99 Novels: The Best in English since 1939

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99 Novels: The Best in English since 1939

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Edited: Apr 17, 2010, 5:52 pm

In 1984, Anthony Burgess published 99 Novels: The Best in English since 1939, A Personal Choice in which he listed his favorites (and why they were his favorites), and did so, not as per the usual numerical order type of listing, 1-99; but did so chronologically, beginning in 1939 and ending in 1983.

Thought this would be a nice way to segue from the Man Booker into...whatever we do next. So here's the first ten choices from the late great British author and critic, Anthony Burgess. And note that Burgess made it clear in his introduction that he purposely included some potentially eyebrow-raising "genre" titles because he believed, considering what he considered the greatest examples, that they too deserved recognition for excellence in achieving not necessarily literary merit, but achieving what their authors set out to do: eloquent entertaining.

Party Going by Henry Green
After Many a Summer* by Aldous Huxley
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brian

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Strangers and Brothers (to 1970) by C.P. Snow

The Aerodrome by Rex Warner

The Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary
The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham

*in U.S.A., the title, completing Tennyson's line, is After Many a Summer Dies the Swan

Apr 17, 2010, 5:50 pm

Does Burgess have anything interesting to say in the way of justifying his inclusion of Finnegans Wake? Or is it just the usual vague BS people fall back on when trying to describe that book?

Apr 17, 2010, 6:00 pm

I think he does a good job in four paragraphs explaining his rationale. Whether it's the usual BS I'm not sure. I'd like to hear what ImNotDedalus thinks of Burgess' brief analysis.

Here's A.B.s last line: "...no writer of the contemporary period has been able to ignore it, though most writers have succeeded in not being influenced by it."

Apr 17, 2010, 9:15 pm

I read the Greene, the Maugham and the Hemingway about 35+ years ago -- the only one I have a specific recollections about is For Whom the Bell Tolls -- though I remember Bill Murray being quite remarkable in the 1984 film of The Razor's Edge -- a very different performance for him at the time.

Apr 17, 2010, 10:52 pm

4> what a great bit of trivia! Had no idea that Bill Murray and The Razor's Edge had something in common.


I wrote a review of Finnegans Fake Wake a couple years ago. I've copied it here for your perusal and convenience. Note: the review contains several hidden, secret messages (a la The Da Vinci Code), so read...and proceed...at your own risk....

"odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; what a colossal waste of unparalled talent! I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls. It's irritating looking for meaning when there is none--isn't it! oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I'm all for experimental fiction and the implementation of an invented language or hard to understand dialects & colloquialisms (i.e. "Riddley Walker," "A Clockwork Orange," "Beloved," even LOR)I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv but the invented language or dialect should be more than what amounts to the (here's a psychiatric term for ya)--"word salad" of a schizophrenic.eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv Tell me it isn't true that Joyce spent the last 18 years of his life on this! eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks How could such a genius succumb to such literary lunacy? Nietzsche went mad, so why not Joyce? ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop There's a modern day Joyce among us making the same mistake...his name is Mark Z. Danielewski. "Only Revolutions" is Danielewski's Finnegans Wake...unreadable, meaningless gibberish...suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap Aren't words supposed to mean something? Did Joyce die in 1922 and a chimpanzee take his place at the typewriter?uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn Please don't tell me Samuel Beckett actually "helped" Joyce finish FW...what was Beckett doing wasting his time on such a mumbo-jumboish monstrosity? cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! Needless to say, I did not enjoy Finnegans Wake. odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks Those of you who like it, I fear, want to be perceived as accomplished, enlightened readers. Truth is, you like it only because you think its very highbrow of you to like it, to adore it, in fact, and praise the word play and language, when all it is is Joycean Junk! ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop How could the author of Dubliners, The Portrait...and Ulysses, have sunk so low into experimentation? All you Jackson Pollack lovers out there probably worship Finnegans Wake don't you!?suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e I hate Finnegan's Wake geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!! odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug Fuck FW iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; I ytrmnbdks ytqlk doguri asdpoi a sviei syu ivngd rmhd rlsp ewpom emjs lowp ajsh. usyt sjbn cwirs qwpop suug ap uiuuis wislg e geir jsipocj!!!"

Apr 17, 2010, 11:42 pm

Pff. That's not a review!


Apr 17, 2010, 11:46 pm

Funny. You're making me want to read Finnegan's Wake.

Apr 17, 2010, 11:54 pm

6> I challenge you, Punk College Kid, to a duel ! I'm Harvey Keitel and you're the bald guy.

7> don't do it whatever you do (and I hope you don't or won't!), MissTeacher.

Apr 18, 2010, 12:55 am

>5 absurdeist: oh no! you stole my idea! by having it first!

Edited: Apr 18, 2010, 5:11 am

Henri, I think ther is a typo on the 17 th line 5 th word 3 rd letter.

Apr 18, 2010, 5:16 am

Genial review indeed. I have been thumbing it constantly since I inadvertently bumped into it.
I think it very brave of you Enrique to share your admiration for JJ in such a splendid way. I know of lesser human beings who have tried to destroy JJ reputation and we need people like you to defend our sensitive genius. I love and hug you for that.

Apr 18, 2010, 7:34 am


It's better than the book -at least it's shorter!

Apr 18, 2010, 7:41 am

Any list by Burgess is going to be really interesting. Thanks for posting this , oh great dictator.

Burgess's study on Joyce rejoyce is excellent, and I recommend it to anyone interested in (reading) (learning about) Joyce.

from 1944, I have read The Horse's Mouth and thoroughly recommend it. it's part of a trilogy which includes Herself Surprised and To Be a Pilgrim. All of them are worth reading.

I'm glad to see that NYRB are publishing all of them. Cary has been unfairly overlooked.

Apr 18, 2010, 10:48 am

Edited: Apr 18, 2010, 12:16 pm

Burgess was a genuine JJ fan !
I have his " here comes everybody". Is that another title for the same book Re Joyce ?

Edited: Apr 18, 2010, 1:13 pm

Oh good, glad the list is so far interesting. I about leaped out of my pants when I found this book a year ago. Here's the next eleven:

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

The Victim by Saul Bellow
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
No Highway by Nevil Shute

The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
The Body by William Sansom

Apr 18, 2010, 1:17 pm

16 - Ha! I've actually read some of this group - Brideshead Revisited, Under the Volcano, and 1984.

Apr 18, 2010, 1:55 pm

I'm glad to see Peake on the list. The Gormenghast books ought to be more widely read.

Apr 18, 2010, 2:16 pm

I must have read No Highway, as I read the public library's entire collection of Nevil Shute when I was in high school, but the one I remember best is A Town Like Alice. Other than 1984, that's it for me on this list.

Apr 18, 2010, 2:47 pm

My god, looking at these lists leads me to suspect that AB must be my illegitimate father. Many books here would not be on my favorites list, but I have read most of them. Ah well . . . what's bred in the bone . . . .

Apr 18, 2010, 3:09 pm

This list is certainly more familiar than the Booker's.

Malcolm Lowry's under the Volcano is splendid !

Apr 18, 2010, 3:13 pm

I've only read O'Brien and Orwell so far.

I've been meaning forever to read that Malcolm Lowry. One of my profs last year said there was actually a study to see if it was physically possible for the main character to drink as much alcohol as he does in the novel, and they found he would have died IRL at about the 1/3rd mark. Boy, then I really wanted to read it.

Apr 18, 2010, 3:17 pm

Well you should give it a try. But you need to go to the foot of the Popocateptl. You should start with tequila and then switch to Mezcal. But is not the drink that is the problem. It never does btw.

Apr 18, 2010, 4:04 pm

> I guess this should come as no surprise, since Burgess himself featured so powerfully in my childhood (in books! he wasn't always coming over), but what were he and I drinking that the book prize judges weren't? I have read Brideshead, Titus, The Heart of the Matter, and 1984, as well as part of Under the Volcano.

And on Mervyn Peake, I thumbs-up sutpen's comment.

Apr 18, 2010, 8:40 pm

I read the Peake trilogy back in the sixties. I was not aware that it was that old. I thought it was okay, but fantasy is not my fave genre. Read the Orwell, too. Lots of Greene, but not that one.

Apr 18, 2010, 9:05 pm

ditto what sutpen said about Peake. I wasn't aware that it was fantasy, geneg. I'd say more allegory, but the whole trilogy is very weird and strange and wonderful.

Under the Volcano has been on my tbr list for about 300 years. As has Aldous Huxley. Anybody read any Huxley?

Brideshead Revisited is one of the most overrated books of the century. Total crap. The only good thing in it is the name of the teddy bear.

Graham Green is a great stylist, but is undone by his morbid and unnecessary Catholicism.

