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Thread started 11/21/18 10:55pm

Hudson

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American Literature vs English Literature

I'm an American. I faked my way through my English classes in high school. I have developed an interest in learning about and reading books that are challenging for a dummy like me. I've been looking at some beginner books about classic literature.

My question is: Which one should I get into first?
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Reply #1 posted 11/22/18 1:17am

EmmaMcG

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Neither. Go for Irish literature instead.

Ulysses by James Joyce is a good place to start but you can't go wrong with the likes of Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Bram Stoker or Samuel Beckett. Or C.S. Lewis, who was from Belfast, which is still technically in Ireland.
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Reply #2 posted 11/22/18 6:08am

purplethunder3
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EmmaMcG said:

Neither. Go for Irish literature instead. Ulysses by James Joyce is a good place to start but you can't go wrong with the likes of Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Bram Stoker or Samuel Beckett. Or C.S. Lewis, who was from Belfast, which is still technically in Ireland.

I wouldn't start a beginner on Ulysses... lol For Joyce, begin with The Dubliners and The Portrait of the Artist as a Youmg Man.

[Edited 11/22/18 6:09am]

"If you're living, you've got nothing left to prove..."
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Reply #3 posted 11/22/18 6:33am

Empress

I would go with American Literature or Canadian. A few suggestions:

John Steinbeck

Ernest Hemingway (a personal favourite)

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Alice Walker

Margaret Atwood

Rohinton Mistry

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Reply #4 posted 11/22/18 6:52am

EmmaMcG

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purplethunder3121 said:



EmmaMcG said:


Neither. Go for Irish literature instead. Ulysses by James Joyce is a good place to start but you can't go wrong with the likes of Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Bram Stoker or Samuel Beckett. Or C.S. Lewis, who was from Belfast, which is still technically in Ireland.

I wouldn't start a beginner on Ulysses... lol For Joyce, begin with The Dubliners and The Portrait of the Artist as a Youmg Man.

[Edited 11/22/18 6:09am]



Nothing wrong with jumping in at the deep end.
biggrin
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Reply #5 posted 11/22/18 10:10am

TrivialPursuit

Just start wherever. It doesn't have to be a schedule or an itinerary. Let it lead you. This year, while writing my second book, I read (for the first time on all) Behold the Dreamers, Catcher In the Rye, Gadsby (the book without the letter E), To Kill A Mockingbird, Go Set A Watchman, Boom Town, I'm Thinking Of Ending Things, The Plot Against America.

Let the books tell you what to read. Just enjoy the journey. Some of the best road trips are taken without a map or plan.

This experience will cover courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love, and hate.
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Reply #6 posted 11/22/18 11:19am

maplenpg

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TrivialPursuit said:

Just start wherever. It doesn't have to be a schedule or an itinerary. Let it lead you. This year, while writing my second book, I read (for the first time on all) Behold the Dreamers, Catcher In the Rye, Gadsby (the book without the letter E), To Kill A Mockingbird, Go Set A Watchman, Boom Town, I'm Thinking Of Ending Things, The Plot Against America.

Let the books tell you what to read. Just enjoy the journey. Some of the best road trips are taken without a map or plan.

I agree. Go with something you've heard of and may have fancied reading, but never took the plunge. I think Animal Farm is an great choice for a first classic.

If love is the answer, what was the question? - Carter USM.
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Reply #7 posted 11/22/18 1:23pm

purplethunder3
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EmmaMcG said:

purplethunder3121 said:

I wouldn't start a beginner on Ulysses... lol For Joyce, begin with The Dubliners and The Portrait of the Artist as a Youmg Man.

[Edited 11/22/18 6:09am]

Nothing wrong with jumping in at the deep end. biggrin

I tried to start reading that at 15...didn't finish until I was in college. razz lol

"If you're living, you've got nothing left to prove..."
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Reply #8 posted 11/22/18 2:32pm

TrivialPursuit

maplenpg said:

Let the books tell you what to read. Just enjoy the journey. Some of the best road trips are taken without a map or plan.

I agree. Go with something you've heard of and may have fancied reading, but never took the plunge. I think Animal Farm is an great choice for a first classic.


I had such a great English teacher when I was a sophomore. We were reading Lord of the Flies, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and MacBeth before we had our driver's permits. Heady stuff. I read Animal Farm briefly, and it's on my shortlist to read again. I'm in Anatomy of a Miracle right now. Not sure how I got caught up in this but I'm in too far to give up now. It's a novel but almost reads like non-fiction.

But yeah, in these politically polarizing time, it is a good choice. The elements of animals vs Animals can also be found in Gregory Maguire's Wicked series (which is also worth the read; I've never seen someone create texture and use words like this guy).

