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Re: [mythsoc] Worthy vs. Fun

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  • James Curcio
    Unfortunately - and this isn t meant to be a cop out answer - but the truth is that there really is no accounting for taste. Especially when it comes to what
    Message 1 of 14 , Mar 19, 2012
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      Unfortunately - and this isn't meant to be a cop out answer - but the truth is that there really is no accounting for taste. Especially when it comes to what is "good" writing. 

      Though I do understand the distinction between craft/art and entertainment, to be sure.

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      On Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 1:37 PM, Alana Joli Abbott <alanajoli@...> wrote:
       

      Since I thought this might have the potential to spiral off topic, I thought I'd start a new thread rather than leap into the other fantasy writing thread.


      I've noticed in myself as a reader that I can acknowledge some books, such as Holdstock's recommended titles from the other thread, as very good books without, myself, enjoying them very much. I think I've only read one of his, actually, and I thought it was very good -- a worthy title -- but also that I didn't like it very much.

      I've been wondering the same thing about the Hunger Games books, which I've still not read -- they sound to me as though they are clearly good, meaning worthy, books. But the don't sound to me like they're very much fun, and I suspect that, based on what I've heard from others, while I may find them compelling, interesting, and thought-provoking, I won't like them very much.

      I do enjoy books very much that I think are well-crafted, well-written, and thoughtful (hitting many of my qualifications for worthy) while also being enjoyable (to my taste), including humor, and featuring likable characters who I care about over the course of their story (hitting many of my qualifications for fun). If a book can accomplish all of that, I'm always incredibly impressed -- usually a title will err toward one side or the other.

      Do others notice this trend in themselves as readers? Or do other folks' taste in worthy titles mesh with the things they like?

      -Alana

      --
      Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
      Contributor to Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
      Author of Into the Reach and Departure http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks
      Columnist, "The Town with Five Main Streets" http://branford.patch.com/columns/the-town-with-five-main-streets

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    • John Rateliff
      ... Alana wrote ... Yes, very much. There are any number of well-written books I dislike, from PARADISE LOST to THE TOMBS OF ATUAN. There are also lesser works
      Message 2 of 14 , Mar 19, 2012
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        On Mar 19, 2012, at 10:37 AM, Alana Joli Abbott wrote:
        Since I thought this might have the potential to spiral off topic, I thought I'd start a new thread rather than leap into the other fantasy writing thread.

        I've noticed in myself as a reader that I can acknowledge some books, such as Holdstock's recommended titles from the other thread, as very good books without, myself, enjoying them very much. I think I've only read one of his, actually, and I thought it was very good -- a worthy title -- but also that I didn't like it very much.

        I've been wondering the same thing about the Hunger Games books, which I've still not read -- they sound to me as though they are clearly good, meaning worthy, books. But the don't sound to me like they're very much fun, and I suspect that, based on what I've heard from others, while I may find them compelling, interesting, and thought-provoking, I won't like them very much.

        I do enjoy books very much that I think are well-crafted, well-written, and thoughtful (hitting many of my qualifications for worthy) while also being enjoyable (to my taste), including humor, and featuring likable characters who I care about over the course of their story (hitting many of my qualifications for fun). If a book can accomplish all of that, I'm always incredibly impressed -- usually a title will err toward one side or the other.


        Alana wrote
        Do others notice this trend in themselves as readers? Or do other folks' taste in worthy titles mesh with the things they like?
        -Alana

        Yes, very much. There are any number of well-written books I dislike, from PARADISE LOST to THE TOMBS OF ATUAN. There are also lesser works I love, probably beyond their merits (say, the fantasies of Thorne Smith or detective novels of Rbt van Gulik). The point at which I was able to separate "I like this" from "this is a great work of literature" marked my coming of age as a reader. I don't have to enjoy every work of genius and I don't have to defend everything I find enjoyable.
           Of course, best of all is when the two align, as in Dunsany's short stories (which are both a delight to read and masterpieces by a Master), or where both elements are altogether absent, as with the two books I read by Mary Gentle (which I found both repulsive and without redeeming features).
           As I read him, Lewis's whole theory of 'mythopoeia' was his attempt to explain the enormous appeal of writers who had the power to move him but whom he didn't consider to have much literary merit.
           As for HUNGER GAMES, Janice read and enjoyed the entire series; I haven't yet, but will probably be reading the first in the series sometime soon.

