany) *
1842: The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol (Russia) ^
1859: The Storm by Alexander Ostrovsky (Russia) ^
1861: The Tragedy of Man by Imre Madach (Hungary) **
1884: The Wild Duck by Henrik Ibsen (Norway) **
1891: Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind (Germany) *
1895: An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde (Ireland) *
1897: Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (France) **
1897: The Round by Arthur Schnitzler (Austria)
1904: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (UK) *
1907: The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge (Ireland) *
1913: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (Ireland) **
1921: The Verge by Susan Glaspell (USA) *
1928: The Suicide by Nikolai Erdman (Russia) *
1930: Private Lives by Noel Coward (UK)
1932: Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca (Spain)
1934: Thunderstorm by Cao Yu (China) *
1934: The Children's Hour by Lillian Hellman (USA) *
1938: The Imposter by Rodolfo Usigli (Mexico) **
1943: The Wedding Dress by Nelson Rodrigues (Brazil) **
1944: The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht (Germany) *
1950: The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco (France) *
1957: The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter (UK)
1959: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (USA) **
1962: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee (USA) *
1964: Tango by Slawomir Mrozek (Poland) *
1964: Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss (Germany) *
1970: The Burdens by John Ruganda (Uganda) *
1973: The Norman Conquests by Alan Ayckbourn (UK) *
1975: Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka (Nigeria)
1980: True West by Sam Shepard (USA) **
1982: Top Girls by Caryl Churchill (UK) **
1982: Master Harold… and the Boys by Athol Fugard (South Africa) *
1983: Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet (USA) *
1985: Fences by August Wilson (USA) **
1987: The Piano Lesson by August Wilson (USA) ^
1988: M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang (USA) **
1990: Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman (Chile) **
1990: Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare (USA) **
1991: Angels in America by Tony Kushner (USA) **
1993: Arcadia by Tom Stoppard (UK) **
1994: Art by Yasmina Reza (France) *
1995: Wit by Margaret Edson (USA) **
2001: The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh (Ireland) **
2004: The History Boys by Alan Bennett (UK) **
2010: Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris (USA) **

Graphic Novels:

1959: Tintin in Tibet by Herge (Belgium)
1970: Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki (Japan)
1986: Batman (compilation) by Frank Miller (USA) *
1992: Flood by Eric Drooker (USA) ^
1995: The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot (UK) *
1996: From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (UK) **
1997: Ghost World by Daniel Clowes (USA) **
1998: Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs (UK)
1999: Uzumaki by Junji Ito (Japan) *
2000: David Boring by Daniel Clowes (USA)
2000: Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco (USA) **
2000: Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido (Spain) **
2002: One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry (USA)
2003: What I Did: Hey, Wait... / Sshhhh! / The Iron Wagon by Jason Saeteroy (Norway)
2003: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Iran) **
2003: Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar (USA) *
2005: Black Hole by Charles Burns (USA)
2006: The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Australia) *
2008: Heads or Tails by Lilli Carre (USA)
2009: Stitches by David Small (USA) *
2011: Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba (Brazil) **
2012: Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel (USA) **
2013: Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil (USA) **
2013: The Property by Rutu Modan (Israel)
2014: Here by Richard McGuire (USA) *
2014: Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Canada) *
2015: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua (UK) *

3 comments:

Patrick said...

Glad to see we agree highly on several things I've read: Iliad, Odyssey, Paradise Lost, Walden, Shadow Without a Name, Spring Awakening, perhaps others...

I recently read The Color Purple and thought it was incredible. 5/5 for me. And at some point, I actually read Superman: Red Son, probably from Chris Maue's suggestion. I think I modestly enjoyed it despite my usual disdain for superhero stories.

Less impressed by Berlin Alexanderplatz and The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Both had their merits, but were too brutal or grotesque for me. The former was also a fairly challenging read in German, especially since the language and style is so obtuse. I liked that, but it made it really hard to follow and understand.

