Authors Who Should Be Better Known
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I think James Wilcox is an author who's gotten too little attention. I guess his work would be called literary fiction, but it's literary fiction with a great deal of humor and without all the pretentiousness that dogs so many works of literary fiction. I prefer his earlier works to his most recent ones, but they're all worth reading. Try North Gladiola, Miss Undine's Living Room, or Sort of Rich . Looks as if he has another book coming out in 2007.
Cool, I'll check him out.
(It would be awesome if edited in touchstones for the book titles, too! Help encourage people to link straight there and find out more. :)
Donald Harington is one of my favorite authors- strangely beautiful (and very funny) tall tales set in an imaginary Arkansas town.
J. F. Powers and William Maxwell are American writers who tend to stay below the radar. Powers' Morte d'Urban is one of the slyly funniest novels I've ever read. Maxwell was the short story editor at The New Yorker for about twenty years. He wrote novels and stories. Time Will Darken It is one of his novels that I can highly recommend.
Non fiction: some of the books I rated 5 stars but astonishingly don't seem to share with anybody
Playing by heart by O. Fred Donaldson. Introduction with link to interview
Loving without losing your self by Bonnie Kreps. Title of the hardcover edition was "Subversive thoughts, authentic passion". Authentic love as an alternative to romantic infatuation.
aluvalibri: I just posted my guilty secret pash for Thirkell's Barsetshire novels in the Hurts so Good thread.
Why isn't Fred Chappell more renowned for his Southern delights? Why is Erskine Caldwell's midcentury work forgotten?
It's taken a while, but Anya Seton bids fair to undergo a real renaissance in American literature with the Chicago Review Press editions of her books. The Winthrop Woman and Green Darkness are two of her best...and there's a lot to love about Dragonwyck for fans of sudsy romantic stuff.
What about Cecelia Holland, since we're talking about historicals? Her first novel, I believe, was The Firedrake which was written while she was in college...this is old, unused knowledge, so I don't trust it completely, but I read the book long ago and still remember its salty tang as the Conqueror crossed the Channel to land at Pevensy. Then there's her wonderful Great Maria and the Callifornia historicals...even a sci-fi novel, Floating Worlds, not a huge success but a bravely done book. I'd love to see her receive a big, splashy reappraisal in some tony, opinion-mongering mag or another.
I think Emily Rodda should be better known by fantasy nuts like me.Her imagination is inspiering.
This has been an incredible week for me. I've tagged two books "underappreciated little gems", a tag I only use for a dozen books in my entire collection.
Today I applied the tag to Henry Miller's The Smile at the foot of the Ladder, a lovely edition from New Directions in the 50s. Earlier in the week, I applied it to a beautiful turn of the century edition I found of Last Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb, which is one of the more hilarious sets of essays I have ever read.
A good week.
Not necessarily under-rated, but interesting - The Radical Twenties by John Lucas is a book that was published in the UK in the mid-nineties (I know because I attended the launch). It was not published in huge quantities, and sold well without breaking any records. I gather the UK publisher has now sold the US publishing rights, and it`s available in a bookshop near you now.
John Lucas is an academic, but we shouldn`t hold that against him.
I can't agree more with respect to Helen DeWitt. The Last Samurai is one of my favorite books, and I have forced it into the hands of a number of friends. Most recently, in a strange encounter in a local bookstore, I recommended it to Jamie Lee Curtis, but I fear it went in one ear and out the other.
The Last Samurai is one of the best books of the decade and more people should know about it.
While definitely going to take certain recommendations (like The Last Samurai, or the earlier-mentioned Antoine Bloyé), I'd like to second (or third) a couple - Anne Michaels' Fugitive Pieces and Charles Lamb's Essays of Elia and Last Essays of Elia. Different as they are, both wholeheartedly deserve to be read.
(Forgive the grammatical oddness, though.)
Not like you to go in for grammatical oddness. I myself thought it worked quite well, in an ungrammatical way :-)
Actually, I was just going to say, as I`ve already told A_musing, I recently read English Humour by J B Priestley, in which he lavishes praise on Lamb, both as a writer and an individual.
