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Thread: Novels with greatest literary architecture?

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    Novels with greatest literary architecture?

    I donít mean plot structure per se, though that is not excluded ó I mean in terms of the structure of the novel as a whole, the interrelationship of its parts, its points of view, its characters, etc.

    In other words, which were the novels which show the most painstaking thought and composition and planning?
    Last edited by theorange; 02-09-2018 at 01:03 PM.

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    I think War and Peace has that great structure to it. Then Blood Meridian, The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby.

    Inventory ask heard Anna Karenina is beautifully structured

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    I think Harry Potter is really good. The way the whole series are tied together is just amazing. Every book has a plot twist and the whole book series itself is one big plot twist in the end. Reading Harry Potter as a teen always made me read at the edge of my seat!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ajvenigalla View Post
    I think War and Peace has that great structure to it. Then Blood Meridian, The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby.

    Inventory ask heard Anna Karenina is beautifully structured
    War and Peace is a meandering mish-mash, the structure of which is loosely conceived. It starts slowly and has long sections that are irrelevant to the story (the Free Mason induction, for one). "Anna Karenina", on the other hand, starts with a bang, has characters that are all structurally related (Levin's brothers mirror different sides of his personality; Kitty, like Anna, is in love with Vronsky; Anna's problems are similar to those of her brother, exacerbated because her passions are pitched to a higher level, etc., etc.).

    War and Peace is (perhaps) the greatest of all novels (and I prefer it to Anna), but it isn't because of its structure.

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    I haven't read it for ages, but Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse has a definite structure other than the merely narrative. As does The Waves, which has no narrative and only the thoughts of the protagonists.

    I bet Henry James sweated blood over the structure of his novels, but despite strenuous efforts on my part, I've never appreciated him.

    Ulysses anybody?
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    Regarding interrelationship of its parts, possibly Bleak House. That book has a lot of strands and everyone is connected to everyone else.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Years ago I read a critical essay which purported that the circular structure found in Joseph Heller's Catch 22 effectively mimics the flight patterns of those military bombers n WWII.

    I think there's almost a literal "structure" in Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman, cf. the two-dimensional house.

    There are numerous 20th c. and "post-modern" novels with -- pardon the pun -- "built-in" structure. Complexity, I know, can sometimes be pretentious, and doesn't always translate into multi-levels of meaning, like multi stories of a building. But consider the constant time shifting in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, which along with the off-the-way physical settings (cf. mammoth fans pointed toward Canada, etc.) which becomes an integral part of the narrative (and satiric theme) itself.

    I said modern and contemporary, but we can go all the way back to the first "post modern" novel, Tristram Shandy, which Lawrence Sterne published way, way back in 1759. The plot, characters, every feature in the Novel are jettisoned in favor of one long, rambling, and delightful digression. In that case the lack of structure becomes the structure itself. You can't get any more absurdist than that.

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    It is said Madam Bovary is very densely organized. Some critical pieces I read seemed to think so as well. I read that novel years ago. Some essays were espousing how all that hidden structure might have an impact on the unconscious of the reader. I read three Flaubert novels way back then. Far and away I enjoyed Salambo most from Flaubert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by theorange View Post
    I donít mean plot structure per se, though that is not excluded ó I mean in terms of the structure of the novel as a whole, the interrelationship of its parts, its points of view, its characters, etc.
    In other words, which were the novels which show the most painstaking thought and composition and planning?
    I think Dostovesky's The Idiothas great structure, both in terms of plot and characterization. The parallel characters he creates in Muishin and Rogozhin and again in Agalya and Nastasya are perfect and the drama he weaves around them and the breath-taking pace of the novel give the reader a great experience . Dickens' Great Expectations comes a very close second and the slow reflective pace of the last part of the novel adds a great charm. Dostoevsky's melodrama in the novel , instead of making it weak actually makes it more gripping. A true genius, though I can't stand his occasional didactic rigmaroles.
    Last edited by mvrmoorthy; 03-06-2018 at 01:04 PM.

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    Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris, aka The Hunchback, is a good candidate. Nearly every major character in the novel, drawn from all social classes sacred and secular, appears in the opening scene at a public festivity, all unknown to one another. The plot draws them inexorably together and a dizzying string of reversals, thoroughly logical and meticulously set up, unfold in succession at the cataclysmic end. The integration of theme and plot is perfectly executed.

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