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fanuzzir
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Re: Jon's mission dismissed

This is a discussion that can only be productively advanced by reading Jon's book! I don't believe in rendering opinions about the IDEA of a book, or the precedent for a book. Let's read the book, and make up our minds then.
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JesseBC
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Re: Jon's mission dismissed

This is why I hesitated to even bring up why I'm not planning to read Finn.

Allow me to clarify that this is largely a matter of personal taste. I realize that derivative fiction is a respected literary tradition.

It's just a respected literary tradition that I don't happen to like. Along with Tartuffe, Joyce Kilmer, and selected works of Jane Austen.

That I don't happen to like these things is not conclusive proof that they have no literary merit.


The reason I don't like derivative fiction is mostly because the whole paradigm of the latter is usually so far removed from the original. To use the safer example, Jean Rhys' whole worldview was totally different from Charlotte Bronte's. And I can tell. And it bugs me.

Wide Sargasso Sea has been thoroughly accepted by academia and I'm sure it's not an issue there. Someone who has penned volumes of essays on the delicate symbolism of the Mad Woman in the Attic is probably unlikely to confuse the two.

But, amongst us regular readers, in a discussion of Jane Eyre, invariably some precocious twit will pipe up with, "I know why Bertha went mad! It was because of what happened to her in Jamaica!"

Well...no.

Because Bronte wrote Jane Eyre a century before Bertha's-life-in-Jamaica was even added to the menu.

When reading something derivative, I start to anticipate how it will it be used to slaughter the original. And it bugs me.


So, I'm not trying to be a heckler in the audience and I'm not trying to be a buzzkill. I just tossed an opinion out there and figured I ought to explain it.

Considering that I'm still reading The Jungle, which we started back in January, it's very unlikely I'm going to knock off two more books this month anyway. I'll still be here in May, trying to talk about Mark Twain.

Most importantly, I am not trying to "dismiss Jon's mission." (What mission? Are we discussing books here? Or saving refugees in the Sudan?)


Oh, and just to confuse things further, I'm not even consistent. I enjoyed Gregory Maguire's Wicked (though it's hard to argue that MGM Studios hadn't already mangled the original beyond all recognition anyway). And there are several knock-offs of Shakespeare and Dickens that I actually prefer to the originals.
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jonclinch
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Re: Jon's mission dismissed

[ Edited ]
I'm interested to see that the example you give as one you like is one of those with the least serious aspirations. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Different strokes, different folks. But in my case — from the moment I began working on Finn until now — I've felt called upon to make sure that it's understood as a serious and independent work of art, not a pastiche or a mere jolly entertainment or, worst of all, something that for whatever reason doesn't strive to honor and respect and work within the framework of its sources.

I hope one day you'll read it and enjoy it.

-- J


JesseBC wrote:
This is why I hesitated to even bring up why I'm not planning to read Finn.

....

Oh, and just to confuse things further, I'm not even consistent. I enjoyed Gregory Maguire's Wicked (though it's hard to argue that MGM Studios hadn't already mangled the original beyond all recognition anyway).

Message Edited by jonclinch on 03-09-200708:32 AM

Message Edited by jonclinch on 03-09-200708:32 AM

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friery
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Re: Join us in March

I'm surprised no one has mentioned James Joyce's retelling of the Odyssey in Ulysses.



JesseBC wrote:
Since a lot of contemporary fiction is derivative, I should probably clarify that specifically what I don't like is modern writers who mess with the classics -- even when their efforts have been very good. I didn't like Susan Hill's sequel to Rebecca. Or Jean Rhys prequel to Jane Eyre.

Hill, especially, is a very accomplished novelist. But taking the classic out of its original context just never seems to work for me.




ziki wrote:


JesseBC wrote:
I just don't like deriviative stuff as a general rule. Besides, it'll probably take me at least a month just to read one of the books, let alone two.




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ELee
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Re: Join us in March

Or Peter Carey's "Jack Maggs"...
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LitEditor
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Come Back to the Book(s)!

I have to weigh in here and say that the project of whether or not contemporary re-visitations of classic works is (or isn't) a good thing is really a distraction from the opportunity we have here. Jon Clinch has penned a truly thought-provoking novel; connected to but hardly limited by Twain's masterpiece.

We're here to discuss either, or both, of these books; we're lucky enough to have Jon along for the ride, and we've already seen some fascinating ideas advanced.

For example, one of the questions the contrast between the two novels has raised has to do with the nature of Twain's vision of society -- is a humorous overlay on a shadowy picture of slavery and violence? Or a fundamentally comic vision of human (American?) society, shot through with an awareness of darkness within? (I'm thinking of the discussion in this thread.)