Has anyone read the Bowen?

This is a great list, Reeeque

Edited: Apr 18, 2010, 10:18 pm

Glad you like it so far. I saw that urania numero uno owns the Bowen, so maybe (hopefully) she'll regale us with some details.

A brief take on The Heat of the Day from Burgess:

"No novel has better caught the atmosphere of London during the Second World War...Bowen conveys that drab-suffering world in such intense and credible detail that it conjures sensuous and emotional memories (in any reader who knew that time and place) so heightened that one seems to be re-living them. But the novel is much more than this..."

I've read Brave New World and was rather underwhelmed; though of course I read it after reading Zamyatin's We. I imagine it would've walloped me fiercer had I read it when it first came out. It also shined me off of Huxley for awhile, which is a shame, because, since then, having read some criticism/lauds of Huxley, BNW is probably not the best starting place for appreciating his prescient visions.

Under the Volcano is unforgettable, but about as despondence-making as IJ, if not more so: Enter at your own risk.

Here's the next eleven:

Scenes from Provincial Life by William Cooper
The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg

A Dance to the Music of Time (to 1975) by Anthony Powell
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight* (to 1969) by Henry Williamson
The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy
Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
Sword of Honour (to 1961) by Evelyn Waugh

*Henry Williamson's A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight series is comprised of fifteen (15!) novels:
01. The Dark Lantern
02. Donkey Boy
03. Young Philip Maddison
04. How Dear is Life
05. A Fox Under My Cloak
06. The Golden Virgin
07. Love and the Loveless
08. A Test to Destruction
09. The Innocent Moon
10. It Was the Nightingale
11. Power of the Dead
12. The Phoenix Generation
13. A Solitary War
14. Lucifer Before Sunrise
15. The Gale of the World.

Burgess states of them: "Few have read them all. In general, the sequence has failed to engage the critical and public attention it merits...Williamson's style is romantic, though rarely sentimental, and his sensuous response to nature is fresh and surprising. What the sequence lacks is a thematic unity which transcends a mere near-autobiographical record of life in this century...Williamson has been untouched by the spirit of modernity."

Apr 18, 2010, 9:49 pm

I've read Brideshead Revisted and though I remember that there was a teddy bear, I can't remember his name. Can you refresh my memory? I thought the book had some nice language in it, but reading it was hard work which I didn't find all that rewarding.

I've read Huxley, but only Brave New World. I didn't know he'd written so many others.

What's with all the Nevil Shute popping up everywhere these days? I grew up with the impression that he wrote drippy claptrap. I must have been wrong all these years.

I hovered over Titus Groan for ages in the secondhand bookshop the other week, then put it back on the plea of poverty. Regretting it now.

Apr 18, 2010, 9:57 pm

I posted over the top of yours, Rique, and missed it. Can anyone tell me more about A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight than LT currently does? And why the star next to it, Rique? Are you posting over me again? :)

Apr 18, 2010, 9:58 pm


Apr 18, 2010, 10:02 pm

Ha! Yes I am revising simultaneously as you, Muse! Now off to correct the Williamson touchstones.

Apr 18, 2010, 10:28 pm

Huxley's POINT COUNTER POINT is well worth the trouble. His essays are very good. Gosh, you reaallly kant go wrong as uncle Phillip Quarles from PC might say. He began his career dripping with satire and ended with the Perennial Philosophy (1946), those Doors of Perception (essays, 1954), and the Brave New World Revisited (1958). A long way from poking fun, gentle, and not so gentle, at Lawrence and loonies of his ilk.
I went to a lecture at the Main Library in Detroit that featured Francis Huxley, all I can tell you is that he was the real item. Too many Huxley's too mention here.

Edited: Apr 19, 2010, 1:26 am

Please stop posting while I am sleeping !

My dad read Brave new world and quoted extensively from it when I was very young . So it is as if I read it. We still use some of the expressions of the book in the family, especially the "gradation of humans". On one side of the intelligence scale you have Alpha double + but on the other side of the range there was the : Ypsilon negative -semi - moron. I recall that my dad seemed to encounter quiet a lot of people with that label in real life : )

In my edition of Under the volcano, there is the famous letter, Lowry send to his editor. Hilarious. The editor had read UTV, hadn't got any clue what the book was about and proposed to cut huge unintelligible parts.
Lowry, in a gentle letter explained him in detail the book. It was then immediately printed ... unedited !

Was Aloysius the nephew of paddington bear ( red coat, blue hat ? )

I loved the Naked and the dead and the Caine Mutiny.

Great books on that list ! Good idea Henri !

Edited: Apr 19, 2010, 12:26 am

here is some " Brave new world" from Wiki

The two billion inhabitants of the World State are rigidly divided into five classes or castes. Society is controlled by Alphas and their subordinates, Betas. Below them, in descending order of intelligence and physique, are Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. Each caste is further subdivided into Plus and Minus (save for Epsilons, which are regular or semi-moron), and are distinguished by colour-coded work clothes. Epsilons are dressed in black, Deltas in khaki, Gammas in leaf green, Betas in mulberry, and Alphas in grey. At the very pinnacle of society sit Alpha Double-Plus, who serve as the future scientists and top administrators of the world. People in different castes are conditioned to be happy in their own way – they do not feel resentment towards other castes, but rather feel a slight contempt for people not members of their own caste. At the same time, however, all members of society are repeatedly taught that everyone is equally important to society. Consequently, every individual receives the same treatment and conditions, regardless of caste.

Apr 19, 2010, 2:27 am

I thought Brave New World was sort of cack-handed as fiction, but decent as allegory. Point Counter Point is a good modernist novel about very modern people, and the mescaline stuff is fun.

As for Brideshead, what's the difficulty, Tomcat? The ideological implications are horrible, but I thought it was immensely well put together, and a lot of the moments resonate almost like those of my own youth (over?)

Apr 19, 2010, 2:38 am

Oh, I've read Catcher, Old Man and the Sea, and Sword of Honour. None of Ancient Sunlight, but I have read Williamson's Dream of Fair Women, which was decent.

Apr 19, 2010, 9:55 am

I've read a bit of these, and many titles are familiar. At Swim Two Birds is great--hilarious and wonderfully written. I enjoyed Titus Groan, but I thought the other two books weren't nearly as good. Just recently read The Catcher in the Rye and agree that it deserves its reputation.

Apr 19, 2010, 10:11 am

Missed this thread getting posted.....now I must catch up.

Under the Volcano.....unadulterated whining; not one person in the entire story has even a glimmer of any redeeming characteristic and reading about them all disintegrating was among one of the worst experiences I've had.

Naked and the Dead.....maybe Mailer's only good novel; a truly gritty and evocative tale of soldiers in the Pacific. After watching a couple of episodes of Hanks/Spielberg's new mini-series, I thought that folks would be better off reading this title.

Brave New World and 1984.....both of these wonderful and visionary books have suffered from forced readings at the hands of adoring English teachers. Both deserve more praise and less nitpicking. They helped define genres.

Invisible Man.....Perplexing but immenently readable treatise on racial politics. Confusing sometimes, but worth the effort.

Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls....Both close to perfect in such different ways. FWTBT a favorite of mine, with its conflicted and desperately flawed heros.

A Dance to the Music of Time....Powell worshipped at the altar of Henry James too long, inundating his tiresomely long sentences with dozens of qualifying phrases. By the time you get done with a sentence, you have to go back and re-read it to figure out what the point was. Combined with a lack of any real story, the style is maddening. Probably meant to be a social satire of early 20th England, but the satire and sarcasm ends up flat for all of the attention paid to seating arrangements and pointless conversations.

By the way, I'm agreed with the earlier comment on Bill Murray and the movie version of The Razor's edge...rent it.

Edited: Apr 19, 2010, 12:33 pm

By the way, I'm agreed with the earlier comment on Bill Murray and the movie version of The Razor's Edge ...rent it.

Yes, The Razor's Edge was quite anomaly for Bill Murray.

Regarding The Heat of the Day - it is one of the most depressing books I have ever read - love, betrayal, more love and betrayal, spies, counterspies, no distinguishing the good from the bad. While it is not my favorite Bowen novel, I would agree it is her best. I am a bit of a Bowen fan, but she is always depressing. In short, I highly recommend tThe Heat of the Day.

Edited: Apr 19, 2010, 1:24 pm

I've read Brave New World, The Catcher in the Rye, The Caine Mutiny, The Naked and the Dead, and Wise Blood. Of all of these my favorite is The Caine Mutiny. I want desperately to say my favorite was Flannery O'Connor, but both Wise Blood and The Violent Bear it Away show all too well that the novel was just not her oeuvre.

