"RefLib, you sound like the perfect person to field this question: what literary work do you think comes closest to presenting characters and stories the way that the Sopranos does? I ask because I'm not a reader but would like to dabble a bit and because Norman Mailer recently stated that the Sopranos was the only TV show put together like a great novel. Got me wondering what novels it may best compare to."
While I thank you for the compliment, I must explain that I am probably very different from most of the people in my field. So many of my interests seem to be outside of the interests of my collegues. I'm dragging them in, one at a time. Our patrons/customers are pretty well in agreement with me.
You may laugh, but may I suggest the very popular "Harry Potter" series. A former boyfriend, from high school days decades ago, has been teaching literature since that time, came pretty close to mocking my reviews of the Harry Potter books when they were first out. He changed his tone less than half-way through the first book.
J. K. Rowling has the same sort of muse that Chase, Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis had. Almost as a gift, they saw a story from beginning to end. Then they actually had to write it out and fill in the details. Not only did each of them manage to do it, but the stories that were fleshed out in detail were probably more than their original vision, while being true to it.
Harry Potter is not just a children's story. It is complex, the characters age together, it is dark, inventive, historic, and humorous. It covers character development and exposure. There is always the story within the story. The settings are vivid and memorable. I would recommend anyone who is not a reader, who would like to read, start with something as engaging as the Harry Potter books. You can always view the movies later. So much has to be taken out of the books to put together a movie. Much is lost.
C.S. Lewis's Narnia tales are an even easier read that progresses characters over a period of time. Deep insights within an easily digestible read. Considering your views on redemption, you should enjoy it. Once again, it is not really a children's series. Most of the people who really get the most out of it are adults. Sort of like the difference between those who see the Sopranos as nudity, sex, cursing and violence as opposed to an epic tale. You either get it or you don't but you might be entertained anyway.
Tolkien, friend of C.S. Lewis, wrote the "Lord of the Rings" series which really begins with "The Hobbit". Characters aging together, moving on, interactions, threatened lives, creatures are used to indicate types of personalities, also a redemption story. Again, it is better to read these before seeing any of the movies.
In my opinion, no one should have done a movie on the Lord of the Rings or Narnia before the year 2000. There simply was not the technology available to flesh out these stories before that time. Any image in a reader's mind was a better job that any depiction. The movies have improved greatly, but still have to leave out things that are in the books because they are not easily tranferred to a movie format.
Just going off the top of my head, Chase has repeatedly referred to Dante. Read that years ago. Not an easy read, but it does cover the idea of the Roman Catholic take on heaven, hell, and purgatory.
Those concepts are also covered by the Lewis and Tolkien works. It is covered in another way by Rowling. All of these works brush on similarities reminiscent of Tony's coma. The almost dead. Those dead but not yet assigned to heaven or hell. They also include some form of resurrecton.
Chase also referred to another epic, "Tristan and Isolt". This is a great love story of love and lose, where love continues dispite all else. There are Americanized versions for those who would like to know the story without reading the original.
This came up when Carm was in France and I think also when she was having an affair with the guidance counselor at A.J.'s school. Was that episode Eloise?
Also, very early in the Soprano's there is a reference to Eloise when Carmela wants to don white gloves while she and Meadow go to the Plaze for tea. Meadow lets Camela know that she hates that tradition with her mother. Obviously, Carm is carrying on an idolized version of the life she wanted with her daughter. She is oblivious to her own real life.
Eloise, referred to the stories about a child growing up in a hotel in NY. "Eloise of the Plaza Hotel".
Was it Test Dream where Tony was staying in the Plaze Hotel?
By using Eliose we now we see Chase referring to true children's books as Tony reconnects to Carm while he is staying at the Plaza Hotel. They end up on the phone going over memories they shared from their childhood.
That covers a sprinkling of ideas. None of these works are about the mafia. All are about the human condition as it relates to our inner thoughts as well as outward actions. Life on earth as well as the chalk marks on an immortal soul.
There are other authors who I really appreciate for various reasons. The ones I have named are the ones that, in my opinion, come the closest to matching the overall vision of Chase. They tackle the same subjects in varying degrees.
None of the authors hit as close to the bone as Chase does in every aspect of the Sopranos.
Most current authors who are very good, at best cover a few significant days in the life of a person. James Patterson tries to go a bit futher with his character "Cross", but the depth is just not there.
Chase must be a very well read man, or have a way to intergrate the knowledge of others into his overall idea. In addition, he was able to do something that none of these wonderful authors have done, he intergrated the visual with the written word, and the music that adds another layer of depth.
Unlike these other authors, Chase's main character is the "bad" guy. Yet he is human and subject to all of the aspects of humanity that every other "hero" is.
Rowling has a position that neither Lewis or Tolkien had, in that she is consulted on the movies. That must be very hard for her since so much is lost in the actual film. Both a blessing and a curse.
Chase is a genius for having covered every single aspect of vision, writing, camera, actors, music etc.
Now if I have totally missed the question and you just wanted to know my favorite authors, my apologies.
I do have one more thought, you might want to read , "A Doll's House" by Henrik Ibsen. It reminds me of Carmela and her struggle to find her own life and lose her dependence on Tony.