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Tell us…

…your top novels.

Blindness, Jose Saramago, 1995

Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy, 1985

Desperate Characters, Paula Fox, 1970

Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee, 1999

G, John Berger, 1972

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson, 1980

Light Years, James Salter, 1975

The Rings of Saturn, W.G. Sebald, 1995

Stoner, John Williams, 1965

28 thoughts on “Tell us…

  1. closer by dennis cooper

    on the yard by malcolm braly

    blood meridian by cormac mccarthy

    the tunnel by william gass

    white noise by don delillo

    mrs. dalloway by virginia woolf

    go down, moses by william faulkner

  2. first and foremost:

    The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway
    Minotaur by Benjamin Tammuz
    The Journey of Ibn Fattouma by Naguib Mahfouz

    then there’s…

    How All This Started by Pete Fromm
    Stardog by Jack Driscoll
    Austerlitz by WG Sebald
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
    The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner
    The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald
    Ulysses by Joyce
    Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
    House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
    You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers
    Sunnyside by Glen David Gold
    Hush Up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt by Ken Sparling (not even being self-serving here, this is genuinely my favorite Sparling, though they are all pretty close to being on my favorite novels of all time list)

    i’m sure i’ll get torched for at least one of those but whatevs.

    1. Great list! I’d like to see Harold Bloom read this list, read it out loud, he’d say, “Austerlitz by WG Sebald and then…we have… Hush up (what?) Hush up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt by…what did I just say?”

      Sparling is Sparkling.

      I had to use Cliff Notes to get through Sound and Fury, that was a while ago – I needed to know what went on.

      1. My mom was telling me today that she ran into an old teacher of mine and that she was telling her about the press and everything. Then she said, “I didn’t tell her the title of the book you published because I always feel like I’m going to get the ‘stinky butt’ part wrong”

  3. Oh, God, I could never list all of them, but here are some of my absolute favorites from the past 100 years or so:

    . SISTER CARRIE, Theodore Dreiser, 1900
    . THE WINGS OF THE DOVE, Henry James, 1902
    . JAKOB VON GUNTEN, Robert Walser, 1909
    . THE RAINBOW, D.H. Lawrence, 1915
    . THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, Booth Tarkington, 1918
    . ULYSSES, James Joyce, 1922
    . A PASSAGE TO INDIA, E. M. Forster, 1924
    . MRS. DALLOWAY, Virginia Woolf, 1925
    . THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD, Agatha Christie, 1926
    . APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA, John O’Hara, 1934
    . NIGHTWOOD, Djuna Barnes, 1936
    . THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, Zora Neale Hurston, 1937
    . FERDYDURKE, Witold Gombrowicz, 1938
    . AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS, Flann O’Brien, 1939
    . THE JOURNAL OF ALBION MOONLIGHT, Kenneth Patchen, 1941
    . THE POKY LITTLE PUPPY, Janette Sebring Lowrey, 1942*
    . TWO SERIOUS LADIES, Jane Bowles, 1943
    . 1984, George Orwell, 1948
    . BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL, Robert McCloskey, 1948*
    . THE SHELTERING SKY, Paul Bowles, 1949
    . THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, C.S. Lewis, 1952
    . INVISIBLE MAN, Ralph Ellison, 1953
    . LOLITA, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
    . LA JALOUSIE, Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1957
    . THE JEWELS OF APTOR, Samuel R. Delany, 1962
    . THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES, Kobo Abe, 1962
    . THE PRYDAIN CHRONICLES, Lloyd Alexander, 1964–8
    . DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?, Philip K. Dick, 1968
    . SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, Kurt Vonnegut, 1969
    . DO YOU HEAR THEM?, Nathalie Sarraute, 1972
    . SAW, Steve Katz, 1972
    . TRIPTICKS, Ann Quin, 1972
    . IMAGINATIVE QUALITIES OF ACTUAL THINGS, Gilbert Sorrentino, 1971
    . TATLIN!, Guy Davenport, 1974**
    . LIZARD MUSIC, Daniel Manus Pinkwater, 1976
    . CEREBUS THE AARDVARK, Dave Sim and Gerhard, 1977–2004
    . IF ON A WINTER’S NIGHT A TRAVELER, Italo Calvino, 1979
    . TOTTO-CHAN, THE LITTLE GIRL AT THE WINDOW, Tetsuko Kuroyana, 1981
    . THE MALADY OF DEATH, Margeurite Duras, 1982
    . BLOOD AND GUTS IN HIGH SCHOOL, Kathy Acker, 1984
    . BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynne Varley, 1986
    . DEATH IN SPRING, Mercè Rodoreda, 1986
    . WATCHMEN, Allan Moore and David Gibbons, 1986
    . CIGARETTES, Harry Mathews, 1987
    . WITTGENSTEIN’S MISTRESS, David Markson, 1988
    . THE ART LOVER, Carole Maso, 1990
    . THREE BLONDES AND DEATH, Yuriy Tarnawsky, 1993
    . GOD HEAD, Scott Zwiren, 1996

    *Technically “children’s books,” but they’re self-contained, and like novels when you’re a wee one.
    **Technically a story collection, but the whole thing has to be read together to really make sense, and the final story “The Dawn in Erewhon,” is as long as a novel.