As for Henry James' long sentences, I've looked at his later work where this is something more prevalent, The Golden Bowl being the best example of this, as an attempt at pointillism with a pen, rather than a brush. While reading, one only sees the trees, it's only after the experience one can look back at the exquisite forest.

Apr 19, 2010, 3:03 pm

wow Geneg : pointillism with a pen... : )

Apr 19, 2010, 3:05 pm

Sorry to quibble, but when one is beat about the head and body with all of the branches and tree trunks, the forest never really comes into view. Just one man's humble opinion.

Apr 19, 2010, 7:54 pm

It was not in James's nature to beat anybody. Same holds for his prose.

Apr 19, 2010, 8:15 pm

I also like that pointillism comparison. It might not bear close analysis, and if you look too closely at the points in a painting you lose the painting too. But that he fusses to get the tiniest expression to just what he wants and does so many times as to have a novel is really something one must know about him.


Edited: Apr 19, 2010, 10:04 pm

The next eleven (I can almost hear the impending groans of incredulity):

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

Room at the Top by John Braine
The Alexandria Quartet (to 1960) by Lawrence Durrell
The London Novels (to 1960) by Colin MacInnes
The Assistant by Bernard Malamud

The Bell by Iris Murdoch
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe
The Once and Future King by T.H. White

The Mansion by William Faulkner
Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

Notice the iconic novel owned by more than 10,000 LTers that is absent from 1955! And what about the other iconic (more cultish) novel from 1959?! Burgess had (and I applaud him for it), what we back in Cuba called, cajones!

Apr 19, 2010, 10:14 pm

I likes Amis elder but not zo maatch gzyooner.

Apr 19, 2010, 10:23 pm

I read Justine, the first quarter of the Alexandrian quartet. Nothing more altough all the titles sound very familiar

Apr 20, 2010, 12:27 am

Lucky Jim is an annoyingly juvenile version of one of my favorite genres - the academic satire. But I find everything I have read by Kingsley Amis annoyingly juvenile.

Apr 20, 2010, 12:32 am

I think the 1955 omission says more about Burgess's dislikes than his or lack thereof. However "bored of the rings" he might have been, the book still deserves inclusion.

Apr 20, 2010, 12:38 am

> 48 He seems to have been an annoyingly juvenile individual in life as well. Whenever Martin Amis's horrible politics get me down, I reflect that it's more reasonable to expect great art than good sense out of anyone who had to grow upin the vicinity of his father's affairs and tyranny.

Anyway, I'm on Lucky Jim, Justine (or was it Clea?), The Once and Future King, and Goldfinger. I think there's a lot to dislike in LoTR, much as in certain moods it may be my favourite book on the planet, and Burgess is entitled.

Apr 20, 2010, 12:51 am

I agree, both the Amis are annoying and childish. Overrated the lot of them.

Apr 20, 2010, 1:08 am

I used to have a fish & chips repast at Lucky Jims in Ann Arbor between 1967 and 1970. It was owned by one of K.A's ex-wives. She was always good company and the cod was delicious. I am not so fast to jettison old Amis. He's funny in a bloated way - I enjoyed ONE FAT ENGLISHMAN among others. His memoir things are very good, too.

Apr 20, 2010, 10:09 am

Well, I enjoy Martin Amis. God forbid my authors and I need to agree on anything, though I have agreed with Amis Jr. here and there.

Goldfinger is an interesting choice. Fleming's writing is sometimes quite good and he may have originated a sub-genre. I guess if I was to read from a list of only 99 books, I would want some variety in there.

Apr 20, 2010, 11:21 am

Yay, I am at least partly well-read! I have read all four of the Alexandria Quartet as well as the Once & Future King! :)

I really want to read Chandler's Long Goodbye. I am a big fan of noir and detective stories. Maybe we can make that one of our short reads some month?

Apr 20, 2010, 11:33 am

How was the cod prepared ?

Edited: Apr 20, 2010, 3:04 pm

Fried as I remember, but it was long ago. A thickish batter. I wish I could remember her name, don't know if she was younger's mother or not. But I remember having some good chats with her on late Friday afternoons.

Edited: Apr 20, 2010, 1:44 pm

The Long Goodbye, I've read, was a Chandler attempt to be taken as a more serious writer, as distinct from a genre writer (though it is a whodunit). Having read it a couple of times, this feels true, though in interviews Chandler always defended genre writing. It's a good book, but the leanness of his other stuff--The Little Sister, The High Window, Lady in the Lake, etc.--gets lost in the stretch-out, and as a result lacks the gemlike quality of his other, short works. Also, the exaggerated humor Chandler's known for is not as over the top, which counts against it too.

Apr 20, 2010, 3:50 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Apr 20, 2010, 6:41 pm

The Alexandria Quartet, all four of them, and Once and Future King, required for a college class. Otherwise I would not have read it.

Apr 20, 2010, 7:37 pm

That's funny that you guys would pick up on The Lord of the Rings as the 1955 omission. I wasn't thinking LoTR at all (though I agree, if Goldfinger's on the list...)

Instead, I was thinking Lolita. And from '59, Naked Lunch. One of these authors of the aforementioned two, however, will have two of their later novels on this list. Can you name them? You can probably get one but there's NO WAY you'll the get the second. Burgess is idiosyncratic in the extreme.

Yeah I'll second doing the Chandler. What would you like to replace on the list, Anna, for The Long Goodbye? Let's do it.

Is it too early to begin planning 2011s reads? The planning is where the fun is, who cares if we actually read them, right?

I just got out of a marathon hospital session with my daughter (now it's my wife's turn down there; daughter's fine, scheduled surgery, everything went great, should be home tomorrow) so while I'm exhausted, this is good restorative therapy for me.

I liked Money by M. Amis, but that's all I've read. I like unlikeable characters, which is partly why I also like Under the Volcano so much. Blackdog! sorry, Dude, that it was such a horrible experience for you. Were you able to enjoy, at least, Lowry's eloquence and his hyper-allusions...somewhat? a little? a tiny bit? It's funny and interesting how we react so strongly to the same text from opposing viewpoints.

Never read a Henry James novel. Can't comment there. I'm really intrigued by Henry Williamson's massive 15 novel sequence. Is anybody else thinking of taking a look at that?

Here's a bit of Burgess' rationale for Goldfinger's inclusion:

"Guardians of the good name of the novel (some of them, anyway) may be shocked at this inclusion. But Fleming raised the standard of the popular story of espionage through good writing -- a heightened journalistic style -- and the creation of a government agent...who is sufficiently complicated to compel our interest...It is unwise to disparage the well-made popular. There was a time when Conan Doyle was ignored by the literary annalists, even though Sherlock Holmes was evidently one of the great characters of fiction. We must beware of snobbishness."

Apr 20, 2010, 8:53 pm

I hope your daughter is well on the way to recovery as soon as possible, Henri, meanwhile, does she need something to read as well? give her a friendly squeeze from all the salonistas.

I am indeed surprised by the omission of Naked Lunch and Lolita, two superb and original books. I'm enjoying the idiosyncracy of this list very much.

I agree with what he says about goldfinger. guess the same applies to The Long Goodbye as well.

WH Auden was also a huge fan of chandler, if I remember rightly.

Apr 20, 2010, 9:45 pm

Best wishes to your daughter, Enrique! And your wife; and what the hell, you too. Don't spend it all in one place:)

I'm a big fan of both Lolita and Naked Lunch, but I hope to God the writer with two later books on the list is Nabokov and not Burroughs.

Edited: Apr 20, 2010, 10:15 pm

I was intrigued by the Williamson and may try one. They are on the short side, I think.

And, ditto 61 and 62! Speedy recovery to all.

Edited: Apr 20, 2010, 11:33 pm

Thanks for the love guys, 'preciate it. Squeezes is on the way!

Here's the next eleven:

Facial Justice by L.P. Hartley
The Balkan Trilogy* (to 1965) by Olivia Manning

The Mighty and Their Fall by Ivy Compton-Burnett
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Fox in the Attic by Richard Hughes
Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White
The Old Men at the Zoo by Angus Wilson

Another Country by James Baldwin
An Error of Judgment by Pamela Hansford Johnson
Island by Aldous Huxley
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

Oh gosh darn it, I said eleven, when I should have said twelve, as there's one more Burgess pick from 1962; the pick which answers the paramount question: Was it Nabokov, or Burroughs? Be sure to tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!

This nailbiting cliffhanger, imo, is as spectacular as when the network for Happy Days (was it NBC?) froze the Fonz in mid-air - attired in water skis and black leather jacket - and we had to wait a whole week to find out if he successfully jumped that Great White Shark in the Pacific Ocean!...or did he fail like Evel Knievel jumping the Snake River?

Don't miss tomorrow's exciting post!

(*The Balkan Trilogy = The Great Fortune, The Spoilt City, and Friends and Heroes.

