Saturday, September 11, 2010

Death of Tragedy?


Richard Wheeler
writes on his always excellent blog that the American can-do attitude doesn't lend itself well to producing tragic literature.

I always champion NEVER LET ME GO as a recent book that did that although it was British.

What books have you read you would deem a tragedy? NEXT, James Hynes would almost count although the tragedy did nor arise from the characters in the way I think Mr. Wheeler means.

Help me out here.

18 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't read a lot of tragedies, although many of the books will have a tragedy in them somewhere. The Swords of Night and Day by DAvid Gemmell was a pretty powerful book with a basically tragic theme.

Richard S. Wheeler said...

Gone With the Wind was a tragedy. Southerners understand tragedy better than northerners; they were the last to see enemy armies rampage through their countryside. GWTW had both types of tragedy: some of it rose from flaws in the heroine and some of it rose from the brutal war and its brutal aftermath.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Could point, Richard. Her personality made her able to cope with what was happening around her but it also wreaked its own sort of havoc and she found for what she deemed hers.

Richard R. said...

Would you considerSinclair Lewis' Babbitt a tragedy? Maybe a "soft tragedy"?

George said...

I found THE LAST OF HER KIND by Sigrid Nunez to be tragic. I also consider it the best book I've read in 2010

pattinase (abbott) said...

Phil and I just talked about this on our walk. Dreiser and Lewis certainly wrote tragedies mid-century. And Faulkner and Fitzgerald. I think it may be the more recent years that lack many. Been meaning to read that book George. Oh, that pile of books. AMERICAN PASTORAL is a tragedy to me. And also Chang Rae Lee's A GESTURE LIFE. And most definitely STONER which I read recently. Wharton wrote tragedies. HOUSE OF MIRTH is excruciatingly sad. DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen is another favorite of mine.

Ron Scheer said...

Just saw THE BIG KNIFE (1955) last night. It's based on a Clifford Odets play. Jack Palance plays a formerly idealistic actor who has compromised himself by becoming a mega Hollywood star. It's self-consciously tragic and after a long struggle by the protagonist, ends with two deaths. The last image is of Ida Lupino standing in the middle of the screen shouting "Help...help...help!" Powerful stuff, but (and this is what Richard Wheeler is talking about) out of date and "unAmerican."

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am not sure if I've ever seen that movie but Ida Lupino-gotta find it.

Milton T. Burton said...

Patty, you need to read my "Nights of The Red Moon," which is being released on December 7. It has more than a touch of tragedy in it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'll look forward to it.

Milton T. Burton said...

I consider Babbitt not to be a tragedy. In the end ole George F. Babbitt has a minor triumph when he supports his son's marriage against both families.

Anonymous said...

George, I'm part way through the book now. It does capture the feeling of the time (so far, 1968-71) really well.

Tragedy? I'm having a tough time thinking of what I'd put in that category? If we're talking "personal tragedy" rather than 9/11-type tragedy...what about THE PRINCE OF TIDES?

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I read Babbitt and almost all of SL's work forty years ago and can only remember (hazily) the general plot. Great that you can remember the ending.
Pat Conroy does have a tragic quality to his writing. Good pick.

sandra seamans said...

Beach Music, another of Conroy's books and The Liar's Diary by Patry Francis.

Richard S. Wheeler said...

I had to go to Wiki to review Sister Carrie, and yes, it is a tragedy of a somewhat different sort. The heroine finally does get what she wants, a self-sustaining life in theater after compromising herself in various ways-- only to discover it means nothing to her any more.

Todd Mason said...

Most of Vonnegut, not all...Fitzgerald's fellow SMART SET "discovery" Eugene O'Neill...Thomas Disch...

Erik Donald France said...

Thomas Hardy, Dreiser, Main Street, Things Fall Apart, some Sherman Alexie, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison. I disagree with R. S. Wheeler's privileging (white) Southerners with a "better understanding" of tragedy. To me, that's as absurd as the Tea Party.

Erik Donald France said...

Now the mind contiunes to work . . . Wharton, Hawthorne? Invisible Man? Great Gatsby? Not exactly comedies.