Re: Get yourself some books

1

Think of it as a one day race. In obscurity.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:03 AM
horizontal rule
2

A more interesting contest would be telling the QC people about the best book one has never heard of oneself.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 8:18 AM
horizontal rule
3

All the books I can think of either aren't in English, or are in the "so bad it's good" category.

Conrad Roth the blogger is a natural for this contest.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 8:41 AM
horizontal rule
4

Lion Feuchtwanger's "Josephus" trilogy is great historical fiction-- mixes the personal and the political in an extended allegory. Josephus tries for an impossibility, to be both jew and Roman. He has successes and failures, all true to the facts recorded about his life. As far as I can tell, Feuchtwanger knew the history of Roman Judaea pretty well. First volume published in 1932 when LF lived in Germany, last volume in 1942, after he escaped from an internment camp in France to settle in California.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:08 AM
horizontal rule
5

obscure


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:17 AM
horizontal rule
6

Leaves of Hypnos is pretty obscure, in both senses, but I nurse the hope that the promised new translation might relieve at least part of that state.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:35 AM
horizontal rule
7

now in translation!


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:43 AM
horizontal rule
8

I asked, and foreign-language books are acceptable, and so are "so bad it's good" books. You just have to rouse their curiosity.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:02 AM
horizontal rule
9

Read, can you recommend one or two of those books? The ones most like SB, maybe, rather than socialist realism?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:14 AM
horizontal rule
10

How about that portoguese romance, John?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:16 AM
horizontal rule
11

Ben, I suggest you write up In Sara, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Men and Women. Or would they have heard of that one?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:17 AM
horizontal rule
12

The ones most like SB, maybe, rather than socialist realism

I would happily read a novel by the Mongolian equivalent of Standpipe Bridgeplate.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:18 AM
horizontal rule
13

Bunya is a true story and our poetry i like all, just it's very difficult to translate, but he tried
like SB? you are asking an impossible thing it seems to me, he was possible in his time and place perhaps, but in ours perhaps it would be naturally soc realism with oriental flavour


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:22 AM
horizontal rule
14

11: The entry pretty much writes itself, I'm thinking some variant of:

In its very truly great manners of Ludwig van Beethoven very heroically the very cruelly ancestral death of Sara Powell Haardt had very ironically come amongst his very really grand men and women to Rafael Sabatini, George Ade, Margaret Storm Jameson, Ford Madox Hueffer, Jean-Jacques Bernard, Louis Bromfield, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche and Helen Brown Norden very titanically.

Something like that.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:25 AM
horizontal rule
15

I could combine this with the other thread and suggest Rudbeck's Atlantica.

http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fil:Atlantica.jpg


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:27 AM
horizontal rule
16

OT: My industry really sucks:

http://iconsoffright.com/news/2009/03/let_the_wrong_subtitles_in_to.html


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:47 AM
horizontal rule
17

16: The theatrical version I saw had the good titles. Those bad ones are quite bad.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:01 AM
horizontal rule
18

10: Top of my list.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:02 AM
horizontal rule
19

sorry, ToS, you didn't like it
9 i read some of the translations and they sound close to the originals imo, great, though how i can be sure in my English
glad that the thread made me search to find the translations, wouldn't know of them otherwise


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:13 AM
horizontal rule
20

Just name your favorites of the bunch, then, 2 or 3. Especially poetry.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:28 AM
horizontal rule
21

Is the Simon Wickham-Smith who translated those works the same Simon Wickham-Smith who collaborated with Richard Youngs on the album Red and Blue Bear? I certainly hope so.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:38 AM
horizontal rule
22

It is!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:39 AM
horizontal rule
23

Can't tell. They're listed together on Bookfinder. Even the translator has to be manic, by his productivity.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:40 AM
horizontal rule
24

He's in my Book of Heroes now.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:42 AM
horizontal rule
25

20 i understand that you don't have much time to read them all, but who am i to recommend books written before i even existed, for me they are all worthy and precious coz mine
or you want me to submit them for the competition?
woo, that would contradict to my inaction 'philosophy'


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:48 AM
horizontal rule
26
Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:03 PM
horizontal rule
27

This might be the right thread to ask: Anyone knows the name of the chinese comedy of manners novel that's about a merchant and his wives, where the first chapter is a parody of a scene in that big ol' classic?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:04 PM
horizontal rule
28

Plato's a good writer, but you can't appreciate most of the writing without following the philosophical arguments, which I can't do without like concentrating really hard.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:09 PM
horizontal rule
29

Schön's lowercase, not a noun.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:10 PM
horizontal rule
30

Actually, the theatrical version didn't have Ingrid's subtitles. You can't use them for DVD's for some technical reason I don't recall.