Apr 20, 2010, 11:29 pm

The Balkan Trilogy and Catch-22--both important early touchstones for me.

Apr 21, 2010, 12:26 am

The Balkan Trilogy has been very well reviewed and discussed by Rebeccanyc here (messages 96 and 122), and is jolly good read, I agree.

Another Country was more of an early touchstone for me than Catch 22, which I somehow found never lived up to all the hype.

I have not read any of the others. Burgess has a thing for Huxley, right?

Apr 21, 2010, 9:48 am

Sorry, Enrique. I didn't like anything about Under the Volcano and it's been banned from my library, never to return. I often like unlikeable characters, ones with flaws and contradictions. But, unless someone is shooting for absolute and villainous evil, I don't enjoy completely unredeemable, whining, slacking, purposefully weak people wallowing in their own pity and muck. Of course, that's just one man's opinion, and I won't hold it against you that you liked it.

Gave up on catch-22 also.

Haven't read the selected Baldwin book, but read and very much enjoyed Go Tell it on the Mountain. Now there are some solid flawed but interesting characters. They screw up, but there is always a reason to come back to them because there is a feeling that they might choose differently the next time.

Apr 21, 2010, 11:28 am

60: How about making the Chandler the short read for November? There's nothing on the docket for that month.

Hope your daughter's doing well!

Apr 21, 2010, 11:50 am

What about the Big Sleep ? Le grand Sommeil !!!

Edited: Apr 21, 2010, 12:10 pm

I don't know how elaborate anyone wants to get with Chandler, but he did do scripts for Hollywood, most notably Double Indemnity, which was written by James M. Cain; with Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, and Edward G. Robinson. There are critics who panned Chandler for the way they felt he gussied up Cain's more sparse prose. Cain was an excellent writer; The Postman Always Rings Twice is also his. Which is to say, reading both of them, and perhaps seeing the movie as well, might elucidate Chandler and Cain more than just reading one of them, and would be a good excuse to watch a terrific movie.

Edited: Apr 21, 2010, 12:35 pm

Here's what Yehudi Menuhin, the violinist, said about one of our novelists: He was a scientist and artist in one - standing for all we most need in a fragmented world where each of us carries a distorting splinter out of some great shattered universal mirror. He made it his mission to restore these fragments and, at least in his presence, men were whole again.

That novelist was Aldous Huxley.
Menuhin above, Huxley below.

Apr 21, 2010, 1:07 pm

The Balkan Trilogy - an excellent trilogy and a possible tome read for 2011 although if forced to choose a tome I would argue for Miss Macintosh, My Darling a two-volume behemoth (1198 pages in all) by Marguerite Young. I have just started it and am longing for company as I make my way through it. I realize I am trying to sneak, and prematurely at that, a new thread into this one. Perhaps I will start non sequitur campaigning on all the threads.

I hope your daughter and wife are recovering well. Take care of yourself Enrique.

Apr 21, 2010, 2:46 pm

Catch-22 is it for me, I'm afraid. I read it back when I could appreciate total foolishness.

I hope your daughter is well and all turns out as hoped and planned. I don't know how you feel about prayer, but, well there it is. For your family.

Apr 21, 2010, 3:47 pm

This whole list is like a black hole for me so far. I've read 1984, Catcher in the Rye, The Once and Future King, and Old Man and the Sea - the 1st three for a 10th-grade reading program (I was 15), and the last on a bus-ride to summer camp - one of the very few books I read before that 10th grade class. Nothing else and none since I was 15. It's worth noting that 1984 was the first book that really struck me and really got me thinking - more than any other book until a number of years later.

Apr 21, 2010, 4:09 pm

>74 dchaikin: I didn't read 1984 till I was 18 somehow, and wish it had been sooner--it would have kicked my inchoate "damn the man" rebelliousness up a notch or two.

Apr 21, 2010, 4:44 pm

Burgess is a bit weak on his American picks so far, isn't he? I am surprised there is no Nabakov. What is the story there? Also, given the familiarity with the North African ex-pat scene he showed in Earthly Powers, the absence of Paul Bowles is surprising.

Apr 21, 2010, 5:29 pm

I'm seeing a lot of people misspell Nabokov lately. By that I mean >76 slickdpdx: is the third time I've seen it misspelled in the past 2 hours across completely different websites (the other two actually being articles(!)).

Is Nabakov some kind of accepted alternate spelling??? I've never seen it before today...and now I'm just being bombarded with it. Unless I just didn't notice before.

Apr 21, 2010, 5:46 pm

No, I'm just ignorant! Really, I know that is the correct spelling but my fingers are not as smart. Thanks for the correction.

Apr 21, 2010, 5:58 pm

I think it comes from the widespread pronunciation of his name as something like "NA-buh-kov."

This was an issue even while he was alive, and he cited that particular interpretation as the only one that bothered him. He called it a "despicable gutterism."

Edited: Apr 21, 2010, 6:35 pm

I believe he was also chapped at people not pronouncing Vladimir as if it rhymed with Redeemer.

I blame Gordon Sumner.

Apr 21, 2010, 6:50 pm

I read 1984 in 1984, HS frosh. I remember it being a big deal to the teacher at the time. Too bad Orwell wasn't around to enjoy '84. I remember when 2001 came around, Arthur C. Clarke saying how he owned (the year) 2001. As huge as 2001 was for Clarke, think how HUGE 1984 would've been for Orwell (he'd of only been 81) had he been around to enjoy it.

From Burgess' intro to 99 Novels (coincidentally pub. in 1984):

"1984 has arrived, but Orwell's glum prophecy has not been fulfilled. Some of us half-feared that, on the morning of January 1, we would wake with our seasonal hangovers to see Ingsoc posters on the walls, the helicopters of the Thought Police hovering, and our television sets looking at us. For thirty-five years a mere novel, an aritifact meant primarily for diversion, has been scaring the pants off us all. Evidently the novel is a powerful literary form which is capable of reaching out into the real world and modifying it. It is a form which even the non-literary had better take seriously."

76> the only defense of his choices Burgess offers is this: If you disagree violently with some of my choices I shall be pleased. We arrive at values only through dialectic.

Have you all bitten your nails down to the quick just waiting to find out if it's NabOkov or Burroughs? I suspect you have. I can't handle the suspense anymore either! even though I know the answer.

Thank you again those who've expressed warm wishes and even a...prayer?...what the...naw I'll take prayers, incantations, warm vibes and wishes and anything else I can get for Megs. We just got her home, she's got a beautiful purple cast on her leg, and she's reasonably comfortable (no complications). I'm not on FaceBook so I like sharing stuff like this occasionally with my friends. And whether you're a literal LT friend or not, if you're a salonista, I consider you a friend.

We can do Chandler in Nov. but keep in mind we begin the Bros. K. in Nov. But that's a serious novel, and it's common to need breaks during long, serious novels, for lighter fare. So Chandler's a go in Nov. then.

Remember the Pierre thread, Urania? Why not start a Miss MacIntosh, My Darling thread? And if we get some thirds and fourths and fifths, I say let's do The Balkan Trilogy in '11 definitely.

Edited: Apr 21, 2010, 7:09 pm

The next fifteen choices (I don't know about you guys, but I could hear a pin drop from where I'm sitting):

1962 (completed):
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark

The Spire by William Golding
Heartland by Wilson Harris
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov
Late Call by Angus Wilson

The Lockwood Concern by John O'Hara
The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark

A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe
The Anti-Death League by Kingsley Amis
Giles Goat Boy by John Barth
The Late Bourgeois World by Nadine Gordimer
The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy

The Vendor of Sweets by R.K. Narayan

Apr 21, 2010, 7:19 pm

The Defense instead of Lolita? Really?!?!?!?

I've always understood that that was one of his weakest books. Wasn't it actually written before 1939, too (in Russian)?

Apr 21, 2010, 7:30 pm

Oof, nothing! Several of my favourite writers, though.

I actually checked the Nabo/akov thing today because I was starting to doubt myself. My dad insists on the second-syllable stress, but he insists on a lot of weird pronunciations (ALternatively? SArandon?), so that doesn't necessarily mean a lot. and yeah, Sting is to blame for sure.

On Burgess and 1984, has anyone read his 1985? I really liked it despite its proto-Thatcherism.

Apr 21, 2010, 7:44 pm

My SO, Chris, learned Russian in high school and he says "na-BO-kof" but he does not think that alternate pronunciations are "despicable gutterism." Although that is my new favorite phrase. And a great name for a punk band.

Apr 21, 2010, 8:24 pm

VlaDImir NaBOkov it is. You would think the Russians would know how to stress their own language. I am glad to see Pale Fire on this list.