The name Elia was the name of someone Lamb had worked with in younger days, though why it suggested itself as a pseudonym I don`t know.
The story of Lamb, his life, and of his sister`s insanity is an astonishing and rather moving one, I think.
Glad my reputation isn't tainted, anyway! ;) (And thanks.)
I wish English Humour didn't appear so hard to come by. - At least here, in the U.S. I do have Hazlitt's English Comic Writers, though, and think it speaks a great deal for Lamb that he managed to stay on good terms with such a difficult man. (Although his role in Hazlitt's marriage, and mirth at the ceremony, were less.... seemly. :) ) As for his sister and their life, I agree with you completely.
The original Elia, I think it was said, showed a certain whimsical humor, later typified in his essays by Lamb. Perhaps I am simply pulling this out of nowhere, but I feel certain I read it in some volume of relevance.
Can either of you recommend a good non-fiction book on the Lambs? I could always go for Ackroyd's The Lambs of London, but it isn't quite what I'm wanting. Perhaps (she peeks in the LT database) The Devil Kissed Her, or Mad Mary Lamb?
Not only can I not recommend a good book on Charles and Mary Lamb, but I'm planning on trying to chase down some of the ones you and Nick have mentioned so I can learn a bit more. The Lambs are a relatively recent infatuation for me -- I think I picked up Dissertation on Roast Pig about a year ago, and have managed to pick up a couple other volumes in the period since. I keep looking at different copies of their Tales from Shakespeare as they come up on ebay, but they've either looked too shabby or I've been outbid. I'd love to hear other recommendations on them from anyone.
I'd like to add my vote for underappreciation to The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder and, in fact, to Henry Miller's sadly diminishing readership. My 25-year-old recently informed me that her live-in hadn't heard of Sexus or Miller himself.
Also on my list of underappreciated writers is Salley Vickers...she of Miss Garnet's Angel, Instances of the Number 3, Mr Golightly's Holiday, and the very recent The Other Side of You. Yummy books.
I`ve mentioned this before, but Kilroy Is Here by Gordon Willis is an excellent but deeply odd book that deserved more success than it got.
After I last mentioned it, the author was kind enough to contact me and express his appreciation of my humble endorsement.
If you have a taste for literary oddities, you might like to track this one down.
a visit from the footbinderby emily prager;
sylvia townsend warner -anything;
west with the night by beryl markham;
the blood of others by simone de beauvoir;anything by tim winton
a heritage and its history by ivy compton-burnett; the ghetto by louis wirth; the negro family in the united statesby edward franklin frazier;
the journeyby ida fink; the old bunchby meyer levin; a fine of 300 francs by elsa triolet; love poems by robert desnos and/or paul eluard in french; anything by ingeborg bachmann, hans magnus enzenberger; colm toibin
He's best described as a writer of weird-fiction short stories, philosophical horror, if you will. Think Lovecraft or Poe.
Most of his collections of stories are out of print, but I believe some of the stories have been repackaged in The Shadow at the Bottom of the World. I haven't picked that up yet, but I've read the stories from the Songs of a Dead Dreamer section in The Nightmare Factory and some of them just leave me with a surreal, creepy feeling. I'd also recommend In a Foreign Town, In a Foreign Land and My Work Is Not Yet Done.
#23 aluvalibri - yes, I collected virago modern classics for years and found a lot of wonderful writers i never would have known about otherwise. barbara comyns, mrs oliphant, mrs humphrey ward, harriet martineau, rosamond lehman, storm jameson kate o'brien, molly keane (m.g. farrell) etc. I have these in ny and not with me so i am just listing from memory. i would like to crow about my find received today of a study containing the poetry in russian and english by khodasevich, who nabokov called the greatest 20th century russian poet . it is a critical biography by an academic david m. bethea and it's called khodasevich his life and art. Khodasevich was married to nina berberova who wrote the accompanist from which they made a french film. her autobiography the italics are mine discusses him a little.
An author I would definitely recommend is Molly Keane (a.k.a. M.G.Farrell).