You sort of convinced me with Kafka, but you are bold to consider Rainer Maria Rilke a Czech author. I might buy it, but I need to think on that. At any rate, how was his novel? I was curious, because as you probably know his is far more famous for his poetry, which I do find rather captivating and fascinating. Or rather, the best of his poetry has those traits, but he has plenty of bland stuff, too. I only recently read any of it and I was surprised by how good the Duineser Elegien were.

FilmWalrus said...

I had a very mixed reaction to Walden. I see it as several Thoreaus interwoven. I loved Thoreau the naturalist. Was meh about Thoreau the poet. And actually quite disliked Thoreau the philosopher. In Walden I could not help sensing both the conceptual roots of radical libertarianism and its essential hypocrisy. And yet his musings on nature were incredibly stirring and demonstrate his consistently observant, perceptive mind.

Color Purple was definitely quite good. But I found Celie frustratingly one-dimensional; always innocently well-intentioned and progressing towards self-actualization right on track. I liked that Shug was more captivatingly hard to pin down and fomented satisfying change, growth and conflict all at once. Overall the novel is certainly convincing and inspiring, but ultimately predictable and almost too unimpeachable, if that makes sense. I think I prefer the more nuanced (messy, inconsistent, self-aware, cynical?) feminism of Doris Lessing, Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, or Angela Carter. I remember you were lukewarm on The Golden Notebook, which I found more satisfying in most respects (prose, structure, psychological complexity), but which is certainly less sympathetic and clear-cut.

Berlin Alexanderplatz and Lieutenant of Inishmore I definitely understand your reactions. They worked for me, in part because I am fond of the grotesque. But I draw my own line somewhere around William S Burroughs and Chuck Palahniuk. Sorry if Martin McDonagh was a bad rec; you might like some of the other plays on my list though. Wit, The Imposter (Mexico), The History Boys, The Wedding Dress (Brazil), The Tragedy of Man (Hungary), Angels in America and A Raisin in the Sun were all excellent.

Rilke was born in Prague. End of story IMO. At some point I might list both nationality of the author and language work was originally written in separately to avoid the confusion. I have not read his poetry. I'm not sure how well translates. I found the novel pretty trying. Many beautiful passages, but ultimately exhausting in its obsession with the fading decadence of aristocracy. I can understand people digging it, but I would suggest Embers or The Leopard as better alternatives.

Top 3 novels from this round (again, entirely personal opinion), if you are looking for recs, would be: Voss, A Visit from the Goon Squad and Independent People.

Patrick said...

I remember thinking that the first chapter of Walden was good but then the rest was just him repeating the same ideas and stories. I was a bit disappointed, especially because it is clear that his "exile" was anything but! He regularly went into town and had visitors in his own abode. I appreciated his regard for his natural environment, but his politics are sketchy.

I agree that Shug was the truly compelling character in The Color Purple, but Celie wasn't quite as simple as you paint it, particularly in relationship to Shug! I ultimately gave The Golden Notebook a 4/5, and I did like it, but I still feel like a lot of the narrative felt like a diversion with nothing gained in the meantime.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Berlin Alexanderplatz were both worth the read and I don't regret the time. But neither work particularly well for me. I've become far more sensitive as time goes on and it's harder for me to tolerate some of the violence. However, grotesque is fine when it leans towards the absurd; I love a good dose of absurdity.

You might be right around Kafka and Rilke. Nationality is independent of language and I might be too quick to substitute one for the other. I've been trying to look into this in better detail for my own record-keeping, and the more I think about these two cases, the more I agree with your take. I'm inclined to say that the nation in which a person was born and raised is more important than where they moved to as an adult; I think the former environment makes a deeper impression than the latter. Hence, I think Conrad is Polish and Nabakov Russian. It gets a bit tough when a nation is dominated by another, as in the Czech/Bohemian case when it was controlled by Austria-Hungary. I'm still not sold on that German guy you claimed was Polish, though, since the historical territory is different than the modern territory.