What are the best English and American novels of the 20th century?
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Ulysses by Joyce
At Swim Two Birds, by Flann O'Brien
alternate, something by John Cowper Powys
Atomik Azteks by Sesshu Foster
The Recognitions William Gaddis
Tropic of Cancer Henry Miller
Just back from reading about The Making Americans...definitely heads my next book order
I've been meaning to read The Making of Americans for a long time -- must pull it off the shelf.
UK: Woolf's To the Lighthouse, Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh, Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus.
Rick -- you cheated -- all your choices are Irish, not British, except for Powys. Though I heartily endorse Ulysses.
US: Toni Morrison's Beloved, Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz.
I need to know how close to stay to a traditional definition of "novel" (so can we include novel length poetry and such) and how broadly to define American (Do émigrés count?) and British (do we get to include folks who now live there or who were educated there?).
There could be an argument for 3 Faulkners on the American side. You are getting some great suggesting above.
Heart of Darkness is to me the best 20th century novel not written in the 20th century, so I agree.
I came here to say add Light in August and subtract Miller.
UK i took to mean English native outside US.
Melville is the best US 20th century author even if he wrote in the 19th.
JaneJones, we have serious disagreements in taste: Rushdie, a former favorite is out because I found that he took so much from Gunther Grass as to be plagiaristic (is that a word?). Beloved it OUT. The Wizard of Oz is OUT. So there!
Angel Carter from a brief investigation comes second behind Stein as a book I knew nothing about and should read.
Vote of support for A Bend in the River, a vote against Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man based on the belief that it is his least best novel.
Vote against Postman, for there are too many better 'crime/noir' books. Against Death Comes to the Archbishop as Catholic tragedies are such media circuses these days.
In case i see this before Mac, my answer would be that it depends on whether you want a representative example or the absolute best. But that can't apply to Joyce, who went from conventional to groundbreaking to astonishing/astonishingly difficult in three books.
But for Melville, if Mac doesn't say Moby Dick I'll eat my hat and drive to Belgium and eat one of his.
Sorry, looked him up. He was British but lived in the US for many years; I knew I had dropped by some haunts.
Rick doesn't like some of my choices so I will replace them. How about Pynchon's V for Willa Cather and maybe some nice Djuna Barnes for the Cain. On the Brit's side we have to keep Portrair because it is the only novel he wrote. But if I have to surrender Conrad (1899 - damn!), I want Rushdie. The one thing a British novelist shouldn't be in the 20th century is born in Britain.
I like this: 'The one thing a British novelist shouldn't be in the 20th century is born in Britain.' But I don't like Rushdie, because I loved him so much, his second and third book (Shame, not often written of these days), that when I noted his something-like-plagiarism I was crushed.
I don't like V at all. Back to Cather. But I think Pynchon will make the top 25 regardless. Replace Rushdie wit R.K. Narayan?
For Britains born in Britain, the two I would endorse are Wolff and Powys. But the 20th century British novel is ad global in vision as tge 19th century was inward looking and island bound
Sam! calm yourself, your typing has gone off the rails! By the way, I love that your kids are getting their doses of Spanish lit that this 53 year old feller has never heard of. Meant to say that earlier and elsewhere.
I am late again...
Melville .... Typee ! ... oops there goes my hat... Just joking...Moby Dick of course, but in le Salon we like all Melville
Conrad...The Nigger of the Narcissus... just because I don't want to mention the obvious H of D or Lord Jim.
Golding : the inheritors or Pincher Martin because everybody has already read LOTF.
Joyce, if you are ready for it.
Steinbeck : The Grapes...Of Mice & Men
I said Bellow : Herzog
but I love Faulkner too : The sound & the Fury WOW , as I lay dying WOWOW
Rick : LOL !
Samantha, don't worry about the century : intelligent books are timeless
19 huh Sam ? It is the contrary, Uk lit before WO2 was open to the world and now it is closed...
Haven't you read Josipovici ?
“Reading Barnes, like reading so many of the other writers of his generation, Martin Amis, Ian Mc Ewan, Blake Morisson, or a critic from an older generation who belongs with them, John Carey, leaves me feeling that I and the world have been made smaller and meaner”.
The fear of opening itself to the world has effectively cut the British literary community from the foreign, especially the European influences which could have kept British literature at the level where Golding and Sparks left it.
Josipovici identifies three reasons for this barrier: First, fear and distrust towards what is not British, has turned the public's opinion from an earlier healthy pragmatism into a general suspiciousness of things of the mind in Art and Literature. General philistinism is the result. Secondly, while people seem to be suspicious of intellectual pretentiousness, they love the so called “serious and profound”. Historical novels about Rwanda and Bosnia are more worthy of attention than for example a Woodehouse and Pinget. Finally High art and Fashion have married in a new spirit of commercialism. Books and the whole circus around it is nothing more than business.
Rushdie will probably be the only British writer remembered in a 100 years ( together with Dame Rowling )
rowling rowling rowling, keep them beasties moving. RAWHIDE !!!