        --John R.

        P.S.: without being literary masterworks, Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series is an enjoyable read that makes creative use of classical mythology and puts his former expertise as a mystery novelist to good use; there were plot twists I didn't see coming in each of the five books that made up the original series. Recommended.

            




      • Alana Joli Abbott
        ... Well, that s also fair. Taste is *always* a factor and tends to be an inconsistent one. (Meaning: clearly everyone on this list shares some similar taste
        Message 3 of 14 , Mar 19, 2012
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          James wrote: 

          Unfortunately - and this isn't meant to be a cop out answer - but the truth is that there really is no accounting for taste. Especially when it comes to what is "good" writing. 

          Well, that's also fair. Taste is always a factor and tends to be an inconsistent one. (Meaning: clearly everyone on this list shares some similar taste or we wouldn't be here -- but we're just as clearly wildly divergent regarding our tastes in other writers, both classic and contemporary!)

          I guess when I try to qualify something as "worthy," I try to step outside of my own preferences to imagine how the work might be discussed in, say, a literature class. Perhaps it's like trying to find literary merit, rather than good writing. But even there, the definitions are quite debatable, considering how much literary merit people find in works I, as a lit student, considered utter drek. (Most blatant culprit: Jack Kerouac's On the Road.)

          John wrote:
          >The point at which I was able to separate "I like this" from "this is a great work of literature" marked my coming of age as >a reader. I don't have to enjoy every work of genius and I don't have to defend everything I find enjoyable. 

          This is certainly what I was getting at -- I'm glad to see you say it better than I did in the first place!

          >Without being literary masterworks, Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series is an enjoyable read that makes creative use of >classical mythology and puts his former expertise as a mystery novelist to good use...

          I'll endorse that view as well. Having read some of Riordan's mysteries, as well as continuing to follow his YA series, I think he's also continuing to grow and improve as a writer with each book. The Heroes of Olympus series, which continues after the original Percy Jackson books, is (in my opinion) much stronger -- but just as enjoyable. :)

          -Alana

          --
          Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
          Contributor to Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
          Author of Into the Reach and Departure http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks
          Columnist, "The Town with Five Main Streets" http://branford.patch.com/columns/the-town-with-five-main-streets

          --
          For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans

        • David Emerson
          I beg to differ with Professor Foster (a rare occurrence, to be sure) and aver that I found the Hunger Games books not only worthy but immensely fun, if
          Message 4 of 14 , Mar 19, 2012
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            I beg to differ with Professor Foster (a rare occurrence, to be sure) and aver that I found the Hunger Games books not only worthy but immensely "fun," if being totally entranced and turning pages as fast as possible falls under your definition of "fun." 

            David Emerson
            -----Original Message-----
            From: Alana Joli Abbott
            Sent: Mar 19, 2012 12:37 PM
            To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: [mythsoc] Worthy vs. Fun

            I've been wondering the same thing about the Hunger Games books, which I've still not read -- they sound to me as though they are clearly good, meaning worthy, books. But the don't sound to me like they're very much fun, and I suspect that, based on what I've heard from others, while I may find them compelling, interesting, and thought-provoking, I won't like them very much.
            
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          • Jo Foster
            I, too, must comment at this point. I am married to Professor Foster and really liked The Hunger Games. Herein lies the dispute between intellectually
            Message 5 of 14 , Mar 19, 2012
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              I, too, must comment at this point.  I am married to Professor Foster and really liked The Hunger Games.   Herein lies the dispute between intellectually worthy books and interesting books.  Holdstock is definitely in the former category.  He really made me think about thinking, awareness, consciousness, collective consciousness, etc.  The end of Lavondyss dragged on too long IMHO, however his concept was definitely the kind of thing you could discuss into the wee hours.
               
