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Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion? 
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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
Have some kind of a matrix to mark books and explain why the low points or high points. Then refute or counter opinions given. That should make for a good in-depth discussion.



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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
I have attached a ranking of 26 fiction books discussed on BookTalk.org over the years. By far, the most discussed book was Conrad's, The Heart of Darkness with 681 replies. However, I believe its number one ranking is not valid as that discussion included students, not just BT members.


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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
Interesting discussion, folks!

Any book or short story worth discussing needs to have some literary merit besides being fun to read. Which is why you would discuss Faulkner or Tolstoy before, say, Gillian Flynn or Stephen King. As much as I love Stephen King, I don't think his novels really have "superior or lasting artistic merit". (Although I would argue that some of them come very close.)

We don't know always know if a modern author is still going to be considered one of the greats a few decades from now. I think this idea should be at the forefront of every book discussion. Is this great literature and what makes it so? What themes are present that are still relevant to us or will be relevant to future generations of readers? More importantly, why does this book matter? Why is it a significant to us? Or if the book fails along these lines, why does it?

One of the biggest problems is finding a title that appeals to many. I think that's where many of these discussions fall apart.


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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
It's also, with me, the "eyes are bigger than the stomach" syndrome. Oh, sure, I'll find the time to talk about this or that book. But I'm not a good judge of what I'm going to feel like doing or have the energy for at any given time in the future.

One thing I'll say for books that we might not even consider to be literature: they often speed along due to the "what happens next" factor. But then there might not be that much to comment on. Still, there are plot-driven books that have quite a bit of literary merit (such as John Le Carre's), and it might be a good idea to make a list of them.



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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
DWill wrote:
It's also, with me, the "eyes are bigger than the stomach" syndrome. Oh, sure, I'll find the time to talk about this or that book. But I'm not a good judge of what I'm going to feel like doing or have the energy for at any given time in the future.

One thing I'll say for books that we might not even consider to be literature: they often speed along due to the "what happens next" factor. But then there might not be that much to comment on. Still, there are plot-driven books that have quite a bit of literary merit (such as John Le Carre's), and it might be a good idea to make a list of them.

I have that "eyes are bigger" syndrome as well. And frequently I intend to discuss a book on BT, but find it's challenging to think of something useful to say about it.

Not everyone will agree with my comment that a book should have some literary merit or what exactly "literary merit" even means. Murmur has listed a few collections of ghost tales as possible fodder for discussion. Certainly that sort of discussion would explore the presence of gothic elements and other motifs common to that genre moreso than the high falutin' themes I suggest belong more to literary fiction. But enthusiasm must count for something as well. If we got a few people familiar with the ghost tale, we might have a great discussion.


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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
I agree it's probably true that having an overarching theme helps to sustain an interest and therefore a discussion. In this regard I'll note the theme that gave Booktalk its start (Chris tells us): atheism, religion, and critical thinking. Books on those topics surely account for the most sustained levels of participation. Branching out from there has been more difficult because there hasn't been the same opportunity to tap into the interests of a more defined community.



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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
stahrwe wrote:
I have attached a ranking of 26 fiction books discussed on BookTalk.org over the years. By far, the most discussed book was Conrad's, The Heart of Darkness with 681 replies. However, I believe its number one ranking is not valid as that discussion included students, not just BT members.

I meant to thank Stahrwe for doing this. Very useful. Atlas Shrugged had a lot of participants, probably due to the book's political undertones. Moby Dick is up there too. So different reasons for wanting to participate in a discussion perhaps? Maybe to argue a political perspective as in Atlas, and to explore universal themes of the human condition in Moby Dick.

DWill wrote:
I agree it's probably true that having an overarching theme helps to sustain an interest and therefore a discussion. In this regard I'll note the theme that gave Booktalk its start (Chris tells us): atheism, religion, and critical thinking. Books on those topics surely account for the most sustained levels of participation. Branching out from there has been more difficult because there hasn't been the same opportunity to tap into the interests of a more defined community.