      1. I liked the excerpt that Francine Prose had in her book about Two Serious Ladies – that is on my list.

        Will somebody help me? I can’t seem to read a novel. I start and stop. Went through three this morning. What should I read first? Last? Explain your answer.

        Two Serious Ladies
        The Tunnel
        Omensetter’s Luck
        The Castle
        Gospel According to Jesus Christ

        1. I start and stop novels all the time. I think that’s normal. They’re undertakings! And pity the poor person who had to write it… As someone once said, no single person will ever spend as long reading a novel as the author did writing it.

          Of the above, with no other knowledge, I’d go with the Castle first. Because it’s the oldest, and that’s a good reason. It will inform the others; the other authors may even have read it.

          The Tunnel is a great book but it’s a big commitment. And I’d definitely read O-Luck first. Also, note that you can listen to Gass reading The Tunnel aloud should you like—so you can save it for car trips!

          Two Serious Ladies is a work of brilliance but I’d read the Castle first.

          Regarding which, I haven’t read the Mark Harman’s translation yet, but folks say it’s BIG DIFFERENT from the Muir translation.

          But first, you should read THE MALADY OF DEATH, as a warm-up. I love that book. You can finish it in like five minutes, and feel good the whole rest of the day.

        2. Omensetter’s Luck because it offers Gass’s strengths, that is, close limning of consciousness, luscious lyricism, and essayistic asides in condensed form, well, at least in contrast with The Tunnel. Here’s DFW on OL: “Gass’ first novel, and his least avant-gardeish, and his best. Basically a religious book. Very sad. Contains the immortal line ‘The body of Our Saviour shat but Our Saviour shat not.’ Bleak but gorgeous, like light through ice.”
          http://www.salon.com/books/bag/1999/04/12/wallace/index.html

          The Tunnel is a beast. It will eat you up and spit out the pieces, and you will resemble the remains an owl hacks up after finishing a meal. While certainly all-consuming, you can break your reading into its twelve “philippics.” Why read it? Because it will stretch you.

  4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
    Easter Parade & Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
    White Noise & Americana by Don DeLillo
    The Verificationist & Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim
    Home Land (& The Ask…?) by Sam Lipsyte

  5. RECOLLECTIONS OF A GOLDEN TRIANGLE / TOPOLOGY OF A PHANTOM CITY by ALAIN ROBBE-GRILLET
    PERIOD by DENNIS COOPER
    THE SHIP by HANS HENNY JAHNN
    JULIA AND THE BAZOOKA by ANNA KAVAN
    THE IMPOSSIBLE by GEORGES BATAILLE
    COMPACT by MAURICE ROCHE
    THE PARK by PHILIPPE SOLLERS
    STRANGE LANDSCAPE by TONY DUVERT
    TEATRO GROTTESCO by THOMAS LIGOTTI
    THE DRIVER’S SEAT by MURIEL SPARK
    IN YOUTH IS PLEASURE by DENTON WELCH
    PLAY IT AS IT LAYS by JOAN DIDION
    MOUNT ANALOGUE by RENE DAUMAL
    THE STORY OF O by PAULINE REAGE
    THE EYES by JESUS IGNACIO ALDAPUERTA
    VICTIMS by JOHN HEJDUK
    POWR MASTRS by CF
    THE CAGE by MARTIN VAUGHN-JAMES
    HOUSE OF LEAVES by MARK Z DANIELEWSKI
    SWEET SWEAT by JUSTINE FRANK

    There are three books with apocryphal authors on my list.

  6. Hey Greg & all,

    I probably read far less fiction than a lot of you folks, but here are some of my favorites off the top of my head that I didn’t see mentioned:

    PALE FIRE, Vladimir Nabokov
    IMPRESSIONS OF AFRICA, Raymond Roussel
    THE UNNAMABLE, Samuel Beckett
    THE WAVES, Virginia Woolf
    A NEST OF NINNIES, John Ashbery & James Schuyler
    EUNOIA, Christian Bök

      1. Mike: If you like Roussel, then IMPRESSIONS is going to knock your socks off– it’s just incomparable. You should procure a copy ASAP!

        And, yeah, LOCUS SOLUS is fantastic.

        1. LOCUS SOLUS is fantastic, but that translation is…something else. I kind of like it, but largely for perverse reasons. There needs to be another one done, pronto.

  7. Flann O’Brien, Joyce, Woolf, Nabokov – it’s all there already.
    I’d like to add JIMMY CORRIGAN, THE SMARTEST KID ON EARTH by Chris Ware, and TRISTRAM SHANDY – Laurence Sterne.

  8. 100 Years of Solitude by GGM
    One of Ours by Willa Cather
    East of Eden by John Steinbeck
    Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
    Family by J. California Cooper
    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
    Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow
    Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
    Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
    Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner
    The Color Purple by Alice Walker
    The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
    Anne Frank’s Diary

    Just to name a few…

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