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Novels in Verse - The Ex-Communicator

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February 4th, 2012


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07:08 pm - Novels in Verse
Although I think I read more poetry than average/normal, I never really fancy reading a novel which is written in verse. Just looking at it stretched out on page after page makes me feel both bored and wary. But when I actually get stuck in, I have enjoyed every single novel-in-verse I have ever read (not that it is very many). I thought I might recommend one or two here, in case anyone feels like me, put off, but might enjoy one once they got started.

I am reading Paradise Lost again at the moment, and I find it intensely enjoyable. I would recommend it because the imagery and description is awesome and strange. On the debit side, it's all about theology and the theology is crazy. But you can read it as bizarre science fiction. It's very stirring.

A more accessible verse novel is The Ring and the Book by Robert Browning. That is the story of a 17th century Italian murder, told like Rashomon by several different unreliable narrators. It's a good story, and Browning compared to Milton is sane and liberal and tolerant.

And another Victorian novel is Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I think it was possible for a woman to get away with a slightly more racy premise in verse than in an ordinary prose novel. Aurora Leigh is a woman who makes a living as a writer, and sets up home in Paris with another woman who has escaped from prostitution. It's not massively unlike Jane Eyre.

And a recent verse novel I have read is The Broken Word by Adam Foulds, which is an account of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, and the atrocities committed in reprisal. Here is a very short extract in the Guardian.

A shorter verse story, perhaps a verse novella, is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I think it was influential on Poe and hence Lovecraft, and ultimately all the Antarctic-set stories such as The Thing. I enjoyed reading this as a child, so I think it is the most accessible story in verse. I also loved the verse-novel Hiawatha as a child, but am not sure if I would still like it, it's been years and it might come over now as more than a bit patronising to Native Americans.

I only post these recs because I was strongly disinclined to read any of them, but then I liked them all, and I was glad I had read them. (ETA - has anyone any other recommendations?)

(21 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:nwhyte
Date:February 4th, 2012 07:58 pm (UTC)
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Also recommend The Emperor's Babe by Bernardine Evaristo.

Edited at 2012-02-04 07:59 pm (UTC)
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From:communicator
Date:February 4th, 2012 08:18 pm (UTC)
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I see it is set in Londinium 200AD. Thanks for the rec. I have never heard of it before. I must add a comment asking people for any favourites.
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From:del_c
Date:February 4th, 2012 09:51 pm (UTC)
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The Divine Comedy is great science fiction too. There's a metamorphosis scene in it that's obviously Dante lovingly drawing out a bit of CGI the way John Landis used to make you watch people becoming werewolves for several minutes, because this cost money and by god you were going to appreciate it. But for Dante I assume it had more to do with the geeky pleasure of actually thinking through how flesh might morph. There's also all the discussion about the spherical earth, and what time zone Purgatory is in.
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From:communicator
Date:February 4th, 2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
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Yes. I haven't read it - I felt put off by the theology. Yet, Paradise Lost is so good. I should read it.
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From:del_c
Date:February 4th, 2012 11:12 pm (UTC)
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vilakins writes below what I would have.
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From:vilakins
Date:February 4th, 2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
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I second Dante: Inferno and Purgatorio were fascinating and very entertaining (read the Dorothy L Sayers translation with its notes). Paradiso bored me though and I never finished it.
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From:communicator
Date:February 4th, 2012 11:09 pm (UTC)
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Not that there's any clear metaphor about human beings in that statement or anything :-)


Edited at 2012-02-04 11:23 pm (UTC)
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From:vilakins
Date:February 5th, 2012 02:03 am (UTC)
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Perfection and happiness don't make for good reading!
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From:del_c
Date:February 5th, 2012 12:05 am (UTC)
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There's actually a major Hollywood action film of Paradise Lost in the works right now. They've put it on hold while they trim the budget, but they've cast Bradley Cooper, Benjamin Walker, Djimon Hounsou and Casey Affleck as Lucifer, Michael, Abdiel and Gabriel respectively, and were to have started filming in Australia. If it's a hit, maybe they can do Inferno and The Silmarillion.
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From:communicator
Date:February 5th, 2012 08:30 am (UTC)
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Oh, I had no idea. I have just looked it up on imdb. The director of I, Robot and Knowing. Hmmm.

On the plus side, also the director of Dark City, which was great.
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From:altariel
Date:February 5th, 2012 02:06 pm (UTC)
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I would totally go and see a film about Turin Turambar.
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From:del_c
Date:February 5th, 2012 02:07 pm (UTC)
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If the Hobbit films are a success, they're going to be looking for more "properties" to turn into money.
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From:houseboatonstyx
Date:February 5th, 2012 02:42 am (UTC)
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The Kalevala has a great narrative rhythm, and wonderful details of the setting (which is as good as Mary Stewart's).
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From:communicator
Date:February 5th, 2012 08:24 am (UTC)
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Oh, good one, I have always wanted to read that. The translation I glanced at once was in trochaic tetrametre, like Hiawatha.

(Oh, I just looked it up in wikipedia. I think that is an ancient Finnish style of poetry, so probably Longfellow got the idea from them.)
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From:houseboatonstyx
Date:February 5th, 2012 10:43 am (UTC)
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Yes, Hiawatha was sort of an imiation. But the Kalevala is MUCH better. There are many translations, some in verse and some not. I saw one site that compared the translations side by side.

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From:altariel
Date:February 5th, 2012 08:43 am (UTC)
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Persephone Books published Lettice Delmer, by Susan Miles, but I haven't read it.

Inferno is awesome - I stopped halfway through Purgatory because term started, but that's also been brilliant so far. I'm reading the Oxford World Classics edition translated by CH Sisson, on gair's recommendation.
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From:communicator
Date:February 5th, 2012 09:03 am (UTC)
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Thanks for those. I was wondering about what translations.
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From:altariel
Date:February 14th, 2012 01:25 pm (UTC)
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Keep an eye on the post: sent you a spare copy of the Sayers translation.
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From:communicator
Date:February 15th, 2012 01:53 pm (UTC)
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Oh my goodness, thank you so much altariel that is very kind. I can;t wait to see it.
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From:altariel
Date:February 15th, 2012 01:56 pm (UTC)
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They're a bit elderly, but still readable!
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From:azdak
Date:February 5th, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
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There's The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam (the Fitzgerald trasnlation, natch), which might also squeeze in as a novella?

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