The Novel: An Alternative History Hardcover – 15 Jun 2010
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Everything we know about the origins of the novel is wrong. The novel did not spring from the minds of eighteenth-century English writers, nor did Cervantes invent it. Instead, the novel coalesced in the Mediterranean in the fourteenth century with Greek romances and Latin satires. And writers were creating experimental, internalized, mischievous, and wildly imaginative novels centuries before James Joyce. In his zestfully encyclopedic, avidly opinionated, and dazzlingly fresh history of the most elastic of literary forms, Moore shares his discoveries of ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Hebrew, Greek, Roman, and Christian fiction and analyzes with unflagging enthusiasm the novels of medieval and Renaissance Europe, followed by deep readings of Indian, Tibetan, Arabic, Persian, Japanese, and Chinese fiction. Reveling in the most innovative and daring creations, Moore energetically evaluates tales fantastic, chilling, hilarious, erotic, and tragic, comparing centuries-old novels to those of Barth, Gaddis, Pynchon, and Vollmann. Destined for controversy, Moore s erudite, gargantuan, kaleidoscopic, and venturesome alternative history will leave readers feeling as though they ve been viewing literature with blinders on. --Booklist
Steven Moore, a former managing editor of the Review of Contemporary Fiction, has attempted to trace the roots of the modern novel to the first stories told around campfires in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Moore's survey is splendidly comprehensive and shows a true passion for his subject. Ranging from those early ancestors to the classics of Asian fiction, from the love stories of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the philosophical fables of the Enlightenment, and well into our time, the book displays Moore's impressive knowledge of the world of make-believe. [...] Moore tells his story with erudition and wit, and in doing so restores to the reader of good fiction confidence in the craft. Ultimately, Moore's book is less a genealogical history of the novel than a reader's treasure trove. --Washington Post, Sunday 22nd August 2010
Good humour to be found in every paragraph. If he s not careful, this man could give scholarship a good name --South Belfast News, 7th August 2010
A gigantic literary safari ... Moore is incredibly knowledgeable and provides us witha long list of examples of literature from early Assyrian stories through ancient Hebrew and Greek fiction, to medieval and Renaissance narratives. --Morning Star
Every now and then a work of general interest on literature, written for a non-specialized audience but filled with citations, comes along that, due to its brashness, perspective, or style re-opens arguments considered settled, inviting us to look anew at this or that subject. In extreme cases it can even encourage us to toss out what we ve been taught. For obvious reasons this can arouse hostility in traditional-minded critics and reviewers. Steven Moore s The Novel: An Alternate History is such a book.[...] Those wanting to discover new old books, or to read a vigorous refutation of a broken and useless idea of when the novel began written in a breezy, informative, style, will find The Novel an essential work. It belongs in personal, community and university libraries --The Quarterly Conversation
About the Author
Steven Moore (Ph.D. Rutgers, 1988) is the author of several books and essays on modern literature. From 1988 to 1996 he was managing editor of the Review of Contemporary Fiction/Dalkey Archive Press, and for decades has reviewed books for a variety of journals and newspapers, principally the Washington Post. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where is he is working on the next installment of this history.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
in fact presents what can almost be described as a history of civilization itself. Going back beyond the 4th century BC, the book
covers ancient Greek and Roman literature and runs through to the beginning of the seventeenth century. Geographical
coverage is also extensive, with western, middle eastern and far eastern novels all given very thorough treatment. The breadth
of knowledge of the author, the depth of detail in his accounts of the selected novels and his astute, witty and often irreverent
comments on the books covered make this lengthy volume a highly entertaining read. I look forward very much to reading his second volume covering the years 1600 to the present.
What distinguishes Moore's book from all fo the rest is the tangible fluidity of his writing. This is the only nonfiction book I have read since Hughes which could qualify as literature. There simply is nothing I can compare it to short of The Norton Anthology of English Literature.
A few recent examples of exceptional nonfiction which fall short of Moore's THE NOVEL might provide a perspective. Paul O'Keefe's A GENIUS FOR FAILURE (The Life of Benjamin Robert Haydon), THE VERSE REVOLUTIONARIES ((Ezra Pound, H.D. and The Imagists) by Helen Carr, and HOGARTH (A life and a World) by Jenny Uglow are all works which I would enthusiastically recommend as incomparable. But they lack the seamless melding of supple prose and literary sinew which makes Moore's two volumes absolutely indispensible for anyone who wishes to grasp the history and significance of fiction, readers as well as scholars and writers.
The sad as silly 'gatekeepers' can wail at their self-professed wall of stale dogma all they want, but it is in vain. Moore opens up the world of literature like no one else has ever had the chutzpah to do with a tangibly authoritatively as comprehensive perspective of literature which must needs be considered an essential component of the canon.
Having had to stomach the self-serving as orthdox views of a schlepping literary establishment which has been effete for so many decades, I am grateful for these two volumes which I will read and reread over the years no less than my adored Norton.
Moore's book, the first volume of two, takes a fresh, bold and thoroughly irreverent look at the great works of world literature before 1600. The novel, he says, did not begin, as many think, in 18th-century England, or even with Cervantes' Don Quixote in the early 17th. The earliest novels were probably fictional tales (from "mini-novels" to book-length efforts) written anonymously in ancient Egypt's Middle Kingdom. By the 19th century BCE, all the elements of the novel were in place in Egypt: sustained narrative, dialogue, characterization, metafiction, even magical realism.
Moore gives us a new perspective on the early writings of many peoples, including the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Celts, Britons, Scandinavians, Arabs, Persians, Indians, Chinese and Mesoamericans. Of particular interest is his analysis of the classic Arabic frame-tale collection, the Thousand and One Nights, Persian in origin but thoroughly Arab in its present form.
Moore extracts three extended narratives from this influential opus that qualify as separate novels: The Story of the Hunchback (a "cruel comedy" that takes Shahrazad a week and a half to narrate), The Story of Qamar al-Zaman (a "dark romance" forming the core of the Nights) and The Tale of King Umar ibn al-Nu'man (the Nights' longest narrative, taking Shahrazad a hundred nights to narrate).
More artistically refined Arabic works of the Middle Ages are highlighted as well, such as Ibn Tufayl's Hayy ibn Yaqzan, which may have influenced Robinson Crusoe, and the "hugely entertaining" Adventures of Sayf ben Dhi Yazan, which Moore calls "the most outlandishly imaginative tale in Arabic literature, outdoing even The Arabian Nights in magic and wonder."
[A version of this review appeared in Saudi Aramco World, Mar/Apr 2011.]
Look for similar items by category