The OF Blog: Still desiring more "unusual, original works of the imagination" - any suggestions?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Still desiring more "unusual, original works of the imagination" - any suggestions?

Back in September 2010, I posted a call for readers:

I've been reading George Meredith's 1855 oriental fantasy novel, The Shaving of Shagpat, tonight.  Found myself thinking that it'd be interesting to see what other books are as strange and as "magical" as this one.  Or if there are dark, twisted works that rival those of Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, "Monk" Lewis, or even more recent writers like Clark Ashton Smith or H.P. Lovecraft. 

What sorts of works do you know of that would be good, strange, excellent imaginative fictions?  They don't all have to be obscure, older works, but perhaps it might be best to avoid naming generic post-Tolkien epic fantasies here.  Please share! 

I've been going through that list in the seven months since then and there are quite a few gems there.  Just hoping a reposting might get even more books of the imagination (especially those of a darker, more surrealist or "weird" bent) listed.  In most cases, the original language won't matter, as I can read English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French (in order of reading fluency) with little need for a parallel translation or dictionary to consult and my German has improved somewhat in the past four months, if not quite back to the level it was in 1997 when I was reading it with little need for translations or dictionaries.  I will be very grateful for any titles listed (be sure to check the link to make sure there aren't many redundancies) and might review some of these here in the coming months.

Final note:  Am nearly 150 pages into Michel Tournier's Le Roi des Aulnes and this is verging on brilliant.  More like this, please!

7 comments:

James said...

I've got nothing. You, VanderMeer, and Paul are my sources for weird shit.

Anonymous said...

One thing the Meredith reference reminds me of that I don't see mentioned on your site is the _Katha Sarit Sagara_ (Ocean of Streams of Story) by Somadeva, a medieval Hindu story cycle that once it gets going is akin to the Arabian Nights. The full 10 volume edition is best by far, and some (all?) of it is digitized and available at archive.org (e.g. http://www.archive.org/details/kathsaritsgarao00unkngoog ).

For contemporary surrealist work, how about Carlton Mellick's _The Haunted Vagina_. It's Bizarro fic, but relatively tame and somewhat reminiscent of Bataille or Aragon in its proclivities.

Anonymous said...

NYCfan

Glad you like the Tournier. I first read it as an assigned book as a thirteen year old and understood little, but it did wonders for my French vocabulary - the first novel I read in French. I then reread it a few years ago and loved it.

You might find Witold Gombrowicz's Pornografia or Ferdydurke. If you do pick them up make absolutely sure you get the recent translations by Danuta Borchardt, the Ferdydurke one at least is excellent, while the older translations of both novels are atrocious.

Bruno Schultz might also be appealing. The translations I've seen don't really capture his very idiosyncratic baroque writing style, but they're still worth reading.

Also, have you read Agayev's Novel with Cocaine? It's a twenties Russian novel that might fit the bill.

Finally, try some Miroslav Krleza Edge of Reason is the one I remember particularly fondly. More Kafka than decadent weirdness.

Matt Denault said...

One book I read recently that you might like, if you haven't read it already, is The Museum of Eterna's Novel (The First Good Novel) by Macedonio Fernández. Macedonio was, according to the book's introduction, something of a mentor and inspiration to Borges and that generation of writers (I had been meaning to ask if you had come across any references to him in Borges's writings?). Museum of Eterna's Novel is, as you might guess from the title, heavily and playfully metafictional, really a study of what a novel is and how a novel interacts with its author and its various audiences.

ishouldbeking said...

Off the top of my head:

F. Marion Crawford's For the Blood is the Life hit all the right nerves for old-school horror weirdness.

I recently read the first story of Harlan Ellison's Deathbird Stories and loved it, might be worth a look.

Gene Wolfe's collection, Endangered Species has a few lurking gems, including "The HORARS of War" and "Silhouette". Some of the weird-for-weird-sake bits missed their mark (on me), but they might scratch that itch.

And I can't vouch for it, as it's an unread recent purchase, but Jeremy Robert Johnson's Angel Dust Apocalyspe came highly recommended.

ishouldbeking said...

just realized those were all short-story collections. mentioning Clark Ashton Smith must have narrowed my vision. couple other cool things I dug up from my goodreads:

Maldoror by Lautreamont. I'm sure you've read it, but if you haven't... you should.

The Nevèrÿon series, by Samuel R. Delany seems to be relatively unique... sword and sorcery fiction as a literary construct to explore Delany's usual social themes, but in a more overtly constructed manner. I was reminded of the later Viriconium stuff a little, in the way the 4th wall gradually falls away. I've yet to read the later two books of Delany's series, but I gather they're consistent, if a bit weird.

G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday has so many quotable lines, it's absurd. Add a bizarre plot and overall vibe, and you've got... a weird little book.

And one more short story dude for good measure: I recently read a few of Algernon Blackwood's horror stories and enjoyed them. "The Wendigo" in particular was incredibly dry, much more about the setting and tone than the actual plot, but also enjoyable for what it was.

Larry said...

Very good suggestions, all of you! I've only read a few of them (Lautréamont, Delany, and Chesterton), but recall hearing of several of the others mentioned. I have a feeling I'll deplete my bank account sooner than I had expected.

One book I'll add myself to this is Sadegh Hedayat's The Blind Owl, which I just downloaded last night on my iPhone after being reminded (again) of it while reading Rhys Hughes' foreward to Michael Cisco's just-published The Great Lover. Hope to finish it in the next few days.

 
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