Novels

To be great, a novel must show an old thing in a new way. It's equally disastrous to espouse tradition for its own sake as to propose novelty for the sake of novelty—only together can these elements have meaning.

Modernist and postmodernist authors are infatuated with newness as a thing in itself. They subject language to increasingly complicated gymnastic maneuvers, play with ideas rather than defending them, and generally wreak havoc on established forms. This results in novels that may or may not be aesthetically pleasing, but are surely meaningless.

If we adhere too closely to the forms of the past, however, we run the risk of shortsightedness, bigotry, and prejudice. Humans too often must be shaken from their stupor, made to see things as others see them in order to promote equality and peace and goodwill. A good novel rooted in universal ideals freshly presented can do just that.

Novels are seldom the impetus for social movements, but they often augment cultural change. As a literary form, they came into being because writers wanted a venue for espousing or exploring ideas that wasn't rooted in history or "real life." They wanted, in short, to write fiction.

Before the novel, works modern readers would view as fictional were generally considered in a different light. Either they were actual history, or they were meta-narratives, or they were religious, or they were simply narrative philosophy. The idea was to impart truth, not simply data. As writers became more concerned with the world-as-it-is and scientific understanding, they turned toward forms more consistent with the Enlightenment emphasis on knowledge-acquisition as a means to truth.

The novel was such a form. Symbolism was never abandoned wholesale (except by certain eccentric groups at various times), but a new attention was paid to detail—not just detail integral to the story or signifying something else, but detail that set the scene, that gave the reader a sense of place, mood, circumstance and character. It was this attention to detail that helped fiction emerge as a respectable genre.

For ancient and Medieval writers, the seen world and the world beyond were indistinguishable. The famed Celtic knot was intended to show the interrelatedness of all things, how each realmbled into the other and held everything in place. Pre-Enlightenment writing reflected this view, and any detail provided in a poem or narrative was intended, not to portray physical or human "realities," but to demonstrate truths consistent between realms.

When the Enlightenment came around and proclaimed scientific observation and empiricism the new guides (replacing revelation and divine authority), a new approach was needed. No longer were things primarily representative of other things, things were essentially what they were—meaning things were eseentially physical.

Description evolved to fit the new ethos, and creative literature evolved with it. The novel, prose rather than poetry, devoted to detail and incident rather than sweeping generalization, was one of the best weapons in the Enlightenment arsenal. Writers were no longer primarily concerned with affecting readers' attitudes and hearts, they wanted to change their minds. Western culture has never recovered.

Fortunately, the novel was never stagnant, and never fully enslaved by Enlightenment practitioners. Novels have diversified: there are philosophical novels, poetic novels, experimental novels, comic novels, historical novel, all of them aimed at the reader in such a way that the encounter is either devastating or uplifting, frightening or comforting, horrible and sad or fresh and beautiful.

We don't pretend to carry every important novel ever penned. We don't apologize for that....or for the fact that we carry novels at all. It's easy to look at fiction as mere escapism, much harder to engage it seriously hoping to be transformed. Our goal is to offer books (whether "classics" or not) that offer new ways of seeing, opportunities for transformation, encounters with the sublime as harrowing as they are exhilerating.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

 