              Hunger Games is just interesting as a reflection on the moral compass.
               
              Jo Foster
               
              Sent: Monday, March 19, 2012 3:09 PM
              Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Worthy vs. Fun
               
               

              I beg to differ with Professor Foster (a rare occurrence, to be sure) and aver that I found the Hunger Games books not only worthy but immensely "fun," if being totally entranced and turning pages as fast as possible falls under your definition of "fun." 

              David Emerson

              -----Original Message-----
              From: Alana Joli Abbott
              Sent: Mar 19, 2012 12:37 PM
              To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: [mythsoc] Worthy vs. Fun

              I've been wondering the same thing about the Hunger Games books, which I've still not read -- they sound to me as though they are clearly good, meaning worthy, books. But the don't sound to me like they're very much fun, and I suspect that, based on what I've heard from others, while I may find them compelling, interesting, and thought-provoking, I won't like them very much.
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            • Mike Foster
              Mrs. Foster and I seldom (hah!) disagree (while sleeping). But THE HUNGER GAMES combined worst aspects of the Super Lotto, Miss America Pageant, and the Stupor
              Message 6 of 14 , Mar 19, 2012
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                Mrs. Foster and I seldom (hah!) disagree (while sleeping).
                 
                But THE HUNGER GAMES combined worst aspects of the Super Lotto, Miss America Pageant, and the Stupor Bowl.
                 
                And...
                 
                **** SPOILER ALERT ****
                 
                The ending is  a cheat.
                 
                You picked both Marquette & Wisconsin to win the NCAAs?
                 
                YOU WIN TWICE!
                 
                Here’s to Tolkien’s “The Notion Club Papers.”  Better no ending than a false finish.
                 
                Mike Foster
                 
                From: Jo Foster
                Sent: Monday, March 19, 2012 8:48 PM
                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Worthy vs. Fun
                 
                 

                I, too, must comment at this point.  I am married to Professor Foster and really liked The Hunger Games.   Herein lies the dispute between intellectually worthy books and interesting books.  Holdstock is definitely in the former category.  He really made me think about thinking, awareness, consciousness, collective consciousness, etc.  The end of Lavondyss dragged on too long IMHO, however his concept was definitely the kind of thing you could discuss into the wee hours.
                 
                Hunger Games is just interesting as a reflection on the moral compass.
                 
                Jo Foster
                 
                Sent: Monday, March 19, 2012 3:09 PM
                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Worthy vs. Fun
                 
                 

                I beg to differ with Professor Foster (a rare occurrence, to be sure) and aver that I found the Hunger Games books not only worthy but immensely "fun," if being totally entranced and turning pages as fast as possible falls under your definition of "fun." 

                David Emerson

                -----Original Message-----
                From: Alana Joli Abbott
                Sent: Mar 19, 2012 12:37 PM
                To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: [mythsoc] Worthy vs. Fun

                I've been wondering the same thing about the Hunger Games books, which I've still not read -- they sound to me as though they are clearly good, meaning worthy, books. But the don't sound to me like they're very much fun, and I suspect that, based on what I've heard from others, while I may find them compelling, interesting, and thought-provoking, I won't like them very much.
                ________________________________________
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              • Emily Wagner
                I ve been quietly lurking for several months, and this question has prompted me to stick my oar in the water.   A very good book that I just don t like very
                Message 7 of 14 , Mar 29, 2012
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                  I've been quietly lurking for several months, and this question has prompted me to stick my oar in the water.
                   
                  "A very good book that I just don't like very much" perfectly describes my reaction to Tolkien's "The Children of Hurin," which I read last year at the insistence of a friend.
                   
                  It's Tolkien, so naturally it's well-written. But the character of Túrin Turambar simply doesn't appeal to me. I don't identify with him, and I certainly have no sympathy for him, when most of his misfortunes (in my opinion) are directly the result of his own stubbornness and bad decisions. So I spent most of the book rolling my eyes at him.
                   