They were probably good too. They usually have some quality control (and pay better) with theatrical subtitles, but w DVD's they often don't care at all.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:16 PM
horizontal rule
31

30 to 17. Ingrid's actually an American who just happened to move to Sweden.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:16 PM
horizontal rule
32

Isn't 65 dollars a little cheap? Granted times are hard.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:29 PM
horizontal rule
33

The book it referenced was probably water margin/outlaws of the marsh (which is super awesome by the way, read it) at least it was reminiscent of the end of water margin.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:35 PM
horizontal rule
34

I really need to read Dream of the Red Chamber. And reread Water Margin, I haven't read it since I was a teenager.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:37 PM
horizontal rule
35

I think it's set in Song, and written in Ming.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:39 PM
horizontal rule
36

Oh, never mind, I found it myself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jin_Ping_Mei

The Plum in the Golden Vase (Chinese: 金瓶梅; pinyin: Jīn Píngméi) (also The Golden Lotus)


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:40 PM
horizontal rule
37

It's not "pornographic" per se, though certainly sexual, at least not in the 40s swedish translation I read. It had the most creative beautiful euphemisms + descriptions of sex.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:44 PM
horizontal rule
38

Swedes are pervs, as we know, albeit pervs who scrupulously respect traffic laws.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:46 PM
horizontal rule
39

I have really vivid memories of the TV version of the Water Margin, which was on UK tv around about the same time as Monkey.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:47 PM
horizontal rule
40

The 1940s introduction remarked how deeply alien and inscrutable the chinese were, in that they had a not too intensely devout, take-the-bits-you-like approach to religion.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:50 PM
horizontal rule
41

One time I read a comment of Ben W-lfs-n's - remember him - and understood it right away, in its entirety.

Top that.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:56 PM
horizontal rule
42

Go away, ToS.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:57 PM
horizontal rule
43

I was relieved when someone else finally posted something, even someone who called me Weeman.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 12:57 PM
horizontal rule
44

38: Made me wonder if this was the book that Paul Theroux described reading in Riding the Iron Rooster and turns out it is. He claims it was banned at the time in China (late '80s) and thought it quite good although explicitly pornographic, I went on reading 'Jin Ping Mei' marveling at its blend of manners, delicacy and smut.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 1:00 PM
horizontal rule
45

I just spent a while trying to find out why the characters for Water Margin are not simply translated as "marsh." Sometimes literalness can be informative, but sometimes it is just needlessly confusing. My first interpretation was "a portion of water." Also "edge" or "verge" of water, as in a beach.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 1:49 PM
horizontal rule
46

I had a translation called "Outlaws of the Marshes". The thing I remember most about it is how frequently innkeepers kill and cook their guests. Made travel very exciting, I bet!


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 2:19 PM
horizontal rule
47

"Marsh" does in English have connotations of wildness, marginality, independence, unregulation and yet I think is more attractive, or attractive in a different way from mountains or desert. A marsh is warmer, more organic and alive, more social more humane more survivable even if less spiritual.
I presume all these connotations are in the Chinese and perhaps more, if the marshes are traditionally where human discards go or are sent. If the empathy along with some sense of danger are heard in the word "marsh" then maybe Buxk's All Men are Brothers isn't so much worse than Outlaws of the Marsh But I think I would prefer Marsh Chronicles to both, retaining the ambiguity.

And Water Margin is just a fail, unless someone can explain why it is necessary.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 2:22 PM
horizontal rule
48

I think of the Cajun areas in Louisiana where Jean Lafitte and the others hid out.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 2:26 PM
horizontal rule
49

What I find remarkable is these chinese classics that have three titles in English. I guess it shows how little impact they've made in English, apart from the insanely condensed, presumably not too faithful, version of monkey.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 2:58 PM
horizontal rule
50

"Dream of the Red Chamber" is also "Story of the Stone".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 3:30 PM
horizontal rule
51

Version of Monkey is the name of the dystopian novel I'm working on, sort of a cross between The Glass Bees and the "Perfected Automaton" section of The Claim of Reason.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 3:46 PM
horizontal rule
52

What does SB stand for? Saul Bellow? Samuel Bonson? I must know.

Also:

… when someone else finally posted something, even someone who called me Weeman.

That is an obvious consequence of your inhabiting Sweeden.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:05 PM
horizontal rule
53

I was sort of hoping this thread would turn into a big fight about what's really the nation's best bookstore.

(I would agree that the Seminary Co-op is the nation's best bookstore specializing in new books. I don't have a clear opinion about used bookstores, or about how to compare a new-book-only store to a used bookstore.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:07 PM
horizontal rule
54

||

I'm going to visit Faulkner's home in MS tomorrow afternoon. I've never really gotten into anything he's written, but haven't tried for 30 years. I'm willing to read one thing on the plane ride home (and thereafter, if it's good enough). What should it be?

