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Topic: 2012 Fantasy Challenge -- Genre in the Mainstream Discussion

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Subject: 2012 Fantasy Challenge -- Genre in the Mainstream Discussion
Date Posted: 12/1/2011 4:27 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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Please post all your discussion of books filling this category in this thread.

 

Some Useful Definitions

Genre in the Mainstream: These are novels which have some Fantasy element but which are not published/marketed as Fantasy novels; instead they are published/marketed as Mainstream Fiction.

Allegorical novel: An allegory in its most general sense is an extended metaphor. An allegorical novel uses character, place, and event to represent abstract ideas and to demonstrate some thesis.
Postmodern novel: A Postmodern novel relies heavily on techniques such as fragmentation, paradox, questionable narrators, and metafiction in a reaction against the Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature. Instead of the modernist quest for meaning in a chaotic world, the postmodern author avoids, often playfully, the possibility of meaning, and the postmodern novel is often a parody of this quest. Postmodern authors also tend to celebrate chance over craft, and employ metafiction to undermine the writer's authority. Another characteristic of postmodern literature is the questioning of distinctions between high and low culture through the use of pastiche, the combination of subjects and genres not previously deemed fit for literature.
Magical realism: Magical realism is a genre in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the "real" and the "fantastic" in the same stream of thought.

 

Additional Resources

A list of the World Fantasy Award winners/nominees can be found here.

A list of the Mythopoeic Award winners/nominees can be found here.

A list of the Booker Prize winners/nominees can be found here.

A list of the National Book Award winners/nominees can be found here.

 

LISTS ONLY thread can be found here.



Last Edited on: 12/1/11 5:35 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 1/2/2012 11:04 AM ET
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Genre in the Mainstream
1. Read a fantasy novel commonly found on high school reading lists:  The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1/7/2012  What an entertaining read!  Never having read this book even though my daughters all did, I felt it was time that I, too, turned its pages.  Bilbo Baggins celebrates his eleventy-fifth birthday and decides to go traveling.  Before he leaves he gives up Ring of Power, bestowing it on his nephew and friend,  Frodo.  He had found the ring years before on a journey described in The Hobbit.  However, strange, evil horsemen begin to appear and Frodo decides to follow Bilbo.  As he and his friends travel they find their way impeded by several evil black horsemen, intent upon capturing the ring from Frodo.  Tolkien takes the hobbits on a peril filled journey as they plan to destroy the ring whose power corrupts anyone who uses it.  What a fantasy!  Tolkien was as private as Bilbo said that he was this unique little man.
2. Read a World Fantasy Award winner/nominee or a Mythopoeic Award winner/nominee by a non-genre author: The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart(Mythopoeic Award) 2/2012.  Enjoyed this book about Merlin.  The first section was much like I expected.  It reminded me of White's series?  Having read the one about Arthur's childhood, I have been meaning to read the rest for a long time as it's so much fun. In Book II I  thought that it was a marvel that Merlin took such control of his life even when it didn't seem to go his way.  And, to finally discover his father after all the dreams and imagining he had about who he might be.  In Book III Merlin returns home, as sad the experience was for him.I had hoped for more with Galapas and Merlin.  Found how Merlin was able to get out from under King Vortigern most interesting.  Sometimes wonder where writers come up with their ideas.  Book IV has so much happening, especially with Merlin losing both parents.  King Ambrosius takes his armies through Britain, subduing his enemies and riding the country of the Saxons.  His support grows and Britain is united under his rule but the long task of rebuilding begins.  I was saddened by the death of Merlin's mother.  In other reads by other authors, much more is written about this wonderful woman and her powers.  I rejoiced when Merlin returned to the cave.  But it saddened me when he fortold the death of Ambrosius.  Stewart's telling is quite different from the tale told by Stephen Lawhead but equally as enjoyable to read.  Book V prepares the reader for Arthur's birth.  I understood Uther's anger.  It seemed well founded to me.  However, I really mourned Cadal's death.  Having finished Lawhead's book just prior to this one I found myself comparing how the two authors handled the topic and found myself rating Stewart 3 stars.

3. Read a fantasy novel that has won/was nominated for the Booker Prize or National Book Award:  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, 4/1/2012  This is a thrilling horror novel that keeps you on the edge of your chair until it speeds to the end.  At that point you are farily certain that one character will not survive.  Whether others do or not is debatable at this point.  Do not read the introduction by Stephen King if you have this edition as it gives too much information about what happens during the telling.  It's well done!  I found it most entertaining and exciting to read.  All the horror exists in the mind or does it?

