1. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

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    What details help you differentiate absurdist, existential and just plain bad stories?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Alex R. Encomienda, Sep 6, 2019.

    I was reading The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard and halfway through, I felt like I was reading something Quentin Tarantino would write. It was good! Sometimes, there were thin lines between that and the ridiculous stories I'd read at a comic book shop though.

    Just like with existential stories where they use the story within a story or play within a play. I always admire the authors that use the whodunnit thing effectively without having it come across as one of the stories that do anything to give you a WTF ending.

    My question is, for those that read these kinds of stories, what are some big factors and details about the writing type or the concepts that differentiates these stories from other stories like Seven Psychopaths or a C.S Lewis story?

    For instance, after reading 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead', I was blown away. It was done very well. What do you think makes or breaks the thin line?
     
  2. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Other than the obvious good writing, one thing that stands out is the author's knowledge of these topics. I think a good philosophical novel/story/play talks to other, similar pieces and presents a unique point of view much like a philosophical essay would. Without this, the piece ends up standing alone in a void and doesn't quite have the same effect. Note that this doesn't automatically mean the piece isn't a good piece of literature; it just means it's not an effective piece of philosophical literature.
     
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  3. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

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    Someone on here recently said that in Absurdist fiction or existential fiction, every action the characters do must be for a bigger purpose later on (an endgame or twist) and if not that than with a significant purpose. I think the two types of stories could easily be mistaken as normal literary fiction stories but with deeper topics and references to other existing stories of course, but a lot of people disagree.

    What are your thoughts on that?
     
  4. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't know if I'd agree with the first part about the endgame and twist. None of the existential/absurdist literature I've read had any actions that served "bigger purpose" at any point in the piece. I feel like that would negate the whole point of existential/absurdist literature. The way I see it, every action a character does is just as meaningless or meaningful (depending on how you look at it) as any other action. At least, that's what I got out of my readings.
     
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  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin We may just go where no-one's been.... Contributor

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    I'm a little fuzzy on the pairing of existential and absurd. Do you mean the whole life-is-absurd tenet of existentialism? Because there's plenty of absurd literature that has nothing to do with existentialism. I guess I'm a little hung up on what you're defining here.
     
  6. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, that's part of my question too. I'm suggesting that existentialism and absurd literature are commonly mistaken for one another.. And then there are literary fiction pieces that marely read as one of them.

    I guess, I'm fuzzy about the noticeable details within each genre.
     
  7. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin We may just go where no-one's been.... Contributor

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    Well, I wouldn't label them as genres. I mean, you had the post war existential movement once upon a time, but that's not really a thing anymore. The philosophy stills exists, but I'd say it's been absorbed as a thematic element by the other genres. Same thing for absurdity. They're just not important enough anymore to stand out as their own genre like they did 80 years ago.
     
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  8. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    If it's by Douglas Adams, it's definitely absurdist and not bad. If it's by me, it's probably just bad. Hope this helped!
     
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  9. Jupie

    Jupie Senior Member

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    I think what matters is the overall tone of the story and the intention behind it. If it's a book on philosophy then there needs to be something thoughtful and contemplative about it. You need to leave an overall impression on the reader so they can take meaning from the book. Equally, if it's absurdist then it needs to reflect on life and maybe even make you laugh at the joke of life. I'm particularly not a massive fan of philosophy but I do love talking about life and about the meaning in it. Most philosophy can feel a little dry or a little pointless, especially existientialism which I really don't enjoy and would rather not read. If you do like that sort of stuff though I've heard 'Sophie's Choice' is quite good.

    The difference between a good bad, an average book and a bad book is how good the writer is and how much care he's put into his work. It will come across quickly if the book doesn't speak out to you or grab you from the start. If the book has structure to it and carries meaning and it's written in an expressive, engaging way then you're onto something special. If, however, it falls flat or it's too preachy or the philosophy itself isn't very compelling then I recommend you avoid it.
     
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  10. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

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    I agree, especially with structure. It's a hard task to do. Have you read anything by Tom Stoppard?
     

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