I like a good narrative. I'm not particularly interested in the pecularities of Southern culture.

|>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:10 PM
horizontal rule
55

The nation's best bookstore is St. Anselm's, than which no better bookstore can be conceived.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:12 PM
horizontal rule
56

The nation's best bookstore is the one that, when you go there, they have to let you in.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:13 PM
horizontal rule
57

52: Samuel Beckett.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:13 PM
horizontal rule
58

54: Maybe As I Lay Dying? It has the virtue, at least, of being relatively short.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:15 PM
horizontal rule
59

The nation's best bookstore is people.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:15 PM
horizontal rule
60

The Hamlet. It has the virtue of being accessible and not involving psychic characters.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:16 PM
horizontal rule
61

The hell with short and accessible. Absalom, Absalom. Trust me on this, CC.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:21 PM
horizontal rule
62

What *I* was hoping this thread would turn into is what our man Neb suggested: People suggesting good books you haven't heard of.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:44 PM
horizontal rule
63

I have a friend who is an unstinting font of recommendations for books I hadn't previously heard of. The last two recommendations I acted on were for The Melancholy of Resistance by Krasznahorkai and Vanishing-Point by Aristotelis Nikolaides, both very strange books.

The Melancholy of Resistance has this feature: the chapters are titleless and the paragraphs begin with no initial indentation, right at the top of the page; this really contributed, when I read it, to the feeling of being plunged right into the narrative without relief. These typesetting decisions, they really make a difference.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:54 PM
horizontal rule
64

I've already given y'all two certifed huge classics.

I've just finished another (minor 20th century) classic; The Worm Ourobourous. It's a hoot, adventures and a bit of tragedy. I didn't find the faux-shakespearean hard to take; and there sure are some pretty sentences.

A somewhat similar strange proto-fantasy novel written in faux-archaic is Fletcher Pratt's The Well of The Unicorn. Also adventures, but more wistful and a also a bit tragic.

Ouroubourous is maybe richer, but I think I like Well even more.

It can't have been read by many hundred people between the 40 and the millenium reissue.

(Note: doesn't feature unicorns)


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 4:56 PM
horizontal rule
65

Kallocain by Karin Boye. I was a kid when I read it, so can't vouch for quality, but I know it's intereeteresting in that you can't help compare it to 1984. (wikipedia says it's a classic). Kallocain's a bit more subtle and more depressing, if my 14 year old self can be trusted.

Boye killed herself in 41.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:15 PM
horizontal rule
66

OK, but nobody steal any of these. I want that money! All are NON FICTION.

"Loathsome Women": a psychoanalyst conclude that six of his patients are literally witches. In effect, he was trying to introduce the term "witch" to the professional diagnostic vocabulary.

"Tartar Khan's Englishman": An Englishmanresent at the signing of the Magna Charta eventually goes into the Mongol service, is captured by Christian troops, and is hanged. All characters in the book are attested in history, but it may well be that the author merged four characters into one to make the story read better.

"Os Sertaoes / Rebellion in the Backlands": A backwoods Manichaean cult made up substantially of semi-reformed criminals declares independence and fights off the army of the new Brazilian republic for a decade or more, repelling several expeditions with great loss of life.

And more!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:23 PM
horizontal rule
67

62:I'm sorry, but I really don't have a shortage of good books I haven't read, or read adequately. Today I added Water Margin, but six months ago I added, whatever, the seven? strategy books from warring kingdom era. Besides the multivolume histories of China & Japan.

Every single day the list oif books sinned against gets bigger. It never gets smaller. I swear, the books I haven't read have broken my heart and destroyed my mind.

Now, let's see:Zakaria, Franco-Prussian War, pre-Greek Heroic Tradition, Sappho, Francis Bacon, and Phi:The Golden Ratio. And then a good movie.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:27 PM
horizontal rule
68

Phi:The Golden Ratio

If this is the one I read, you can probably file it under bathroom reading.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:33 PM
horizontal rule
69

Scratch Zakaria.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:36 PM
horizontal rule
70

62: People suggesting good books you haven't heard of

But David. There have been many threads like that here. Not to mention that "good books" is, well, you know. I mean, I could tell you that Dennis Tedlock's translation of Popul Vuh is marvelous, but would you believe me?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:40 PM
horizontal rule
71

"Outlaws of the Marshes" (I think I'll go with that name) is a multi volume epic, but at least it's very entertaining, something of a page turner. It's humor and adventures, mainly.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:41 PM
horizontal rule
72

I liked "The Glass Bees", but the fact that it took place over the course of about four hours, consisting largely of flashbacks, was kind of disappointing.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:42 PM
horizontal rule
73

I dunno if I've lived up to it myself, but a thread where you describe strange and unique books are a little more interesting, no?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:43 PM
horizontal rule
74

spare, free time, i meant
when i reread my comments i often find it sounding very rude, sorry, JE, but really i don't know what to recommend
i'm not sure too that the translations are how i remembered the shorts stories were, something wrong, of course, with my memory and perception, they change, and in translation it all will sound pretty simple, like, objectively, coz too different languages/people
i didn't find any comic writers in the translations, in the obscure link there are some, untranslated, if i'll find some funny jokes i'll try to tell later maybe


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:43 PM
horizontal rule
75

I can't think of anything I've read that's sufficiently obscure that I would think they've never heard of it, apart from stupidly technical stuff. I suppose my tastes are hopelessly mainstream, for some value of mainstream.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:43 PM
horizontal rule
76

"Loathsome Women": a psychoanalyst conclude that six of his patients are literally witches. In effect, he was trying to introduce the term "witch" to the professional diagnostic vocabulary.

