I'm finding English novels boring. Correction, contemporary English novels. I can delight in a C.S.Lewis (and do - I can go on about Till we have faces, Perelandra, The Great Divorce or Narnia for a considerable length of time). I started devouring Milton the other day and am eagerly awaiting when my copy of Paradise Lost will drop through the letterbox (admittedly poetry not novel). And I lost count of how many hours sleep I lost in teenagehood reading and re-reading Tolkien. But Shriver, who has won so many awards? And Coupland, who has had such insights into our culture? I couldn't get into them.
I'm not disparaging those who do: we have different characters (praise the Lord!) and find different things interesting!
With me? Well, I can be intrigued by a plot, and want to know what happens, but if the use of language isn't brilliant, the technique fascinating (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time), the characterisation so well done that you think you know them in real life (La Neige en deuil), the world so well-crafted that there isn't a hole in its whole history, culture or linguistics (The Lord of the Rings), or the ideas philosophically meaty (Perelandra; not the self-obsessed psychobabble that pop novels come out with), I'm bored. I'll vaguely want to know what happens, but I'll be bored while I find out.
I have laugh out loud with delight moments at a beautiful sentence or phrase, a brilliant philosophical idea, or a grace-ful character.
Generalising again, I love French novel style. I think it's because francophones care for their language. And not just in the particular Academie Française way, but they love it. They romance it. They enjoy it. The writing of a novel is not in the plot - it is the art and science of écriture. There's also an element of classical education. The French novelist commonly assumes the reader is familiar with Judeo-Christian, Greek, Roman and French philosophical & cultural references. Philosophy, politics & anthropology is often played with like the mention of the weather in an anglophone novel. Now obviously that can be dull, but in those I've read, it adds deep colours to the palate which make the painting dance with richness beyond the contemporary.
I'm not just francophilising. I know there are so many great English novels out there that I haven't read yet (this isn't difficult to fathom, as I've read relatively few of the classics). I never thought otherwise - I read very few novels at all. I enjoyed relaxing last year to reading Vanhoozer's 'Is there a meaning in this text?' (it's a delight to read). Only, I had thought to engage more with pop culture by reading a contemporary English novel every so often. And I'm now not sure I can do it: time is too short for boredom. So I'm on a hunt - tell me your favourite 'greats' (go on, surprise me with contemporary greats!), and why. You may think me a moron and have different taste, but tell me why I should enjoy your 'greats'.
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