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Essential modern fiction


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#1 Wilfrid1

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 04:54 PM

Let's say, 1977 and later. Which books - novels, short stories - are really essential reading?

I will be interested to see if there's any consensus, or whether personal tastes are all over the place.


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#2 g.johnson

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 05:49 PM

Off the top of my head, with a bias towards works in English English and in approximate order of utter wonderfulness.

Rings of Saturn W.G. Sebald -- unlike anything else you will ever read.
Company Sam Beckett -- a late but great work
Money Martin Amis -- essense of Amis
Last Orders Graham Swift -- a work to kill yourself by
L.A. Confidential James Ellroy -- reinvention of the detective story
Atonement Ian McEwan -- greatest novelist of anxiety of recent years (ever?)


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#3 Wilfrid1

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 05:58 PM

Good. Last Orders has been on my list for a while.

Scanning the Modern Library top 100s (chosen by the Board and by the readers), I see A Bend in the River, which I've read, and Rushdie's biggies which I've not. There's some sci fi and horror/fantasy stuff too, which I'll ignore. Also Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison.

Opinions on Rushdie and Morrison?


ETA: The reason for this is that I was lingering over ancient translations of Bjornsterne Bjornson in a library at the weekend, and it made me feel guilty about hardly ever reading contemporary fiction.
Elect-a-lujah

***Every Monday***At the Sign of the Pink Pig.

If the author could go around the place hitting random readers with a rubber hammer, the Pink Pig would still be worth a visit.

#4 g.johnson

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 06:05 PM

I hesitate to pontificate* on Indian novels given the presence of experts but I thought Midnight's Children and Shame great when I read them. Everything since has been a disappointment but I don't know whether that's due to a change in my tastes or his writing. I also thought to include Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, a lovely old-fashioned novel.
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#5 g.johnson

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 06:05 PM

I should add...

*A first.
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#6 Daisy

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 06:10 PM

Midnight's Children was pretty great.

So far as Atwood goes, I think Alias Grace may be her best. And I concur on Money for an Amis work.

I remain unconvinced about Morrison (now mongo will come on and scold me).

I adored A Suitable Boy. And yes, it was old-fashioned.
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#7 GG Mora

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 06:15 PM

I should think some Raymond Carver belongs on the list. Or are we not talking about short stories?

#8 mongo_jones

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 06:28 PM

"midnight's children" may be a more significant novel in terms of literary history, but "the satanic verses" is the only rushdie i would list as essential.

morrison's "song of solomon" and "beloved"
naipaul's "the enigma of arrival" (most of his best stuff is in the 50s, 60s and early 70s, but this is a stunner)
coetzee, "disgrace"
farah, "maps"
ghosh, "in an antique land" (blend of fiction and non-fiction)
ondaatje, "in the skin of a lion"
delillo, "white noise"
atwood, "alias grace"
alexie, "the lone-ranger and tonto fistfight in heaven"

i'm afraid i haven't read a lot of contemporary american fiction. i imagine auster and roth would get some mentions. of johnson's list i've only read "money", which i would include.

there are a lot of good books, but essential? regardless i'm sure i've left out some.



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#9 Miguel Gierbolini

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 06:34 PM

pynchon then is overrated, kaufman too?
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#10 mongo_jones

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 06:35 PM

QUOTE(Miguel Gierbolini @ Dec 31 2007, 12:34 PM) View Post
pynchon then is overrated, kaufman too?


pynchon's great books are pre-1974

who is kaufman?

my annoying opinions: whisky, food and occasional cultural commentary

 

 

current recipe: indian home cooking 7: chapatis and parathas

 

current restaurant review: back to bangkok thai deli

 

current whisky review: springbank 12 cask strength, batch 7

 

facts are meaningless. you could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!
~homer simpson


 


#11 Miguel Gierbolini

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 06:37 PM

QUOTE(mongo_jones @ Dec 31 2007, 02:35 PM) View Post
QUOTE(Miguel Gierbolini @ Dec 31 2007, 12:34 PM) View Post
pynchon then is overrated, kaufman too?


pynchon's great books are pre-1974

who is kaufman?


I don't know. I meant Roth.
"I mispoke."

#12 Wilfrid1

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 06:48 PM

I did include short stories in my first post.

"Essential" is just a haphazard attempt to get people to list works of some significance rather than just personal faves.

That Sebald does look good. I suppose some of you might include Murakami? The Kafka one?

Styron? Sophie's Choice was '79. Robert Stone?
Elect-a-lujah

***Every Monday***At the Sign of the Pink Pig.

If the author could go around the place hitting random readers with a rubber hammer, the Pink Pig would still be worth a visit.

#13 porkwah

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 06:51 PM

I don't read enough post-1974 fiction to know, really, what is up with it, and besides, there's a whole lot of it.

I'll just mention Alice Munro (can't decide which one right now) and Raymond Carver (ditto).

I haven't read all the Roth there is. I thought Everyman was an excellent book, and it goes into areas of universal discomfort I've not read about much before. One of the few books I've read that hit me in an existential, personal way.

How about Ben Marcus? (Probably not, but I like him.)

I've tried with Morrison and Atwood but can't get into them. I'm one to put books down quickly if I don't like them, and even more quickly if I feel they are too manipulative, so it's possible I haven't given them their due. I don't enjoy Delillo either because I think he's too full of himself.

Mongo, you'd really put Sherman Alexie on your list?

man, i need a headache


#14 Miguel Gierbolini

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 06:53 PM

I have heard Rushdie is pretty good also.
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#15 g.johnson

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 07:07 PM

QUOTE(Wilfrid @ Dec 31 2007, 01:48 PM) View Post
"Essential" is just a haphazard attempt to get people to list works of some significance rather than just personal faves.

I probably failed then though Sebald really, really, really is essential.

I know I included Beckett*, but should people like Pynchon and Bellow really be included since their greatest works were pre-1977?

*I do think that Company is amongst the greatest of his prose works.
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