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.

 

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1984
Signet Classics
by George Orwell
from Signet Classics
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$9.99
1984
by George Orwell
from Harcourt
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$16.00
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Sterling Classics
by Jules Verne
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: NLIT7-20)
$7.99
Adam Bede
Everyman's Library
by George Eliot
from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Realistic Fiction for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$24.00
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
from Penguin Classics
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$8.00
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
New Ed from University of California Press
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$15.95
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
Centennial facsim. ed. with a new introd. and bibl from Harper & Row
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$6.00 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
3rd edition from W. W. Norton and Co.
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Dover Thrift Editions
by Mark Twain
from Dover Publications
for 6th-10th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$5.00
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Puffin Classics
by Mark Twain
from Penguin Classics
Realistic Fiction for 6th-10th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$9.00
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Puffin Classics
by Mark Twain
from Penguin Classics
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in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$9.00
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by Anne Bronte
from Penguin Classics
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in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$12.00
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in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
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by Alexandre Dumas
from Oxford University
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in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$53.05
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
Illustrated Junior Library
by Lewis Carroll
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 5th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Penguin Classics
by Lewis Carroll
from Penguin Classics
Fantasy for 5th-8th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$11.00
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll
from Modern Library
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in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$11.00
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from Ballantine Books
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in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$6.99
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Murder Mystery for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$14.99
Anna Karenina
Signet Classics
by Leo Tolstoy
from Signet Classics
Realistic Fiction for 11th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$7.95
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by Jane Austen
Revised & Expanded from Anchor Books
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by Jules Verne
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for 8th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$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: MLIT6-19)
$5.95
Around the World in Eighty Days
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by Jules Verne & Scott McKowen
Unabridged from Sterling Publishing Co.
Adventure for 6th-10th grade
in Sterling Classics (Location: FIC-STE)
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in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
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Reprint Edition from Anchor Books
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in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
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Everyman's Library
by Charles Dickens
from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$25.00
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by Lew Wallace
from Dover Publications
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$7.00
Ben-Hur
Signet Classics
by Lew Wallace
from Signet Classics
Historical Fiction for 7th-10th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$8.95
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by Jasper Fforde
from Penguin Putnam
for 11th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$16.00
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by Herman Melville
from Signet Classics
Realistic Nautical Fiction for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$4.95
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by Herman Melville
from Bantam Books
Realistic Nautical Fiction for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$4.95
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by Robert Louis Stevenson
from Signet Classics
Historical Fiction for 7th-10th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$6.95
Black Arrow
Scribner Illustrated Classics
by Robert Louis Stevenson
from Atheneum
Historical Fiction for 7th-10th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Bleak House
by Charles Dickens
from Everyman's Library
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$22.50
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by Charles Dickens
from Penguin Putnam
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$13.00
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by Cormac McCarthy
1st edition from Vintage Classics
for 11th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
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Aubrey/Maturin #20
by Patrick O'Brian
from W. W. Norton and Co.
Nautical Fiction for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
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by Don DeLillo
1st edition from Charles Scribner's Sons
for Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
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by Walter Wangerin Jr.
from HarperCollins
for 8th grade-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$16.99
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by Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall
from Little, Brown & Company
Nautical Fiction for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
Bounty Trilogy
by Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall
from Little, Brown & Company
Nautical Fiction for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$29.99
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by Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall
from Little, Brown & Company
for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
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