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Recent Literature: General Thoughts/Who Makes the Cut?

PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 11:31 am
by Mr. Kwalter
I am starting this thread as a continuation of the discussion that began in the retiring old questions thread of the HS theory area. What are your thoughts on where "recent literature" fits into the literature/general distribution, and who do you think qualifies as "literary" among the authors in question?

PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 11:43 am
by ktour84
How recent would you define recent? Books published after 1990 or 1985?

I think that there is a trend whenever a book is published with glowing reviews and good sales for critics to proclaim it as the next great book. A good couple good examples would be Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain and Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. Both have been overpraised and overhyped IMO.

PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 12:54 pm
by ProsperoSMS
I think "recent" here is a tough word to define. In terms of making the canon (now there's a reality show), I think we need to go back almost 50 years, as with the discussion of Tolkien (perhaps we could just say post-WWII).

Personally, I think one could argue for Tolkien's inclusion in the literary canon with great success. There are many critics who would and do support his inclusion. It would be easier to argue for other members of the Inklings, especially Dorothy Sayers, Charles Williams, and CS Lewis (although the Narnia books, in terms of canon, are strictly left in children's lit), but one reason for that is the Peter Jackson films, which have helped entrench Middle Earth in popular culture, which means it will take revisiting some time in the future to see just where the effect of the movie leaves the books. I actually think some of those arguing for his inclusion are trying to claim the books and to put them in an elevated category over the adaptations.

As for the broader question here, I think there are only a few contemporary authors who are can be considered canon "automatically." Using my definition of recent going back to the 1950s, then there's a slightly longer list, but for the last few years, I would say Toni Morrison and Alice Walker are two of the few. If the suggestion that recent Nobel Laureates go in trash is right, then that severely limits recent additions.

I'll look forward to reading suggestions.

Hugh

PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 7:20 pm
by ValenciaQBowl
I'm not sure who should be in and who shouldn't, but it's interesting to note who's been written about. David Foster Wallace, for example, whom I have found sometimes entertaining in short stories but way too cute to read for 1,000 pages (you know, Infinite Jest, which I haven't come close to finishing), has been written about a lot in the last three years. But William T. Vollmann, despite much more notice in serious mainstream literary mags (The New Yorker, NYRB, Paris Review), has never been mentioned (that I've noticed). Vollmann is also among the most prolific of current "serious" writers. Of course, not everyone likes him, but it would be hard to argue he's not important.

Another writer who was much in my grad school curriculum but whom I've never heard come up is Kathy Acker, but she may not match the taste of many QBers. And what about Madison Smartt Bell? And Russell Banks? John Rechy is another one who gets left out, but his gay advocacy may make him more attractive to graduate depts. in lit than to the QB world.

As to distribution, it goes where it goes: American/English/World, time period, etc. It shouldn't be a specific subcategory.

PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 7:31 pm
by ValenciaQBowl
Ah, I see I should've read the thread to which Eric was referring before replying. Based on the criterion of what will "stand the test of time," perhaps none of the above (or perhaps all of it) will make it someday. But how does that help me now? I'd argue that a competent question writer should feel free to write on a contemporary author/work s/he likes, even if it leans toward some QBers'definition of 'trashy.' For example, that there could be much debate about the "literary merit" of a novelist as intelligent as McEwan bums me out. Though it is true, I guess, that winning a Booker or Pulitzer proves nothing about "merit," it doesn't hurt. And as such novels are often talked about (and sometimes actually read, unlike, say, "New Grub Street"), why shouldn't they be asked about? In all seriousness, I don't need ACF editors (not just to pick on y'all, but to use an example) to be making judgement calls on whether or not an award-winning book is "merit-y" enough to be called "literature," which is, after all, a bit of a broad term.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 12:27 am
by yoda4554
I don't see why topics of quizbowl questions have to "stand the test of time." Questions are not written for posterity. They are written for tournaments that occur once, usually within a couple months of writing. If something makes a large impact immediately, does it matter whether or not anyone cares ten years later, when people clearly care now?

