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What kind of a reader are you? 
Posted: 23 December 2016 06:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I know that nearly everyone would disagree, but I think Tolstoy’s most famous novel is crap.

I know that nearly everyone expresses themselves that way when they dislike something, but I have trained myself to avoid saying that what I personally dislike or am bored by (e.g., ballet) is crap.  I just say I don’t care for it.  (As for War and Peace, I’ve read it three times and am looking forward to a fourth reading—this said not to pat myself on the back but to suggest that you may be overgeneralizing from your own experience.  Maybe try a different translation?)

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Posted: 23 December 2016 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Well-chosen words, lh. I fully concur.

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Posted: 24 December 2016 05:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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I should add that sometimes we’re just not ready for a particular book yet.  I took a look at Proust when I was in college (because my girlfriend thought he was great) and found it completely impenetrable; I decided there were Joyce people and Proust people and I was a Joyce person and that was that.  Later, over the years, I occasionally gave him another try, and actually bought most of the volumes when I saw them cheap in used book stores just in case, but could never get through the first one.  Then a few years ago my wife and I decided to give it a try (I read to her at bedtime), and this time it clicked—we read the whole thing and loved it.  I was well into my fifties by then, so never say die!

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Posted: 24 December 2016 07:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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The phrase I use is “not my cup of tea”.

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Posted: 26 December 2016 03:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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languagehat - 23 December 2016 06:11 AM

I know that nearly everyone expresses themselves that way when they dislike something, but I have trained myself to avoid saying that what I personally dislike or am bored by (e.g., ballet) is crap.

I was initially angered by your response, but upon reflection I realize that we are what we read, in a sense.  So, if I call War And Peace “crap”, and you like War And Peace, you might take that as a personal affront—even though I did not mean it that way.  If you had said, “ballet is crap” I would have been irritated by that, because I like ballet.

You have made a good point, LH, so let me rephrase by saying that I can’t get into War And Peace no matter how much I try.

Is there a particular translation that you would recommend?

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Posted: 27 December 2016 05:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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So, if I call War And Peace “crap”, and you like War And Peace, you might take that as a personal affront—even though I did not mean it that way.

But I did not take it as a personal affront—that appears to have been your initial reaction, but it was not mine.  I was making a straightforward point: just because a person dislikes something, whether that person is you or I, does not mean that thing is crap.  It is a common but avoidable error to take one’s own preferences as universal truths.

Is there a particular translation that you would recommend?

No, but I’ll give you the same advice I give everyone who asks about translations—read a few pages of as many different ones as you can find (easy to do in this age of Google Books and Amazon’s “Look inside the book") and pick the one that most makes you want to keep reading.  You can pretty much take for granted that every translation is going to be more or less as accurate as the others (though of course each translator sees the mote in the others’ eyes and ignores the beam in their own; Pevear and Volokonsky are particularly bad about this), so what’s important is what suits your taste.  For the Odyssey, for example, I prefer Fitzgerald’s more poetic version, others like Lattimore’s more staid/literal one.  They’re both good.

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Posted: 27 December 2016 05:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I was initially angered by your response, but upon reflection I realize that we are what we read, in a sense.

I make a distinction between liking something and having a critical appreciation of it. I don’t like ballet, but I understand why some people do. I don’t like the poems of John Donne and George Herbert, but I recognize their poetic merits. I like the novels of John Grisham, although there is little literary merit there. If someone doesn’t like something that I enjoy, I don’t take it as an affront. It’s just that tastes vary. I do, however, get a bit peeved when people refuse to recognize merit in a work.

But, like most people, I occasionally opine that “X is crap.”

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Posted: 27 December 2016 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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languagehat - 27 December 2016 05:40 AM

...It is a common but avoidable error to take one’s own preferences as universal truths.

I was not in any way taking my own preference as a universal truth.  I prefaced what I said by acknowledging that others would disagree.  I would have hoped that would signify that I was not declaring some sort of universal truth.

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Posted: 28 December 2016 06:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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I was not in any way taking my own preference as a universal truth.  I prefaced what I said by acknowledging that others would disagree.  I would have hoped that would signify that I was not declaring some sort of universal truth.

But “crap” is simply a slangy equivalent of “bad”; it does not mean “I don’t like it” (subjective), it means “it is bad” (objective).  If you don’t want to declare some sort of universal truth, you have to speak in subjective terms.

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Posted: 28 December 2016 06:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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languagehat - 28 December 2016 06:46 AM

But “crap” is simply a slangy equivalent of “bad”; it does not mean “I don’t like it” (subjective), it means “it is bad” (objective).  If you don’t want to declare some sort of universal truth, you have to speak in subjective terms.

I already conceded your original point a couple of posts ago, lh.  Now you’re just being a troll.

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Posted: 28 December 2016 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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languagehat - 28 December 2016 06:46 AM

I was not in any way taking my own preference as a universal truth.  I prefaced what I said by acknowledging that others would disagree.  I would have hoped that would signify that I was not declaring some sort of universal truth.

But “crap” is simply a slangy equivalent of “bad”; it does not mean “I don’t like it” (subjective), it means “it is bad” (objective).  If you don’t want to declare some sort of universal truth, you have to speak in subjective terms.

Am I being objective if I were to say that Fifty Shades of Grey is crap, or am I just stating an opinion? I guess it’s all relative.

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Posted: 28 December 2016 12:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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How do you define “crap”?

From a commercial perspective, Fifty Shades of Grey is a gold mine, not a guano mine. As I tell my students, don’t use general or judgemental terms like interesting, bad, or good (or crap), but say specifically why it deserves that descriptor.

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Posted: 28 December 2016 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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"How do you define “crap”?”

Some words are hard to define, and their meaning is better illustrated through example: “My inner goddess is doing a triple axel dismount off the uneven bars, and abruptly my mouth is dry.”

Guano remains a commercial product.

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Posted: 28 December 2016 10:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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How do you define “crap”?

I think Fifty Shades of Grey defines it.

From a commercial perspective, Fifty Shades of Grey is a gold mine, not a guano mine

Commercial perspectives are rarely associated with intellectual endeavors. Fifty Shades of Grey undoubtedly made more money in one month than Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury has in 80 years.  Melville earned a little over $10,000 from his novels during his lifetime.

As I tell my students, don’t use general or judgemental terms like interesting, bad, or good (or crap), but say specifically why it deserves that descriptor.

It deserves that descriptor because it’s bad “dreadful” writing. I’ve heard the film is even worse, which seems impossible.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lev-raphael/the-day-i-defended-fifty_b_7313008.html

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Posted: 28 December 2016 11:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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I think that the row about “crap” reveals more about word meaning change than about personal preferences.  To some, a word meaning animal excrement, one of the lowest forms of insult, is insulting, whereas those of us who hear anything and everything unpopular described daily as crap are losing that association.  What we have here, I suspect, is a work in progress.

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