The only one I have read is A Single Man, which is good. I have read other books by Narayan, and he is brilliant. I fear that he is slowly sinking under the radar these days. I hope he doesn't. Worth reading for anyone who likes Indian literature.

Has anybody read Angus Wilson? He keeps cropping up, and he has recently been reissued by Faber Finds, who have this to say about him:

...Angus Wilson whose eclipse is unfathomable but who needs to be restored to the pantheon of great English social novelists.

I'm intrigued.

Edited: Apr 21, 2010, 8:48 pm

Haven't read any of Angus Wilson's novels but The World of Charles Dickens is a wonderful bio/lit.bio coffee table book replete with cool Dickensian illustrations.

In 1952, Angus Wilson published the first serious English study of Emile Zola with his book, Emile Zola: An Introductory Study of His Novels. On the back cover of this book, here are some blurbs about his first two novels:

Of The Wrong Set (1950) the New Yorker states: "After Evelyn Waugh, what? For anyone who has asked this question, the answer is Angus Wilson....The impression he makes is formidable.

While the Boston Herald wrote of his second book, Such Darling Dodos (1951): "Rarely will you find such incisive irony and mordant wit couched in such deft and surefooted writing...a strikingly original and provocative talent."

Apr 21, 2010, 11:47 pm

>86 tomcatMurr: Murrushka,

I have read three novels and a collection of short stories by Angus Wilson. Obviously I enjoy his work, or I wouldn't have read so much of it. Nevertheless, the aforementioned reviews of his work strike me as a bit too generous. I can see how those comments might have rung true in the 50s; in retrospect Wilson hardly seems original. His are the sort of novels one might enjoy while staying at an English country house (a comment that would surely infuriate Wilson as his novels critique certain Anglo-Saxon Attitudes). He did write rather frankly on homosexuality, which was not exactly the topic du jour at the time.

Apr 22, 2010, 12:17 am

83> Burgess says this in defense of The Defence:

"The style is dense and allusive, the intelligence vast. Lolita was a best-seller because of its theme--a perverseness which lubricious readers gloated over while missing the beauty and intricacy of the writing. The Defence, less regarded, is more metaphysical and more typical of Nabokov's large talent."

(Well, just call me a lubricious Lolita lover. And I suppose AB thinks all his readers bought A Clockwork Orange purely for its metaphysics and not for its lubricious sex, drugs and violence.)

Earlier he simply says Lolita is "a much inferior novel," and when he is writing about Pale Fire, Burgess says that Lolita "almost sinks under a weight of detail."

He also refers to the English edition of The Defence as being "worked-over," so I supose that's how Burgess feels it qualifies as being published in 1964 instead of 1930.

Apr 22, 2010, 12:19 am

I notice that Faber Finds has come out with new editions of Wilson's first three short story collections: Bit off the Map, The Wrong Set, and Such Darling Dodos. All are available on Kindle.

Apr 22, 2010, 12:21 am

> 89 to give him his due, he hated that A Clockwork Orange was his most popular book.

Apr 22, 2010, 12:41 am

>91 MeditationesMartini: I think you mean his only popular book /snark /snark /snark.

Apr 22, 2010, 12:52 am

92 no more herring for you until you apologise.

Earthly Powers is very popular, was shortlisted for a Booker. Just coz you haven't read anything else by Burgess doesn't mean nothing else is not popular.

*slap slap slap with a wet herring*

btw, where is slick with his review of EP?

Apr 22, 2010, 12:53 am

and no more vodka for me until I sort out all those double negatives in my previous post.

Anna, I think it's catching!!!!!!! OMG!!!!!!!

Apr 22, 2010, 1:25 am

It's not that it's not catching, it's just that it's not unnecessary.

Apr 22, 2010, 1:27 am



Apr 22, 2010, 11:16 am

95: Wow. Profoundly deep, if not deeply profound.

Apr 22, 2010, 3:23 pm

Yo, I am half good with the Spire by Golding !

I for one liked the book Lolita for the writing style.
I never dared to read Clockwork Orange. Violence puts me of.

Edited: Apr 22, 2010, 4:16 pm

92: Too many others have written reviews of E.P. for my two cents to matter much! I like to review the little reviewed on the theory that the review is more useful and the expectations are lower.

98: Putting The Spire on my wishlist. Looks promising. Thanks Mac, EF (and Anthony Burgess!)

Edited: Apr 22, 2010, 5:03 pm

I read and enjoyed Giles Goat Boy and I've read Pale Fire which I found academically cutesy, one of my bug-a-boos. That's partly why I didn't like White Noise. I don't like books that separate people into the ins (those who "get it") and the outs (everyone else, usually a rung or two lower on the smug intellectual ladder) and then proceed to disrespect the other by intentionally being arcane and opaque. I realize I'll take endless amounts of heat for that, but, hey, it is what it is. I've read Pale Fire and Bend Sinister and thought both suffered from this malady. I suspect, from the comments in the various IJ threads, that's one reason I haven't started it yet. Is it just an academic exercise in making everyone else feel stupid for "not getting it"? If so, I'm sorry I bought it, and it won't get read. However, the only way to uncover this for myself is to read it, or at least get started with it.

On the other hand, I enjoyed both the Barth's I've read: The Sotweed Factor and the aforementioned Giles Goat Boy.

Edited: Apr 22, 2010, 5:10 pm

gene - IJ really is not arcane or opaque even if it has riches for the studious like sutpen and dchaiken et alia. But, I wouldn't have said White Noise was opaque either. Probably I just didn't get it. I enjoyed it all the same! Then again, I liked Pale Fire, another book I am sure I got only some of (this time I am being more serious about that.)

Sotweed and, a little lower down, Goat Boy, have been on my virtual TBR pile for quite a while now. This may be the year!

Apr 22, 2010, 5:27 pm

I thought IJ was pretty accessible. Dense writing, but not fundamentally hard to understand. Not an "in-crowd" type of book.

Edited: Apr 22, 2010, 6:50 pm

Ditto slick and Anna. Barth was a great influence, stylistically, on DFW, Gene, so if you can read and enjoy SWF and GGB, I'll think you'll dig IJ too.

The next fifteen choices:

The Image Men by J.B. Priestley
Cocksure by Mordecai Richler
Pavane by Keith Roberts

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth

Bomber by Len Deighton

Sweet Dreams by Michael Frayn
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow
The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury

The Doctor's Wife by Brian Moore
Falstaff by Robert Nye

How to Save Your Own Life by Erica Jong
Farewell Companions by James Plunkett
Staying On by Paul Scott

Bet you weren't expecting to see Erica Jong, eh?

Apr 22, 2010, 6:49 pm

Gene - I agree with everything in 101 & 102 about IJ except the part that equates me with studious. I'm a blockhead with literature - symbolism, key themes, subtle references, not-subtle references, extra meanings all go right on by me. IJ is accessible and engaging - but only if your willing to take it slowly. It really forces you to slow down despite the many many pages. If you're in one of those reading challenges, or itching to read something else, then I'd wait till your done with that first. But, if you get to a point your ready to spend a month or more on a book - I don't think you'll have any "arcane", or "opaque" or other similar kinds of qualms with it.

Apr 22, 2010, 7:04 pm

The only "in joke" stuff I can think about after mulling this overa little bit more is the fact that the scholarship is often intentionally spurious (e.g., the French is deliberately wrong). You might miss a little of that humor if you didn't know French, but you would certainly still enjoy the rest of the humor, and there is lots of it. The math went over my head so I could not chuckle over it not making sense, but that did not make me feel like the author was looking down on me, as opposed to for example, Lawrence Durrell.

Apr 22, 2010, 7:05 pm

Ducking in quickly to say this stuff:
The Horse's Mouth is an old favorite ripe for a rereading.
*Dance to the Music of Time* is also an old favorite, but I've reread it within the past ten years.
Staying On is nice, but I suspect it's a substitute for not having recognized *The Raj Quartet* (or maybe he did, and I missed it) at the time. It's also a great favorite which I've reread sort of lately.
Read Gravity's Rainbow last year, and it was too late for me. BUT I'm currently reading and not reading *IJ* and I really, really like it.....although I'm definitely in the "more" that dchaikin mentions above.

Apr 22, 2010, 7:46 pm

Ducking in quickly to mention how very much I ♥love♥ The French Lieutenant's Woman. ♥

Apr 22, 2010, 9:00 pm

ooooh look little hearts, how do you do that?

gene, everyone has said what I would have said regarding IJ. the book packs a powerful emotional punch apart from all the games. About Pale Fire, I don't think it's academic cutsey. I see it more of a puzzle.

Anyway, what the fuck is Len Deighton doing on a list? do my eyes deceive me?

and I agree, The French lieutenant's Woman is excellent. I need to read more John Fowles.