This experience will cover courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love, and hate.
http://bit.ly/1D3FG2U
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Reply #9 posted 11/23/18 10:38am

IstenSzek

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depends, really. if it's modern classical literature, i'd say go for american (40s and onward)
if it's old skool classical literature, go for english.

beyond that the field is so wide and the choice is so mindboggling that you'd do better to
first find a (broad) subject matter that holds your interest and narrow your search from
that vantage point.

i really wouldn't know where to start in pointing someone in a starting direction.

i guess most people who haven't been educated in the matter of literature beyond basic
school stuff, just start somewhere, anywhere at all, and go from there. one book usually

leads to another, either by the same author, or on the same subject matter, or if you do
a bit or research on the author, you'll find other authors that are interesting etc etc.

classical literature is a whole cosmos and whatever little bit of string you start pulling at,
you'll wind up immersed in an overwhelming amount of good shit that will last you for a
lifetime.

also, consider the translated russian, french and german classics. personally, my love for
literature started with and still runs deepest for the classical russian authors. you really
can't go wrong there. they're simply amazing. anything from pushkin, sologub, leskov, tolstoy,
gogol, gontsjarov, dostoevsky, lermontov, turgenev, saltykov, chekov, and later classics like
bulgakov, babel and platonov or even grossman, pasternak and nabokov .

truly, once you start to pick at a literary thread, you'll have something to do for every free
minute for the rest of your life, if you want to lol


[Edited 11/23/18 10:39am]

and true love lives on lollipops and crisps
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Reply #10 posted 11/23/18 11:14am

purplethunder3
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IstenSzek said:

depends, really. if it's modern classical literature, i'd say go for american (40s and onward)
if it's old skool classical literature, go for english.

beyond that the field is so wide and the choice is so mindboggling that you'd do better to
first find a (broad) subject matter that holds your interest and narrow your search from
that vantage point.

i really wouldn't know where to start in pointing someone in a starting direction.

i guess most people who haven't been educated in the matter of literature beyond basic
school stuff, just start somewhere, anywhere at all, and go from there. one book usually

leads to another, either by the same author, or on the same subject matter, or if you do
a bit or research on the author, you'll find other authors that are interesting etc etc.

classical literature is a whole cosmos and whatever little bit of string you start pulling at,
you'll wind up immersed in an overwhelming amount of good shit that will last you for a
lifetime.

also, consider the translated russian, french and german classics. personally, my love for
literature started with and still runs deepest for the classical russian authors. you really
can't go wrong there. they're simply amazing. anything from pushkin, sologub, leskov, tolstoy,
gogol, gontsjarov, dostoevsky, lermontov, turgenev, saltykov, chekov, and later classics like
bulgakov, babel and platonov or even grossman, pasternak and nabokov .

truly, once you start to pick at a literary thread, you'll have something to do for every free
minute for the rest of your life, if you want to lol


[Edited 11/23/18 10:39am]

For Tolstoy, one might not want to start off with War and Peace... lol

"If you're living, you've got nothing left to prove..."
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Reply #11 posted 11/23/18 12:58pm

IstenSzek

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purplethunder3121 said:

IstenSzek said:

depends, really. if it's modern classical literature, i'd say go for american (40s and onward)
if it's old skool classical literature, go for english.

beyond that the field is so wide and the choice is so mindboggling that you'd do better to
first find a (broad) subject matter that holds your interest and narrow your search from
that vantage point.

i really wouldn't know where to start in pointing someone in a starting direction.

i guess most people who haven't been educated in the matter of literature beyond basic
school stuff, just start somewhere, anywhere at all, and go from there. one book usually

leads to another, either by the same author, or on the same subject matter, or if you do
a bit or research on the author, you'll find other authors that are interesting etc etc.

classical literature is a whole cosmos and whatever little bit of string you start pulling at,
you'll wind up immersed in an overwhelming amount of good shit that will last you for a
lifetime.

also, consider the translated russian, french and german classics. personally, my love for
literature started with and still runs deepest for the classical russian authors. you really
can't go wrong there. they're simply amazing. anything from pushkin, sologub, leskov, tolstoy,
gogol, gontsjarov, dostoevsky, lermontov, turgenev, saltykov, chekov, and later classics like
bulgakov, babel and platonov or even grossman, pasternak and nabokov .

truly, once you start to pick at a literary thread, you'll have something to do for every free
minute for the rest of your life, if you want to lol


[Edited 11/23/18 10:39am]

For Tolstoy, one might not want to start off with War and Peace... lol


it's a little much, yes lol


and true love lives on lollipops and crisps
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Reply #12 posted 11/26/18 1:38am

HamsterHuey

Some great pointers there already; I love Isten's Russian tips, some I've followed in the past, and I even copied his list from this thread to see if I've missed anything. (grin)

But they're all good pointers; TrivPurs' list is a classic one, as are Empress' ones, and contains a few of my faves; Alice Walker and Margaret Atwood.

I have no clear favourite when it comes to the distinction between US/UK writers, but Isten's line is one I agree with; when US literature comes in it's own, it becomes really great.

