The OF Blog: Books That I Wish I Would See Others Mention or Discuss More

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Books That I Wish I Would See Others Mention or Discuss More

Although I am certain that there are people on some forums or blogs in the greater SF blogosphere who have mentioned and/or discussed these books and authors, I have found myself having to overturn quite a few stones to discover names of authors who aren't explicitly spec fic by associations but whose works contain many elements in common with the darkest and most imaginative stories. Thinking about this while reading through this huge list again for the first time in almost two years, I went through my bookshelves and identified a few authors that I would love to see others mention at least once in a blue moon (if you have discussed any of this and would be kind, post a link in the Comments section, please). This is not a systematic listing, other than these are authors that I believe have some elements in common with genre writers, but whose names generally are not considered to be strictly SF:

In no particular order:

1. Jorge Luis Borges (Ficciones; The Aleph; The Book of Sand; Universal History of Infamy; Book of Imaginary Beings; Brodie's Report, etc.)

2. Julio Cortázar (Hopscotch; Blow-Up and Other Stories)

3. Juan Rulfo (Pedro Páramo)

4. Mario Vargas Llosa (The War of the End of the World; Conversation in the Cathedral)

5. Carlos Fuentes (The Death of Artemio Cruz)

6. José Saramago (Blindness; Death at Intervals; The Duplicated Man, etc.)

7. Miguel Cervantes (Don Quijote)

8. Ignacio Padilla (The Shadow Without a Name)

9. Angélica Gorodischer (Kalpa Imperial)

10. José Hernández (Martín Fierro)

11. Roberto Arlt (Collected short stories)

12. Manuel Mujica Lainez (short stories)

13. Gabriel García Márquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude)

14. Alejo Carpentier (The Lost Steps; The Century of Lights; Baroque Concert)

15. Adolfo Bioy Casares (The Invention of Morel)

16. Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits)

17. Roberto Bolaño (The Savage Detectives)

18. Carlos Zafón (The Shadow of the Wind)

19. Zoran Živković (Seven Touches of Music; The Fourth Circle; The Library)

20. Milorad Pavić (Dictionary of the Khazars)

21. Danilo Kiš (A Tomb for Boris Davidovich; Encyclopedia of the Dead)

22. Yuri Andrukhovych (Perverzion)

23. Gao Xingjian (Soul Mountain)

24. Edward Whittemore (Sinai Tapestry; Jerusalem Poker; Nile Shadows; Jericho Mosaic)

25. Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)

26. Mark Danielewski (House of Leaves; Only Revolutions)

27. Salman Rushdie (Midnight's Children; The Satanic Verses)

28. Ann Radcliffe (The Mysteries of Udolfo)

29. Matthew Lewis (The Monk)

30. Graham Greene (The Power and the Glory; The Heart of the Matter)

31. G.K. Chesterton (The Man Who Was Thursday)

32. Johann Wolfgang Goethe (Faust, Parts I & II)

33. Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White; The Moonstone)

34. Frank Stockton (short stories)

35. Albert Camus (The Stranger; The Plague)

36. Thomas De Quincey (Confessions of an English Opium Eater)

37. Venedikt Erofeev (Moscow to the End of the Line)

38. Mikhail Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita)

39. Ludovico Ariosto (Orlando Furioso)

40. Günter Grass (The Tin Drum)

41. Angela Carter (Burning Your Boats)

42. Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange; Nothing Like the Sun)

43. Norman Mailer (The Gospel According to the Son)

44. William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury)

45. Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita; Pale Fire; Pnin)

46. Gustave Flaubert (The Temptation of Saint Anthony)

47. H. Rider Haggard (She; King Soloman's Mines)

48. Dino Buzzati (short stories)

49. Italo Calvino (If on a winter's night a traveler; Invisible Cities; The Baron in the Trees)

50. Arthur Rimbaud (Season in Hell)

51. Federico García Lorca (poetry)

52. David Albahari (Götz and Meyer)

53. James Thurber (The 13 Clocks; short stories)

54. Banana Yoshimoto (Asleep; Kitchen)

55. Kobo Abe (The Woman in the Dunes)

56. Rikki Ducornet (The Fountains of Neptune)

57. Charles Maturin (Melmoth the Wanderer)

58. Flannery O'Connor (A Good Man is Hard to Find)

59. Flann O'Brien (At Swim-Two-Birds; The Third Policeman)

Again, not a systematic list, but one that I think merits some consideration from those looking for something "different" to read and perhaps to discuss afterwards. I'm of the opinion that reading too much in one genre of literature is akin to incest, in that after a few "generations" of reading too much of the same-old, same-old, the imaginative part of our minds begins to atrophy, which is why I want to see "non-traditional" books being discussed or at least mentioned more often on genre forums and blogs.


Brian Lindenmuth said...

The best thing about this list is that you've introduced me to new writers. Some of them I've never even heard of.

FWIW - We have Master & Margarita entered in the all time tournament over at FBS

Lsrry said...