On the other hand, I sense a growing reticence to discuss matters of atheism and religion on BT. We've covered a lot of terrain over the years. :-D


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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
DWill wrote:
the theme that gave Booktalk its start (Chris tells us): atheism, religion, and critical thinking. Books on those topics surely account for the most sustained levels of participation.


I had a good chat with a friend the other day about Disc World by Terry Pratchett, which is a very highly regarded series of atheist fantasy, but which I have read none of, despite being a massive true believer in the turtle at the bottom of the universe, which gives Disc World its entire spin.

A relevant discussion is at https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article ... PQxCoiGPIU

Quote:
His 44 Discworld novels could be broadly described as comic fantasy, or fantasy satire, and yet that's really just the starting point for the immense variety of complicated ideas they explored in such a fun, joyous way.

Perhaps strangely for someone whose work is so grounded in atheism, Pratchett has had a profound impact on my religious faith.

Pratchett had a lot to say about religion. In 1992 book Small Gods, he joked that 'gods like to see an atheist around ... gives them something to aim at'. He also had more cutting things to say about religious faith, including this observation during one scene: 'They were engaged in religion. You could tell by the knives (it's not murder if you do it for a god).'

What set Pratchett apart from many other critics of religion of these times was his recognition of the basic human need for meaning, and the beautiful way so many of his books tried to find a positive, life-giving way to exist in a universe where gods either don't exist, or aren't worth believing in.


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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
This is indeed a great discussion with plenty of valid points being made. Stahrwe, thanks for breaking down the fiction discussions like that. It sure helps to see which books generated the most interest.

Moby Dick was right up there near the top and that one is a classic. I've always thought reading the classics is not only entertaining but also educational and it contributes to our cultural literacy. I'm not sure if a book being a classic is enough to guarantee a decent book talk but it does seem to be a positive.

I'd actually be game for a super short fiction book or even one really famous short story. We could do one short story and start the discussion May 1st. Or is that too limiting?

I just Googled "famous short stories" and up popped Jack London's "To Build a Fire" and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." Both would stimulate discussion, especially The Lottery.

I'm all ears. What should we do?



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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
All this talk about short stories is exciting to me. I think we've been missing out on a great opportunity for some quality discussions over the years. Many members struggle with the time commitment of our book discussions, but with a short story discussion they might be more inclined to give it a shot.

I just moved the "Short Stories" forum up from the "Special Forums" section into the "Fiction Book Discussion Forums" section where it belongs. Short stories are indeed works of fiction or they'd be called essays or articles right? Maybe the category "Fiction Book Discussion Forums" needs to be changed to "Fiction Discussion Forums." I renamed it from simply "Short Stories" to "Short Story Discussions" hoping that little extra word sends a message that the forum is to be used for discussing short stories.



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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
I started one "They Crying of Lot 49" in the General Discussion folder but nobody seems interested. Awesome discussions require participation.



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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
Murmur wrote:
Here are some possibilities.

1. Volume IV of Complete Original Short Stories of Guy De Maupassant

I recommend Volume IV only due to the size of this work. In particular, I recommend Volume IV because it has the Horla story in it. I heard this story in four different radio plays, and each play told the story in a different manner.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3090/3090-h/3090-h.htm

2. Famous Modern Ghost Stories

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/15143

3. Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James

Part 1 only.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/8486

4. Myths and Tales from the White Mountain Apache by Pliny Earle Goddard

This one is a bit short.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/53113

5. Legends of the Gods by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge

This is regarding ancient Egyptian myth stories.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/9411

6. Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/4018

7. Twenty-Five Ghost Stories

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/53419


Regarding that book by Guy de Maupassant, I wrote about it here:

post162650.html#p162650

I no longer recommend that particular volume of that particular book.



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Post Re: Does anyone have an idea for how we can have an awesome fiction discussion?
I'm going to lock this thread and create a poll right now. Hopefully all of you that suggested books vote in this poll. :-)


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