i can't narrow it down, that's an unfair demand! nor am i lurker. but hey, i'm awake at 3:18 am so that's reason enough:
The Raj Quartet
Thin Red Line
Catcher in the Rye (sorry, haters)
message 25: by karen, future RA queen (new) 12 minutes ago
at least two of those are out of print in this country, so tell me why i should be jealous/ go on, what's so great about thoooose books?
message 26: by mark (new) 3 minutes ago
OUT OF PRINT, WTF?! that is very upsetting. which two?
i ramble on and on and on about Absolute Beginners, Little Big, Thin Red Line, and Catcher in my reviews for those novels... so i'm feeling rather shy all of a sudden about rambling on and on and on again about them.
but The Raj Quartet! no review... so now i can really ramble on, yeah! but first let me pour myself a glass of 3:42am wine. perhaps it will get me back to sleep (unlikely).
message 27: by mark (new) 55 minutes ago
okay wine sounded terrible all of a sudden, so some microwave hot chocolate instead (very classy). here goes...
oops, now the microwave is beeping
message 28: by mark (new) 6 minutes ago
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE RAJ QUARTET
1. do you like to read extensively detailed, dense, dramatic historical fiction that does not stint on characterization or slow-burning narrative action? do you like to read about colonial india, specifically colonial india during the troubled handover from the british raj back to indian control, and then of course the horrible partitioning? i do. but why exactly? well, let's see...
2. do you like to read about class systems and their impact - on a systemic level and on an intimate, personal level as well? i sure do. class is the basis of so many, er, classic english novels, but there is just something so drastic and of course so racially-based as the class system of colonial india. the class system becomes so palpable, so real, so almost on the verge of breaking down because of its inherent, disgusting unfairness when race is brought into the mix. class in literature that depicts colonial india is also powerful to me on a personal level. i'm not sure i can explain this in words that are inoffensive. i'm a person who loves classic english (and early american) literature. i eat it all up. and yet there is always a side of me - and i acknowledge that this may be due to my mixed-race status - that shouts at the back of my mind when reading those novels: ohyouthinkitssohardyouspoiledupperclasstwit/
i don't get that voice when i'm reading about colonial india. class analysis within this subject is stark: you are brown or you are white, that determines your class, and in the end it doesn't matter what your level of education is, how much money you have, whatever... there will always be an automatic divide based on where you were born and what color your skin happens to be. that starkness makes it so much more relevant to me. and on top of that, the author also explores intragroup class distinctions within the races depicted.
3. do you like to read about tragic romance? this one has one of the best examples of its kind. the lovers are so warmly, honestly depicted. what happens to them is so disturbing... and it reverberates to inform the rest of this epic and nearly all the major characters within it.
4. do you like your historical novels to relate history on a personal scale? do you like to see how great events impact folks who are not movers & shakers but simply caught up in a grand design not of their making?
5. do you like old-fashioned villains but yet long for completely realistic, three-dimensional characters who have understandable motivations as they continue to do the horrible things they do? can the two be combined? Raj Quartet has a couple outstanding examples.
6. do you want to read the perspective of older folks, flitting in and out of potential senility, considered useless by the younger generation, dreamy and strange and not-quite-getting-it? this novel has my favorite example of the kind. she is not idealized. she is not a fountain of wisdom. she is heartbreaking.
7. do you like poetry in prose form? for such an elephantine undertaking, one full of extensive historical detail and given wide-screen scope, The Raj Quartet is written by an author who knows how to turn a phrase. a looooooong phrase. Paul Scott is an amazing writer. he knows how to construct sentences that make you pause and wonder at how language can convey the most ambiguous of feelings, the beauty in a tiny detail, the strangeness of a foreign setting, the way a place can actually look and feel and smell and taste.
8. do you like strong women? good, so do i. this book is full of them. sometimes they are heroes, in one case a villain (such a black & white word, but it fits), but mainly they are just people who are trying to do the best they can. they are not "strong" in a wish-fulfillment sense of the word. they are strong in a way that is real, that is brave because of their personal and historical context, that is worthy of respect because of their need to define themselves according to their own personal context.
9. do you like intricate narratives? say no more, this is royalty as far as intricacy is concerned. as a reader, you better pay attention. characters come and go, but they are not dropped. actions impact actions and those actions, that impact, unspools in all directions, ever-widening but sometimes submerged, sometimes leading to a dead end, but always connected in a way that is so complex and so subtle, so small and so large.
10. do you want an excellent BBC adaptation of your favorite english novel, preferably in miniseries format? hey, you got that too. watch this AFTER you read the series though, well at least that's the way i did it and it was awesome. so awesome that i put off breaking up with a pretentious asshole simply because we hadn't finished the miniseries yet and he owned the, um, vhs tapes. he was trying to "educate" me. i waited to break up with him until after the last episode. well, i guess i was the asshole in that case.