She wrote delightful books, mostly about the Irish gentry before WWI or between the wars, with great sense of humour and melancholy at the same time. I am presently reading Keane's Good Behaviour, and quite enjoying it (like all her other books I read, anyway).
P.S. Touchstones do not seem to work....AGAIN!
Nice find, this group. There are so many authors and items that should be better known (or at least cheaply available to the cognoscenti). I hope to to harvest a few from nominations here - and here are a few of my own:
Alexander Theroux. His Darconville's Cat, if not the masterpiece Anthony Burgess claimed it to be, is at least a strange, wonderful, nearly unprecedented work of spleen and erudition. His new novel, the first in 20 years, Laura Warholic, should hit the stands any day.
Adolf Mushg: The Blue Man and Other stories, Gert Hofmann : The Parable of the Blind, Leo Perutz: Master of the Day of Judgement, the polyglot and staunchly cosmopolitan J. Rudolfo Wilcock's bizarrely humorous The Temple of the Iconoclasts. The entire stable of works from Knopf's 1920s Blue Jade Library collection (Corvo, Villiers, Barbey, and the wonderful fantastic tales of Richard Garnett, etc.), James Branch Cabell's Works - particularly Jurgen and These Restless Heads, Ben Hecht's once notorious tongue-in-cheek decadent fantasy Fantazius Mallare, Leonard Cline's strange, occult horror novel The Dark Chamber - readers who enjoy the styles of Huysmans, Theroux and Frederick Rolfe will find pleasure in Cline's.
benwaugh, I actually use your public library here and your Amazon lists (so eclectic, so wonderfully weird!) to discover authors that are new or too little-known to me.
You've inspired me to start looking out for Dedalus titles. I owe you many thanks!
marietherese, thank you! (merciii?). I'm happy that some of the scoria of my annihilating idleness have been useful to someone!
Good luck with the Dedalus titles - they seem (in the case of their "Decadence from Dedalus" series) to go out of print while the ink is still wet. Dedalus has and continues to put out many wonderful titles - some translated into English for the first time (and using, in most cases, talented translators, such as Margaret Jull Costa, who has translated Javier Marias). Unfortunately, they are pretty cheaply slapped together - as I suppose is the paperback standard these days; the bindings give way easily. This fact is good to bear in mind when you see that coveted OOP title listed with a hugely inflated price on a used bookdealer's site.
Good call - I keep meaning to read Ungar. If you have a taste for dark, oppressive atmosphere try also Elias Canetti's Auto-da-Fe (wherein a creepy book collector is tormented by a dwarf, his landlady and a brutish fellow tenant), Georges Rodenbach's Bruges-la-morte A tale of necrophiliac courtship - pursued though the mortuary streets, churches and whores of Bruges, and, another Belgian, Michel de Ghelderode (particularly his play, Escurial).
some favorites that have popped up for me in the last couple years that do not seem to be well known:
Louis Paul Boon---try Chapel Road--just excellent.
Jean-Patrick Manchette--only two works of his translated into english--Three to kill and The prone gunman--he is a noir writer with a leftist and situationist slant.
Arno Schmidt--Nobodaddy's Children is just brilliant--think of a cross of James Joyce and Louis Ferdinand Celine.
A couple Argentine's Roberto Arlt--The seven madmen and Ricardo Piglia--Artificial Respiration.
The italian Curzio Malaparte and his Kaputt is very grim going--fictionalizing his eyewitness accounting of World War II on the eastern front.
I'll finish with Halldor Laxness who although a Nobel prize winner doesn't seem to me to get nearly enough attention for 4 great epic novels--Independent people, Salka Valka, Iceland's bell and World Light.
I would like to note Glenna Meckstroth who has done two books of historical nonfiction on a more personal level. Tales From Great Grandpa's Trunk and Surviving World War II: Tales are her first two, with more comming. These are meant to be enjoyable reading as opposed to textbook like reading of some history books.
I'll go with with Chrisoph Ransmayr as well - it's a pity UK & US publishers seem to have given up on him.