This sounds awesome.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:47 PM
horizontal rule
77

re: recommendations for (relatively) obscure books:

Guiseppe Genna's,
In the Name of Ishmael, which is a sort of occult thriller, but written by the editor of an Italian poetry journal in very un-thriller-esque prose.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/jul/03/featuresreviews.guardianreview18

Swift pacing, choppy sentences, sexual and narcotic urgency, staccato summaries and an Ellroyesque liking for dossiers combine to make the reader greedy for more, without necessarily being fully convinced, until Genna pulls off his most daring stroke, 100 pages in, by pretending to go inside the head of an imaginary character called Henry Kissinger

His (Genna's) prose is really quite lovely and the book is great.

Oh, and on the Italian tip, Luther Blisset's Q is well worth a read. Definitely the best novel about the Reformation ever written by a pseudonymous Italian anarchist collective named after a British footballer...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:47 PM
horizontal rule
78

Sure I've recommended both before, but I'm re-reading the Genna so am reminded.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:51 PM
horizontal rule
79

I'm not particularly interested in the peculiarities of Southern culture.

Don't read Faulkner.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:53 PM
horizontal rule
80

I mean, I could tell you that Dennis Tedlock's translation of Popul Vuh is marvelous, but would you believe me?

Gosh, maybe if you described it and said a little about what you find marvellous in it.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:57 PM
horizontal rule
81

79 -- Hence my current state.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 5:57 PM
horizontal rule
82

No, really, The Hamlet is good.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 6:00 PM
horizontal rule
83

73: I misspelled Popol Vuh in any case. I work in the book trade, and can't manage to edit that awareness out.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 6:01 PM
horizontal rule
84

Hmm... I forgot to close the front door of my apartment, after I opened it to get rid of smoke, and I've blasted out music at high volume for hours, and it's 01:20 am.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 6:22 PM
horizontal rule
85
Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 6:28 PM
horizontal rule
86

If you've listened to me before, or are familiar with Nigerian fiction, you've already heard of it, but Amos Tutuola's The Palm-Wine Drinkard is a great read. Tutuola claims that he'd never read a novel before he wrote it, but came across a sign advertising a novel-writing contest, so he figured he'd enter it since he was a good story-teller. It's so fun. I teach it whenever I get the chance.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 6:36 PM
horizontal rule
87

Also, the Ghanaian novelist Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born is pretty harrowing, as is (Nigerian) Ken Saro-Wiwa's Sozaboy. Most of my other favorite West African novels are better-known. (Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood, Soyinka's The Interpreters, and one of my favorite books ever, Ben Okri's The Famished Road)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 6:39 PM
horizontal rule
88

Somewhat unexpectedly, the entirety of The Worm Ouroboros is online at google books.


http://books.google.com/books?id=bf1UWZqhH_8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=worm&as_brr=1&ei=yc_KSaulLoKKzQT28qnUCQ


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 6:47 PM
horizontal rule
89

These being available for free also seems dubious.

1

2

3


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 6:53 PM
horizontal rule
90
Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 6:58 PM
horizontal rule
91

None of these are all that obscure, but books you might not have read that I love include:

The Fountain Overflows, by Rebecca West -- I think this was out of print for a while, but good old NYRB Classics has it in print now. A smart, alternately mean and very humane, funny and weird, semi-autographical novel that does a brilliant job of capturing what it is to be a child, (thus) relatively powerless, and possessed of very high standards.

Mistress Masham's Repose, by T. H. White -- I used to buy used copies of this every time I came across one, knowing I would find someone to give them away to. Now I think the NYRB children's imprint has it back in print. Thanks, NYRB!

A Change in Climate, by Hilary Mantel -- Even less obscure, fairly recent, and I think never even for a moment out of print, but at least not published by any NYRB imprint. I recommend this in every book recommendation thread. Devastating, wonderful, humane, brilliant. Even the characters you think will be cardboard when you first meet them are surprisingly not.

