What makes a truly great novel?
Blogspace is full of people who will tell you the answer to that question (and it invariably uses multiple use of the word 'edit')
I was wondering, is a novel only great if i understand what the author was trying to say?
Or, alternatively, can we be pursuaded that a novel is great if, after the fact, we understand what the author was trying to say?
I'll use a couple of examples. The first one isn't a book
You may have been to Portmerion - it's a village on the Welsh coast. if you've not, you might have seen it on the box as it's the setting for the original version of The Prisoner. It's very pretty, with italionate architecture and nooks and strange shapes and build on a 2/3 scale (although people manage to live there).
I hated it. it ticked the Trying Too Hard box and i couldn't understand what the architect was trying to do.We went to find the cafe.
Near the middle of the village there's a shed, with a film on repeating loop. In the film the architect, Clough Williams-Ellis, explains what he was trying to do. Lightbulb moment. When we came back out i looked at it in a different way and loved it
So, to a book. I've just read On the beach by Neville Shute. It's about a small city in Australia in the last 4-6 months before the radiation from a nuclear war arrives.
Rather than desperately trying to find a way to survive, they spend the time having dinner parties and saying 'don't worry it will all be over soon.'
i can't decide whether Shure was portraying some sort of colonial stiff upper lip, or how people behave when they believe there is no hope.
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Although i don't understand it, PJ O'Rourke called it the best novel ever written. i hated it.
Having said that, i suspect that, even if i'd understood it, i'd still have hated it.it's so turgid and small and I only continued to the end to find out how they eventually manage to save themselves.
SPOILER. They all die. It's just totally depressing
You may be looking for the hidden meaning in my book.
SPOILER. There isn't one.