Furthermore, to reiterate Borglum's point, people who are interested in serious literature are very likely to read McEwan. In fact, they're generally likely to want to read recent works because they'll presumably be more relevant to contemporary times and the current state of the language. Academia necessarily will be lagging a bit behind that and will want to have a broader historical context instead of being on the edge of what's being written at the moment, and that's fine. But I have it on good authority that just about no one actually reads Horace Walpole or Anne Radcliffe-- including people interested in 18th-century literature. That has to fail a test of some kind.

If people who are interested in serious literature, in general, are more likely to read Vollman or William Gass or Jeffrey Eugenides than Walpole, then whether or not we think anyone will care in the year 2100, I think they're more worthy of being written about.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 1:05 am
by Rothlover
yoda4554 wrote:no one actually reads Horace Walpole or Anne Radcliffe-- including people interested in 18th-century literature. That has to fail a test of some kind.

If people who are interested in serious literature, in general, are more likely to read Vollman or William Gass or Jeffrey Eugenides than Walpole, then whether or not we think anyone will care in the year 2100, I think they're more worthy of being written about.


The Castle of Otranto (Penguin Classics) [one of 3 decent selling editions]
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #64,954 in Books

The Mysteries of Udolpho (Oxford World's Classics)
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #31,896 in Books

Vollman
Europe Central (which I think is a great book btw)
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #50,861 in Books
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #24,706 in Books

Rising Up and Rising Down
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #3,162,249 in Books (i.e. Out of print)
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #287,804 in Books

Gass
A Temple of Texts
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #265,913 in Books

Omensetter's Luck (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #268,678 in Books



HAY GUYS, noted literary authority, CBI fanboy, and person who has written all of like one packet for qb Dave Letzler has officially weighed in. NO ONE READS like famous canonical books! It is clear that you should tell this to all the people who are buying them at a much faster rate than Vollman and Gass and such (and I'd bet on both sides you'd have plenty of those people who buy it but don't read it.)


If we add Vollman and such to the canon, can we also let in Rebecca Goldstein, Savyon Liebrecht, Applefeld, Oz, Sam Lipsyte, Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Roiphe, Shteyngart, Bezmozgis etc? And that is just modern mega-acclaimed Jewish authors who immediately come to mind and who all sell the same or better than Vollman/Gass, many of whom have an impressive body of critical material on their work (obviously, there are at least 10-20X as many noteworthy names from literature [i.e. the non-'brews like Flann O'Brien, Ali Smith, Robert Coover, G. Perec etc.]. I am not expecting anyone to know or care who they are just like I don't particularly expect anyone to know or care who Vollman, Gass, M. Robinson etc. are. Expanding the lit canon for modern authors in any sort of "fair" way, would basically be a massive dilation.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 8:08 am
by ValenciaQBowl
Amazon sales rankings as canon criteria? Yow!

Walpole's and Radcliffe's works are likely being bought by sad kids forced to get them for a course on the Gothic novel or something at Bard College. Then they just read the Sparknotes summary, anyway (of course, doing so will still get you the toss-up on them, right?). Presumably if you're buying Vollmann you're reading him, but propriety forces me to admit that I've had Europe Central for six months or so in an advanced, non-proofed copy and haven't read it. Worse, I've got the abridged Rising Up and Rising Down (which is still like 800 pages) and have only read the first quarter, maybe.

To get back on track, Gass should definitely be in the canon, and Coover and Flann O'Brien have both come up in packets I've heard. The only dilution would be letting in those unknown Jewish authors you're pimping, BellowLover.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 10:05 am
by Mr. Kwalter
yoda4554 wrote:I don't see why topics of quizbowl questions have to "stand the test of time." Questions are not written for posterity. They are written for tournaments that occur once, usually within a couple months of writing. If something makes a large impact immediately, does it matter whether or not anyone cares ten years later, when people clearly care now?

Furthermore, to reiterate Borglum's point, people who are interested in serious literature are very likely to read McEwan. In fact, they're generally likely to want to read recent works because they'll presumably be more relevant to contemporary times and the current state of the language. Academia necessarily will be lagging a bit behind that and will want to have a broader historical context instead of being on the edge of what's being written at the moment, and that's fine. But I have it on good authority that just about no one actually reads Horace Walpole or Anne Radcliffe-- including people interested in 18th-century literature. That has to fail a test of some kind.