The Other Side of Green Hills, by John Kerr Cross. This one actually is out of print, and has been for a long time. My mother contemplated stealing it from her childhood library thirty years before I contemplated stealing it from mine. A creepy, lovely, odd fantasy in which it transpires that every place has an Other Side that you might be able to learn to access by the same knack required to flip those optical illusions where what looks like a pile of convex boxes suddenly turns concave.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 6:59 PM
horizontal rule
92

66 -- Wait, isn't Os Sertaoes like the most famous book in Brazilian literature? I'm not Brazilian or particularly cultured, and even I know that one.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:05 PM
horizontal rule
93

NYRB also puts out a new edition of The Magic Pudding, which I believe we've discussed here before, and which is bizarre and amazing.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:06 PM
horizontal rule
94

Under Plum Lake is also, sadly, very out of print, which is doubly sad because I want to teach it in my Children's Lit class. It still scares the shit out of me.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:09 PM
horizontal rule
95

These being available for free also seems dubious.

The Fitzgerald dates from 1920, and anything published in the US up to (through?) 1922 is in the public domain (in the US). The other two probably have similar explanations.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:10 PM
horizontal rule
96

I'm not so good at guessing what those people have heard of. I might just omit everything that might ever have been well-known. In which case "The Tartar Khan's Englishman" goes too.

But I have a couple of sleepers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:10 PM
horizontal rule
97

91 -- I love this list. I read Penrod recently, which isn't at all obscure, but is truly awesome if you can stomach the unrepentant early 20th C racism.

I also want to check out the Nigerian books. I also second the Palm Wine Drinkard, which I remember being amazing, though I read it a long time ago in a college lit class where it shone by comparison..


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:11 PM
horizontal rule
98

95: Through 1922. Checking wikipedia, they gave the wrong dates for original publication, so there's nothing dubious about it.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:22 PM
horizontal rule
99

The Magic Pudding is great.

I've just finished another (minor 20th century) classic; The Worm Ourobourous. It's a hoot, adventures and a bit of tragedy. I didn't find the faux-shakespearean hard to take; and there sure are some pretty sentences.

I confess that I found the faux Shakespearean a little hard to take.

I was going to say some nice things about Ignatius Donnelly's Caeser's Column, but thanks to people liking cranks, I don't think either he or it is that obscure any more. Nor Kavan's Ice, nor James Branch Cabell's surprisingly filthy Jurgen, nor Jim Thompson's gobsmacking Savage Night.

It's not obsure-credibility obscure, but I really quite liked Rebecca Ore's Slow Funeral in which a young woman moves to California from Bracken County, KY, but can't escape her family ("Maude, who hated witches, lived in a Berkeley witch house where she was the only real witch."). Country-fried — and satisfyingly meanspirited — magic realism goes back home to bury her grandmother and deal with her conjure-folk relatives.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:24 PM
horizontal rule
100

88: Friend, you're talking about E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros? I wondered. That's highly collectible. Um, the link does not seem to show me the thing. I will try again.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:27 PM
horizontal rule
101

The only non-crime novels/fiction I read are those that are fun to read not necessarily because of the content but because of the writing style. Last year Unfog made me aware of Kyril Bonfiglioli, which was good. Also Ronald Firbank. Donald Barthelme, Daniil Kharms.

Similar to my approach to art appreciation. If an artist has a distinctive style, I probably like them. If not, I don't.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:30 PM
horizontal rule
102

Further to 100: Right, I see. I've never used Google Books before.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:30 PM
horizontal rule
103

Not a lot of people like cranks. Donnelly is one of the most amazing people in American politics. He was a national political force while losing almost every election he ever ran in, and he contributed to two different genres of pulp (Atlantis and dystopia).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:31 PM
horizontal rule
104

Donald Barthelme

Much love. He's a favorite.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:32 PM
horizontal rule
105

I love Mistress Masham's Repose.

Also Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:33 PM
horizontal rule
106

103 - And he was one of the original Baconians! He was truly a crank for all seasons, one of the truly great minds to ever declaim his ideas in the Capitol.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:33 PM
horizontal rule
107

Gold Crown Lane and sequels, classic YA novel by suedophone Finnish author Irmelin Sandman Lilius. Magical realist.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/038528487X/ref=nosim/librarythin08-20


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:34 PM
horizontal rule
108

I shouldn't even say "distinctive style". It should be a unique style.

If I see a de Chirico, at least from teh first twenty years of his career, I know it's a de Chirico. I have no problem with reexploring the same themes over and over.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:36 PM
horizontal rule
109

There also was a Minnesota Congressman named Adam Bede (!) who was supposed to be the funniest man in Congress.

So far his jokes have not panned out for me, but there may be a dissertation there for a political jokeologist.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:39 PM
horizontal rule
110

"Irmelin Sandman Lilius" is certainly a cool name. I have to remember that. Although none of her books seem to be available in English.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:40 PM
horizontal rule
111

Ironically, de Chirico is said to be the most popular artist for counterfeiters.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:41 PM
horizontal rule
112

wiki: "Many people (including Tolkien) have wondered at and criticized Eddison's curious names for his characters (e.g. La Fireez, Fax Fay Faz), places and nations. According to Thomas, the answer appears to be that these names originated in the mind of a young boy, and Eddison could not, or would not, change them thirty years later when he wrote the stories down."

