Books that changed your world

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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:34 am

Gulliver's Travels is one classic I have read (and didn't enjoy too much at the time of first reading because really I was too young and didn't get the political satire side of things too well) that I'm still ambivalent about although again I like the idea of it that I had from 'pop culture' such as it was for literature in the 60's and loved the cutesy 1939 animation classic movie and again reading about Lilliput and Brobdinnag in some of the watered down adaptions available in my catholic junior school. This was really a straight and exceptionally meagre choice between 'uplifting' tales of the martyrs and saints and really 'nice' picture books and fairy taley things like Beatrix Potter; Bros Grimm; Mabel Lucy Attwell illustrated books like Peter Pan and vaguely christian-themed morality tales like the Water Babies, Gulliver, then C.S. Lewis so I was literally pushed into fantasy :lol:

I loved the Greek Classics, particularly the Odyssey rather than the Iliad and loved the mythology which led to Norse myth of course which was far more satisfying and gritty, with no messing around with nymphs or golden showers and swans the whole time, but that also got me interested in classical history and the Celts especially and yet another mythology and the legends of King Arthur - so I was a sucker for Tolkien of course which did and continues to affect me profoundly.

Frankenstein and Dracula and the whole gothic gig - wonderful, but very overdone on TV and film and as we so often find on here, as reading the book first spoils the movie, so the reverse is also true, and so it spoiled Mary Shelley (and Stoker less so) for me. Mary Shelley's a big hero actually, an incredible, inspirational woman but, unlike Jane Austen, I can't read her with any degree of comfort or pleasure as her style's just too 'stiff' and mannered for me and too marred by movie imagery. The concepts in Frankstein I admire tremendously and her handling of the characterisation of the Dr. and his creation with their motivation and moral struggles are brilliant and insightful. It's just - I have to 'make' myself read it and reading to me as an adult is more to do with being caught in the moment and lost in the personalities and how the story comes to life and makes you care what happens? With most classical authors there's a lack of this and, for instance Dickens, absolutely leaves me cold to sit and read him, although I love some of his stories, even and especially Great Expectations, which was a set book when I went to senior school and that most definitely was my English teacher who even managed to make Wuthering Heights dull and lifeless! :roll: To this day I can't stand David Copperfield however, but Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol - which weren't course books - absolutely fine, but I couldn't read them cover to cover either, because I just don't have the patience with him! :oops:
"Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” George Bernard Shaw
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Postby BaldFriede » Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:41 am

It is very interesting that Dickens leaves you cold; your English teacher must have been horrible. At the time that "The Old Curiosity Shop" was published the whole nation bit their nails about the fate of little Nell, and many were actually angry at Dickens that he let her die. It definitely did not leave them cold.
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Postby Tonyblack » Thu Feb 03, 2011 6:29 am

I loved Gulliver's Travels, although I didn't read the full, original version until I was an adult. I found the ending deeply moving and incredibly tragic. I really don't understand why it's been considered a 'children's book' for so many years.
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Postby Danny B » Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:37 pm

The same reason that I found Gulliver's Travels, along with Clive Barker's Weaveworld, Gary K. Wolfe's Who Censored Roger Rabbit and Stephen Donaldson's Lord Foul's Bane, the first book of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, all very much not for kids, in the children's section of my local library, Tony.

The librarian was a bit of a lit. snob, but not a very well read one, so lumped anything set in a "made up" world in with Oz, Narnia, the adventures of Alice and The Hobbit. Some people just have trouble separating fable, folklore, mythology, allegory and true fantasy, compounded by a stultifying lack of imagination which leads them to classify anything childlike (in this case used to mean 'containing elements of pure imagination and/or is set in imaginary world') and childish. Still, at least before I'd even hit my teens I'd learned to process and deal with some very complex themes. :lol:
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* Correction - Carpio diem
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Postby BaldJean » Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:13 pm

Tonyblack wrote:I loved Gulliver's Travels, although I didn't read the full, original version until I was an adult. I found the ending deeply moving and incredibly tragic. I really don't understand why it's been considered a 'children's book' for so many years.

