The OF Blog: Trying to think of some unusual, "original" works of the imagination

Friday, September 10, 2010

Trying to think of some unusual, "original" works of the imagination

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!


Jonathan M said...

Roland Topor's surrealist masterpiece Le Locataire Chimerique (1964), which was made into The Tenant by Roman Polansky.

Larry Nolen said...

That's a great book; read it last year and loved it.

Nathaniel Katz said...

My first thoughts upon reading the post were: VanderMeer, Ligotti (in a twisted way, but incredibly bizarre nonetheless), Dunsany, and Peake, but everyone here's likely read all of those. Hmm, I'll have to try and come up with something more obscure.

Larry Nolen said...

Still, those are worth naming. And if you want obscure, there's George Meredith's 1855 novel, The Shaving of Shagpat ;)

Unknown said...

Try these (unless you've already read them):

Ray in Reverse by Daniel Wallace
The Palm-wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola
Angel of Death by J. Robert King
Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale
Harbinger by Jack Skillingstead
The Steam Magnate by Dana Copithorne
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Those should be interesting reads. All fantastic, all non-epic fantasy, and all very different. Some might be up your alley, and some not.

Larry Nolen said...

Those certainly will be tried. I presume it's the same Daniel Wallace that wrote Big Fish? Tutuola in particular intrigues me.

acrisalves said...

Hi !

What about
- Adventures in Unhistory (Avram Davidson)
- The Maze (Panos Karnezis)
- Enciclopédia da Estória Universal (Afonso Cruz)
- The System of Vienna (Gert Jonke)

Larry Nolen said...

I'll investigate those in the near future, as the titles alone look appealing to me :D

Eddie C said...

I'd imagine you've read it, but Stepan Chapman's The Troika is fucking weird but also readable. And oddly for a completely batshit surrealist novel, sorta has a plot as well. I really enjoyed it.

Larry Nolen said...

I have, but that's exactly the sort of book I want to see listed here :D

Mimouille said...

You could try Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Robert Mathurin. In a totally other genre Wraeththu by Storm Constantine is quite disturbing. You can also try the wonderful Flatland by Edwin Abbot.

Larry Nolen said...

Read and enjoyed the Melmoth and Flatland novels, will eventually get around to looking at the Constantine book.

Unknown said...

Larry: Yes, that's the same Wallace. Ray in Reverse is pretty interesting in terms of its structure.

And the Tutuola is, in my opinion, amazing, though I can't quite describe why. I just remember reading it for a class and being unable to put it down, which is high praise, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

What about The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov)?

Larry Nolen said...

Like I said, very curious about the Tutuola.


Bulgakov's book would fit nicely. Meant to review it a couple of months ago when I read it, but I just never allotted the time for it. Maybe later.

Keith said...

On the Bulghakov note, some other russian writers, most notably Gogol, and more notably too, his short fiction. "The Nose" being a particularly good start.

Larry Nolen said...

I agree, and I'd add his "The Overcoat" as well. I reviewed both stories back in May or June, but am too lazy to search now :P

Daniel Ausema said...

I came across an odd little 70s-era book recently, Jog Rummage. It's not quite surreal in the same sense as some of these others, but certainly an "original work of the imagination," in sort of a Mervyn Peake-does-Wind in the Willows kind of way.

Larry Nolen said...

Interesting. Who was the author?

Gabriele Campbell said...

Well, there's always Kafka. :)

Just throwing out a few titles that immediately came into my mind. I'm not sure which of those are avaliable in English, so I give the original titles.

Balzac: Le Peau de Chagrin

Theodoer Storm: Der Schimmelreiter (The White Rider, I've seen that one in English), Der Doppelgänger, Ein Fest auf Haderslevhus

TEA Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (and pretty much everything else he wrote)

Wilhelm Hauff: Das Kalte Herz

Selma Lagerlöf: The Coachman (Körkarlen), Lord Arne's Treasure (Herr Arnes Penningar) - her Gösta Berling has a dreamlike quality that veers towards magic realism as well

Victor Rydberg: Singoalla

Ibsen: Per Gynt (ok, that one's a play but it should fit)

And if you want to do some book hunting and improving your German, this collection of 19th century German stories includes a good number of stories that could be classified as Magic Realism, Fantasy, or Paranormal.

Ovid's Metamorphosis and Apuleius' Golden Ass might fit the list as well.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Ops, that should be ETA Hoffmann

Gabriele Campbell said...

Checked my complete works of Theodoer Storm. Der Doppelgänger actually doesn't fit because the mystery is explained in the end.

But here's another one, more along the lines of modern surrealism: Halldor Laxness, At the Glacier.

Gabriele Campbell said...

I bet you have Italo Calvino on your shelves already. :)

Daniel Ausema said...

Grahame Wright wrote Jog Rummage. There's a brief review from Paul Di Filippo that appeared in F&SF, thought that's not how I found it. It was actually one of the covers I saw amidst the many books Jeff VanderMeer posted a month or two back...I forget the context now. A trip to a used bookstore? The cover is very 70s, which is what caught my attention.