Edited: Apr 22, 2010, 9:17 pm

ooooh look little hearts, how do you do that?

On Windows:
Hold down the ALT key and type 3 on the number pad (not the row about QWERTY)

On Mac OS:
Hold down the Command and Option keys while you press T. This will display the Character Palette. Choose the symbol and click the Insert button.

& hearts; or & #9829; but remove the space between the ampersand and the other characters

PS: Using the Windows method, you can also create music notes with alt + 13 or alt + 14. ♪ ♫ OMG so cute.

Edited: Apr 22, 2010, 9:30 pm

thank you!☂♥

Edited: Apr 22, 2010, 10:04 pm

I am ok with Portnoy and the French Lt woman.
Gravity is stuck half-read in my Library

Both Barth books should be on my TBR list

ok guys and gals, I am off to Istanbul for the weekend. ( Research on "My name is red" you know - wink - wink ) : )

Edited: Apr 23, 2010, 2:13 am

Robert Nye's FALSTAFF is a towering achievement. His Shakespeare novels are also first-rate.

Apr 23, 2010, 1:45 am

I'm on The French Lieutenant's Woman and Gravity's Rainbow, although Cocksure has to be about the only Richler I haven't read.

>108 tomcatMurr: C'mon, Yesterday's Spy? Deighton is decent genre fiction.

And a HUGE YES to John Fowles. The Magus, A Maggot, The Collector, Daniel Martin, and Mantissa are all among my top faves. The Magus is actually my default book to buy people when I want to buy people a book. Some might say it's dated, superficial existentialism, but I say those people can eat it.

>111 Macumbeira: have a durum et and visit Homer Kitabevi for me!

Edited: Apr 23, 2010, 11:18 am

I'm looking to get my grubby, greedy hands on Falstaff, Por-Man. And Cocksure, for sure. The only review of it here in LT sold me. And what an astonishingly phallic (in your face!) book cover to boot!

The Magus is an all-time fave of mine too, Martin. Fowles was dark, mysterious (he was NOT misogynistic!), and disturbing...yeah.

So how on Earth could Burgess have included Len Deighton? Let's find out, shall we:

"There has to be room in fiction for work whose main function is to bring the dead past back to life less through imaginative speculation than by processing (in this instance electronically: the book could not have been written w/out a sophisticated retrieval system) historical documents. To some of us the Second World War is memory as well as history, but Deighton was only ten when the war broke out: his achievement is to convince us that he was there in the midst of it...Deighton's gift is not Jamesian: he is weak on poetic prose and moral involutions, his technique is more documentary than novelistic. But he represents a new and important strain in contemporary fiction and is to be admired for his courage."

So take that, tomcat!

Apr 23, 2010, 1:45 pm

Yes, to Fowles for me too. I went through a Fowles phase when Daniel Martin came out and read 4 or 5 of them, but that was long ago and memory dims, so I can't die for another 30 or 40 years while I go back and reread all this stuff.

Apr 23, 2010, 2:50 pm

>115 LizzieD: I'm actually named after it. MY dad vetoed "Daniel".

Does anyone have any sense of why Fowles has disappeared from "the consciousness" so throughly? How much of a cultural phenomenon was he in the sixties, exactly? Is it just extended backlash? I also understand the movie of The Magus was notably awful.

Apr 23, 2010, 6:03 pm

ice on IJ is well taken. I will read it as time allows. I'm just not one for puzzles in my books. I take them straight.

As for the latest list, I've not read anything on it. I remember the Fowles was a smash when it was out, just never read it.

Apr 23, 2010, 8:27 pm

I take them straight

the way I take vodka. Fair enough.

Freaky, I'm still not buying the Deighton. Deighton's gift is not Jamesian: he is weak on poetic prose and moral involutions, his technique is more documentary than novelistic.

So Burgess like historical/genre fiction? don't we all, but Deighton as an exemplar of it? no.

But he represents a new and important strain in contemporary fiction

Yeah, the strain of crappy airport best sellers

and is to be admired for his courage." Courage? COURAGE?????

I think Burgess was drunk, or shared the same publisher.

I'm cranky today. This endless rain is getting on my nerves.

Apr 23, 2010, 9:05 pm

oh dear, tomcat, does all that rain have you feeling caged?


Edited: Apr 23, 2010, 10:08 pm

And the final fifteen choices are....

The Coup by John Updike

The Unlimited Dream Company by J.G. Ballard
Dubin's Lives by Bernard Malamud
A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
Sophie's Choice by William Styron

Life in the West by Brian W. Aldiss
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
How Far Can You Go? by David Lodge
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Lanark by Alasdair Gray
Darconville's Cat by Alexander Theroux
The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux
Creation by Gore Vidal

The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies

Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer

I'm happy to see Darc Cat here. I think DC should be a tome read in '11.

Wish there were 99 more. Too bad Burgess didn't revise this or add to it before he died. And note he didn't include any of his own novels, which on any other similar top 100 list, would be included, say, 99% of the time.

For you, Murr, since the rain has got you down, here's some of Burgess' thoughts on Vidal:

"Vidal is a brilliant novelist who shines in a large variety of forms -- from the early Williwaw, a chronicle of the war at sea written at the age of nineteen, and The City and the Pillar, the first serious novel about homosexuality, to the scurrilous satires Myra Breckenridge and Duluth. Julian is a long historical novel, with a painstaking portrait of the emperor who was called the Apostate and a glittering Byzantine background. Creation is more ambitious. It deals with the fifth century before Christ, the age of the Persian kings Darius and Xerxes and of Buddha, Confucius, Herodotus, Anaxagoras, Socrates and Pericles. Vidal has said that he wanted to read a novel in which Socrates, Buddha and Confucius all made an appearance: lacking such a book, he had to write it himself....Vidal has one of the most interesting minds of all living writers, and he engages here the fundamental problems of humanity w/out allowing modern knowingness to intrude. Creation is a genuine recreation of the remote past."

Edited: Apr 23, 2010, 10:03 pm

I KNEW I detected the influence of the coup in earthly powers!

Nice to see Lanark on the list.

Laura Warholic can be had more easily and cheaply, I think.

Apr 23, 2010, 10:14 pm

Gore Vidal and Robertson Davies, now we're talking. Two first-rate men of letters.

Apr 23, 2010, 11:05 pm

Loved Riddley Walker, Sophie's Choice was interesting, but not brilliant. I've not read Robertson Davies and am lukewarm about Gore Vidal. Interesting how the women disappear from the list as time goes on....

Apr 23, 2010, 11:20 pm

Man, I don't want to tarnish your opinion of Barth, but he's written some *serious* meta-fiction. And on the subject of Wallace getting shoe-horned into that self-satisfied intellectual category: One of Wallace's major works is a novella called Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, which he described as a final farewell to a period in his writerly life when he idolized tricksy pomo technique. It's an explicit commentary on Barth's story "Lost in the Funhouse," which is majorly metafictional. In Wallace's story, a Professor Ambrose (standing in for Barth) has written a story, also called "Lost in the Funhouse." One day, a student who feels ill-treated by Ambrose comes in early to class and writes this little limerick on the blackboard (in response to a refrain from Barth's story, "For whom is the funhouse fun?"):

For lovers, the Funhouse is fun.
For phonies, the Funhouse is love.
But for whom, the proles grouse,
Is the Funhouse a house?
Who lives there, when push comes to shove?

The "Funhouse," here, serving as a metaphor for the Clang Bird of metafiction. So...that's sort of a roundabout way of trying to suggest that Wallace is right there with you, in terms of being uncomfortable with some of those postmodern techniques.

Apr 23, 2010, 11:30 pm

I am in with Styron
Paul Theroux. I liked the Mosquito coast
Norman Mailer's ancient evening
VS Naipaul

Apr 24, 2010, 2:15 pm

The Coup is probably Updike's worst & Ancient Evenings definately the worst of Mailer, Where does he come up with these titles? Even if he has omitted Michener, Tales of the South Pacific &Hawaii
were the only ones of his I finished, the US choices are really messed up. (At least according to me & what was popular & on hold at the library where I worked at the time )Is John Cheever included? Jessamyn West? Margaret Laurence?
Dr. Zhivago was Pasternak in that batch?

Apr 24, 2010, 3:31 pm

I know that Barth is considered a giant among pomo's, but I read The Sot-Weed Factor when I was seventeen and it was just a wonderful romp through the imagined absurdities of life in the colonies, with the same brand of humor that made me like Catch-22. I read Giles Goat Boy much later, for college, and enjoyed it as well. I knew by Barth's reputation that it was probably eat up with post-modern tropes, but I still enjoyed it.

As for the last few, I have both Ancient Evenings and Creation, but have not read them. I've picked each of them up, but it just wasn't the right time, apparently.

