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Last Book You Read and Rate It (Part III)

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Old
04-09-2014, 10:12 PM
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Last Book You Read and Rate It (Part III)

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http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh....php?t=1075403

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04-10-2014, 12:38 AM
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Sonic Disturbance
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The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) - Thomas Pynchon - 3.2/10



I came into reading this book with a lot of enthusiasm; Pynchon considered one of the greatest living American authors and as an avid reader of American literature from its conception, I was looking to see if this reputation was deserved. Furthermore, Pynchon was a noted student of Vladimir Nabokov, my favourite author, at Cornell and even included references to "Humbert Humbert" and "nymphets" in this particular work. However, I was left very disappointed. Pynchon's chaotic and deliberately ugly prose was a clear break from his renowned teacher and was an instant turn-off for an aesthete like myself. The narrator, Oedipa Maas is attempting to uncover a centuries' old conspiracy of an underground mail service, the Trystero. The dilemma of this novel is figuring out if Maas is actually discovering these cryptic clues, or if she is simply mad, and is allegorical to the existence of God. Scientific principles like entropy and perpetual motion are introduced as analogies to the text, one of the few bits I actually enjoyed. I don't know if Nabokov read this book in his later years, but if he did, I would bet that he would call this book "the work of a philistine" or some other cynical comment like that. To conclude, The Crying of Lot 49 is a book that has definitely fostered a dislike of post-modernism for myself, which is a shame because I have read other great post-modernists like David Foster Wallace and Philip Roth. Maybe I just don't understand Pynchon? Anyway, I will give this book another try in the future; I disliked William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf as well when I first initially read their unique writing styles, but now they both rank up there with my favourite authors.

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04-10-2014, 12:44 AM
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Oscar Acosta
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Crying of Lot 49 is an instant turn off for everyone that's ever read it.

Best analogy I can give for it, for anyone that loves literature of any age - it's like being a rock music fan and someone gives you a dub step/techno album to find meaning to. It probably has none, but someone once said it did. Enjoy it. Like looking at great "American art" of Jackson Pollock.

To some small group of elitists, they're out there, it's a classic. Finding them is a greater challenge.

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04-10-2014, 01:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oscar Acosta View Post
Crying of Lot 49 is an instant turn off for everyone that's ever read it.

Best analogy I can give for it, for anyone that loves literature of any age - it's like being a rock music fan and someone gives you a dub step/techno album to find meaning to. It probably has none, but someone once said it did. Enjoy it. Like looking at great "American art" of Jackson Pollock.

To some small group of elitists, they're out there, it's a classic. Finding them is a greater challenge.
Great analogy. It's always been ranked very high on many lists, but I have no idea why - probably just a group of intellectuals declared it great and the masses have followed suit, claiming that it is great because it is chaotic. It's one of those books where if you say you don't like it, it's apologists will just point out that "you just don't understand" while not really being able to provide a real satisfactory defense of the novel. Some novels I've read are written very beautifully, with glimmering sentences, but have little substance behind the mask. Other novels are quite ugly at first, but you come to realize the significance behind it after a close reading. The Crying of Lot 49 is neither for me. It seems to me to be a work that has neither style nor substance, but only receives attention due to its shock factor and literary innovation.

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04-10-2014, 07:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard F Schiller
I enjoyed Orwell's 1984; probably would give it around the same score as you, about a ~7.5/10. Have you read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley? It's considered the companion to 1984 but it's a dystopian society on the other end of the spectrum - people are given non-stop sex and drugs, are eliminated from any real intellectual activity and become like little children. I actually enjoyed BNW more than 1984, would probably rate it a 8.3/10, partially because it is probably more relevant to present-day America, but also because it is possible to interpret the society in BNW as a utopian society instead which is not really possible with 1984.
I have not, but I'll add it to my list. Books about dystopian societies have always called to me.

Thanks for the recommendation!

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04-10-2014, 08:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oscar Acosta View Post
Crying of Lot 49 is an instant turn off for everyone that's ever read it.

Best analogy I can give for it, for anyone that loves literature of any age - it's like being a rock music fan and someone gives you a dub step/techno album to find meaning to. It probably has none, but someone once said it did. Enjoy it. Like looking at great "American art" of Jackson Pollock.

