Friday, May 26, 2006

All American for Animah?

If you read the comments posted after the entry about House of Sand and Fog, you will have seen Animah's request:
... why don't you ask your readers to provide a list of their favourite American writers. I'll try reading some of them, and hey, it may even change my bias. It's an uphill battle though - I am so prejudiced!!!
as well as the passionate ding-dong with fellow reading group member, Krishna. (This is the kind of conversation we have in real-life too ... you really can't put passionate booklovers together without some sort of a scrap, it seems!)

Anyway, a list for Animah seems to me to be a very important mission to embark on.

Like me, Animah want to feel that the books she read have value beyond being simply for ... well, entertainment: we need books to furnish our heads and nourish our souls.

I start the list with some of my recent favourites: Middlessex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Underworld by Don de Lillo, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible and Raymond Carver's collection of short stories Cathedral. I'll also add The Little Friend by Donna Tart, even though I'm not very far through it. And Philip Roth and E.L. Doctorow as writers I know I must read as soon as possible and feel incredibly ignorant not having read. (Guilt!)

Greenbottle added Kurt Vonnegut, and Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (which I recently bought but haven't yet got round to).

I'll add anything Toni Morrison for Chet, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for The Visitor.

I'll add anything Alice Hoffman for Third Chimp.

And what else? Let us know! But remember, Animah does not want to feel she is wasting her time!!


sympozium said...

Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint is very readable and hilarious. Also try Nabokov's Lolita for its incredible wordplay and black humour (the annotated edition is worth buying!)

Sham said...

can I come borrow toole's book of you early next week as i return kite runner and with bread and desserts in tow - I promise :)

For Animah, i would second Beloved by Toni Morrisson

The Visitor said...

anything by Joyce Carol Oates

animah said...


For me??? Wow thank you. Last night I scoured my book shelves and the following books hit me: Donna Tart (Secret History) - very clever plotting, Annie Proulx (Shipping News) - so beautifully written, I felt I was there and the characters were so so real they get under your skin, Ann Paget (Bel Canto) - such sensitive characterisation of a Japanese man, beautiful and sad. Then I realised hey the American women writers are quite an amazing bunch.
Sympozium, I did wonder yesterday as to whether Nabakov is an American writer as he spent most of his formative years in Russia, and half of his work is orignally in Russian - so I really considered him Russian. I do have Lolita: 2 copies, one annotated and one not. I agree with the wordplay. The opening para of Lolita has to be the best opening tongue trickler in any book. In Ada or Arbor actively play with words, such wonderful clever dialogue. I have more works by Nabakov then any other writer. If we can agree that Nabakov is American, then I take back all that I have said about American writers.
It just occurred to me this morning that TS Eliot is American, although he lived in the UK from his 20s. Do we include TS Eiliot as a a writer? No fiction as far as I know, just poetry and plays. But yes, here is a very deep American.

Then there is Paul Theroux.

I will venture Philip Roth and Toni Morrison. Thanks for your suggestions. Look forward to more recommendations. Will now go to Kinos for lunch.

Anonymous said...

Ralph Ellison
James Baldwin
Saul Bellow

Chet said...

Maya Angelou

Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

Maxine Hong Kingston (especially her first two books The Woman Warrior and China Men)

Chet said...

WEll, not anything Toni Morrison, but her earlier books before Beloved.

starlight said...

Sharon! How could you possibly overlook Alice Walker??? She's SO much better than Toni Morrison...but that's just my opinion. I read Sula and it didn't connect at all. Gave her another shot and picked up Beloved, but couldn't get past the first chapter. But I'd love to hear the thoughts of someone who adores her work. And The Corrections is another book that didn't click for me.

Jane Sunshine said...

I found this useful because I'm not very aware of American fiction myself. Two writers I would suggest: Willa Cather (My Antonia) and the wicked short stories of Joyce Carol Oates.

Chet said...

How about John Irving whose books include The World According To Garp, Hotel New Hampshire and Cider House Rules? All three have been made into movies.

And if you want the classics, how about F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway?

rose said...

I would recommend Charles Bukowski, but she might feel she's wasting her time with his work. Bukowski's not for everyone, certainly not someone with a dislike for the american-ness of american literature.

lil ms d said...

how about:

richard ford
jonathem leithem
michael chabon
phillip levine (ok he's a poet but he's good)gore vidal's myra brekenbridge - is that the correct spelling?
anne lamott
dorothy parker

can i throw in japanese writers? the older ones?

jerusha said...