If people who are interested in serious literature, in general, are more likely to read Vollman or William Gass or Jeffrey Eugenides than Walpole, then whether or not we think anyone will care in the year 2100, I think they're more worthy of being written about.

Quizbowl questions don't have to stand the test of time. Books do. Guess what? Current events isn't a part of the history distribution. So current events in literature shouldn't be a part of the literature distribution. Also, what is your good authority? Get over yourself. Clearly, professors at Williams (a group you have cited indirectly multiple times in this discussion) should determine all things in the quizbowl canon. Oh, and, shut up about Ian McEwan, noted author whose works you haven't read. I've read three books by Ian McEwan, he's awesome. I highly recommend him to all people. But at this point the consensus is clearly that he still can't be conclusively said to be more than a blip on the radar.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 11:20 am
by NotBhan
ekwartler wrote:Oh, and, shut up about Ian McEwan, noted author whose works you haven't read. I've read three books by Ian McEwan, he's awesome. I highly recommend him to all people. But at this point the consensus is clearly that he still can't be conclusively said to be more than a blip on the radar.


Uh ... didn't the Yoda dude and Borglum both just say positive things about him? I must confess that I've only read about 15 pages of Amsterdam, so I don't know McEwan well. But I certainly have no objection to his ... canonicity? Canonicality? And the book seemed much better than its film adaption, Amsterdamned.

--RD

P.S. Just kidding about Amsterdamned.

P.P.S. Vollmann seems sufficiently well-known to be worthy of a bonus part at this point, if not a tossup. I feel like I've heard his name in qb bonuses a couple of times before, but maybe not. (CBorg -- I've still got your copy of Butterfly Stories.)

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 11:53 am
by Mr. Kwalter
NotBhan wrote:Uh ... didn't the Yoda dude and Borglum both just say positive things about him? I must confess that I've only read about 15 pages of Amsterdam, so I don't know McEwan well. But I certainly have no objection to his ... canonicity? Canonicality? And the book seemed much better than its film adaption, Amsterdamned.

--RD

Raj, my point was that since he hadn't read McEwan, his comments on the subject were inane. Also, yes, Amsterdam is, in fact, far better than Amsterdamned.

Oh, and this is a thread about esoteric books. Where is Nathan Freeburg?

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 12:59 pm
by yoda4554
I've never claimed to have read anything by McEwan, because whether or not I've read anything by McEwan doesn't really matter. I'm not a signficantly literary critic, last I checked. Had I read everything he's written and thought he was the greatest author of all time, that wouldn't mean a thing. The point is that a great many other people happen to like him a great deal. I don't care about Ian McEwan himself-- he's just a decent test subject because many people who are interested in serious literature like him, and are more likely to express their interest in literature by reading Atonement than The Sicilian Romance. In a hundred years, people may or may not care about him anymore, and I don't care whether or not they do, and no one here knows whether or not they will. But literary people care about him now, and they care about him now a great deal more than a number of canonical people, and the tournaments are happening now. There's no need for quiz bowl to try to be an arbiter of long-standing literary merit, because there's simply no way that can succeed, so there's no reason for us to try to determine whether or not a book will stand the test of time. As far as I know, there's no firm distinction drawn in the literary or academic world between good older literature and good newer literature.

If there's a pretense that quiz bowl should reflect academic subjects, I'd think that a college faculty might be a place you'd want to look to determine who's important. I happen to have experience with the one at Williams. I don't expect there's a huge disparity elsewhere (not at Valencia, it seems). What almighty body's consensus are you citing? More importantly, what authority do they have to say McEwan shouldn't be in literature, and what's the argument for drawing that line there?

Also, I wouldn't care if current events are lumped into (an expanded)history. People who are legitimately interested in history should also be legitimately interested in current events, so your comparison isn't a self-sufficient argument as to why current literature shouldn't be put in with older literature.

(Also, I'm reluctant to respond to Mr. Passner, as I figure everyone who's met him or reads these boards or has googled "daniel passner" over the past couple years recognizes he's something of a tool, but I'll mention that by my count I've contributed to something like eight college academic packets and three trash ones, as well as editing a trash tournament and writing several hundred questions for NAQT's high school tournaments. That's not as much as many people on these boards have written, certainly, but slightly higher than the estimate given. And I've attended fewer CBI tournaments than, say, Mike Sorice, and I don't plan on attending again even in the unlikely event I should resume playing.)