 

 

 

 

 

4. Read a allegorical novel  

5. Read a postmodern novel.

6. Read a magical realist novel from North America.
7. Read a magical realist novel from South America.
8. Read a magical realist novel from Europe.
9. Read a magical realist novel from Asia.
10. Read a fantasy novel written before 1900. 



Last Edited on: 4/4/12 8:19 PM ET - Total times edited: 19
Date Posted: 1/3/2012 1:11 AM ET
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Great idea to keep up with the subdivisions in the thread. Think I'll join you!

Going light....

Genre in the Mainstream
1. Read a fantasy novel commonly found on high school reading lists.....     The Silmarillion
2. Read a World Fantasy Award winner/nominee or a Mythopoeic Award winner/nominee by a non-genre author.
3. Read a fantasy novel that has won/was nominated for the Booker Prize or National Book Award.
4. Read a allegorical novel.....     Left Behind
5. Read a postmodern novel.
6. Read a magical realist novel from North America.
7. Read a magical realist novel from South America.
8. Read a magical realist novel from Europe.
9. Read a magical realist novel from Asia.
10. Read a fantasy novel written before 1900.



Last Edited on: 1/4/12 10:39 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/14/2012 3:21 PM ET
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My postmodern read is:  Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas.

It's very, very, very, very meta.  The majority of the characters are authors who sit around talking about different literary techniques (some of which are used while they're discussing them), the books they're currently writing/want to write,  and why they want to write literary versus genre fiction.  And, of course, they discuss their affairs.  A large chunk of the discussion is about the "storyless story" - that is, one without a traditional plot structure - which describes Our Tragic Universe perfectly.   There are things that happen but as soon as you think an event is going to lead somewhere, it either stops, or is just dropped and never mentioned again.   It seems more like a notebook full of related ideas and themes than it does a novel (which, of course, was another literary technique discussed in the book!).

I have to say I don't recommend this book at all.  I was really hoping for the hard science/philosophy mix of The End of Mr. Y but this is a literary theory/philosophy mix.  There's enough interesting ideas sprinkled throughout that I kept reading, but I'm not sure it was really worth it.

Other categories it could fit in:
Magical Realist from Europe - Not traditional magical realism, but there's just enough magic, poltergeists, and New Age-y events that it qualifies.
Traditional fantasy element is explained scientifically - uses the Omega Point theory to postulate how humans might eventually create an afterlife, heaven, reincarnation or a god.
Author from Europe - Scarlett Thomas is from England.
The dear god when will this book end category - oh wait...  That's not a category this year, is it?



Last Edited on: 1/14/12 3:25 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 1/15/2012 1:17 AM ET
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I have read The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte (translated by Sonia Soto) as my post modern read.  The story follows Lucas Corso as he attempts to authenticate a manuscript chapter of the The Three Musketeers and find an original book containing instructions on summoning the devil.  The narrator (who is not the protagonist) is unreliable in the extreme.  As story progresses, it not only refers to The Three Musketeers but also reproduces portions of it.  A number of characters seem to have counterparts to Dumas' book.  Many details--Dumas' life, the forging of manuscripts, the many, many book and cinema references are fascinating.  There are two plots that seem to be one or maybe they are two.  There is a positive rain of red herrings.  And the fallen angel that Corso acquires as companion doesn't seem very demonic but given the unreliability of the narrator, I wonder. The ending is a definate anti climax and enormously aggravating.  Despite the ending, I would definately recommend this book.

Date Posted: 2/8/2012 2:46 PM ET
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My allegorical book is Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which is one of the children/YA books that Salman Rushdie wrote for his sons.  

On one level, it’s a fun quest story about Haroun trying to get his father’s storytelling talent back. On a deeper level, it’s an extended allegory on free speech.

Its points include the idea that your surroundings (especially an oppressive political situation) taint the stories you are able to tell, possibly without your knowledge – both by changing what you really want to say and by stopping you from saying anything at all.  Also, it says that if speech is truly free, it MUST include the ability and even a duty to say anything you wish, including questioning your leaders.

I really enjoyed this book.  It has lovely prose, and there’s plenty that both a young teen and adults can appreciate.   