                  I guess that's a sign of good book, when you take the characters that personally.
                   
                  Emily
                  (aka "RosieLass" for those of you who frequent the TOR.n message board)
                   
                  --- On Mon, 3/19/12, Alana Joli Abbott <alanajoli@...> wrote:
                  I do enjoy books very much that I think are well-crafted, well-written, and thoughtful (hitting many of my qualifications for worthy) while also being enjoyable (to my taste), including humor, and featuring likable characters who I care about over the course of their story (hitting many of my qualifications for fun). If a book can accomplish all of that, I'm always incredibly impressed -- usually a title will err toward one side or the other.

                  Do others notice this trend in themselves as readers? Or do other folks' taste in worthy titles mesh with the things they like?
                • Alana Joli Abbott
                  ... I feel that way, too. I m writing a review of a book that had a whole cast of fully realized characters that I despised. There s no question in my mind
                  Message 8 of 14 , Mar 29, 2012
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                    I guess that's a sign of good book, when you take the characters that personally.
                    ,___
                    I feel that way, too. I'm writing a review of a book that had a whole cast of fully realized characters that I despised. There's no question in my mind that the author has created well-thought and well-drawn characters. I just didn't like any of them.

                    -Alana


                    --
                    Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
                    Contributor to Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
                    Author of Into the Reach and Departure http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks
                    Columnist, "The Town with Five Main Streets" http://branford.patch.com/columns/the-town-with-five-main-streets

                    --
                    For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans

                  • tuhonbillmcg
                    ... I felt that way about the Thomas Covenent series and The Kite Runner; both very well written works whose main character I frequently wanted to strangle.
                    Message 9 of 14 , Mar 30, 2012
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                      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Alana Joli Abbott <alanajoli@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > >
                      > > I guess that's a sign of good book, when you take the characters that
                      > > personally.
                      > > ,___
                      > >
                      > I feel that way, too. I'm writing a review of a book that had a whole cast
                      > of fully realized characters that I despised. There's no question in my
                      > mind that the author has created well-thought and well-drawn characters. I
                      > just didn't like *any* of them.
                      >
                      > -Alana
                      >

                      I felt that way about the Thomas Covenent series and The Kite Runner; both very well written works whose main character I frequently wanted to strangle.

                      Regards,
                      Bill McGrath
                      www.theswordoffire.com
                    • Westermeyer GS11 Paul W
                      I think being able to recognize a good, well written book that is not to one s taste is an important but sadly rare skill. I find myself constantly debating
                      Message 10 of 14 , Mar 30, 2012
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                        I think being able to recognize a good, well written book that is not to one's taste is an important but sadly rare skill.

                        I find myself constantly debating this point with fantasy fans, often in relation to the Harry Potter and Twilight series. In both cases, people often attack the series reflexively, without real thought, and often viciously as well. People who really should know better all but call for those books to be burned, when their real sin is merely that they do not appeal to all types.

                        Of course, Tolkien's work has long suffered this problem as well. To the extent that I judge people by their reactions to Tolkien. I do not require that people love his work, or react to it in the same intense way I (and I guess many here) do. But if someone espouses the belief that Tolkien's writing is 'childish' or something similar I dismiss them as intellectual light-weights. (Michael Moorcock's famous attack on Tolkien was the first example of such that I encountered).

                        I'm faced with a similar dilemma on the scholarly side. I've finally been able to get some of ST Joshi's works on Lovecraft through inter-library loan, but I am no longer as keen to read them as I once was. I've discovered that Joshi seems to be just the sort of strident atheist that really annoys me. Even when they are logically correct, the manner in which their points are made gets beneath my skin. The best example for me was Christopher Hitchens, if he had presented an argument in favor of 2+2=4 I would have had to exert a massive amount of self-discipline not to write a long diatribe against him explaining why 2+2=5. An unnatural prejudice, I readily admit. I'm hoping I turn out to be wrong about Joshi, I've only seen small bits of his work to date, but it does make me nervous.

