1990s

Many novelists of the 1990s are still publishing regularly.  Here are some excellent novels by writers whom I haven’t heard much about lately.

“Homeboy” by Seth Morgan (1990) – Seth Morgan was an heir to the Ivory Soap fortune.  This allowed him to purchase huge amounts of cocaine and other drugs.  He was Janis Joplin’s boyfriend when she died; later he got in trouble for an armed robbery and the severe injury of a woman who was a passenger on his motorcycle. He took up fiction writing in prison.  “Homeboy” is a savagely comic novel of the San Francisco underworld of junkies, pimps,  drag queens, and hookers.  I read “Homeboy” and strongly recommend it if you like this kind of book.  Seth Morgan died in a motorcycle accident in October, 1990 at the age of 41, one day after receiving a DUI.

“Land Girls” by Angela Huth (1994)  – While most of the young men are off fighting World War II, three young London women go out to rural England to work on the farm.  This is the story of Pru, Ag, and Stella as they adapt to hard work and find humor, romance, and happiness on the farm,  This good-natured novel has stayed vivid in my mind.  Angela Huth’s other novels and her short stories are all extremely good. 

 “Going Native” by Stephen Wright (1995) – How to even describe this wild novel?  “Going Native” is about the “round-the-clock bombardment of inanity and violence that has so thoroughly invaded mundane existence as to render it cartoon-like.” – Necrofile.  Each chapter of this novel contains new vagabond off-slant characters.  If you thought the post-modernist fiction movement was over, you haven’t read Stephen Wright who is probably the best.  He takes a long time to write each book; his last novel “The Amalgamation Polka” was written in 2004.  I’ve read all of his novels and eagerly look forward to the next.  Wright puts the ‘novel’ in novel.  This novel is for the adventurous.

 “The Archivist” by Martha Cooley (1998) – an exciting novel of ideas about a librarian researching poet T. S. Eliot’s letters to an American woman while Eliot’s wife Vivienne is in a mental institution.  There are parallels between the life of the archivist and the life of T’S Eliot that are explored as are many of the intellectual issues of last century.

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 “Henry and Clara” by Thomas Mallon (1994) – This is an historical novel about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln told from the perspective of the two people who shared the theatre box with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln.  This novel far exceeds the average historical novel in the vivid portrayal of its characters.  I have enjoyed several of Thomas Mallon’s novels, although I doubt we would agree on many political issues.

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“Father and Son” by Larry Brown (1996) Larry Brown was a fire fighter in Oxford, Mississippi, took a creative writing course, quit his job to write.  This novel is the story of a man on the day he is released from prison and tells the story of his return to the horrific acts that got him put into prison in the first place.  This is the darkest form of realism, of miserable people committing despicable crimes. Perhaps the best way to describe Larry Brown is that he was the exact opposite of Thomas Mallon.  Larry Brown died in 2004 at the age of 53.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bruce H. on November 5, 2013 at 5:58 am

    How awesome that you mentioned “Homeboy!” I read that book back in the 1990′s and completely fell in love with it, pushed it on at least a dozen friends, none of whom got it, so I’m happy to find someone else who did. Great book. I always wondered why he didn’t write more books, and I remember in 1997 calling the publisher of “Homeboy” to find the name of his agent to see if he/she would consider representing me, and that’s how I found out he’d died. That was in the days before Wikipedia. I was heartbroken, what a great writer he was.

    Reply

    • Hello Bruce H,
      I guess they made a movie of ‘Homeboy’ at one point. I haven’t watched it yet, fearing it won’t live up to the book. It is kind of amazing that he had the self discipline to write a novel after the wild life he had led up to that point. I suppose in prison he had nothing better to do, and that wouldn’t be the first time prison helped produce a novel.
      Sooner or later, someone will have the good idea to reprint ‘Homeboy’, and maybe Seth Morgan will get the recognition he deserves. That would be a good choice for the NYRB Classics series if someone else doesn’t grab it first.
      Thanks for your interesting comments and for stopping by.

      Reply

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