As we continue, I'd like to ask that if you want to argue about books you don't want to read -- or aren't being read by others here -- you can take it to the "community forum" thread, where topic distractions aren't as much of a concern.

-Bill T.
Lit. and Fiction Editor, B&N Book Clubs

See the latest news about book clubs in the Book Clubs Blog.
jd
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jd
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Re: Come Back to the Book(s)!

thank you
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fanuzzir
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Re: Come Back to the Book(s)!

I concur wholeheartedly with Bill and wish that people would start reading EITHER book. I am waiting for the thread for the first few chapters of Huck Finn to light up, and find just a few posts. I'm looking for a few readers here.
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Re: Come Back to the Book(s)! and what are we talking about, cars?

[ Edited ]

LitEditor wrote:
I have to weigh in here and say that the project of whether or not contemporary re-visitations of classic works is (or isn't) a good thing is really a distraction from the opportunity we have here. Jon Clinch has penned a truly thought-provoking novel; connected to but hardly limited by Twain's masterpiece.




Will you ever understand that this particular thread is not a discussion about Jon's work but about the genre? How could that be a distraction? You pile up several books for a single month and look for readers while you do a lot to loose them. I took a course in speed reading on BNU once but I don't intend to use it here. Both books deserve proper attention.

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 03-11-200707:07 AM

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spin offs



jonclinch wrote:
Without stooping to defend my own work, I've got to say that serious, high-literary projects of this type have proven themselves worthy again and again. John Gardner's Grendel, Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Geraldine Brooks' March, Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea.


ziki wrote:


JesseBC wrote: what I don't like is modern writers who mess with the classics -- even when their efforts have been very good.


Do you hear Jon? What say you?

ziki






I do not think you need to defend your work, here or anywhere but I think it is an interesting topic how an idea catches fire and why a writer runs with it. What is the motivation, interest and ambition in it?

I for my life can't understand why that should be such a controversial thing to talk about. Why should a person who doesn't like spin offs be persecuted and why wouldn't others who like it count?

ziki
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spin offs



JesseBC wrote: (What mission? Are we discussing books here? Or saving refugees in the Sudan?)



---------
It would be dandy if we could do both. As it is we stay with the books. Mission was my way to label the discussion: sorry if it confused you.


about spin offs JBC said:



I'm not even consistent. I enjoyed Gregory Maguire's Wicked (though it's hard to argue that MGM Studios hadn't already mangled the original beyond all recognition anyway). And there are several knock-offs of Shakespeare and Dickens that I actually prefer to the originals.




I didn't read many such books and that is why I was interested in other people's views about that.
I can see that the spin off book influences to some degree my view of the classic but it doesn't change the impression in any significant way. In Jekyll's case the spin off made the character more 'human' if I put it so. Of course the spin offs take up the part that is not explored in the original book, so I guess even Finn. In Moby Dick there almost everybody died it would be Ahab's wife etc. So the tendency I can see is to paint a portrait of some character that didn't get all the attention in the classic book.

ziki
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Re: Jon's choice of topic



jonclinch wrote:.... from the moment I began working on Finn until now — I've felt called upon to make sure that it's understood as a serious and independent work of art, not a pastiche or a mere jolly entertainment or, worst of all, something that for whatever reason doesn't strive to honor and respect and work within the framework of its sources.



Thank you. And I would think that it actually must be even more difficult to write a spin off (let me settle on that term just for the ease) compared to a story you start from scratch. Twain is a name in literature, HF aspires to the title of great American novel and as I see it, it must take some courage to bite into that apple. Am I wrong?

ziki
jd
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Re: Join us in March

This is a spoiler do not read this if you have not finished Finn -
Jon - I thoroughly enjoyed your book and have always wondered if Huck was black or mulatto, primarily because of his name. He could never be an ordinary character with the name Huckleberry and the color of huckleberries is dusky as you describe in your tale, which leads the reader to suspect in AoHF that something is different. Several of my favorite characters are named extraordinary as well, Blossom in GWtW for example. Thank you -jd
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JesseBC
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Re: Jon's mission dismissed

That's a good point. I hadn't considered that maybe I enjoyed Wicked simply because I didn't take it seriously. I just accepted that my tastes and opinions aren't necessarily consistent :-)

Incidentally, I have interacted with Maguire in this same context -- via BNU -- and I'd venture to say that his intentions with Wicked were to make a serious literary contribution. Whether or not it worked out that way is probably both a matter of opinion and completely off the subject.

However, it's worth mentioning that, during the Wicked discussion, this subject of derivative fiction or the book's place in literature was never raised. Which may suggest that readers are approaching your book differently.

