The Contemporary Classics Literature Thread (1940 - 2000)

Maddox

Sparrow
This thread is to discuss modern novels that were written from the beginning of WWII up to the end of the century.

I've just finished Rabbit, Run by John Updike and really enjoyed it. It's the first novel in a series of 4 where each book takes place 10 years later than the last one.

In short, it's about a 26-year old man living in a small Pennsylvania town who clings to his past as a high school basketball star. He's got a wife, a 2-year old kid, and a boring sales job...and because adulthood and responsibility frighten him, he wants to run away from all of it. As he continually disappoints the women in his life with his selfishness, it's the local priest who tries to straighten out Rabbit and get him back on the road to maturity.

While the plot is somewhat thin, I was enchanted with Updike's prose and the way he makes the most ordinary things sound interesting. I think I could listen to this author describe paint dry and still be kept at attention. One of the best things about the book is the setting of the story which is late 50s small-town Americana inhabited by Protestants. You really get the feeling of what it was like to live in one of these places back then, the houses and businesses that filled these towns, along with the characters that inhabited them.

While Rabbit is a flawed character, he is also an interesting one that I loved spending time with. I'm looking forward to seeing how much he's grown up in the next novel in the series.
 
Arthur Hailey wrote very good workplace thrillers. He spent an average of 18 months researching the profession before writing each book. I liked all of his books although a couple like 'Overload' were a bit far-fetched (still fun if you don't mind a couple crazy plot points). "Hotel' and 'Airport' are his most famous books and with good reason. I felt 'In High Places' was his weakest book, but it was still decent.

I really found his last two books 'The Evening News' and 'Detective' fast-paced and exciting. In the right director's hands, they could be made into excellent movies (sadly it is rare a director can properly bring a book to the big screen). Some critics dismiss his books but the general public enjoyed them and they do give you an insight into different professions.

 

Eusebius Erasmus

Kingfisher
Orthodox
I highly recommend C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy novels, as well as Graham Greene's works. George Orwell is, of course, a must read: especially 1984, Animal Farm, and Homage to Catalonia, as well as his essays.

However, most of what is touted as 'great literature' after 1960 is awful, unreadable nonsense. For example, Margaret Atwood's works are pretentious and meandering, and yet she is considered a giant of English literature.
 

Thomas More

Hummingbird
I would include Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series in this group. He wrote the first of this series in 1969, and the last in 2000, shortly before his death, with 20 books in the series. A 21st was unfinished and published after his death.

At first glance, these are historical adventure books. However, I consider them literary classics. I have been reading through them over the past few months, and am on book 17 right now. Besides the actual battle scenes and other action scenes, these books cover a tremendous range of the history and culture of the era, and they delve extensively into the scientific and philosophical thought of the time. The movie "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" is based on one of the middle books of the series, with some elements from other books in the series. This was an above average adaptation of a book into a movie, and gives a credible taste of the books. However, the books are able to delve into much broader topics and subplots than the movie could show.

I highly recommend these books.
 
I recommend this book if you have interest to work or travel in China (or even another rural area in other Asian countries). Things have changed a bit since 1996 when he worked there but some things are still the same for foreigners in small towns in many ways. What is interesting is that when he dived in and learned the language fairly well and found some hangout spots and developed a routine, he became fairly comfortable. It is a good 'fish out of water' story.

 

Stirfry

Woodpecker
the short story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut is a must read.
I’m a big Vonnegut fan. Very simple style but imaginative and hilarious. Politically he was interesting- from the Midwest originally, but he spent much of his life In Massachusetts and was a strong Kennedy Democrat, so I if he were still alive today he probably would be sympathetic to the SJWs. Yet Harrison Bergeron and quite frankly a lot of his work was strongly anti-socialist, or at least anti-communist (much like JFK).
 
I highly recommend C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy novels, as well as Graham Greene's works. George Orwell is, of course, a must read: especially 1984, Animal Farm, and Homage to Catalonia, as well as his essays.

However, most of what is touted as 'great literature' after 1960 is awful, unreadable nonsense. For example, Margaret Atwood's works are pretentious and meandering, and yet she is considered a giant of English literature.
Animal Farm and 1984 really are eye-opening books. Thankfully, Animal Farm was required reading in my high school, but I got a lot more out of it when I read it as an adult. Lord of the Flies was another book required in high school, I plan to read it again though as I will get more out of it now. I like how Lord of the Flies shows how people will react in a tough situation with no clear authority available to create order.

As far as totalitarian novels go, I feel Brave New World is more likely to work long-term vs. 1984 or Animal Farm in which the government was harsh and forced people to comply. Brave New World works so well because most people actively choose to be controlled and those that are awake to the reality that most people are brainwashed sheep are simply exiled to remote islands (like Iceland and The Falklands) where they can live among like-minded people peacefully but not cause trouble for the world govt. The government behaves more like sheep farmers instead of slave masters with whips. Slaves often will revolt against men holding whips but sheep rarely ever revolt against their masters.

We see most people openly accept soft totalitarianism as long as their need for pleasure and basic survival needs like shelter, food, and water are met. Give people access to drugs and sex and many will accept being controlled and won't even bother questioning why the govt. banned books or why the government discourages families. My high school English teacher recommended this book to me after I wrote a report on Stalin, and I am glad I took her advise several years later.
 

john_Jea

Sparrow
Brave New World works so well because most people actively choose to be controlled and those that are awake to the reality that most people are brainwashed sheep are simply exiled to remote islands (like Iceland and The Falklands) where they can live among like-minded people peacefully but not cause trouble for the world govt. The government behaves more like sheep farmers instead of slave masters with whips. Slaves often will revolt against men holding whips but sheep rarely ever revolt against their masters.
Rvforumers are more than welcome to get exiled to Iceland. And a whitepill regarding the sheep, leadersheep exist, capable of leading the flock to safety.


 
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