                        Anyway, I don't think one should ever apologize for taste, as long as you recognize the difference between taste and quality. Choose what you read professionally or for education (formal or self) based on quality, and what you read for enjoyment on taste. :)

                        Of course, when taste and quality meet, as in Tolkien for me, that is when the reading experience becomes sublime. ;)

                        Paul Westermeyer
                        paul.westermeyer@...

                        "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
                        J. R. R. Tolkien, _The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring_
                      • WendellWag@aol.com
                        Paul, there is a 5.6 KB file attached to your message. You don t make any mention of it in your message. Is that a file you were sending to all of us, or
                        Message 11 of 14 , Mar 30, 2012
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                          Paul, there is a 5.6 KB file attached to your message.  You don't make any mention of it in your message.  Is that a file you were sending to all of us, or is it a virus that got attached by some hacker that will destroy all our computers?
                           
                          Wendell Wagner
                           
                          In a message dated 3/30/2012 2:53:07 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, paul.westermeyer@... writes:
                          I think being able to recognize a good, well written book that is not to one's taste is an important but sadly rare skill.

                          I find myself constantly debating this point with fantasy fans, often in relation to the Harry Potter and Twilight series. In both cases, people often attack the series reflexively, without real thought, and often viciously as well. People who really should know better all but call for those books to be burned, when their real sin is merely that they do not appeal to all types.

                          Of course, Tolkien's work has long suffered this problem as well. To the extent that I judge people by their reactions to Tolkien. I do not require that people love his work, or react to it in the same intense way I (and I guess many here) do. But if someone espouses the belief that Tolkien's writing is 'childish' or something similar I dismiss them as intellectual light-weights. (Michael Moorcock's famous attack on Tolkien was the first example of such that I encountered).

                          I'm faced with a similar dilemma on the scholarly side. I've finally been able to get some of ST Joshi's works on Lovecraft through inter-library loan, but I am no longer as keen to read them as I once was. I've discovered that Joshi seems to be just the sort of strident atheist that really annoys me.  Even when they are logically correct, the manner in which their points are made gets beneath my skin. The best example for me was Christopher Hitchens, if he had presented an argument in favor of 2+2=4 I would have had to exert a massive amount of self-discipline not to write a long diatribe against him explaining why 2+2=5. An unnatural prejudice, I readily admit.  I'm hoping I turn out to be wrong about Joshi, I've only seen small bits of his work to date, but it does make me nervous.

                          Anyway, I don't think one should ever apologize for taste, as long as you recognize the difference between taste and quality. Choose what you read professionally or for education (formal or self) based on quality, and what you read for enjoyment on taste. :)

                          Of course, when taste and quality meet, as in Tolkien for me, that is when the reading experience becomes sublime. ;)     

                          Paul Westermeyer
                          paul.westermeyer@...

                          "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
                          J. R. R. Tolkien, _The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring_



                        • Westermeyer GS11 Paul W
                          ... Sorry, it s a digital signature that work adds automatically. I ll try to remember to turn it off when posting to this list. Paul Westermeyer Historian,
                          Message 12 of 14 , Apr 3, 2012
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                            > 1c. Re: Worthy vs. Fun
                            > Posted by: "WendellWag@..." WendellWag@... wendell_wagner
                            > Date: Fri Mar 30, 2012 8:03 pm ((PDT))
                            >
                            > Paul, there is a 5.6 KB file attached to your message. You don't make any
                            > mention of it in your message. Is that a file you were sending to all of
                            > us, or is it a virus that got attached by some hacker that will destroy all
                            > our computers?

                            Sorry, it's a digital signature that work adds automatically. I'll try to remember to turn it off when posting to this list.


                            Paul Westermeyer
                            Historian, History Division
                            Marine Corps University
                            Paul.Westermeyer@...
                            http://www.history.usmc.mil

                            "The first law for the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice." Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Oratore, II.XV,62
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