You guys are making DFW sound more and more appealing. I'll get on him when I finish I Think therefore Who Am I, which I'm reading now.

Apr 24, 2010, 8:17 pm

Riddley Walker throbs in the centre of my heart (you guys should also check out his Kleinzeit), A Confederacy of Dunces is one of the very few books that made me laugh out loud (not my style, apparently?), and The Sot-Weed Factor is also a top fave. Bravo, Burgess!

Apr 24, 2010, 11:48 pm

>126 MarianV:
This is the best in English. Dr Zhivago was written in Russian and first published in the West in Italian.

Michener? Seriously? Well, if he can include Deighton, I suppose why not Michener... And who is Margaret Laurence?

Obviously Barth is someone I need to check out. and Martin, A Confederacy of Dunces is brilliant, I agree.

>120 absurdeist: Thanks for that snippet on Gore Vidal. Actually, I would say that Creation is his least successful of his ancient world books. It's too talky, and he passed up a good opportunity to let Socrates wipe the floor with that jerk Confusion. Julian is much better. But still Gore Vidal belongs on any list of 20th Century greats, if only for Myra Breckinridge. as does Robertson Davis.

I'm looking forward to reading Darconville's Cat, which has had many great reviews on LT.

So now what?

Apr 24, 2010, 11:50 pm

slick, please explain your cryptic message in >121 slickdpdx::

I KNEW I detected the influence of the coup in earthly powers!

Edited: Apr 25, 2010, 12:21 am

I've only read some (few) shorts by Updike. The Coup was an odd little novel and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense at all. Its not a story within Updike's traditional repertoire as I understand it. Its about a young man from an unnamed African state who is educated in the U.S. and returns to serve as potentate of his state. IIRC he was royalty and born to so serve. There is a side-character in there that is virtually the twin of a briefly mentioned character in EP. When (actually probably a little before) boyfriend/secretary Ralph leaves for lower Africa (from North Africa) there is brief side-story about a hateful (Islamic) fundamentalist guy who was educated in the U.S. and wrote an influential hateful anti-Western culture tome that was especially obsessed with Western woman-flesh. Maybe he's based on a real person that I just don't know of and it is nearly complete coincidence. The Coup is kind of Bowles-ish and kind of DeLillo The Names-ish and kind of Updike-ish. Now I am wondering why only three stars from me (which is still good). It must have lacked a certain spark in my estimation.

Apr 25, 2010, 12:22 am

ok, thanks. I had completely forgotten about that incident from EP. well spotted.

Edited: Apr 25, 2010, 12:51 am

129> And who is Margaret Laurence?

Canadian writer prominent in the '60s & '70s I'm sure Martin or Marian could talk up better than I, but allow me to say her novel A Jest of God is included on The Modern Libraries list of the best 200 novels in English since 1950.

I've got a 1969 book club ed. of The Fire-Dwellers - intriguing title - that dear Mum gave me from her collection somewhere along the line.

I like John Cheever too, Marian. I think his short stories overshadow his novels, however, and Burgess was focused solely on novels. I don't think a novel's popularity mattered much to Burgess, he chose what he liked, not what was necessarily in fashion or considered "important" at the time. Here's Burgess' intro to 99 Novels, which explains better than I can the rationale behind his choices: http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/11/30/home/burgess-bestnovels.html .... or, since it looks like you've got to log in to NY Times to get the intro anyway, check out this blog from a fellow LTer, who, coincidentally, wrote a bit on her blog about 99 Novels a couple weeks before us, and excerpted a significant portion of its introduction.

Apr 25, 2010, 3:24 am

Thanks EF. You know what is more fun about this list is that it feel less like a canon and more like a bunch of books Burgess read that were written more recently and that he really liked.

Apr 25, 2010, 12:28 pm

A Confederacy of Dunces out of the last section though The Mosquito Coast is very high on my 'go find this now' list.

Apr 25, 2010, 6:13 pm

Margaret Laurence! The second-best Canadian Margaret. I haven't read A Jest of God or The Fire-Dwellers, although I think they're both on my shelf (Margaret Laurence books crop up like pine beetles up here), but her Stone Angel had some decent moments of horrible human anguish, and her novella A Bird in the House is, I believe, still required reading for high school students, much like I assume you dudes read Gatsby or whatever? In that sense I guess you've got it all over us, but ML's worth a look.

Apr 26, 2010, 11:20 am

I liked the Rebel Angels. It was part of a series, the Cornish Trilogy - I read the whole thing and loved it, much better than the Deptford Trilogy. I have read How far can you go? and it's also part of a series of sorts that started with Changing places and Small World, and was my least favorite - a bunch of middle aged recovering Catholics talking together, as I remember.

I like the idea of Darconville's Cat for '11 Tome.

Apr 26, 2010, 12:05 pm

>137 anna_in_pdx: If you enjoyed Davies' The Cornish Trilogy, then I'd recommend that you give his earliest trilogy, The Salterton Trilogy a try. I've read only the first volume, Tempest-Tost, and very long time ago at that, but I remember thinking it one of the funniest books I'd ever read about small-town life, and in particular about the pretensions of those who think themselves more cultured than the rest of the town's denizens. It is in some ways a very Canadian (and more specifically, very Ontarian) Mapp and Lucia.

I've had the trilogy on my TBR list for a long time. First, to reread Tempest-Tost, and then carry on with the remaining volumes.

Since I've already read all three books in each of this other two trilogies, would completing this one be considered finishing a trilogy of trilogies?

Apr 26, 2010, 11:01 pm

129> So now what?

Good question! I've got a few ideas clanging round my skull. I'm leaning toward one which I suspect few of us would be familiar with the titles, but looks damn intriguing to me (and I'd bet to most of you too) and it's not the same 'ol same 'ol Ulysses, Great Gatsby, Midnights' Children, War & Peace titles that are on EVERY list and ends up making the lists tired and predictable pretty quick. But the one I've got in mind is different, off the beaten path, more adventurous. I'm leaning there. And may set out soon with it. I think it'll be an fun, adventurous education for us, this next list I'm eyeing. There's no Proust, Dostoy, Woolf, Dickens, or Pynchon or any other of that ilk on it, but there's great books by great writers regardless.

Slick has bugged me (and it's not a bother, buggin' is good) to read Laura Warholic: The Sexual Intellectual of Theroux's instead of Darconville's Cat in '11, because he and I have both already read it and he's (I've no idea how he restrains himself from not just jumping into The Sexual Intellectual, but so far, it seems, he's abstained. But I don't no how much longer he will be able to abstain from it if we don't read it in 2011.

I'm conceptualizing, thinking aloud, nothing's set in stone at the moment, how we can make everybody happy, and what I'm thinking right now is perhaps we do our usual 4 tome reads (one per season) in 2011, and supplement each tome with other books by that same author.

So say we do Darconville's Cat in Jan. & Feb. of '11. Then we could Theroux's An Adultery in Mar and The Sexual Intellectual in April; then in May start the next author: Musil?, etc.

What do you think?

Apr 26, 2010, 11:07 pm

sounds intriguing. I suggest four tomes as well, but leave the rest open for the moment. let's not overload ourselves. I would like to read D'arconville's cat.

Apr 27, 2010, 1:15 am

I would like to know whether there is a source for Theroux's books new, other than Laura Warholic.


Apr 27, 2010, 1:33 am


New copies of Darc Cat in hc are going to = collector's items usually, ranging from $100 - $1000.

I'll look around further for you and report back if I see new copies in pb. I think he's out of print, but don't just quote me yet on that.

All his books are easily available used. But you want "new," so let us search further....

Apr 27, 2010, 1:38 am

Apr 27, 2010, 1:54 am

You had me so excited for a few minutes. I was going to order it and take my 15% discount on Laura Warholic then it wasn't there. It's available used in good condition through one of their affiliates. I may buy it used yet, for which I will turn first to Abe Books, but I'd sure like to have a nice, pristine trade paperback.


Apr 27, 2010, 2:57 am

Are you thinking about McCaffrey's list? That's a mighty fine list, Enriquee, old buddy.

What about in addition to each tome, a significant work that influenced said tome, or was influenced by it, help get a stronger understanding, and cetera. But all's good.

Edited: Apr 27, 2010, 10:58 am

How about reading some of the books from Burgess's list of 99?

May 4, 2010, 1:39 pm

So while I was supposed to have been earning my keep I discovered and devoured this thread, as usual about two weeks late but...

I LOVE your review of Finnegans Fake in #5, Dictator.

Gene, I LOVE your pointillism comment. Bravo!!!

I have read quite a few on the Burgess list -- have not heard of Nye's Falstaff which I must read. I think I must read the Bowen, too; it has been on the TBR pile too long. And D'arconville's Cat.

