Here are some nearly forgotten novels from the 1980s which are exceptionally good.
Aberration of Starlight by Gilbert Sorrentino
(1980) – Although Gilbert Sorrentino, who died earlier this year, wrote the post-modernist classic “Mulligan Stew”, he also wrote some sweet emotional realistic novels. This is my favorite, A date in New Jersey is described from four different points of view. It is humorous, sad, and moving.
(1981) and Time After Time
(1983) by Molly Keane –
First she was M. J. Farrell and wrote 10 novels from 1928 to 1961 when her
husband died. She stopped writing for twenty years, then came back gloriously as Molly Keane. ‘Good Behaviour’ was shortlisted for the Booker in 1981 losing to Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Chil;dren’. I doubt either of these two Keane novels is forgotten by anyone who has read them. Molly Keane was in her mid-seventies when these books were published. These books are sharply written dark comedies about self-destructive aristocratic Irish-Anglo families who live in manors.
‘My Present Age’ (1985) and ‘Homesick’ (1989) by Guy Vanderhaeghe There are few authors whose next book I look forward to with more anticipation than Guy Vanderhaeghe, the Saskatchewan, Canada novelist. I tuned into Vanderhaeghe early on with these two novels and also his book of short stories ‘Man Descending’. I’ve read everything he’s published and have never been disappointed. Each of his novels is an adventure. Here is a quote from “My Present Age”.
“Embrace one another with courage. Search each other’s hearts for hidden suffering and never flee what you discover! That’s the ticket!”
Sweetsir by Helen Yglesias (1981) – A novel about a woman’s “justifiable” murder of her husband with a carving knife. Helen Yglesias tells the detailed story starting with the girl in high school to her romance with Morgan Sweetsir to their marriage and early passion to his increasing violence against her. This is a novel that is based on the newspaper headlines, realistic but not at all melodramatic. Instead of a polemic, this is a human story.
An Ice-Cream War by William Boyd (1982) and ‘The Comfort of Strangers’ by Ian McEwan (1981) – How I miss the comic novels that William Boyd wrote early in his career and the short macabre novels that Ian McEwan wrote early in his career. Perhaps it was a good thing for these two novelists to mature and become well-rounded, but I really do miss their early work.