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 1:14 pm
by Pope Leo
Where are my manners.

I apologize for not posting this either here or at the Yahoo board, but I have crowned Dan Passner the Emperor of Quizbowl, which indeed gives him the power to not only determine what is or is not cannonical, but to determine who is or is not a worthwhile quizbowl player.

He can now also wear this to tournaments:
Image

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 2:13 pm
by Mr. Kwalter
For what it's worth, Dave, as someone interested in teaching HS, the insistence in many (especially public) high schools on sticking to strictly "canonical" works rather than things that have something to offer from an educational perspective regardless of their age pisses me off to no end. Nonetheless, I personally think that such works should be treated with extreme care when considering whether they should be considered literature from a quizbowl perspective. I'd much rather such things be relegated to trash or the "your choice/miscellaneous" distribution, leaving the traditional lliterature distribution open for things that fall into the traditional quizbowl canon.

As to the viability of such things, let's be honest, while the quizbowl canon is not entirely whimsical, it is entirely based on the question philosophies of a select group of people. In the past, it would seem from what we've seen in packets that those people have been fairly dedicated to notions of the literary canon. However, it also seems (and maybe I'll get shot down here) that some of the "old guard" of ACF (and mACF) editors are stepping back, which might leave some room for canon expansion that doesn't involve tossups on the third and fourth best-known novels of William Dean Howells.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 4:12 pm
by Rothlover
[quote="yoda4554"]
(Also, I'm reluctant to respond to Mr. Passner, as I figure everyone who's met him or reads these boards or has googled "daniel passner" over the past couple years recognizes he's something of a toolquote]

I am glad you feel you know me well enough that you can judge my toolness? What the hell does that even mean here? Are you trying to be all cryptic like sorenson? Perhaps passive agressive insultory like Thorsley by alluding to googling of my name (one result of which is a wiki entry you wrote but never copped to, and which I asked you about, but which you proceeded to ignore?) In the words of Randy Poffo "Be a Man."


The point of my post is, we shouldn't be making quizbowl canon kingmakers here, though Dave, if you wish to ask about Europe Central in your acclaimed IS questions, I am sure that will go over well. I listed a lot of authors who also matter, because mattering in 2006 isn't a sole criteria for being asked about, like it needs to be accessible. Tillie Olsen and Rebecca Goldstein have tons of scholarship behind them, that doesn't mean we should just chuck em in the canon (I am obviously ignoring hard parts to bonuses at Regs-level and higher, it seems thats where people put their canon-expansion shit.) You don't get to go around saying we should have more Vollman centric bonuses and tus just because "you asked around." Should everyone who won some award be fair game? Best as I can tell, McEwan's biggest accomplishment was being nominated for the international Mann Booker, if that is a criteria, let's put in A.B. Yehoshua or Ismail Kadare... "Asking around" doesn't cut it. I know McEwan is "askable," (hes got plenty of literary AND sales cache fwiw), but that in and of itself doesn't cut it. Canon expansion is the sort of thing that happens with kid gloves dude. I happened to ask around, and a lot of solid lit players, who read a bunch didn't know who gass or vollman were either. I happen to know because I'm a loser who reads lit blogs and stuff that just comes down the pipe, but that doesn't mean you force that shit down qb's throat like qb is a young co-ed and you are Mr. Marcus.


Also, CBorg, before New Yorker blitz, weren't you unfamiliar with noted book that has made almost every top 100 of the 20th-century survey, Call it Sleep? Isn't that one of those modern-type works one should be familiar with, if they are then going to tout authors that still haven't achieved massive success (shake a tree, ten literary critic's darlings come out.)

All I was originally saying was proceed with caution, and not to strut around like you've got some massive codpiece.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 5:26 pm
by yoda4554
Glad we've calmed down a bit.