To some small group of elitists, they're out there, it's a classic. Finding them is a greater challenge.
I read it and I loved it. I have read two other Pynchon novels and enjoyed them, but not as much as Lot 49. I am neither an elitist nor am I extremely well read. I don't even have a university degree. However, I also enjoy dub step, techo, and Jackson Pollock I would say it's a classic but not because others call it a classic. I've been working my way though the TIME top 100 novels list from a few years ago, and compared to the other 50-odd books I have read in the list, it deserves its place.

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04-11-2014, 08:04 AM
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The Saturnalia by Macrobius. I...don't know how to rate it. I mean the way it was translated made it easy to follow, and the notes were helpful, but the actual work itself was just ****ing DUMB at times. I guess as a translation I'd give it an 8 out of 10, but as a work I'd give it, I don't know...a 5? It nice to pick up little tidbits of history here and there, but you have to disregard a great deal of what was said, and the style itself is pretty dry.

I finished Forming by Jesse Moynihan around the same time. It was a lot of fun. I look forward to the next volume. 7 out of 10.

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04-11-2014, 08:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oscar Acosta View Post
Crying of Lot 49 is an instant turn off for everyone that's ever read it.

Best analogy I can give for it, for anyone that loves literature of any age - it's like being a rock music fan and someone gives you a dub step/techno album to find meaning to. It probably has none, but someone once said it did. Enjoy it. Like looking at great "American art" of Jackson Pollock.

To some small group of elitists, they're out there, it's a classic. Finding them is a greater challenge.
http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...&postcount=531

Apparently I remember it more fondly than my review at the time indicates. I did like it, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by silverfish View Post
I have not, but I'll add it to my list. Books about dystopian societies have always called to me.

Thanks for the recommendation!
Read Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler as well and see what you think of the three together.

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04-11-2014, 09:09 AM
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The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein: First off, the work isn’t an autobiography of Toklas, Stein’s longtime lover and companion, it is actually an autobiography of Stein herself, who uses the ruse of Toklas’ life as a clever device to talk about herself in the third person, often praising herself to the skies in the process (“Gertrude Stein” is a genius; the creator of modern writing; at one point, she compares herself to Bach). Some of this is perhaps humorously intended, but not much. The book is divided up into three long sections, basically the years before World War I in Paris, the years during the war outside of Paris, and the years after the war back in Paris, again. It is true that her friends make up an impressive list by any standards: Picasso (who comes across as autocratic and a bit imperious), Matisse, Pound, Eliot, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bowles, Satie and on and on. Her approach, very innovative at the time, is conversational and fluid with more emphasis on style than on organization or development. She plows through a ton of information, but because much of it is trivial and self-aggrandizing, a bad combination, little of it has lasting impact. In fact, the relentless self-absorption becomes extremely tedious after a while. Her considerable influence on the scene in Paris had more to do with her ability to mentor and to innovate rather than her ability to write important books. However, Hemingway for one took her experiments in style very seriously and her approach clearly had an enormous impact on his prose. Here’s Stein’s last paragraph from “The War” the second section of the book:
Quote:
However it all finally came to an end. We wandered up and we wandered down the Champs Elysees and the war was over and the piles of captured cannon that had made two pyramids were being taken away and peace was upon us.
Hemingway could so easily have written the exact same passage and no one would have ever been any the wiser.

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04-14-2014, 01:18 AM
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Originally Posted by ngc_5128 View Post
I read it and I loved it. I have read two other Pynchon novels and enjoyed them, but not as much as Lot 49. I am neither an elitist nor am I extremely well read. I don't even have a university degree. However, I also enjoy dub step, techo, and Jackson Pollock I would say it's a classic but not because others call it a classic. I've been working my way though the TIME top 100 novels list from a few years ago, and compared to the other 50-odd books I have read in the list, it deserves its place.
Haha fair enough.

I met the first person to like it, I respect that.