Did you find this review helpful?
938 Items found Print
1984
Signet Classics
by George Orwell
from Signet Classics
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$9.99
1984
by George Orwell
from Harcourt
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$17.00
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Sterling Classics
by Jules Verne, illustrated by Scott McKowen
from Sterling Publishing Co.
for 5th-10th grade
in Sterling Classics (Location: FIC-STE)
$14.95
2001: A Space Odyssey
by Arthur C. Clarke
from ROC Science Fiction
for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$8.99
21
Aubrey/Maturin #21
by Patrick O'Brian
from W. W. Norton and Co.
Nautical Fiction for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
Adam Bede
Everyman's Library
by George Eliot
from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Realistic Fiction for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$24.00
Adventures of Don Quixote
by Miguel De Cervantes, illustrated by W. Heath Robinson
from State Street Press
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: LIT4-17)
$6.00 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
from Easton Press
for 10th-Adult
in Leather Bound Collectible Books (Location: VIN-LEA)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
New Ed from University of California Press
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$15.95
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
3rd edition from W. W. Norton and Co.
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
from Penguin Classics
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$8.00 $4.50 (2 in stock)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
from Nelson Doubleday, Inc.
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Robin Hood
Reader's Digest World's Best Reading
by Paul Creswick, illustrated by N. C. Wyeth
from Reader's Digest
for 6th-12th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Dover Thrift Editions
by Mark Twain
from Dover Publications
for 6th-10th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$5.00
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain
Limited Edition from Franklin Library
Realistic Fiction for 8th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Reader's Digest World's Best Reading
by Mark Twain, illustrated by Paul Geiger
from Reader's Digest
for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Puffin Classics
by Mark Twain
from Penguin Classics
Realistic Fiction for 6th-10th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$9.00
Age of Innocence
by Edith Wharton
from Charles Scribner's Sons
for 10th-Adult
1921 Pulitzer Prize winner
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$6.00 (1 in stock)
Agnes Grey
Penguin Classics
by Anne Bronte
from Penguin Classics
Realistic Romantic Fiction for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$12.00 $6.00 (1 in stock)
Agnes Grey
by Anne Bronte, Illustrated by Edmund Dulac
from SeaWolf Press
Realistic Romantic Fiction for 10th-Adult
in Seawolf Illustrated Classics (Location: FIC-SW)
$7.95
Alas, Babylon
by Pat Frank
from HarperCollins
Apocalyptic novel for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$15.99
Alchemist
by Paulo Coelho
from HarperCollins
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$16.99
Alexander of Macedon
International Collectors Library
by Harold Lamb
from International Collectors Library
for 4th-8th grade
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel
from Blushing Rose Publishing
for 5th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$12.00 (1 in stock)
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
Illustrated Junior Library Series 2
by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 5th-8th grade
in Illustrated Junior Library (Location: VIN-IJL)
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
Illustrated Junior Library Series 1
by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 5th-8th grade
in Illustrated Junior Library (Location: VIN-IJL)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Penguin Classics
by Lewis Carroll
from Penguin Classics
Fantasy for 5th-8th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$11.00
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll
from Modern Library
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$11.00
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel
from Nelson Doubleday, Inc.
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel
from St. Martin's Press
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
Rainbow Classics
by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel
from World Publishing Company
for 4th-10th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$7.50 (1 in stock)
All In the Family
International Collectors Library
by Edwin O'Connor
from International Collectors Library
for Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
All Quiet on the Western Front
by Erich Maria Remarque
from Ballantine Books
War/Realistic Fiction for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$7.99
Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
by Michael Chabon
from Picador
for Adult
2001 Pulitzer Prize winner
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
Ambassadors
by Henry James
from Heritage Press
for 10th-Adult
in Clearance: Literature (Location: ZCLE-LIT)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
American Claimant / Pudd'nhead Wilson
from Nelson Doubleday, Inc.
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$4.00 (2 in stock)
And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie
from HarperCollins
Murder Mystery for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie
75th Anniversary from HarperCollins
Murder Mystery for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$15.99
Andorra
by Peter Cameron
4th edition from Plume Books
for Adult
in Clearance: Literature (Location: ZCLE-LIT)
$2.00 (1 in stock)
Anna Karenina
Signet Classics
by Leo Tolstoy
from Signet Classics
Realistic Fiction for 11th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$7.95
Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy
First Printing from Penguin Putnam
for 11th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Constance Garnett, illustrated by Barnett Freedman
from Heritage Press
for 11th-Adult
in Vintage & Collectible (Location: VIN-COL)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Annotated Alice
by Lewis Carroll
from Bramhall House
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$10.00 (1 in stock)
Annotated Alice
by Lewis Carroll
Definitive Edition from W. W. Norton and Co.
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
Annotated Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Revised & Expanded from Anchor Books
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$20.00
Anthem
by Ayn Rand
Expanded 50th Anniversary from Signet Classics
for 11th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$7.99
Around the World in 80 Days
Reader's Digest World's Best Reading
by Jules Verne
from Reader's Digest
for 8th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$8.00 (2 in stock)
Around the World in 80 Days
by Jules Verne, translated by William Butcher
Reprint from Oxford University
for 8th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$9.95
Around the World in Eighty Days
by Jules Verne, George M. Towle (Translator)
from Bantam Books
for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$5.95
Around the World in Eighty Days
by Jules Verne
Unabridged from Dover Publications
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$1.50 (1 in stock)
12345678910111213141516171819