#31 I know Canetti won the Nobel Prize but I still can't help thinking that Auto-Da-Fe is a bad novel. His nonfiction is much more enjoyable, especially Party in the Blitz, which according to one reviewer -
Canetti's raging egotism, his envy, his taste for betrayal, are all in the Nobel Prize-winning writer's memoir of "the English years". He judges everyone by how they respond to him; he sticks the knife into old friends, especially women (Iris Murdoch, C V Wedgwood, Kathleen Raine), and anyone more famous than himself (T S Eliot). But Canetti's nastiness is well known.
Good ol' Clive James. It was an informative and entertaining review.
And I disagree re Auto-da-Fe.
>34 benwaugh: benwaugh, I just picked up a copy of Javier Garcia Sanchez' book The Others a couple of weeks ago from Abebooks.com as part of my big remaindered Dedalus European fiction order.
I've been debating what work of fiction to read next (ah, the delicious pleasure of indecision amidst an abundance of choice), so I'll take this mention as a sign and read 'The Others' immediately.
MT - let me know what you think after you have read it. If you enjoy it, you might also want to look into Robert Irwin's novels - I think Dedalus carries some of them. I have bought all I could find, and recommend the two I have read: Exquisite Corpse and The Arabian Nightmare.
I adore Robert Irwin, benwaugh! He's among my top ten favorite contemporary novelists. Just a brilliant writer. Do you own Satan Wants Me? It's a must read. Given your predilection for the decadent school of writing, I really think you particularly will get a kick out of this one. Psychedelic '60s London is beautifully evoked (complete with sex, drugs and rock n' roll) and the dark rituals of the Crowleyesque lodge the protagonist is not too willingly inducted into are both hilarious and spooky. This may be Irwin's flat-out funniest book: the attempted DIY trepanation of the narrator's friend, Mr. Cosmic, probably made me laugh harder than anything I've read in the last decade.
But the book's not all fun and games (as invariably someone *does* get hurt) and, like most of Irwin's work, a serious and thoughtful subtext runs throughout the narrative. The Independent had a perceptive review of the book when it was first released which can still be accessed here
I just finished 'The Others'. I enjoyed it, albeit with a few minor reservations (I thought the interspersed deathbed scenes of the elderly nun added little to either the thrust of the narrative or the reader's understanding/identification with the main character and the substory featuring the journalist's daughter, while providing an effective conclusion to the tale, was just a bit too coincidental for comfort.)
Sanchez has a real talent for evoking altered states of consciousness and handles the rapid switches in perspective his narrative requires very skillfully-so skillfully and unobtrusively that I'd really like to read this in the original Spanish to get a better idea of how he accomplishes this. Sometimes though I had the feeling that the author let a certain joy in his own verbal prowess run away with him, to the detriment of the tale. As a spook story, I found the book most effective when Sanchez let events speak for themselves: the scene where the detective's young son runs off with the walkie-talkie was by far the scariest; neither the reader nor the protagonist really knows what's going on, both have only suppositions and as a result imagination and apprehension both run wild. The late scene where the detective remembers the events leading up to his assault on his family is almost similarly effective. Like the protagonist himself, we can't really get a "read" on the situation, the level of danger, the son's state of mind; genuine anxiety ensues. Too often though it seems like Sanchez doesn't quite trust the reader to make the educated guesses he requires to move the story along and by showing his hand too clearly he takes much of the suspense, the real horror, out of his tale. I think the novel would have been stronger and far spookier if he'd resisted spelling out the son's involvement at the end-it would have been enough for the intelligent reader to know that the doctor in charge of the detective's care was his son; anything more is simply too much.
I'd like to read some of Sanchez' other work (preferably in Spanish) to get a better handle on him as a writer. He's certainly interesting-a writer to keep an eye on.
For historical fiction, I adore Judith Merkle Riley. Although, if you're a purist, you should be warned that she often has some fantasy elements, like, say, a 300-year-old talking head in a box. If that doesn't scare you away, you need to pick up The Master of all Desires as soon as possible.