You see, Mac, that is why today's good British writers aren't from Britain. Born in Iran or India or Southern Africa or Nigeria but with a British system education or heritage.
But if you look at Dickens or Austen or Hardy or other lesser greats of the 19th - all very Island bound, more so than the 18th. Though the British kept Melville read in the 19th, so they've got something going for them.
I haven't read Josipovici, but fell the need to use his name in a poem.
Rick, my children are long suffering but thanks to my foibles will enter adulthood with a grounding in narrative poetry of the world and the ability to call a falcon. They might trade it for some good snake handling, though.
I'm gonna avoid mentioning anyone who's already mentioned above, as well as people like Nabokov and Ishiguro who are plausibly not "from" England/the US.
Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
A Passage to India by EM Forster
The Magus by John Fowles
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
>3 LolaWalser: it is not Gertrude's fault that her book amounted to 925 pages, for what she was doing (I have investigated!) was an intense, near ceaseless drilling at the things that is remarkable for being more than a short experiment (no, I haven't read it yet, but have perused it, read about it, just read aloud half a page to my dog and instantly came to believe it is a book to read aloud, whether or not to dogs, i perhaps may yet discover), which is to say that it is one unique book and so despite its length you ought to have nominated two others...
Of course Gertrude is to be read aloud! Preferably to a well-lubricated and erudite dinner party with pauses to compare members of the party to people in the books, but dogs may do just as well and will most likely be less judgmental or quizical when you say Rick reminds you of subject and victim X of her prose. I'd also say audio book would be a good option - I may need to go see what audios there are for her, that would be good!
Gerties' pages are for the most part easy and entertaining reading, but also stuff that sticks with you for a long time to come. 925 pages of Gerties goes down pretty easily. Maybe we should do a gertie audio book at the Salon when the Tetralogy is done. That would be something new. Maybe there's even a free one somewhere.
This may not be true, but I think I read once that she killed at least nine people with her bare hands for calling her Gertie.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Cane by Jean Toomer
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
A Death in the Family and Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee, a fellow Tennessean
The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I will go out on a limb here and put Bailey's Cafe by Gloria Naylor on the list. Also her book Mama Day.
More than three books I know, but those of you who know me, also know that it takes an act by the powers of darkness for me to commit to anything resembling a list. This is not a list by the way.
Urania, you anti-Steinian! Lovely not-list. I have to put Song of the Lark on the list, never read it, even though I've read the other two of the Trilogy. Cather is consistently great - My Mortal Enemy is not much read but another I'd =put on the list.
You mean I should actually read Gloria Naylor?! I just look at the mass-market covers and know they aren't written for me.
Pulled out HD's Palimpset to start reading the other day. Funky stuff, deeply intellectualized, but may be worth resurrecting for lists of this sort. Makes crying of lot 49 seem a lot less avante and a little more guarded.
I am reading the Crying of Lot 49 right now and didn't know there was another one about Lot 29. :)
You cannot buy it outside of San Narcisso. There's a reason for that.
Sorry that should be Lot 49 - my typo. A_musing, all of Naylor's works are linked. Her early novels are middlebrow B-list texts. Her later work becomes increasingly complex and poetic in my opinion. And I do like Gertrude Stein. I should have included her on the not-list.
39> Mary -- I'd be happy to include Hurston on my list, but Morrison stands on her shoulders and looks inward and outward.
From the first volume of O. Manning's Balkan trilogy:
Harriet is talking to Clarence, a colleague of her husband who is complaining about 'modern' writers.
'What about Virginia Woolf?'
'I think ORLANDO is the worst book of the century.'
'Really! And TO THE LIGHTHOUSE?'
Clarence wriggled in weary exasperation. 'It's all RIGHT--but all her writing is so diffused, so feminine, so sticky. It has such an odd smell about it. It's just like menstruation.'
That is exactly it. Everything women do is like menstruation, Clarence, you beautiful genius.
I remember reading a Sheri Tepper book (actually it was Gibbon's Decline and Fall which I really recommend, though Tepper has some weird attitudes outside of this novel that I dislike, sort of like Card and other sci-fi people) where she had a horrible male misogynistic character in the book who had a reaction to his mother very much like that, I remember the "sticky" descriptor staying with me.
Sometimes other overt misogyny (from characters, or from actual people) really reminds me of that idea that all things female are just inherently icky, with diffuse being a subset of icky (as opposed to all things male which are clean, clear, focused and laser-like). This was a great example.
The punch line is Harriet's response:
Startled by the originality of Clarence's criticism, Harriet looked at him with more respect.
(If only I could menstruate once, just to, you know, get the book going...)
Haven't they ever heard of snips and snails and puppy-dog tails? Men have a proud history of filth.
The difference, in this kind of weird view, is that male filth is purely an exterior issue that can be washed off. Female filth is inherent, comes from the inside.
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