More Fiction Writers Who Were Too Good to be Forgotten

Last June I wrote an article about six less well-known fiction writers who wrote some mighty fine fiction.  However there are others who I would like to mention who were just too good to be forgotten, so here is a second list.

 

Sybille Bedford – She is considered an English writer, but she was originally from Germany and lived for a time in France and the United States.  With the help of Aldous Huxley and his wife and a sham marriage, she was able to escape France before Hitler got there.  She wrote non-fiction travel writings as well as four novels of which I have read all of them.  Perhaps she is most famous for ‘A Legacy’ and ‘Jigsaw – An Unsentimental Education’.   I have no doubts that Bedford will still be read a hundred years from now.

 

 

 

 

Nelson Algren – He wrote of the “drunks, pimps, prostitutes, freaks, drug addicts, prize fighters, corrupt politicians, and hoodlums” mostly in his hometown of Chicago.  He still is a controversial figure. He was the first major American figure to speak out against Joe McCarthy.  Algren did have his sensitive side; he had a long relationship with famous feminist Simone de Beauvoir and is portrayed in Beauvoir’s novel ‘The Mandarins’.  He wrote of the wild gritty side of life with a tough honesty. The three novels of his that stand out for me are ‘Never Come Morning’, ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’, and ‘A Walk on the Wild Side’.

 

 

Maeve Brennan – She was the Long-Winded Lady at the New Yorker from 1954 to 1968 and made sardonic observations about New York City life.  After that she was in and out of institutions treating her for mental illness and alcoholism.  Thus she does not have a long bibliography.   Her book of short stories ‘The Springs of Affection’ and short novel ‘The Visitor’ are both fine works.

“Many men and women found Maeve charming, and she was a true friend, but there wasn’t much you could do to save her from herself.” – William Maxwell

 

 

 

 

Karin Boye –  I have only read one novel by Karin Boye, ‘Kallocain’ , but that one novel is good enough so that she still deserves to be on this list.  ‘Kallocain’  is a dystopian novel about a drug that detects individual acts and thoughts of rebellion.  A drab totalitarian state results from the wholesale use of the drug.  ‘Kallocain’ was one of the inspirations for Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’.  Karin Boye committed suicide in 1941 at the age of 40.

 

 

 

 

 

Sandor Marai – He wrote in his native Hungarian, and he was not translated into English until the 1990s after he died. During his lifetime he managed to infuriate both the Nazis and the Communists, no small feat. ‘Embers’, his novel written in 1942, is his most justly famous.

“Elegiac, sombre, musical, and gripping, Embers is a brilliant disquisition on friendship, one of the most ambitious in literature.” – Anna Shapiro

 

 

 

 

Manuel Puig – He was born in Argentina in “a little town in the Pampas” but was exiled from Argentina for most of his life due to political reasons.  He was much influenced by old Hollywood movies of the 1930s and the 1940s, and one of his novels, ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman’, was made into a successful movie as well as a play.  Other novels by Puig that I really like are ‘Betrayed by Rita Hayworth’ and ‘Heartbreak Tango’.

“I write novels because there is something I don’t understand in reality.” – Manuel Puig

 

 

 

 

 

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15 responses to this post.

  1. I’m curious… how do you find these forgotten gems?

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    • Hi Lisa,
      I have a real easy method. Starting almost exactly forty years ago when I first really became avid about reading fiction, somehow I had the good sense to keep a list of each book and author I read along with a one to four star rating. When I prepare one of these lists, I go through my old lists looking for books and/or authors which I gave four stars and include some of those. Thus these lists are particularly strong in authors that were popular in the last forty years. 🙂 Besides the fiction that was popular at the time, I went through a Russian phase where I read the Russian classics, a Latin American phase, and an Australian phase which included most of Patrick White and Henry Handel Richardson among others. I believe the Australian phase started with ‘The Man Who Loved Children’ by Christina Stead which was being rediscovered at the time.

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      • Gosh, I wish I’d kept a reading record back then. I’ve done the best I can to reconstruct a record at Goodreads, but I’m always finding books that I’ve read and forgotten, or (more irritating) remembering reading them but not why I liked or didn’t like them.

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        • I should pay more attention to GoodReads. What I like about GoodReads are the extremely negative reviews of books that all the professional reviewers just love. 🙂
          It gives some needed perspective on the novel. I especially use it when I am writing a negative review.

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          • I like it for the reviews of my friends. I get most of my recommendations from the blogs I follow, but I like to see reviews from friends who don’t blog as well (after I’ve read the book and collected my own thoughts). I am very selective about whose reviews I follow and there’s a clever feature where you can compare books with potential friends, so you can tell if you are soul mates or not.

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  2. I too wish my reading records went further back! I began my master spreadsheet in 2006 but if I’d started it 30 years earlier I’d have captured the huge range of books I read in my late teens, 20s and 30s when I read so much, almost all of it older literature from Maigret to Greek and Roman Classics. I too had a Russian phase, and a long SF one. However, whenever I do re-read a book I first read back then, I’m finding joy in the rediscovery and a different better reading experience. Nelson Algren and Sybille Bedford are both on my shelves – both of whom will be totally new authors to me – I must try them before too long!

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    • Hi Annabel,
      I have never had a Roman phase, because I always thought the Greeks were superior when it came to literature. I have read a lot of the Greek plays but have not tackled Homer yet. Also I never had an SF phase although I’ve read a few of the classics. I suppose ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ would be considered Science Fiction. I’ve also had an English and Irish phase that has lasted for forty years. 🙂

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  3. An interesting list. I’m another one who hasn’t recorded their reading over the years, to my detriment now. If I’d only been more organised in my youth…

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  4. Maeve Brennan and Sandor Marai are both excellent. So now I have to search for the other writers you recommend here… 🙂

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  5. Ive red only one book by SybilleBedford A Favourite of the Gods. Very impressive

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