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04-15-2014, 03:34 PM
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The Spy Who Loved Me, by Ian Fleming: Of all the Bond books, this is the most peculiar. Bond doesn't make an appearance for the first two thirds of the book. Instead a tedious first person narrative provided by an expatriate French Canadian girl named Vivienne eats up page after page. First we learn in some detail about her early love life and then we find out she is at present in a tough spot, trapped in an abandoned motel and held hostage by a pair of lowlife morons. When Bond finally makes an appearance, he is uncharacteristically forthcoming about his work as well as surprisingly inept in its execution. However, the cardboard cutout villains are easily dispatched. The book is filled with what can only be called "purple prose" as Fleming cluelessly creates one of the least persuasive female narrators in history. He even has her say at one point, "All women love semi-****," thus pegging the author for all time as a particularly unappealing brand of malignant anus. All in all, a preposterous piece of writing, certainly the worst book by far that I have read in the series. When the movie of the book was finally made the only thing that the producers kept was the title. Good decision, that.

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04-17-2014, 09:53 PM
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My Antonia, written by Willa Cather: I picked this up after reading Richard F Schiller's review near the end of the previous thread. Set in the American heartland a bit after the turn of the 20th century, My Antonia is a story about a boy and girl who grow up together but never consummate their lifelong love. However, they deeply shape every moment of each other's lives anyway. I had never read Cather before and I was impressed by her ability to present the still unspoiled and largely untamed Nebraska prairies as a veritable Garden of Eden in which Jim and Antonia bloom. Jim gave me pause, occasionally, as there is a little too much Cather in his sensibility--every now and then his view is a little broader or more sophisticated or a more feminine than it should be. But that is a tiny flaw. More perplexing in the long run, the very likeable and intelligent Jim seems to let happiness pass him by with not one but two girls because of proprieties that he doesn't really appear to believe in. But he ends up choosing a life where the more important of those two girls would not want to follow anyway, so perhaps it is all for the best. While all this is going on, another subtler story emerges about a young America that seems in transition from a state of glorified nature to a more complicated existence that will include great social and moral change, not all of it for the better. The ending is both satisfying on one level and sad on another. I can't remember the last novel that I read where decency was a core value.


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04-19-2014, 12:15 PM
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I don't know what to say. This is the 4th Faulkner book I've read and it's incredible, cementing him as my favorite author. The story itself and the way he writes sentences, his observations on the human condition and tendencies... I don't know. I can't recommend this highly enough.

10/10

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04-19-2014, 02:13 PM
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Sick Puppy by Carl Hiassen

I've been meaning to check out some of Hiassen books because I know one of my favorite authors, Tim Dorsey, is in a similar vein. Saw this at the local library and decided to give it a shot. I was quite disappointed by how weak of a presence the main character had in the storyline. Additionally, there was not as much humor as I expected which would have helped get through some of the meandering parts. The book struggle to just tread water with its slow moving plot and generic supporting characters. I might give Hiassen another shot as I read after completing the book that this is one of his weaker books.

3/10

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04-21-2014, 08:48 AM
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Flappers and Philosophers, by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This is Fitzgerald's first collection of short stories, and it's a pip, to use the vernacular of his time. It contains two of the better short stories that I have ever read, The Offshore Pirate, about a clever seduction at sea, and Head and Shoulders, a wryly charming tale of opposites attracting. I didn't find any of the others quite the knock-outs that those two stories are, but the collection is filled with insights and fine writing. Fitzgerald seemed to find 19-year-old girls of a certain class and jazz-age sensibility utterly intoxicating. He has taken young flappers and their beaus and raised them to the level of art, partly helping to define an entire era in the process. The only question that remains is a big one, though: is writing about people this frivolous in a style both snappy and seemingly effortless a waste of a great writer's time? It's a good thing he started writing novels, or his legacy might have been slight. That being said, in terms of pure ingenuity and wit, in my book, this early collection of short stories runs circles around Hemingway's early collection of short stories.


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04-21-2014, 09:30 AM
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The next two collections are better.

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04-21-2014, 02:18 PM
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Lord Jim (1900) - Joseph Conrad

I had planned something more verbose, but in protest, I'll keep it to the point. I don't like Conrad. I find him utterly unreadable most of the time, and near incomprehensible too. Lord Jim is no different. I have no idea what the book is about, who anyone in it was, or why they did anything. I can only hope I never have to read anything else by him. Maybe it's because I read it over a period of weeks, but I genuinely had no idea what was ever going on, and sentences lasting four lines and six commas longer than they have any right to doesn't help.