Huh. There's also a map. I didn't understand Demonland was an island.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:43 PM
horizontal rule
113

There are far too many di Chirico $20 bills around, and they all have cocaine traces. Some say that caused the Second Great Depression.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:44 PM
horizontal rule
114

I think AWB and I have shared Barthelme love before. He's great. I bet he is less read now than once he was -- he strikes me as being just the right (wrong) amount of time ago to be in a bit of a lull. Anna Kavan's Ice is very cool and weird. I read it for my exams, and think Snark read it then too. (True?)

I wish I were as tuned into awesome, out-of-print things as the NYRB people. Another great thing I read recently thanks to them was Tove Jansson's (of Moomintroll fame) The Summer Book, a short, even terse, novel about an old woman and a little girl.

The book I continually circle around, reading and rereading, both attracted to and repulsed by, is C. S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength (which we've also talked about here before). It's awful! And fascinating! Terribly attractive and horribly unfair, appealing and creepy, reactionary and... reactionary. Argh! I've read it a dozen times at least and by now should be ready to write a fascinating monograph about it, but instead it just gnaws at me.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:44 PM
horizontal rule
115

110: Yes, the Sola trilogy is. They're not in print, but can be bought via amazon.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:45 PM
horizontal rule
116

Robert "Prayer-Cushions of the Flesh" Irwin? Hope "Lud-in-the-Mist" Mirlees? (The former being X-rated Orientalist black comedy; the latter being a wonderful lost work of pre-Tolkien fiction in the Lord Dunsany-ish vein, only vastly better written -- the good burghers of a town have a drug problem, and the drug is death, or imagination, or Faeries, and probably all three.) What the hell, I'll call out my old favorite R. A. Lafferty, the cracked Oklahoman fantasist. His novels in general aren't as good as his short stories (see, e.g., "Narrow Valley", but Emerson and others might like the naturalist Okla Hannali, a historical novel about the Choctaw and the Trail of Tears written in Lafferty's genuinely inimitable prose style.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:46 PM
horizontal rule
117

LOVE Lud-in-the-Mist. Virginia Woolf's diaries say cutting things about Mirlees' stockings, if I recall correctly.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:47 PM
horizontal rule
118

Lud-In-The-Mist is great. Don't agree w the disparagement of Lord Dunsany.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:48 PM
horizontal rule
119
Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:49 PM
horizontal rule
120

I feel like my choices aren't obscure enough. I'd say Charles Portis, and people would laugh and throw things at me. (Did you see the Coen's are remaking True Grit?) The Dog of the South has to be the most popular supposedly-obscure book on the Internet.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:51 PM
horizontal rule
121

Has anyone here ever read The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh? It's a must-read but I'm wondering whether it's unknown.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:53 PM
horizontal rule
122

Anthropos-spectre-beast by Tadeusz Konwicki. YA, I guess. Sorta-fantasy, set in 1960s Poland.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
123

91: I love Hilary Mantel.

Not really obscure, but anything by Penelope Fitzgerald (and especially At Freddie's, Innocence, and The Blue Flower).

I'd like to read more 19th-century American novels, but don't know who/what to read. Suggestions?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
124

Moby Dick is pretty good, but chicks tend not to like it much.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:56 PM
horizontal rule
125

The Egyptian by Mika Waltari is fun.

Is Waltari obscure nowadays? He wrote international bestsellers.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 7:58 PM
horizontal rule
126

http://www.presocratics.org/06.jpg

She even looked cool. Authors are no good at that.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 8:05 PM
horizontal rule
127

116: snarkout, thanks for the references. I know those names, but I'm a beginner in that genre. The only Dunsany I've read is The Charwoman's Shadow, and it was chiefly in order to become acquainted. A friend deals (books) in that area, and I eventually wanted to know what all the fuss was about.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 8:16 PM
horizontal rule
128

Seven Gothic Tales is not obscure either but is probably to the liking of many here.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 8:16 PM
horizontal rule
129

I have read no obscure books (other than, like essear, technical books).

The best I can come with is Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson, but not only is that not all that obscure, they made it into a movie. (Resuscitation of a Hanged Man is also pretty good.)

Naghib Mafouz' The Harafish is also good. The book itself I think is a little obscure, though the author is not. Along the same lines, Tolstoy's Hadji Murat is short (for Tolstoy) but really good.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 8:31 PM
horizontal rule
130

This is an extremely handy book, though neither fiction nor apparently very obscure.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 8:34 PM
horizontal rule
131

I am assuming without clicking that 130 is a link to Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 8:44 PM
horizontal rule
132

No it envisions other schemes than that.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:05 PM
horizontal rule
133

Per the OP: Thanks a whole lot, Ben. I didn't need to get any work done tonight or anything. I had all the time in the world to obsess about a book, tear up the web assuring myself that it's hardly been discussed for 50 years, and then write precisely to length.