Who knows? I may pick up Finn now or in the future. I'm always more likely to when I've had an opportunity to talk with the author (which is exactly why BNU is set up this way -- good marketing for you, good marketing for them, and often a good discussion to be had by all). Either way, I think you and Fan will be great resources for those reading one book or the other or both.





jonclinch wrote:
I'm interested to see that the example you give as one you like is one of those with the least serious aspirations. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Different strokes, different folks. But in my case — from the moment I began working on Finn until now — I've felt called upon to make sure that it's understood as a serious and independent work of art, not a pastiche or a mere jolly entertainment or, worst of all, something that for whatever reason doesn't strive to honor and respect and work within the framework of its sources.

I hope one day you'll read it and enjoy it.

-- J


JesseBC wrote:
This is why I hesitated to even bring up why I'm not planning to read Finn.

....

Oh, and just to confuse things further, I'm not even consistent. I enjoyed Gregory Maguire's Wicked (though it's hard to argue that MGM Studios hadn't already mangled the original beyond all recognition anyway).

Message Edited by jonclinch on 03-09-200708:32 AM

Message Edited by jonclinch on 03-09-200708:32 AM




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fanuzzir
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Re: Jon's mission dismissed

Thanks for the plug. I'll meet you over in the first four chapters thread and so on. Looking forward to more discussion there.
jd
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jd
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Re: Jon's mission dismissed

but ... I thought you were with the rest of us on the balcony overlooking the garden at the Algonquin with dp and the gang, we have scotch, wine, ciggies and cake !!! I did contribute to the thread. No one has picked up the gauntlet as yet. - jd
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JesseBC
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Re: Come Back to the Book(s)!

I'm unclear as to how a conversation about the type of fiction at hand, its context in the history of literature, and the author's aspirations for it could be construed as off the subject.

I've gathered that a few people were uncomfortable with my opinion. But a book discussion measured by universal comfort or agreement would be severely limited and banal.

Incidentally, I'm also participating in the conversation about the opening chapters of Huck Finn. The beauty of BNU's new forum arrangement is that it's easy to participate in more than one conversation at a time and impossible for any one thread to dominate.





LitEditor wrote:
I have to weigh in here and say that the project of whether or not contemporary re-visitations of classic works is (or isn't) a good thing is really a distraction from the opportunity we have here. Jon Clinch has penned a truly thought-provoking novel; connected to but hardly limited by Twain's masterpiece.

We're here to discuss either, or both, of these books; we're lucky enough to have Jon along for the ride, and we've already seen some fascinating ideas advanced.

For example, one of the questions the contrast between the two novels has raised has to do with the nature of Twain's vision of society -- is a humorous overlay on a shadowy picture of slavery and violence? Or a fundamentally comic vision of human (American?) society, shot through with an awareness of darkness within? (I'm thinking of the discussion in this thread.)

As we continue, I'd like to ask that if you want to argue about books you don't want to read -- or aren't being read by others here -- you can take it to the "community forum" thread, where topic distractions aren't as much of a concern.

-Bill T.
Lit. and Fiction Editor, B&N Book Clubs


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jonclinch
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Re: Join us in March

I once heard a prominent Methodist theologian suggest that the New Testament can be considered a metafiction based on the Old.

Which does not diminish it any more than I would like Finn to be diminished by its connection to Huck, but rather suggests that it attempts in earnest to answer and complete and respond to the crucial ideas that preceded it...
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bible as a source



jonclinch wrote:
I once heard a prominent Methodist theologian suggest that the New Testament can be considered a metafiction based on the Old.




hihi, neat!

OK, there are many spin offs on bible (huge chapter), to name just a few: Orson Scott Card (Rachel and Leah, Sarah, Rebekah) and Anita Diamant (The Red Tent).

zee
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fanuzzir
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So there

[ Edited ]
As does Pearl, a follow up novel to Scarlet Letter. That re- or over-writing analogy of the Old and New testaments is actually a solid interpretive model. It's also a good description of almost all modern fiction, which is deeply determined by convention and precedents and often outwardly so. I could not name a novel that is not endebted to other narratives or an outright confabulation of them. That's what the novel IS, and was conceived of when it was formulated in the eighteenth century: a rewriting of established literatures. (Here's one formula that has great repute: novel is the parody of epic. And another: novel is the everyday, fallible version of transcendant, divine narratives--Pilgrim's Progress retold from the perspective of a juvenile delinquent. No one got on Twain's case for copping Bunyan.

Bob

Message Edited by fanuzzir on 03-12-200709:40 PM

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