Sweet! :D I hope you visit that link I embedded to the one VanderMeer did a few years ago, as that thing is monstrous (over 1000 books)! I've only read 173 of those and I want to read more.

And thanks for reminding me about the FBS Tournament. Sometime next week, when I do my almost-weekly links post, I'll be sure to link to it :D

Anonymous said...

Excellent list. I loved the Savage Detectives, and I think Bolano is making a bit of a stir in the mainstream literary word.

Lsrry said...

I really want to read his 2666, but I cannot afford right now the $70 or so it'd cost to buy a used copy. I think it'll be translated into English in the next year or so. Too bad he died before he could see the success his works have had the past 5 years.

Anonymous said...

Excellent list:

I've read quite a few authors from that list 1, 4, 6, 13, 16, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, 30, 33, 35, 38, 40, 41, 45,49, 55, 57, and I own both Kalpa Imperial and Moscow the End of the Line, though I have just browsed them. I checked several other authors from the list, but did not enjoy them.

I would add John Barth and Steve Erickson - the US writer of Rubicon Beach, Days Between Stations, Tours of the Black Clock, as great writers of the fantastic. And of course 1001 Nights which luckily can now be enjoyed in the excellent R. Burton translation at project Gutenberg and many other places for free

Then there is A Manuscript Found in Zaragosa by J. Potocki, kind of like Melmoth the Wanderer - both I loved when I was a teen, and even now I can appreciate them.

I own all (I think though not 100%) of Nabokov books and I've read most. I also read almost all Borges fiction and some non-fiction (have both green big volumes.

I loved Shadow of the Wind.

Haggard was great when I was a teen (especially She and Montezuma's Daughter).

I loved a lot of Zivkovic shorts (including the ones in Leviathan 3 - one of the best ever anthologies of the weird), less so his Circle novel

Woman in the Dunes did not impress me, and Murakami only sometimes.

I love E. Whittemore, though Quinn's Shanghai Circus is the best in my opinion - own and read all 5 of his novels

House of Leaves was ok but did not impress me.

Calvino is great too, but Buzatti was only ok for me.

Camus' The Stranger is a masterpiece

I read more gothic literature years ago, maybe Radcliffe too, but not 100% sure, did not remain in my memory the way Melmoth did.

Saramago is kind of hit and miss, though the Ricardo Reis novel is excellent


Anonymous said...

And of course I forgot to mention Master and Margareta which I probably read 10-15 times that I know almost by heart and I saw the extraordinary 10 part Russian series (the most expensive and most succesful Russian movie ever) of the early 00's - it can be bought somewhere cheaply with English subtitles though I forgot the link
That one is one of my all time ever favorite novels, but I lived my first 21 years on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain so it may resonate far more with me because of that. And that's another reason why despite Saramago's great prose, sometimes I find him hard to read when he lets his politics influence his novels. Sort like S. Lewis and T. Dreiser - when they do little politics they are great...


Si- said...

An interesting list you have here, with a lot of authors I have never heard of, and quite a few I've been meaning to check out, like Borges, Haruki Murakami, Banana Yoshimoto, Flannery O'Connor, plus a few I have read, like Greene, Grass and a few others. I have also just done a small review of Chesterton's 'The
Club of Queer Trades' on my blog

Thanks, its going to be a pleasure checking some of these babies out. Faulkner is next on my list :)

Anonymous said...

Thought I would post my reply to your post here as well. Might be targeted at bit at the list in relation to the message boards - but what the hell.

The problem with these kind of 'lists' is, Larry, that you're addressing it to people largely more interested in reading genre literature. People have one thing in common - they all enjoy (to some extent) the works of speculative fiction. Many of the novels you have listed there could be regarded as "magic realism", but lean heavily towards the more literary forms. Most of them, as far as I understand, push the boundaries of imagination and blur the lines between reality and imaginary 'worlds'. If you allow me to generalise the list a bit, a lot of them are probably also multi-layered reads where the readers has to put in lot 'effort' in order to get something satisfying out of it. Quite possibly heavy on symbolism as well.

Now I am not going to fault you for trying to bring these titles to the attention -- no trying to introduce people who hang out at message boards or your blog to new writers is rather laudable. But maybe you should consider it doing differently. Maybe a bit like you did with the Gene Wolfe features last december. Instead of saying "oh I wish these authors were discussed more", act and start discussing them yourself in hopes you can drawn people in. Your series of posts on Wolfe motivated me to give his Books of the New Sun a try and even if didn't enjoyed it as much as other people seemed to do, I still think it was an interesting foray into more "heavier" works the genre has to offer me. At the very least it was an eye-opener. I could come up with a list of fifty science fiction I wish people discussed/mentioned more all the same, but if this is my desire then I'd take intiative myself. A list is one thing, but that alone isn't going to motivate searching out Borges, the more information/praise the more my interest is piqued. You probably even need "buzz" surrouding an author in order to inspire large masses to read his/her work. I could you name a couple of authors that have to achieved this 'status' of "must-read author" even if, based on the merits of the works, they probably couldn't even measure up to Jorge Luis Borges in their mastery of the craft.