I'm not suggesting that every tournament should have a 1/1 Gass/Vollman distribution-- I, certainly, would do poorly on such questions. I picked Gass because I've read him for class, because many people I know like him, and because I've seen him tossed around as someone who should be mentioned more. And were he mentioned a couple times, people would find suddenly that his best-known stories aren't so hard to recognize anymore. There are any of a dozen people, mostly the relatively-contemporary New Yorker type crowd, who I could have put in instead of Gass, people who several of my friends read frequently. I generally find that, of all the people who I've read for class or have heard discussed by people who read a lot, those are the only ones who categorically don't come up.

Obviously, there are tons of people one should know about that one doesn't, and books one should have read but hasn't. All of these people we've been talking about surely can come up here and there without massively altering the game, even if many good players go blank on them. I put that last statement from the first post in the conditional because I'm not sure whether it's true. But if there are going to be questions for the people who know the works of Middleton and Dekker backwards, there should be some for people reading contemporary writers too, because the latter group is at least as large and as interested in literature. I'm talking about a tossup or bonus per packet, at most.

Also, while I understand the benefits of a canon, I don't think there needs to be a worry about "canon expansion" in the way that people worry about diluting the standards of a Hall of Fame. There were tons of questions about The Corrections during the Oprah flap, and now they're all gone, because interest in the book is much lower. I don't know whether or not people converted those questions before the giveaway, but regardless, they're basically gone now and any damage they may have done to the canon has been repaired. If they stick, fine, if they don't, they'll go away.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 7:10 pm
by shorterqbdoppelganger
You should have referred to me as You-Know-Who. Like Voldemort, my attention is drawn when my name is mentioned.

[quote = "passive agressive insultory like Thorsley"]

Shorter Dan Passner: It's not fair that you use the easily verifiable fact that I am a racist, misogynist asshole against me.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 7:54 pm
by Captain Sinico
ValenciaQBowl wrote:Amazon sales rankings as canon criteria? Yow!

Walpole's and Radcliffe's works are likely being bought by sad kids forced to get them for a course on the Gothic novel or something at Bard College. Then they just read the Sparknotes summary, anyway (of course, doing so will still get you the toss-up on them, right?). Presumably if you're buying Vollmann you're reading him, but propriety forces me to admit that I've had Europe Central for six months or so in an advanced, non-proofed copy and haven't read it. Worse, I've got the abridged Rising Up and Rising Down (which is still like 800 pages) and have only read the first quarter, maybe.

To get back on track, Gass should definitely be in the canon, and Coover and Flann O'Brien have both come up in packets I've heard. The only dilution would be letting in those unknown Jewish authors you're pimping, BellowLover.

It kind-of looked more like a reply to the lie that "nobody reads these, whereas everyone reads those." I don't know, though; I just read the posts.

MaS

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 8:01 pm
by Rothlover
shorterqbdoppelganger wrote:You should have referred to me as You-Know-Who. Like Voldemort, my attention is drawn when my name is mentioned.

[quote = "passive agressive insultory like Thorsley"]

Shorter Dan Passner: It's not fair that you use the easily verifiable fact that I am a racist, misogynist asshole against me.


I also kick puppies and started the "War on Christmas." Get it right or pay the price, dude.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 9:35 pm
by Matt Weiner
yoda4554 wrote:But if there are going to be questions for the people who know the works of Middleton and Dekker backwards, there should be some for people reading contemporary writers too, because the latter group is at least as large and as interested in literature. I'm talking about a tossup or bonus per packet, at most.


There are very few tossups on anything related to Middleton or Dekker. Instead, there are bonus parts, in bonuses which also contain easier material, on their names or their most prominent works. No one would notice or complain if these modern authors you like so much were introduced in the same way. The core of the problem is that you and your ideological compatriots are charging in with an agenda, yelling "STOP OPPRESSING US WITH YOUR HIDEBOUND CONSERVATISM!" as an excuse to ignore good writing practice, and writing entire tossups or bonuses on things that most people don't know.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 9:56 am
by yoda4554
People who are ascribing some sort of militant rage behind my or Borglum's suggestions are supplying that tone themselves (as with most incidences of trying to read tone off a messageboard). No one has suggested whole bonuses on characters from Europe Central, or a tossup on The Omensetters. What has been suggested does, in fact, resemble the usual process that Matt brings up.