Daniel Ausema said...

PS It's also among the list of The SF Site's "Ten Overlooked Odd Speculative Fiction Classics." Again, something I discovered after reading it.

Anonymous said...

A lot of Dahl.

Brian Lindenmuth said...

I'll add to the dogpile FWIW and as a reminder for all the folks who get dinged saying that there is a new response to this thread that I'm probably Larry's only reader who primarily reads crime fiction.

Printer's Devil by Stona Fitch - Fitch has written 4 novels (I believe) and this is his third one. A kind of post-apocalyptic SF story about warring guilds. Think Ball Peen Hammer by Adam Rapp

The works of Bradley Denton - What's he written now? Three novels? There all unique and relevant.

The works of Jack O'Connell - 5 novels I believe. I once wrote that if the New Weird produced a crime fiction writer then Jack O'Connell would be him.

How about some of the nebulously grouped "dark fantasies".

Tom Piccirilli's horror work springs to mind like A CChoir of Ill Children.

Also The Throne of Bones by Brian McNaughton

Also Patrick O'Leary. He wrote three novels and they are all brilliant. Door Number Three, The Gift and The Impossible Bird.

I just got in from a long day in court so this is all off the top of my head. I'll try to add to it after I've had a chance to take a look at my shelves.

But I recommend all of the above as highly original works of imagination.

Anonymous said...

Box Nine by Jack O'Connell is great as is the Resurrectionist. For odd and original , I've just ransacked my bookshelves and come up with:

--Eric Basso's Revagations
--Thomas Wharton's The Logogryph
--Frederick Prokosch's The Seven Who Fled
--George Buchner's Lenz
--The Architect of Ruins (can't remember the author)
--Henry Wessels, Another Green World
--Marghanita Laski's The Victorian Chaise-Longue
--Kurahashi Yumiko's The Woman With the Flying Head
--Gerald Kersh's Nightshade and Damnations
--Great Science Fiction About Doctors, edited by Groff Conklin & Noah D. Fabricant (not making this up)
--Hiromo Goto's Hopeful Monsters
--Ligotti and Trenz's Crampton


PS I'm gonna show this thread to Anne Sydenham...she'll have dozens.

Larry Nolen said...

I nap for a few hours and I come back to even more excellent recs! Yay!

Jeff, is it Herbert Rosendorfer for Architect of Ruins? Description sounds exactly like the sort of book I'd love.

And yes, I'd love to hear Anne's suggestions, as her Eye Candy posts have been excellent over the past couple of years.

quinden said...

William Browning Spenser has some great ones - Resume With Monsters is a lot of fun. The Stone Junction by Jim Dodge was a lot of fun as well.

On the graphic novel/manga front, Uzumaki by Junji Itoh is fantastic.

Chad Hull said...

I know you've already read it, but I'm finishing up Edward Whittemore's Jerusalem Quartet, and 'original' is the best word I can think of when describing him (that or, absurd.)

Tom Robbin's more mature works weird as hell and original as well. For both of those authors I'd say no one else could have written their stories.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I believe it. Of course, then I realized I hadn't gone through all of my Dedalus editions. jv

Larry Nolen said...

That reminds me, I really do need to get more of the Dedalus editions.

Anonymous said...

I've just finished reading Zoran Živkovic's Escher's Loops. I don't know if that would count?

The structure of the novel is certainly unusual. The stories that make up the whole are (mostly) fairly straight-forward. The interlinking of the stories, done to suggest an Escher picture, natch, is very well done.

You're right, though...some excellent suggestions, The Master and Margarita is one of my favourite novels and this thread has reminded me that I need to read Melmoth the Wanderer.

Cheers Richard

SuperwebG said...

Currently I'm reading the short story collection 'The Encyclopedeia of the Dead' by Danilo Kis, which, given your affection for Borges, you may want to check out.

And if you want a recommendation for a 19th century fantasy epic which is somewhat different, Penguin is finally publishing an abridged version of the Urdu fantasy epic Tilism-e-Hoshruba next month:,,9780143102724,00.html

I wouldn't suggest holding out for the unabridged version, as only 1 of the 24 volumes have been translated into english so far:

This epic draws a great deal on the medieval epic, the Hamza-nama, which has also been recently translated:

Brian Lindenmuth said...

Also Windward Passage by Jim Nisbet and Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if these qualify as obscure, they're all very well known in Poland and the first two authors are quite well known in the West as well, but:

Bruno Schulz: Street of the Crocodiles and Sanatorium under the Houglass

Witold Gombrowicz Ferdydurke (make absolutely sure you do not get the first translation)

and, jumping from the interwar into the nineties:
Olga Tokarczuk Primeval and Other Times and House of Day, House of Night

Also, if you haven't read Gunther Grass' Tin Drum you might want to try it.

Going into postwar French lit there's Michel Tournier's The Ogre which, like Tin Drum takes place in what was Eastern Germany
during WWII.


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