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04-21-2014, 03:45 PM
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Sonic Disturbance
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Ada, or Ardor - Vladimir Nabokov; 7.0/10



Ada is generally considered Nabokov's third greatest novel, after Lolita and Pale Fire, with some even claiming it is his best work, and represents an older, Switzerland-residing Nabokov experimenting with post-modernism. However, I don't agree with many of these critics. I am not insinuating that Ada is a mediocre novel, but that it is not quite "Nabokovian" in style, is certainly not one of his better works and begins to show Nabokov's senility in his late 60's/early 70's. The opening lines are brilliant, playing on the beginning of Anna Karenina, as Nabokov parodies poor translators of Russian by deliberately reversing Tolstoy's words. However, the first four chapters in general are excruciatingly difficult to read, with chaotic sentences and references to an anti-earth (Anti-Terra in the novel). The prose eventually settles down and tells of the incestuous, first-cousin relationship between Van Veen and Ada. Nabokov plays his usual games with butterfly motifs, but Ada simply lacks the beauty of Lolita, the depth of Pale Fire, or the hilarity of Pnin. All in all, still a decent read, but not Nabokov's best work.

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04-21-2014, 04:12 PM
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The Real Life of Sebastian Knight - Vladimir Nabokov; 9.0/10



RLSK is Nabokov's first English language novel, written in Europe just before he migrated to America. It has generally been dismissed by many as a minor work, but I believe it to be a first-rate novel that is a vintage example of Nabokov's prose. Despite being an English novel, RLSK has roots that stem back to Russian realism, as Nabokov's character, V., has a mother who is deliberately similar to Anna Karenina (leaves father for a much younger lover and later has an emotional meeting with her son) and a father who is very similar to Alexander Pushkin (dies in a duel by missing a shot, right by a frozen lake). V.'s half-brother, Sebastian Knight, is a famous novelist who has just died and V. undergoes the task of assembling an authoritative, "real" biography to battle the slanderous biography that Knight's former secretary, Mr. Goodman wrote. V. attempts to trace Knight's past through his former girlfriend Clare Bishop , and discovers that there was perhaps a second woman involved, a possible mistress.

From here, many interpretations have been explored, but the one I find most convincing is that there is no second woman, but a second man. Sebastian Knight is really a closeted homosexual, based on the many clues Nabokov includes in the novel. This book has been referenced in Nabokov's autobiography Speak, Memory as a novel that explores the relationship between Nabokov and his own brother, Sergei, who was gay.

All in all, a great novel, and one of Nabokov's best.

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04-21-2014, 06:20 PM
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The Good Thief, Hannah Tinti



Without getting into too much detail, the book is rather bizarre, but I wouldn't say it's bad. The story is rather captivating, but some actions just seem too convenient and it's kind of annoying. It's also kind of difficult to truly embrace the setting because it's supposed to be set in 1800s America, but the language seems far too modern to get into. Phrases like "high as a kite" seem out of place. Anyway, aside from my personal grievances, the story itself tells the story of a young boy's adventure from an orphanage to a life of crime as part of a con man's act. Ren, the main character, is missing one hand and plays a major part in the cons. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll leave it there. Overall, I wouldn't honestly recommend it. It's humorous in places, it's engaging in others, but overall it's rather "meh". I'd give it a 5.5/10.

As for the comments above, Brave New World is one of my favorites. If you like 1984, you have to read it. An absolute must.

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04-22-2014, 11:10 AM
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WHERE MEN WIN GLORY- Jon Krakauer

I'm not a huge book reader, but I like Krakauer and think he did a great job telling the story of the life and the death of Pat Tillman. Ten years ago today Tillman died in Afghanistan as the result of friendly fire. For anyone interested ESPN is having an Outside the Lines special on tonight and also some stories on their website.