Wayne Johnston is another historical fiction writer that deserves to be reviewed in every major newspaper. The Custodian of Paradise is one of my favorite reads this year.
marietherese - great review. You remind how much I have forgotten of the book since I read it last summer. I will bring it along on vacation for a re-read this summer - along with another of his, Lady of the South Wind.
The Others gave me nearly the same feeling as Pan's Labyrinth - of a terrible, inescapable, underlying sense of black Fate - of destinies made tragic in heroic struggle wagainst alien or malign forces (whether Manicheism, madness or Fascism).
I agree about Wayne Johnston. I just finished The Custodian of Paradise and loved The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and The Navigator of New York. Sheilagh Fielding is among my favorite characters in fiction. I thought the ending of Custodian fell somewhat flat, but the rest of the book was so well-executed and engrossing, I think it rises above that flaw.
I have to throw Geoff Nicholson into the mix. He’s very funny and extremely clever. Every book I’ve read by him has all kinds of layers of ideas and twists going on. When I finish a book by Nicholson I find myself thinking about different aspects of his book for days. I just wish he’d publish something new. He hasn’t had a new book in years.
I'll throw my two cents in for John Brunner. His big books are The Sheep look Up and Stand on Zanzibar. (I think I've mentioned him before.) The first one is on environmental destruction and the second on overpopulation and economic practices in '3rd world' countries. They are both works of dystopian fiction and are a great imagining of the future.
Oh and Benwaugh, thanks to your enthusiastic review of Darconville's Cat I had to order it from the library!
Speaking of Powys, I am debating on whether to purge A Glastonbury Romance from my collection. I started it but quit after 250 pages or so, and now wonder if I will ever attempt it again....
When I first read about Negrophobia written by author, Darius James, I was interested that there might be a crop of new writers who would emulate one of my favorite scatological and subverting language authors, Ishmael Reed. It wasn't until later that I realized that Mr. James' first novel encompassed a cast of characters and situations that would remind me of both society's taboos and those accustomed not to discuss certain things. Very possibly, this book has not gained its deserved accolades, if only because it is very funny and insightful about our human condition.
The Debt to Pleasure written by John Lanchester, is also the type of book that I would like to write if only because it is so lyrical and keenly descriptive. Another favorite of mine, this book probably has not been read by many people who like many of us have a profound appreciation of food.
Andre Dubus III who wrote House of Sand and Fog is a book that I became aware through Oprah's show and publicity about her book club has a very deceptive title that I like yet believe that it is misleading for anyone who might think of it as an usual mystery/thriller genre novel.
I have also recently written a book, THE WRITING SAMPLER by Michael F. Hemingway which is now available upon Lulu.com and other online booksellers and practically this is an unknown work of merit because of its lyricism, literary quality, style, and quality fine writing.
He is not an unknown author, but I think he is really underappreciated, especially in France : Romain Gary. you may find of his books in english (some of them were in fact translated by Gary himself.
I've just read the first instalment of Australian fantasy author Karen Miller. I was very impressed and surprised to find so few copies on LT.
you guys rock! I've thought of myself as a fairly literate person, but i just took a glimpse at myself as a victim of down's syndrome in literature. WHO ARE THESE AUTHORS? I was wandering in a field of Greek! I only recognized one or two percent of the names and titles mentioned. and now i KNOW i shall die before I get to read it all. Why wasn't this LT thing here when I was 10 years old instead half a century later?
That aside, #8's note about erskin caldwell reminding me I had a few of his titles in my library and prompted me to pull out god's little acre. another author who is in danger of slipping into the darkness is thomas dixon, who basically is the father of the KKK, circa 1900, as they are seen in popular culture. i am southern and love authors who explore our culture (the only culture except maybe new england that is separate from the rest of the states -- that's why we seceded once). Southern authors Harry Crews and Sterling Watson seem to be ignored by the rest of the country. They still live and produce, Harry just barely).
and for the kiddies and young at heart, may I suggest remembering the author of a number of tom swift adventures -- Victor Appleton?
