Here are some novels written in the 1960s that are nearly forgotten now, but are exceptionally good.
‘The Millstone’ by Margaret Drabble (1965) - A long time ago, before ‘Possession’, Margaret Drabble was a famous fiction writer, while her sister A. S. Byatt wrote in near obscurity. Drabble was one of the first woman writers whose work I followed closely. The precocious Drabble wrote several novels while still in her twenties, all very popular. If you wanted to know what the twenty-somethings were doing in London, you read Margaret Drabble. I didn’t start reading Drabble until the late seventies, but was soon addicted. This novel was turned into a Sixties movie, ‘A Touch of Love’.
‘Friday’ by Michel Tournier (1967) – This novel is a re-telling of the Robinson Crusoe story but instead of Crusoe and culture triumphing over nature, here Crusoe reverts to savagery and is only saved by the primitive Friday, all told in the indescribable Tournier style. I’ve read nearly everything that this French writer has written. This short book is a good place to start with Michel Tournier, one of the best fiction writers of the twentieth century. Here is a quote from Tournier.
- Everything is a sign. But we need a light or a loud shout to pierce our myopia or our deafness.
‘In a Summer Season’ by Elizabeth Taylor (1961) – Elizabeth Taylor is probably the most under-rated author who ever lived. Her novels and stories are spectacular. I’ve read them all. Perhaps the problem is that she shared a name with a popular actress. She is finally getting some of the recognition she deserves, since two of her novels have been made into movies during the last five years (‘Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont.’ and ‘The Real Life of Angel Devereaux’) Here are two quotes from the author Elizabeth Taylor.
- Importance isn’t important – Good writing is.
The whole point is that writing has a pattern and life hasn’t. Life is so untidy. Art is so short and life so long. It is not possible to have perfection in life but it is possible to have perfection in a novel.
‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ by Hubert Selby, Jr. (1964) a novel about the bleak and brutal life on the back streets and projects of New York. This book was prosecuted for obscenity in Great Britain and was banned in Italy. The book is also a novel of immense power and raw poetry. Selby was a heroin addict. Selby was also called ‘probably one of the six best novelists writing in the English language’ (Financial Times)