That's the fate of many books that make important comments on society. Just think of "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn", "Robinson Crusoe" or "Uncle Tom's Cabin". These books are important, but then people shrug them off and say "Oh, that's kids' stuff".
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Postby deldaisy » Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:57 pm

Hence why I used to sneak "kids books" over tot he adults section. :D

I once found "My Secret Garden" by Nancy Friday in the kids section :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:
I took it up to the Librarian and plonked it down saying "I found this in the kids section... you MIGHT like to reclassify it"
She looked at it and said "The Secret Garden? That was one of my favourtie books when I was a child!"
I said..... "Nooooo. This is MY Secret Garden."
So she opened it... and started reading.... :shock: :shock: :shock:
Then she put it to once side ASSURING ME she would recode and reassign it later :D :D :wink: yeah right! :D
Dear God could you imagine a child taking that home.
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Thu Feb 03, 2011 5:07 pm

:lol:

THAT Secret Garden! :twisted:

I'm utterly aghast at Clive Barker in the kid's section :shock: Stephen Donaldson kind of, although Thomas Covenant's not absolutely hard core violence there's some nasty stuff in there. Roger Rabbit's disneyfied so I can see how that's possibly an honest mistake (I haven't read that so don't know if Rog and Jessica get up to more naughties that the film - or is it Baby Herman who's the offender? :lol: )

See - this is it you can't read everything so how do you know if it's suitable for kids or not! :lol:

Twain's still well-regarded and rightly so, but Uncle Tom and Robinson are also books that are looked down on these days because they're regarded as too race supremisist (sp?), despite the fact that they actually address that problem in at least a humane and sympathetic manner - for their time they were practically bleeding heart liberal. Uncle Tom in particular's a lovely, loving book for the most part - of course it's hopelessly sentimentalised but it's tone is wholly caring and human and, most importantly just in it's message. Uncle Tom is a gentle hero and doesn't deserve to be despised so cavalierly under the dubious shield of 'political' correctness. :evil:
"Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” George Bernard Shaw
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Postby BaldFriede » Thu Feb 03, 2011 5:46 pm

Since you asked for it: It's "Supremacist".
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Thu Feb 03, 2011 6:10 pm

:lol: Thanks. Couldn't be fished to look it up :wink:
"Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” George Bernard Shaw
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Postby BaldJean » Sun Feb 06, 2011 10:37 am

"Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky definitely changed my world too. It was the first book in which I felt for the villain, and like him I felt the noose tightening around the neck and feared Petrovic. And I hated Svidrigaïlov with a passion; he was the really bad guy in the novel, not poor Raskolnikov. A true masterpiece.
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Postby BaldFriede » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:25 am

A book which most definitely changed my world was "Momo" by Michael Ende. Ende is best known for his "Neverending Story", but his real masterpiece is "Momo". After I had read it I took my time for everything and tried to escape from the haste all around me. I could sit in an open air cafe for hours, sipping on a glass of wine and watching the hustle all around me with mild amusement. Unfortunately this effect did not last forever; I was caught in the surge of everyday life and its hustle again. But while that magic of the book lasted it was wonderful. I read the book again to regain the effect, but it was not like the first time. It was still an excellent book, but my eyes had been opened by the book already, and so it was not the revelation it had been on first reading. But that is no fault of the book
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:32 pm

BaldFriede wrote:I read the book again to regain the effect, but it was not like the first time. It was still an excellent book, but my eyes had been opened by the book already, and so it was not the revelation it had been on first reading. But that is no fault of the book

If it is a fault at all? :? I think if anything that's a 'fault' in modern attitudes in terms of excess, or craving too much of a good thing perhaps? Not expressing myself very well here as it's caught up in personal stuff atm. :oops:

I've read the Neverending Story but not Momo, but I do get what you mean as that sense of serene removal from the world around you, those 'time stood still' moments that feel like hours when you get the 'tingles' etc are supposed to be precious and rare, if not unique, and kept in memory rather than experienced too much, certainly not in a regular sense. In a way this is part of the 'malaise of the western world' for people of all ages today - if you have the income for whatever your 'thing' is, everything's on tap, instant and available, a quick fix to keep you happy for so long until it's time for the next hit, but it all become so jaded, so quickly.