> 54 KromesTomes : thanks for that. Roots of heaven is a very good book and Garys' most famous one. But let me advice you to try another Romain Gary, let's say in a semi near future ;-). I don't know which one you can find in english.
> 55 Andyray : the first § of your comm is very funny... And you're right, seeing on LT so many literate people makes me fell more comfortable about our future...
While posting to another thread on "lesser-known great books" I realised that many of my favourite authors don't seem to have many copies of their books listed on LT:
Jane Stevenson - Good Women, three short stories about women who won't put up with being badly treated, and an excellent historical trilogy (starting with The Winter Queen
Linda Grant - When I Lived In Modern Times, in which a young Jewish woman leaves London in 1946 for (then) Palestine - her story echoes the growth and development of the state of Israel; Still Here, whose main character is a tough and prickly woman fighting against the perceived role of older women
Jenny Diski - Stranger on a train, a travel book set on the US railways
Patricia Duncker - James Miranda Barry, based on the true story of an 18th-century surgeon who lived as a man but was discovered (after s/he died) to have been a woman
Beautifully written, Aerodrome by Rex Warner is an allegory on fascism. This 1941 novel tells of the ruination of a rural village by the building of an aerodrome in its vicinity. More than that it is a book that bears rereading for it has complexities that only surface upon rereading. The hero-narrator, Roy, may be compared favorably with Winston from 1984. This is a book that deserves to be better known.
John Crowley is an author who has always been expected by critics to take off but never quite has. He has just had several novels reissued in the last couple of years, so his work is suddenly widely available.
Many of his earliest novels are science fiction/fantasy, though they have gradually become more realistic. I would recommend Little, big and The Translator as two places to start. Little, Big is a fantasy-tinged family saga, while The Translator is a sort of Cold War romance. Move on to his Aegypt tetralogy, which he just completed this year.
He's been compared to Cormac McCarthy, in that his style can be somewhat baroque and he pushes the boundaries of genre fiction. However, he's a very different author -- not interested in violence, more interested in ideas. One thing you notice about LT members who have his books -- they have ALL of them.
"The Leopard" remains one of my favourite books, which I reread frequently - it is a pity that few people seem to be aware of it.
I agree - Romain Gary was a wonderful writer and "Les racines du ciel" is certainly one of his best books.
I have a couple of suggestions, but first I'd like to mention the type of fiction I enjoy reading. I really enjoy any fiction related to horror, science fiction, fantasy and weird fiction from great classic authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Although these authors should be well known, whenever I mention their names to sci fi, horror and fantasy readers, most of the time I get huh? If it's not current authors like Stephen King, Anne Rice or J.K. Rowling people seems to be unaware of those that influenced today's authors. If you like Horror, I'd recommend anything by H.P. Lovecraft, sci fi I'd recommend Jules Verne or H.G. Wells and fantasy Lord Dunsany. Also if you want some newer stuff by a currently obscure author, I'd recommend Charles Clemons. I found out about him on this website and his horror and fantasy stuff is really good.
It's surprising how many books by Bernard Malamud seem to be out of print, although a collected stories, at least, appeared after his death. I also like the poetry of The Poems of Alice Meynell: Complete Edition, and Lagerkvist's Barrabas remains an under-appreciated novel. Other poets Vassar Miller and Karl Jay Shapiro.
F.Y.I. Theroux's Laura Warholic, discussed above, is available for $5.95 at Amazon. Seeing as how it came out at $30 only a few months ago, you might want to check it out.
((James Morrow)) has been described as Christianity's Salman Rushdie but funnier. Yet his work goes beyond satire of religion and into some thought provoking sci-fi - not a genre I would normally spend much time exploring, yet rush to when his name is attached.
As a point of interest...let's say a publisher of great literacy and good taste bumbles into this thread, and begins buying trade-paperback rights like a madman. Publisher then goes to offer these books to the public. What means would the assembled suggest the publisher use to make the public aware of these wonderful, neglected writers and titles?
How does anyone cut through the noise, in other words, to bring the world a signal?
That's an EASY one! By means of the Early Reviewers program of course!
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