With a great many of these I have experienced the folly of rereading a favorite many years later. Inevitably you are disillusioned. I enjoyed Brideshead greatly when I was ?18?. Read a bit of it a few years back and hated it. Read a ton of Greene and Maugham way back when, but they aged for me. Maybe Ellison should be a reread and I think not be a disappointment.

Flannery O'Connor I think will remain fresh forever. And Orwell I like more and more with each reading.

I have to speak up for Margaret Laurence, IMHO by far the better of the two Canadian Margarets. Stone Angel is the most vivid portrayal of old age, no whining, no-prisoners-taken, filled with bitterness, rebellion, passion and pride. Terrific book.

Jun 18, 2011, 12:30 pm

This thread remains for me, one of the funnest, most collaborative efforts the salon has yet produced. Here's, finally, my review of the book that began it:


Jun 18, 2011, 12:42 pm

A.B. was a towering genius next to the book-chatters of today. His critical insights are always sound whether he was dashing off a piece to keep the wolf away from the door, or otherwise. May I suggest URGENT COPY as a fine selection of his articles, essays, and such.

Edited: Jun 18, 2011, 12:44 pm

P.S. I like the new salon illustration. Just how I picture it, sometimes.

Jun 18, 2011, 2:31 pm

>148 absurdeist: nice review, Henri. Btw, Henry Williamson is amazing.

Jun 18, 2011, 4:03 pm

read and thumbed it !
nice work EF

Jun 18, 2011, 11:41 pm

Bravo! good old A.B.

Jun 19, 2011, 3:35 pm

> 151

And prolific.

Jun 19, 2011, 6:08 pm

Fascinating book and review, of course. I thumbed it. Also, thanks for linking to the thread about it.

Edited: Jun 19, 2011, 11:38 pm

Muchos gracias salonistas!

Por-Man, I will hunt that Burgess book you mention down. Burgess, I think today, is somewhat a victim of the success and cult hype surrounding A Clockwork Orange. How many people, you think, besides hardcore weirdos like us, if asked to name one book by Anthony Burgess, assuming they could even name one, would be able to name anything besides A Clockwork Orange? Which is too bad, because as great as that book is, Burgess was so much more than it.

I think a writer like a Joseph Heller has also suffered the same "fate" (wish I could "suffer" that same fate anyday!) what with the ginormous success of Catch-22 completely overshadowing the rest of the man's excellent work like Something Happened or Good as Gold.

Who are some other writers like Burgess & Heller that just had such a HUGE cult novel, that it defined their careers and legacy among the mass populace no matter what else they published?

Btw, that Henry Williamson that Smartini and dawg mention -- have you seen how much his paperbacks sell for? Sixty, seventy bucks (!!!) and more per book at several outlets.

Jun 20, 2011, 1:24 am

I love all of Heller. He's on the top shelf in my estimation.

Edited: Jun 20, 2011, 3:13 am

Oddly enough the Anthony Burgess book that comes to mind for me is Earthly Powers, of which I bought a hardback edition for one dollar off of a remainder table back in the eighties. Thinking it might be interesting for all the obvious reasons, when I got it home and opened it to the first page I read the amazing first sentence:

It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.

I closed the book then and there. Not my cup of tea. That was nearly thirty years ago, and now I might find it more intriguing since with the passage of time I know more about it as it is allegedly based loosely on the life of Somerset Maugham, whose stories and some of his novels I have devoured.

The other Burgess book I own – this time a library discard – is called The Age of the Grand Tour published in 1967. This is an almost elephant folio-sized coffee table book that I have not read from cover to cover, but as a devotee of the "grand tour," I have feasted on the sumptuous illustrations and read in it here and there. Come to think of it, I should pull that out. It's time for another look.

Burgess wrote only the Introduction, and all the bits and pieces are by famous writers of yesteryear. Now that I'm looking at this again, I should list these on my thread. This book is a treasure!


Edited to point to Table of Contents, if you are interested.

Jun 20, 2011, 4:11 am

Poquette, Earthly Powers is incredibly good, AB's masterpiece.

Jun 20, 2011, 7:41 am

And one of the most famous opening lines in Literature.

Jun 20, 2011, 8:29 am

Call me odd, but the little known Man of Nazareth was my favorite.

Edited: Jun 20, 2011, 12:49 pm

ENDERBY'S DARK LADY is immensely satisfying.
And so is Anthony Burgess
Did I mention that A DEAD MAN IN DEPTFORD is an extraordinary novel, as fine a novel as ever hit the bookshelves.

Jun 20, 2011, 12:58 pm

161 - you're odd, Peter.

Jun 20, 2011, 1:10 pm

Odds are all important. There are Kingmakers & Oddsmakers.

Edited: Jun 20, 2011, 2:24 pm

I likes simple bouks, guv'nor. The kind wot can be read in a few sittin's.

Jun 20, 2011, 3:36 pm

Tom and Barry, I am sure in my youth my judgment was tainted. That was thirty years ago. And, obviously, I agree that it is an unforgetable opening.

Jun 20, 2011, 5:47 pm

Odd, I think it's lovely that as a Jew your favorite Burgess book is about Jesus.

Jun 20, 2011, 6:05 pm

I read all I can about Jesus. He's an interesting character.

Jun 20, 2011, 6:12 pm

A true zombie mensch.

Jun 20, 2011, 6:32 pm

Last time I looked it up Jesus was, and this word doesn't tell us enough, a Jew.

Jun 20, 2011, 7:16 pm

I'm thoroughly convinced that Jesus is appalled by most of what is done in His name.

Edited: Jun 20, 2011, 8:36 pm

Jesus is just all right with me ... oh yeaaahhhhhh!

What's that verse, Gene, (I think it's in Matthew) where Jesus says something to the effect of, "better that a mill stone be hung around their neck and then thrown to the bottom of the sea, tha for anyone to cause one of these littles ones -- or children -- harm? or to stumble?" something like that. I always liked that verse. Btw, I'm over 100 pages into The Cabinet of Curiosities and loving it! I've been collecting any of his books I come across. Very morbid, very macabre.

Yo dawg, I was just cataloging another summer read, The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod, and saw that he has a collection of short stories titled, Jesus Christ Reanimator!

Jun 21, 2011, 7:35 am

>172 absurdeist: - well, he's already been a vampire hunter, Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter.

Jun 21, 2011, 12:01 pm

I would be very interested in seeing a review from you, Freeque, for Cabinet of Curiosities. It's easy to recommend something like Grendel or Moby Dick or Portrait of a Lady. These are all tried and true. Cabinet of Curiosities is just a very macabre story with an interesting premise and lots of page turning excitement. I feel unsure recommending this sort of thing to people in this group. I'm glad you are enjoying it. Pendergast is a very interesting character. Their Pendergast novels all seem to build on one another. New continuing characters appear, old continuing characters die. They keep the series moving. Some of the characters in the Pendergast novels appear in the non-Pendergast novels each of them publish, as well. Smithback, for instance is a main player in Thunderhead which is not a Pendergast novel. The high tech firm Pendergast uses in his investigations is a main player in Ice Limit, a non-Pendergast novel. It's as if they maintain a menagerie of characters for use whenever and however, and sometimes, these forays advance the entire set of their fiction works along. Unfortunately, I think Cabinet is their best work, so it's all downhill (so far) from there, but it's the difference between staging for the last fifty feet to the summit of Everest and the summit.

Edited: Jun 22, 2011, 2:33 am

That's crazy campy bad it's probably good, Jargoneer. Time to Netflix.

I'm glad you recommended it, Gene. I don't read serious lit. 24/7, especially not in the summer when the kids are around more and it's damn near impossible to concentrate completely on the demands made by Literature. Notice that the first five letters of Literature are "Liter," which can only mean as we consider the etymology of the word "Literature," that "liter" (pronounced: "lighter") means it's okay to read liter stuff, especially during the summer. I have several of those Pendergrast novels and will get to more this summer I'm sure.

Feb 8, 2013, 1:46 pm

I have arrived here via 'the Freeque's' 18 thumbs upped review of the book. I came here originally just for the list of Anthony Burgess' 99 best English novels between 1939 & 1983. But I must admit I have spent more time perusing the posts than in compiling the list. What a great thread. Very interesting comments and a great deal of fun. I will have to come back and read it from top to bottom.
I am going to attempt to read this Burgess' list over the next few years. Thus far in my lifetime I have read only:
For Whom the Bell Tolls,
The Razor's Edge, (a couple of times)
The Catcher in the Rye,
The Caine Mutiny,
The Old Man and the Sea, (more times than I can count)
The French Lieutenant's Woman, and
Sophie's Choice. (a couple of times)
So I have a teeny start on it. Thank you for posting the list and this thread. I enjoyed it.