A few faves from the last decades;

Annie Proulx' The Shipping News (1993)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Proulx

Nell Zink's The Wallcreeper (2014)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nell_Zink


A. M. Homes' May We Be Forgiven (2012)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._M._Homes

Sally Rooney's Normal People (2018)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sally_Rooney



>>
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Reply #13 posted 11/26/18 6:13am

DaveT

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I wouldn't pick up a book just because its considered 'classic' whether its English, Irish, American or whatever.

Life's too short .. just read the books that sound interesting to you and pay no mind to what the academics say about said tome.

www.filmsfilmsfilms.co.uk - The internet's best movie site!
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Reply #14 posted 11/26/18 6:17am

EmmaMcG

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DaveT said:

I wouldn't pick up a book just because its considered 'classic' whether its English, Irish, American or whatever.

Life's too short .. just read the books that sound interesting to you and pay no mind to what the academics say about said tome.



That's the best advice I've seen yet
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Reply #15 posted 11/26/18 7:30am

2freaky4church
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U suckers don't read.

"My motherfucker's so cool sheep count him."
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Reply #16 posted 11/26/18 9:37am

TrivialPursuit

purplethunder3121 said:

For Tolstoy, one might not want to start off with War and Peace... lol


Tolstoy wrote plenty of non-fiction as well, but it may not be for everyone. It's not necessarily anything one would consider "a classic". But as a spiritual type who is also an anarchist, his The Kingdom of God Is Within You changed my life.

This experience will cover courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love, and hate.
http://bit.ly/1D3FG2U
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Reply #17 posted 11/26/18 9:52am

jaawwnn

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If you feel completely overwhelmed then take some time to consider both the whats and the whys of the English/Western canon. There are plenty of reasons to read what's on it and plenty of reasons to go way off and read stuff that will never be considered canonical.

Obviously not everyone can go to university and formally study it but find a lecture series like this great courses one (which I haven't listened to but the Great Courses are usually good at this kind of thing) and give it a listen:

https://www.amazon.com/We...B00DTO618O


Don't look for short-cuts, enjoy learning about it, make an effort to understand the context of something that seems completely incomprehensible to you. In fact: context, context, context - no works were written in a vacuum and those that claim to be universal are only adding a different kind of context. No one will ever read all of it and if you did you'd miss lots of the great work that isn't part of it.

Don't jump straight to Ulysses, you won't know what on earth you're reading or why it's doing what it's doing and it'll give you a completely false idea of what a "literary" book is. You'll either be totally lost and put off literature or totally big-headed and think you "won" the reading competition, both of which are false. If you must read Joyce then start at Dubliners and go forward, the one accessible thing about his work is that it's pretty much supposed to be read that way.




[Edited 11/26/18 10:02am]

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Reply #18 posted 11/26/18 10:18am

Graciegirl719

Why not just go ancient first? I actually liked the Odyssey and the Illiad, and didn't find it nearly as diffucult to read as people make it out to be.

[Edited 11/26/18 10:18am]

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Reply #19 posted 11/27/18 8:48am

domainator2010

DaveT said:

I wouldn't pick up a book just because its considered 'classic' whether its English, Irish, American or whatever.

Life's too short .. just read the books that sound interesting to you and pay no mind to what the academics say about said tome.


This is exactly what I was about to say.

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Reply #20 posted 11/27/18 8:52am

domainator2010

EmmaMcG said:

Or C.S. Lewis, who was from Belfast, which is still technically in Ireland.

You like Narnia?? smile I LOVED that as a kid, and even when somewhat grown up! smile

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Reply #21 posted 11/27/18 9:42am

EmmaMcG

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domainator2010 said:



EmmaMcG said:


Or C.S. Lewis, who was from Belfast, which is still technically in Ireland.


You like Narnia?? smile I LOVED that as a kid, and even when somewhat grown up! smile



I only read the first one and I liked it. I never owned any of the other ones in the series.
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Reply #22 posted 11/27/18 6:36pm

TrivialPursuit

EmmaMcG said:

domainator2010 said:

You like Narnia?? smile I LOVED that as a kid, and even when somewhat grown up! smile

I only read the first one and I liked it. I never owned any of the other ones in the series.


The Screwtape Letters is good. I need to re-read it.

This experience will cover courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love, and hate.
http://bit.ly/1D3FG2U
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Reply #23 posted 11/27/18 11:44pm

maplenpg

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EmmaMcG said:[quote]

domainator2010 said:



EmmaMcG said:


Or C.S. Lewis, who was from Belfast, which is still technically in Ireland.


You like Narnia?? smile I LOVED that as a kid, and even when somewhat grown up! smile



We should also remember that there are plenty of current books that are set to become classics in the future. Harry Potter is the obvious one, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is another fantastic read (albeit that it's YA fiction) - I can see being taught 50 years from now.
[Edited 11/29/18 13:02pm]
If love is the answer, what was the question? - Carter USM.
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