The Globe and Mail's "50 Greatest Books"

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"Over the coming year 2008, an international panel chosen by The Globe and Mail will select the 50 Greatest Books ever written. Each week, a single work will be discussed by an expert or a writer passionate about the work in question. "

  1. 1.
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    by Mark Twain

  2. 2.
    In Search of Lost Time (Everyman's Library Classics)
    by Marcel Proust

  3. 4.

  4. 5.
    The Republic (Penguin Classics)
    by Plato

  5. 6.
    Don Quixote
    by Miguel De Cervantes

  6. 7.
    by James Joyce

  7. 9.
    The Confessions of St. Augustine (Dover Thrift Editions)
    by St. Augustine

  8. 10.
    The Prince
    by Niccolo Machiavelli

  9. 11.
    The Great Gatsby
    by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  10. 12.
    Middlemarch (Signet Classics)
    by George Eliot

  11. 13.
    The Wealth of Nations (Bantam Classics)
    by Adam Smith

  12. 14.
    The Interpretation of Dreams
    by Sigmund, Freud

  13. 15.
    Gulliver's Travels (Penguin Classics)
    by Jonathan Swift

  14. 16.
    One Hundred Years of Solitude (P.S.)
    by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

  15. 17.
    King Lear (The New Folger Library Shakespeare)
    by William Shakespeare

  16. 18.
    Critique of Pure Reason (Dover Philosophical Classics)
    by Immanuel Kant

  17. 19.
    Pride and Prejudice (Vintage Classics)
    by Jane Austen

  18. 20.
    The Iliad / The Odyssey
    by Homer

  19. 21.
    The Brothers Karamazov
    by Fyodor Dostoevsky

  20. 22.
    Collected Poems, 1909-1962
    by T.S. Eliot

  21. 23.
    by Vladimir Nabokov

  22. 24.
    The Koran (Penguin Classics)
    by Anonymous

  23. 25.
    Our Mutual Friend (Modern Library Classics)
    by Charles Dickens

  24. 26.
    Ficciones (English Translation)
    by Jorge Luis Borges

  25. 27.
    The Histories
    by Herodotus

  26. 28.
    Moby-Dick or, The Whale (Penguin Classics)
    by Herman Melville

  27. 29.
    Madame Bovary
    by Gustave Flaubert

  28. 30.
    Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories
    by Franz Kafka

  29. 32.
    Principia Mathematica (1687) by Isaac Newton
    by Isaac Newton

  30. 33.
    The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats
    by William Butler Yeats

  31. 35.
    The Theban Trilogy of Sophocles
    by Rev W Linwood

  32. 36.
    by William Buck

  33. 38.
    Social Contract
    by Jean Jacques Rousseau

  34. 39.
    Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics)
    by Michel de Montaigne

  35. 40.
    by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  36. 41.
    Silent Spring
    by Rachel Carson

  37. 42.
    Anton Chekhov's Short Stories (Norton Critical Editions)
    by Anton Chekhov

  38. 43.
    An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
    by Hume

  39. 44.
    War and Peace (Vintage Classics)
    by Leo Tolstoy

  40. 45.
    A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
    by Mary Wollstonecraft

  41. 46.
    The Decameron (Penguin Classics)
    by Giovanni Boccaccio

  42. 47.
    Waiting for Godot
    by Samuel Beckett

  43. 48.
    The Tale of Genji
    by Shikibu Murasaki

  44. 49.
    a diderot pictorial encyclopedia

  45. 50.
    The Portrait of a Lady (Penguin Classics)
    by Henry James

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Created by Athena on Feb 09, 2008.


Lolita and the Nabokov need for the clever — 3 years ago

I’m aware that almost every review and certainly any jacket blurb extols the excellence of this book. However, I have found that Nabokov has let his need to impress the reader with his cleverness get in the way of developing characters of any depth or a narrative with engaging themes. Upon completing Lolita, I was scratching my head wondering why such a banal piece of prose has received such accolades. Lolita lovers may say that this banality was just what Mr. N. was trying to achieve – if so, there’s enough of the banal filling the warehouses and bookstores of Chapters and Borders, thank you very much!

I have just finished his collected short stories and, by and large, I find similar flaws in his writing there. Almost all surface. ‘Almost’, as there are times, such as Mademoiselle O and First Love (strongly autobiographical works), when Mr N. appears to drop his need for the clever and the overloaded surface details, and allows himself to explore the depths of a character or situation. To forget himself and his standard literary persona, so to speak. But, IMHO, this doesn’t happen very often. As well, his need for the clever moves him to choose words, particularly adverbs, that often just don’t work to produce the image or effective description – sometimes, his diction reminds one that he isn’t fully comfortable in English. So the Nabokov industry mystifies me – although I imagine he would be very pleased with how his apparent irony and word play are being appreciated.

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