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04-22-2014, 09:17 PM
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The Humans, by Matt Haig: When Professor Andrew Martin of Cambridge University makes an important break through by solving the riddle of prime numbers, a discovery that has the potential to threaten the entire universe, an Alien from a far distant galaxy arrives on earth with the mission to eliminate Professor Martin and eradicate any trace of his mathematical equations before humans can do any lasting damage. The Alien, who is the narrator of the novel, starts off diligently enough, but to his great surprise, he actually begins to have doubts about his mission. Pretty soon his Spock-like belief in pure logic is being undermined by a sprinkling of human emotion that he seems helpless to control. The Humans is a wonderful read. I started the book last night and finished it today. The first part of the novel, where the novelty of coming to earth is brilliantly represented, is especially insightful and hilarious. Toward the end things get on the mushy, sentimental side, but the novel is so good and so inventive up to that point that it hardly matters. Highly enjoyable, very smart science fiction laced with a lot of humour. I haven't had this much fun reading a novel in a long time.


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04-23-2014, 01:37 AM
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Flappers and Philosophers, by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This is Fitzgerald's first collection of short stories, and it's a pip, to use the vernacular of his time. It contains two of the better short stories that I have ever read, The Offshore Pirate, about a clever seduction at sea, and Head and Shoulders, a wryly charming tale of opposites attracting. I didn't find any of the others quite the knock-outs that those two stories are, but the collection is filled with insights and fine writing. Fitzgerald seemed to find 19-year-old girls of a certain class and jazz-age sensibility utterly intoxicating. He has taken young flappers and their beaus and raised them to the level of art, partly helping to define an entire era in the process. The only question that remains is a big one, though: is writing about people this frivolous in a style both snappy and seemingly effortless a waste of a great writer's time? It's a good thing he started writing novels, or his legacy might have been slight. That being said, in terms of pure ingenuity and wit, in my book, this early collection of short stories runs circles around Hemingway's early collection of short stories.
This is the part I have to disagree with. I've said it myself "It's a good thing he started writing novels" in regards to F. Scott himself in an earlier post from the last thread when Ceremony and I were discussing Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Or maybe I said "It's a good thing they both wrote novels".

Ernest Hemingway wrote "In Our Time" which is a collection of short stories tied together into a novel, that in my opinion is his greatest work ever. But there's also a 300 page collection of short stories that are also drivel and a waste of anyone's time. I will clearly remember one out of 100 stories because a blind man recounted how his eyeballs were bit off in a bar fight. It wasn't because it was a good story, it was because it disturbed me.

To a far lesser literary extent I've read Stephen King's "Full Dark No Stars" and don't remember a single word of it. I've read his "11/22/63" and it's burned in the mind. John Grisham, "Ford County Stories" again, not a single word of it, "A Time to Kill" absolutely.

The long winded point I'm trying to make here is I don't know of any great novel writer that has been great at short stories. Flannery O'Connor in my opinion is the greatest short story writer ever, novels not at all. Hunter S. Thompson, Screwjack, it's ok, it's funny. It's not his Fear and Loathing or Rum Diary or political life essays.

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04-23-2014, 08:31 AM
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The long winded point I'm trying to make here is I don't know of any great novel writer that has been great at short stories
. Flannery O'Connor in my opinion is the greatest short story writer ever, novels not at all. Hunter S. Thompson, Screwjack, it's ok, it's funny. It's not his Fear and Loathing or Rum Diary or political life essays.
Man, your standards must be through the roof, then. Joyce, Nabokov, Tolstoi, Mann, Updike, and Murikami all come immediately to mind as exceptions to your rule, and I haven't even had my morning coffee yet. Why not give Dubliners a try?

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04-23-2014, 09:38 AM
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The long winded point I'm trying to make here is I don't know of any great novel writer that has been great at short stories. Flannery O'Connor in my opinion is the greatest short story writer ever, novels not at all.
I have to agree with Kihei here. Some of my favourite short stories were from great novelists like "Bartleby the Scrivener" (Melville), "The Vane Sisters" (Nabokov), "The Mark on the Wall"b (Woolf) and "The Birth-Mark" (Hawthorne). In some cases, in my opinion at least, supposedly great novels like The Scarlet Letter produced by great novelists are actually weaker than their short story counterparts, such as in Hawthorne's case. Also, I have to somewhat disagree on Flannery O'Connor. I thought her second novel, The Violent Bear it Away, was rather weak, but Wise Blood is a classic of American Gothic literature.

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