And even if you succeed in raising awareness (truth to be told, if one is capabling of pulling it off - it's you), you still have to realise many of the works listed there are not going to be widely discussed on the board. Like Peader rightfully pointed out, Calvino has not have the same potential for popularity here as a Joe Abercrombie (never thought I would mention those two in the same sentence wink.gif) and I think that (sadly!) goes for a lot of other authors as well. I mean look at the Edward Whittemore thread you started a while ago, it has now been buried under a load of Terry Goodkind, Joe Abercrombie and other threads.. That's reality for you, dude. And it's damned shame, I agree.

Lsrry said...

Lawrence, I've already responded to you elsewhere, so please forgive me if I don't repeat it here.

Liviu, I mistakenly left out the Potocki, which I agree would make for an outstanding read for those who love genre literature and might want to try something that is similar in many ways. Erickson and Barth are two authors I've yet to read but ones that I'll get to before the year is out, I hope. I know Jeff VanderMeer has been telling me on occasion to read Erickson's Zeroville, as well as trying some of Brian Everson's work.

Funny story about Buzzati: A Serbian ladyfriend of mine urged me to read one of his short story collections, La Boutique del Mistero. She thought it was in Spanish translation (my second language), but it turns out it was in Italian. Luckily, the two languages are similar enough that with very little use of the Italian-English dictionary I have, I was able to read/enjoy those stories. It might be that I valued it more because of the effort I had to put into reading them in their original language.

Si - I'll check out that review in a little bit. Glad to hear there are some books on this list that have caught your interest. And I have a soft spot for Faulkner, seeing how I'm a native Southerner (albeit from the Nashville area).

Anonymous said...

I would like to submit Yasunari Kawabata (House of the Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories) for consideration to the list. Thanks for the list. It's like Godiva Chocolate.

Mary C

Lsrry said...

I'll look into it - thanks for the suggestion! :D

Anonymous said...

I find that works like that are very complex in the sense that while I'm reading them, I feel myself removed from the world. They're on my mind until I can complete them, which makes them hard to tackle while life is busy. Hopefully I'll be able to read some of those during the summer.

-Ted (Gavroche)

Gabriele Campbell said...

I've read half of that list, which is a pretty good result, I'd say. :)

On top of my head, I have some more though I don't know if they have been translated into English. I give the titles as they would translate.

Halldor Laxness: At the Glacier, The Great Weaver of Kashmir
Henrik Ibsen: Peer Gynt
Carl Jonas Love Almqvist: The Book of the Thorn Rose (Törnrosens Bok)
Selma Lagerlöf: Gösta Berling, Sir Arne's Treasure, The Ring of the Lowenskjolds (Herr Arnes Penningar, Löwenskjödska Ringen)
Honore de Balzac: The Chagrin Leather (La Peau de Chagrin)
Friedrich von Schiller: The Ghost Seer (Der Geisterseher)
Theodor Storm, The White Rider, or maybe: The Ghost Rider (Der Schimmelreiter)
Wilhelm Hauff: The Cold Heart (Das kalte Herz)
Thomas Mann: Doktor Faustus
Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto

Unknown said...

I recently read Zivkovic's Hidden Camera, and I'm still trying to figure it out. I loved it. I want to read much more of his work, but I don't feel like I'll be competent to discuss his vision until I do.

Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler is one of my favorite books of all time.

Perhaps a few others to add: Kevin Brockmeier's A Brief History of the Dead; John Harwood's The Ghost Writer; Doris Lessing's The Fifth Child; Justin Evans's A Good and Happy Child; John Updike's The Centaur; Carlos Maria Dominguez's The House of Paper; Anne Ursu's Spilling Clarence; Andrew Sean Greer's The Confessions of Max Tivoli; Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams. Books that straddle mainstream and genre fiction are probably my favorite sort of fiction.

FYI, Readerville has just had a discussion of The Master and Margarita. Some good minds over there with good points. Unfortunately, the book is still on my "to be read" pile, with a bookmark on page 12, as I've been seduced by Felix Gilman's Thunderer and Christian Jungerson's The Exception. Anyway, here's the link to the Readerville discussion.

Terry Weyna

Blue Tyson said...

I imagine if you look, you will find heaps of people talking about that motley crew, not in your general SF sense those. Flaubert is a Mr. Fantastic type reach?

Here you go then ;-)

The Griffin and the Minor Canon - Frank Stockton

Zorro : Zorro - Isabel Allende

Allan's Wife - H. Rider Haggard
Ayesha - H. Rider Haggard
Heu-Heu - H. Rider Haggard
Hunter Quatermain's Story - H. Rider Haggard
King Solomon's Mines - H. Rider Haggard
Long Odds - H. Rider Haggard
She - H. Rider Haggard
The Tale of Three Lions - H. Rider Haggard

Fingernails - Zoran Zivkovic

The Dream-Woman - Wilkie Collins
The Lady Of Glenwith Grange - Wilkie Collins

The Erl King - Angela Carter
Peter and the Wolf - Angela Carter

A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

The Time Machine - Dino Buzzati

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