Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Guardian List of Ignored Books

Perhaps the ultimate project of this blog ought to be appreciating the under-appreciated. The Guardian's list is interesting and even exciting, and I haven't read a thing on it (except for Flannery O'Connor, who must be under-appreciated in Britain). However, I've already checked abebooks.com -- some of these books will be a challenge to track down.

Whoops, I just noticed there's a page 2, and I have read a couple on that page -- Breece D'J Pancake's collection (mentioned here a couple months ago, I think) and, intriguingly, Mary Robison's strange, manic, and wonderful little novel Why Did I Ever. I first read her stories in college -- An Amateur's Guide to the Night is unforgettable, a masterpiece of 80's "minimalism" (I put that term in quotes because it doesn't really do justice to that whole decade's literature, but it's still apt. The stories are short and tightly constructed. How would they come off today, I wonder? Some books time-travel better than others.)

JRL will be pleased see that one of his favorites, Ishiguro's The Unconsoled, is there, too.

Of course, appreciating the under-appreciated is an endless task, since most books are completely ignored, and many, many good ones among them. A few more just came to mind:

Rachel Cusk's The Country Life: an extremely funny novel about a woman with a mysterious past who starts her life over as an au pair for an upper class family with a disabled son. The language is convoluted in places and the ending falls to pieces, but this is a highly original novel and great fun.

Kathryn Davis's Labrador: an imaginative and highly idiosyncratic novel about a pair of sisters and a polar bear. Davis is not everyone's cup of tea, for sure, but this is a wonderful book.

Charles Baxter's First Light seems to have been reprinted last year. Good! I think it's his best novel, though I feel bad saying so, since it was also his first. It's about an astrophysicist and her brother, and it goes backward in time. One wouldn't think that could work, but it does.

6 comments:

jrlennon said...

Hooray Unconsoled!

So Rhian, we have to either figure out what happened to our Country Life or buy a new copy. I think we probably lent it out. :-(

zoe said...

I love The Country Life. I think Rachel Cusk is a great writer although I haven't enjoyed her other books as much. In fact, even if I'm not engaged greatly by what happens (if anything happens) in the novels, I still keep pausing and reading out bits to my long-suffering husband.
Her writing about motherhood is particularly good.

moonlight ambulette said...

I LOVE _Labrador_. I loved that book so much that it made me start my blog! I was bursting with book-love I didn't know what to do with.

_First Light_ is great, too. When I told Charlie Baxter (my grad school professor)I was reading it, he kind of sighed and said, "Oh right, First Light. People don't always appreciate that book. Because, you know, of that whole 'not having a plot' thing."

!!

I thought the book was excellent just the way it is. But then again, I'm not exactly a plot-addict.

jrlennon said...

zoe, I agree, Rachel Rusk hasn't really risen to that level of antic strangeness again...I enjoyed reading "Arlington Park" for instance but it never seemed to be about anything especially interesting.

She IS good on motherhood, though.

jrlennon said...

Rachel CUSK, I mean. Who am I, Scooby Doo?

Anonymous said...

I didn't even notice. I must be Shaggy.