Date Posted: 2/20/2012 11:57 PM ET
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I just finished Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore. I have to say, I found his writing style incredibly tedious.  Maybe it just didn't translate well, but the sentences were short, choppy, and often pointless.  If Kafka took a shower, we were told what body part he washed first.  We were told exactly what was in nearly every meal that any character ate.  No one ever just put on a shirt or a pair of sunglasses, or a hat -- brand names and exact colors were given.  And there were plenty of unrelated digressions on literary allusions.  Those allusions wouldn't have been so bad if Murakami didn't feel the need to explain every single one of them at great length.  The amount of hand holding he did was almost insulting.  The plot is alright, I suppose.  It's mostly his style I disliked.

I know Murakami has a fairly large and devoted following.  Has any one here read any of his work?  What am I missing?

I'm using this for Magic Realism from Asia.  It also fits Author from Asia, or multiple protagonists.

 

Edited to add:
I was just discussing this book with my friend who’s really into Japanese culture.  He hasn’t read any Murikami but says that over-explaining the little details and retelling things like myths/legends, but leaving the main points of the plot very ambiguous is very typical of Japanese literature in general.



Last Edited on: 2/22/12 6:52 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/5/2012 10:17 PM ET
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Just finished Perfume: The Story of a Murderer  for my World Fantasy/Mythopoeic Award Winner/Nominee from a non-genre author category.  Despite two to three dozen murders, it's far from graphic or gory and some of the deaths (though not of the girls) were so over the top that it became amusing.  Morbid and disturbing, but amusing. 

Other categories this could fit in:
Magical Realist from Europe
Novel by an author from Europe
Novel with Anti-Hero as the protaganist

 

Date Posted: 4/6/2012 10:40 AM ET
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For my pre-1900 read, I chose H. Rider Haggard’s She.  Haggard popularized (some argue originated) the “lost world” sub genre.  King Solomon’s Mines was actually his first “lost world” book but it didn’t contain a lot of the typical “lost world” elements we think of today.  She does contain most of those elements, and features a 2,000 year old queen named “She-who-must-be-obeyed” (thus the origin of the term) who rules over a “savage” tribe in Africa.

Like a lot of the Victorian works of his time, She is racist, anti-Semitic, imperialist, and misogynistic.  It’s even misogynistic by the standards of the Victorian age which takes some doing, and the sheer absurdity of the comments is hilarious at times.   Among other things, it proposes killing off the older women every second generation or so to remind younger women to not get uppity and repeatedly calls all women evil beings who only care for wealth and power, while men are innocent of such things and are merely ruled by passion.

It was a real hoot to read.    

Other categories this could fit in:
Novel by an author from Europe
Novel with multiple protagonists

 

Date Posted: 4/6/2012 11:46 PM ET
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That sounds. . . um. . . like a trip. ;)

Date Posted: 4/7/2012 7:11 AM ET
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Definitely a trip!

At one point, She kills Leo's wife right in front of him.  Leo then looks at the queen and is so overcome by her supernatural beauty that within 5 minutes, they're kissing over the body of his wife.

And obviously, it's all the woman's fault, because what man can control himself in the presence of a beautiful female? 

While reading it, I kept imagining a gentleman of the era reading it, perhaps while smoking a cigar or pipe, and nodding sagely along with all of these statements.  It made it even funnier.

Date Posted: 6/12/2012 6:21 PM ET
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I just finished The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht. 

I really have no idea at all why I didn't like this book. 

It's magical realism (sort of) which I have been liking lately.  It's slow and somewhat plotless but that's not usually an issue for me.  I can intellectually appreciate the writing style, yet I didn't really enjoy it.  It's full of made-up folktales and the process of making folktales, which normally I'd be thrilled with but somehow, I just wasn't this time.   It's not that I disliked it though.  I'm just very, very neutral. 

Maybe there's some piece to it that I missed that would have made it amazing.  I do admit I didn't quite get all of the ending.  Perhaps the ending is ambiguous because it’s part of a made up folktale that’s still being created.  I think I would get it a little better if I re-read the book a couple of times.  But that's a bit too much effort to put into a book I feel so neutral towards.

I’m putting this in the Booker Prize/National Book Award Nominee/Winner for now, though I may move it later to make room for Satanic Verses.
It could also fit:
Magical Realism from Europe
Novel by a woman
Novel by a European