Bah.

(Now I just have to go figure out which of my 57 cartons the thing is in, so I can be sure my 20-year-old memories are accurate.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:09 PM
horizontal rule
134

So what's the book? Let's google bomb it.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:12 PM
horizontal rule
135

"57 Cartons and Nothing In"


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:14 PM
horizontal rule
136

You're preöccupied now, Witt, but when you have that $65 gift certificate, you'll thank me.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:19 PM
horizontal rule
137

Faulkner for a plane ride? Really must go with As I Lay Dying per essear in 54. Short and accessible, if a bit strange. My father is a fish (on the Internet).

Second choice would be a short story collection. Get one which incluides "Barn Burning", prequel to The Hamlet.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:20 PM
horizontal rule
138

"Barn Burning" is in fact retold in a different form in The Hamlet.

Am I the only one on the internet who likes The Hamlet?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:23 PM
horizontal rule
139

Maybe you should write it up for the contest, Ben.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:23 PM
horizontal rule
140

I think the utter lack of "eo" as indicating either a diphthong or a monophthong in (non-Old) English words means the diæresis might not be necessary.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:24 PM
horizontal rule
141

Your faith is touching, young neb, and just for that I will not reveal the name of the book, lest I should have my Real Name published on the website when I win, and lose my cherished anonymity.

137: I beg to differ. As I Lay Dying is many things, but accessible is not one of them.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:28 PM
horizontal rule
142

138.1: I did not recall that.

138.2: I do remember generally liking The Hamlet. However. I read it after I was 95% burned out on Faulkner, and then slogged on through The Town and The Mansion out of a sense of duty. So all the Snopes stuff kinda runs together for me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:31 PM
horizontal rule
143

I think it would be a shame only to employ a diæresis when it's necessary. I mean, what kind of attitude is that to take?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:31 PM
horizontal rule
144

I didn't like Barn Burning. Didn't understand it either, back in high school when I read it. Haven't read any Faulkner since, so what do I know.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:35 PM
horizontal rule
145

141.2: I was mostly joking, but for certain values of "accessible" I actually think it is. And a lot more fun than slogging through Absalom, Absalom.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:35 PM
horizontal rule
146

For a plane ride should be short-ish. I would pick The Bear.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:37 PM
horizontal rule
147

From what I can tell, CC intends to read Faulkner after he's visited the Faulkner home. In which case it may not matter what he reads.

136: when you have that $65 gift certificate

Wait, it's for $65? Hilarious.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:39 PM
horizontal rule
148

I bet Russell Mockridge's autobiography, in which there is a retelling of a six-day race, is in obscurity.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:40 PM
horizontal rule
149

Whatsitcalled, the one with the retard? That was pretty catchy.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:42 PM
horizontal rule
150

What would be the optimal Faulkner for a six day race?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:43 PM
horizontal rule
151

Whatsitcalled, the one with the retard?

The Sound and the Fury.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:45 PM
horizontal rule
152

Wait, it's for $65? Hilarious.

And two unspecified books. (Does the winner get to specify them? Presumably not, else the costs could be rather high.)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:46 PM
horizontal rule
153

149: The Sound and the Fury. One remembers it because of the rest of the quotation (A tale told by an idiot/full of sound and fury).


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:46 PM
horizontal rule
154

An example of high costs.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:47 PM
horizontal rule
155

It doesn't count as pwnage if you add value.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:48 PM
horizontal rule
156

Pwnage is all the sweeter when it's responding to smartassery.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:49 PM
horizontal rule
157

preöccupied

Now you're just trolling.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:52 PM
horizontal rule
158

I prefer to write "trolliŋ".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:54 PM
horizontal rule
159

Ben wields the mystical hammer Tröllnir.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 9:56 PM
horizontal rule
160

152, 154: Gotcha. It's a nice public participation thing. I think I've suggested to you before that you visit Se/rendipity Books, ben. I haven't been, but have friends associated, and from what I understand, you'd be hard pressed to tell them about a book they've never heard of -- which is kind of cool, if you think about it. But it's in Berkeley, and it's not even clear to me where you live.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:09 PM
horizontal rule
161

Se/rendipity Books is a lovely place. But they have a difficult system of organization.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:44 PM
horizontal rule
162

I would recommend The Sound and the Fury as well. If you want something shorter, maybe "The Bear" from Go Down, Moses?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:46 PM
horizontal rule
163

"The Bear" is a Faulkner story? I assumed #146 was recommending the classic novel of Canadian mores.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:51 PM
horizontal rule
164

161: Ha! I'm glad someone's been there. I think you should just ask them about their system of organization, ask for an explanation. But for heaven's sake, they have translators of bizarre languages on staff. (That stuff is probably not on the shelves.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:00 PM
horizontal rule
165

I didn't know about the translators. It's been years since I've been there. But the last time I visited, I bought some out-of-print theology books at a very fair price.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:07 PM
horizontal rule
166

165: a very fair price. A bookseller friend recently said "a very friendly price," but he was buying for resale. P. Howard of Se/erendipity is a good guy.