There are, in fact, whole questions devoted to Middleton and Dekker-- there was one at ACF Nationals, and I know I've seen tossups on The Changeling (Rowley, not Dekker, I guess, but still). Like tossups on The Castle of Otranto and The Mystery of Udolpho, these appear sparingly at difficult tournaments. All that is being suggested is that at these tournaments, some of those questions might be replaced by ones on more contemporary writers. And while we've mostly been mentioning people who are not canon for the sake of discussion, certainly they are enough contemporary writers who are gettable such that a bonus on the contemporary fiction, at least, shouldn't be hard to write well.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 4:51 pm
by Matt Weiner
I searched my archive of 5300 packets and found about 30 mentions of Dekker and 20 mentions of Middleton (after filtering out questions on Desmond Dekker and the Middleton family from The Egoist). There were a total of 3 tossups on Thomas Dekker and none on his works. There were no tossups on Thomas Middleton and one on The Changeling. There were no bonuses in which either Dekker or Middleton or a work of one of the two appeared to be the easiest part. I don't have ACF Nationals 2006 in my archive, but add that in and we get a grand total of 5 questions where Dekker, Middleton, or their work dominate. I doubt you're saying that we should have only 5 questions about recent literature in quizbowl entire in the next 15 years--what you said was that there should be 1/1 per packet on it. Also, I don't appreciate how you crept from "does anyone really read gothic literature?" which may have been a fair point (although may also have led to the answer of "have you noticed that people don't ask about gothic literature in quizbowl anymore? this may be the reason") to dissing some important Jacobean dramatists. Do you have a problem with ALL literature written before 1990, or what?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 5:50 pm
by Chris Frankel
As I was telling Matt the other night, I was the one who wrote the Dekker/Middleton bonus for ACF. The "easy" part involved identifying Dekker from his two best-known works (Honest Whore/Shoemaker's Holiday) and his collaboration with Thomas Middleton. I set up the bonus as having the other two parts be in the gray area between medium and hard: an identification of Honest Whore from plot summary (medium in its being a recognizable work, harder in its only giving plot clues and no author) and an identification of Middleton's A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (medium in it giving both thorough plot and author clues and its having been a tossup answer in Manu, a hard tournament and harder in its still being a relatively lesser known work). I didn't have any particularly salient motivations in writing it other than I heard the authors mentioned in passing both in qb and during my college career and figured they'd be worth writing a question on for me to learn about (which is basically the reasoning behind the topic choices of most questions I write).

I wasn't an English major and didn't study any of the miscellaneous Elizabethan/Jacobean/Restoration era authors, nor did I develop a particular fondness for them in my own recreational reading. I did, however, read a few minor Dekker papers as background for an independent research paper I wrote on 17th Century plague epidemics in London, and I did hear a fair share of qb-recognizable author names being dropped in discussions on the contemporaneous culture in a course I took on Stuart-era England and the (English) Civil War. That they were notable enough to come up in my own cursory studies of their point in history may not guarantee literary significance, but I'd say it suggests there's good reason beyond canon familiarity that those names keep appearing in packet sets.

I recall your annoyance at the tossup on A New Way to Pay Old Debts at the same nationals, and I'm guessing you have the same impression of all those English authors that many of us do: they can be tedious to read, easy to lump together and confuse, and hard to distinguish at times. But I think that applies to a lot of important topics, and even ones that may not be a popular topic of speciality among majors are can still be worth asking about if it's the basis of an established area of academic scholarship.

Anyway, long story short, my impression is that the overriding factor for your argument is personal preferences more than anything else. I don't have enough of a background in studying literature to make informed claims on any other topics in this thread (all those contemporary authors mentioned are names I've never heard of), but I would argue against dimissing major works of English literature because they may not be the most exciting and/or popular reads for your typical college student.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 11:01 pm
by Ray
Hmm...I've never heard of Ian McEwan, but I think I speak for the entire collegiate quiz bowl community when I say that anything that bums Chris Borglum out is something that bums me out, too. So please, more Amsterdam tossups.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 11:39 pm
by NotBhan
Ray wrote:Hmm...I've never heard of Ian McEwan, but I think I speak for the entire collegiate quiz bowl community when I say that anything that bums Chris Borglum out is something that bums me out, too. So please, more Amsterdam tossups.