2 books that pop in my mind whenever i think of 'best reads' are:

1)lonesome dove by larry mcmurtry
2)fall on your knees by ann marie macdonald

unfazed said...

david mitchell's debut ghostwritten is excellent, although no9 dreams was rather ho-hum but i think cloud atlas will be redeeming. donna tartt's secret history is unbelievable; personally found my little friend to be very disappointing. what else? if you are in the mood for a psychotic, surrealistic read Kurt Vonnegut and Chuck Palahniuk is good!

bibliobibuli said...

thanks all of you, i think we have a pretty powerful list here and animah has no right to complain that she does not know what to read next!

sympozium - intend to read "portnoy's complaint" really soon ... "lolita" is great, though i read it much to long ago and seem to have lost my copy ...

sham - sure you can. i am very bribable.

visitor - thanks. i have one of her books on my shelves already ... must check which ...

animah - how did i foget annie proulx - my favourite writer!!!!!

chet - of course. hadn't heard of Zora Neale Hurston so thanls for introducing me to a new writer. i love maxine hong kingston's books. john irving i personally don't like much. thought "widow for a year" was crap, "garp" better though it didn't do much for me. personal tastes! tastes. a friend of mine says "a prayer for owen meany" is the best book she's ever read, so maybe ...

s.scott fitzgerald i read long ago and should reread. i haven't liked some hemingway though enjoyed "the old man and the sea"
starlight - yes, i'm sorry i had forgotten alice walker and must read her soon.

jane - willa cather, another vote for joyce carol oates ... must must

jerusha - we read "lonesome dove" in our reading group earlier in the year, and it was pretty good ... haven't heard of the other book you recommend but will look out for it

rose - bukowski slipped beneath my radar until raman thrust a copy of one of his poetry collections into my hand and i loved it - have more of him to discover ... tell me what you have enjoyed most

ms d - wow, so many more names for the list! richard ford - read "the sportswriter" - the writing was excellent but the story depressing ... must read "independence day" soon ... steinbeck i've read a lot of ... had a phase of reading him while i was at school ... you've given me some other good names and titles to check out

unfazed - david mitchell is british! (at least we can claim something!) ... but Kurt Vonnegut and Chuck Palahniuk should definitely be added

wah! so many books so little time!!!

Chet said...

What about Erica Jong?

Sufian said...

Amy Hempel. Nelson Algren. Raymond Chandler. Raymond Carver. Francine Prose. Brett Easton Ellis. Julia Slavin. Lorrie Moore. Donald Barthelme.

Julia Slavin (short story):

Amy Hempel (short story):

Lorrie Moore (Short story):

Nelson Algern (short bio):

Donald Barthelme (short stories):

animah said...

Wow! Thanks all for your suggestions. Now, I'm wondering where to start. I think Philip Roth and Gore Vidal. I'll slowly sample the rest- names taken down in my notebook so I can check them out whenever I'm at a bookshop.

lil ms d said...

i think i'll be in kino on friday. someone help me. chain me to my car, apartment. take away my credit cards and atm card. all these names - i can hear them calling out to me... buy me buy me buy me...

Sham said...

Pulled this off Silverfish Mag
all for you, Animah!
From the New York Times: Beloved by Toni Morrison was chosen as the best American fiction of the last 25 years. Runners up were: Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, John Updike and Don DeLillo. This is according to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages.

Make up your reading list from below:

1. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)

2. Underworld by Don DeLillo (1997)
3. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (1985)
4. Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels by John Updike (1995)
5. American Pastoral by Philip Roth (1997)

6. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
7. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1980)
8. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin (1983)
9. White Noise by Don DeLillo (1985)
10. The Counterlife by Philip Roth (1986)
11. Libra by Don DeLillo (1988)
12. Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver (1988)
13. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (1990)
14. Mating by Norman Rush (1991)
15. Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson (1992)
16. Operation Shylock by Philip Roth (1993)
17. Independence Day by Richard Ford (1995)
18. Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth (1995)
19. Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy (1999)
20. The Human Stain by Philip Roth (2000)
21. The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2003)
22. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004)

bibliobibuli said...

sham - i already blogged this tho' did not include full list ... but thanks and now animah has got no excuses

haven't read ramans litmag .. please scan through and tell me if theren uis anything there this time that will make me see red

Anonymous said...

Somehow I thought she'd be reading Michael Moore :) anyway, how about Twain and Hawthorne and hmm.. Jane Smiley ? OMG.. I just realized.. tell me this Jane Smiley isn't the same Jane Smiley that wrote "A Thousand Acres."

bibliobibuli said...

yep, the same