I was trying not to go into a funk of explanation about how the used book trade works. For scarcer works: you drum up interest. You soak up (buy) existing copies. You make something that was rare into something that's actually scarce. You sit on the copies that you've soaked up for a little while, then you make them available for a price. (Now, that's a little manipulative. In better circumstances, you just know that there's already interest, and you buy up the cheaper copies that various people may throw up for sale, sit on them for a while, etc.)

The Seminary Coop competition is interesting in this regard.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:29 PM
horizontal rule
167

How long has that store been around? I used to periodically go to as many of the used bookstores in the Berkeley area as I could get to within a given period of time (a few days, a week), after which I stopped for a while because I already had too many books I'd never read, but I never went there.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:29 PM
horizontal rule
168

167: I have no idea. Quite a while, 20 years, certainly, I'd think. No idea if they've been in the same location, though.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:49 PM
horizontal rule
169

They've been at the same location for at least the past 15 years. (Geez I'm old.)


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 11:56 PM
horizontal rule
170

And they throw one hella open-house party on the occasion of the SF Antiquarian Book Fair which happens each March! I saw pictures.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 12:02 AM
horizontal rule
171

Ah, so I either have just never been aware of them, or for some reason decided not to go by if I came across their listing somewhere (pretty much all my knowledge of Berkeley bookstores is from walking by, and that's not an area I walked through often). Next time I'm in the area, I'll go there.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 12:08 AM
horizontal rule
172

I don't recall mention of Ser/endipity Books, but I will look them up the next time I'm in Berkeley, yes I will.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 12:33 AM
horizontal rule
173

I think I mentioned it at Kotsko's a while back. Invitation to the open house.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 12:43 AM
horizontal rule
174

Two-Lane Blacktop turns out to be a really good movie.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 12:44 AM
horizontal rule
175

Ooh I want to see that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 12:49 AM
horizontal rule
176

You should.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 12:52 AM
horizontal rule
177

I will!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 1:01 AM
horizontal rule
178

Two-Lane Blacktop turns out to be a really good movie.

It is! It leaves out all the parts you would expect it to put in and puts in all the parts that you would expect it to leave out.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 1:45 AM
horizontal rule
179

174, 178: Perhaps I should re-watch it. I saw it in 1972 (at a double-bill midnight showing with The Magic Christian), and it merely left me mildly annoyed. The more literalist 18-year-old me just could not get past Oates as one guy in a car stupidly engaging in a cross-country race against two guys in a car. And then of course other than as a prod to getting them headed generally east, it didn't really matter as much to the plot as it first appeared that it would. (Plus a few too many of the assholes that I grew up with thought they were on the inside track to live that "life". ...and they were cooler than me ... and the girls liked them better ...)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 6:52 AM
horizontal rule
180

Two-Lane Blacktop turns out to be a really good movie.

We screened it at our wedding.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 8:10 AM
horizontal rule
181

180:
I screened it at my mother's funeral. My son will have it screened at my funeral.

When my grandmother died, it hadn't been filmed yet.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 8:40 AM
horizontal rule
182

accessible
i was thinking what a wicked soul that woman had and to be so merciless to her own children, all kinds of disasters strike them, the broken leg, the burn, the rape, the jail, and such powerful love-hate-loyalty feelings
i disliked the father and Jewel, he's like a young father though he's not his biological son, the same recklessness
the best i liked two elder brothers, the eloquent one, Earl? and the rational carpenter, forgot the names, thought the girl left pregnant, perhaps the mother's soul will be reborn in her child, and poor motherless boy of course
the biggest surprise came after i read the book and was reading the wiki about it, i didn't think that the father was introducing a new wife, just thought the woman was the deceased's relative who was like lurking there behind the windows when they were burying her and even like praised him for getting the victrola? forgot,
like, even though he robbed his daughter for his false teeth, still had some non-material kind of impulse something, i thought that the gramophone was the final like meaningful act, mol, not all the bread something and it like explains the family traits
so i hated some more the bundren father


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 8:54 AM
horizontal rule
183

what's this italics?! shock
i wish it could be corrected after accessible
thanks


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 8:56 AM
horizontal rule
184

I don't know whether 180 or 181 is more remarkable.

And then of course other than as a prod to getting them headed generally east, it didn't really matter as much to the plot

And in fact getting them headed east is itself not very important to the plot.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 10:08 AM
horizontal rule
185

184: Yeah, maybe, "getting them headed in generally the same direction and caring about where the other guy is" would be more accurate.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 10:53 AM
horizontal rule