There are so many highs to be had that we're losing all value for the aethereal? The 'magic' moment isn't magic anymore unless you can have it over and over again until it loses it's charm and it's onto something newer, faster, more exciting, sexier - whatever. We get too much is what I'm saying and, in a way, you can blame TV for this! :lol: Think of it this way with the Megaphores site - the top comment is still currently - This toilet tissue is so soft it's like the sweet sweet embrace of a freshly shaved unicorn - which is utterly absurd but isn't that an evocative phrase?! :D Quite why or where a unicorn would need to shave is neither here nor there, but if your mind's capable of imagining a silky smooth white ghosting of warmth stealing over your skin, then that's the aesthetic, the wonderful moment I'm talking about. I don't think I'd want that to happen too much else it would be too much and no longer mystical, it should be the tiny glimpse, the merest touch, the momentary waft of paradise and then gone but never forgotten. The unforgettable precious moment's too fragile and too special to happen more than once, but we're awakened to the echoes in our sense as well as our memories, so we can almost get there again and smile at a lesser reflection because we had the original once and that has to be enough for one lifetime. It's the reason why innocence and purity, wisdom and caring should be valued and not squandered - and definitely why those unicorn moments should not be wasted on an area currently suffering from the devastation of last night's lager bender and a dodgy shami kebab :twisted:
"Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” George Bernard Shaw
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Postby BaldFriede » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:21 pm

You are right about those "special moments", but that is not what I meant. It is the very content of "Momo", the story. To sum the story up: Momo is a little girl of unknown age who lives in an amphitheater. She has a special talent: She knows how to listen to people, and people feel better when they have talked to her. Her closest friends are Benno Streetsweeper and Girolamo Cicerone.
One day she notices that things have changed. Fewer and fewer people come to her, finally not even Gigi and Benno. She sets out to find out what happened, and it appears that gray men in gray suits who smoke cigars all the time have popped up. They claim to be working for a time saving bank, and they demonstrate to people how they have "wasted" their time before, but what they really do is steal the time from people who now haste and haste and haste and never find time for relaxing and the really beautiful things in life.
The effect that book had on me is that I started really taking my time for everything I did, really cherishing every moment while watching the chaotic running of the people around me. Only this book has this effect because of its content. It is a magical book.
Last edited by BaldFriede on Tue Feb 08, 2011 12:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:31 pm

BaldFriede wrote:She sets out to find out what happened, and it appears that gray men in gray suits who smoke cigars all the time have popped up. They clam to be working for a time saving bank, and they demonstrate to people how they have "wasted" their time before, but what they really do is steal the time from people who now haste and haste and haste and never find time for relaxing and the really beautiful things in life.

I thought I'd lost that post! :shock: :lol: I well I'm glad it got through anyhow.

I have a big dose of the men in gray suits atm which is why I went overboard for a written 'special moment' - :P Didn't work out exactly but it helps to know they're out there and that you can remember what they're like and know how to take the time to stop and smell the roses, or the coffee, or whatever brings you happiness and contentment. I like Michael Ende's work - he has a great sense of the child who never leaves you :)
"Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” George Bernard Shaw
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Postby BaldFriede » Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:39 pm

Another book which definitely changed my world was "The Chants of Maldoror" by the Comte de Lautréamont (pseudonym of Isidor Lucien Ducasse). The book is incredibly wild and extremely daring for being written in the 19th century; Maldoror is probably the most evil character in the history of literatur. Lautréamont describes the evil deeds of his protagonist in an extremely wild poetic, dreeamlike language. The book had a major influence on the surrealist movement, and Ducasse became one of the saints of surrealism.
Towards the end of the movie "Weekend" by Jean-Luc Godard there is a character (one of the cannibals) who recites long passages from this book. Of course this is recognizable only to those who have read it :wink: , which I absolutely recommend if dark and macabre images don't repulse you.
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