If you'd like some info on McEwan, Ray, here's a useful link ...
http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth70 . So there you go -- now you've heard of him.

PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 8:29 am
by ValenciaQBowl
Ray is, of course, correct: the QB world would be a far better place if my emotional states dictated those of the rest of you. Y'all should get to work on that.

You'll note that I did not call for more questions on McEwen, however--I did suggest that one not place a moratorium on questions on his work based on some assumption that we can't yet determine whether he's good enough to be included.

Gotta run--need to read the ouvre of Henry Roth before Chicago so I can meet Passner's expectations.

PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 2:02 pm
by Nathan
well, I'm short on time and late to the thread:

but, a couple quick thoughts:

Discussing literary canonicity is another topic altogether (and a mug's game anyhow) but insofar as there is a literary canon and insofar as it dovetails with the qb canon (which emphatically exists) it would seem that contemporary authors could be considered in terms of a three-part hierarchy.
A. authors who almost certainly will be in the literary canon a hundred years from now (these are always askable) -- i.e. Roth, Pynchon, Boll, Szymborska etc.
B. authors who have achieved a great deal of literary credibility and may well be canonical (these are askable in moderation -- please no more than one per packet): McEwan, Ishiguro (note that numerous questions have been written on both of these)
C. authors who have achieved some lit cred but may well turn out to be "flashes in the pan": Bell, DeLillo, Walker, Smith, Lahiri, Powers, Franzen, Chabon, Carey etc. (these tend to be asked in bunches when they're hot and then disappear)

as a sidenote to Dan: McEwan won the Booker for Amsterdam and should have won for Atonement and Saturday. He's easily as notable as Coetzee was before he won the Nobel)

the only time that contemporary lit inclusion pisses me off is when (usually inexperienced) question writers write questions on some writer who their professor was raving about (almost always Chicano or gay....not trying to be offensive here...its just the nature of lit professors with narrow specializations) and then wonder why no one has ever heard of this supposedly famous author (and I'm not talking about Hujelos or Silko here)...a certain former U.C. Irvine player was notorious for this.

in other words, unless you've been around for a while, be really wary of writing that John Henry Days tossup or that bonus on Peel My Love Like an Onion (a masters level bonus with a part on John Henry Days is fine)....even if two of your professors tell you that Castillo is the most notable author of the last 30 years (hint: they had to write their dissertations on something)

PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2006 6:16 pm
by Nathan
ok, I just found an example of what was clearly a student misapprehending the relative significance of (pretty obscure) Victorian novel -- and not due to the author being Chicano or gay. but, I would wager that the UF writer responsible for this tossup was misled by some professor's emphasis in a course....

someone for the Moon Pie 2004 (a novice tourney!) wrote a tossup on "Lady Audley's Secret" by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2006 6:34 pm
by NotBhan
Nathan wrote:ok, I just found an example of what was clearly a student misapprehending the relative significance of (pretty obscure) Victorian novel -- and not due to the author being Chicano or gay. but, I would wager that the UF writer responsible for this tossup was misled by some professor's emphasis in a course....

someone for the Moon Pie 2004 (a novice tourney!) wrote a tossup on "Lady Audley's Secret" by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.


Ha -- that was my teammate, Nodya. I left it in there (amongst 25/25) for the heck of it, and I may have written an extra one to replace it ... I hope it didn't actually make its way into the pack!

--Raj Dhuwalia

(P.S. Sword Bowl is UTC's novice tourney, not Moon Pie.)

PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2006 6:48 pm
by Rothlover
Just consider yourselves lucky you didn't have to read Lieutenant Nun; This was for a history survey class, no less.

PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2006 12:01 pm
by Nathan
"I hope it didn't actually make its way into the pack!"

it did....

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 6:44 pm
by Mr. Kwalter
So, I went on amazon.com today, you know, for some irrelevant reason, and in the top right corner of the front page is a box with the title "You Know You Want It" in red. You know, with a book you theoretically shouldn't be able to resist buying. Now, I don't want to start a trend of posting such things, but I thought this was worthwhile. Apparently, the one thing on amazon.com that they think I need most: The Castle of Otranto.