Uhh... I'm at a loss.
August 29, 2010 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I've been having bad luck finding a good book lately. Naturally, I turn to teh interwebz for help. Please to recommend me a good book?

I travel a lot and don't have a television. This gives me a lot of time to read. Lately, I've tried more recently published books (All the Pretty Horses, Elegance of the Hedgehog, Confederacy of Dunces) and have had no luck. Generally, I like books which are either cleverly written or have some sort of thought-provoking substance to them.

I never want to finish my favourite books because of the good prose, but once I'm done, I have to sit and think about them for a bit.

I love epics. Homer, Moby Dick, Dante, etc... (I really like Fagles' translations of Homer)
I love Southern writers. Especially Faulkner, but I find him a bit heavy and emotionally difficult sometimes.
And by Southern writers, I really mean writers who limit themselves to a single, small region.

I think Flannery O'Connor is the goddess of literature.

I have to read out loud and can't deal with Russian names. I thought Lolita was brilliant, though.

Any ideas? Recommendations?
posted by chicago2penn to Writing & Language (21 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
The Bone People by Keri Hulme.

I read it 10-12 years ago, have read it every other year since, I'd imagine, and i think about it a lot. There is a Maori language glossary in the back to help with terms/lines written in that language. I hope that doesn't throw you. It's really an enchanting, beautiful story.
posted by littleflowers at 2:48 PM on August 29, 2010

The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa. Great prose, fascinating story, especially if you have any interest in aristocratic power struggles, Italian history, or Sicilians. I've read it a couple of times and keep coming back.
posted by dcotter at 2:53 PM on August 29, 2010

Gormenghast? (Mervyn Peake.) They're gothic in the old sense, epic, and, for the first 2/3 or so, extremely insular, as almost all the action for the first two books takes place in the vast castle of Gormenghast. (most modern copies of the novels bind the first three together.)
posted by cobaltnine at 2:57 PM on August 29, 2010

When I think epic gothic fiction, I think of A Bloodsmoor Romance by Joyce Carol Oates, which is a Victorian period piece about sisters who are nothing like the Little Women. Really strange family!

Another good one by her is We Were the Mulvaneys. It was one that Oprah picked for her book club, so it saw some popularity back when it came out; you might have heard of the title.

Her books take place in Pennsylvania and New York rather than the South, but as a Southerner, the settings still feel quite familiar to me.
posted by misha at 3:14 PM on August 29, 2010

On the epic front, you might consider William Gaddis's The Recognitions (though I myself prefer American Gothic).

On the Southern writer front, give Truman Capote's The Grass Harp a chance.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 3:41 PM on August 29, 2010

I'm a big fan of Lionel Shriver. Her work can be a little dark, though.
posted by yarly at 3:46 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you liked Lolita, you might try some of Nabokov's other works. Pale Fire fits your criteria of cleverly written, and is commonly considered Nabokov's most challenging and best work. It's presented as a 999-line poem written by recently-dead college literature professor while he was going through a mid-life crisis, with a commentary written by his possibly-mad neighbor that ends up being significantly longer than the poem itself.
posted by Gori Girl at 4:15 PM on August 29, 2010

I recently finished Scoop by Evelyn Waugh.

It's small and perfectly formed - lightly written with some fantastic humour which should have you chuckling.
posted by djgh at 4:52 PM on August 29, 2010

Have you read any Robertson Davies? I love his stuff, great stories, interesting ideas, wonderfully written, and witty
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:52 PM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think Flannery O'Connor is the goddess of literature.

I really like her too. You might also like Shirley Jackson's longer fiction [she's known for The Lottery but she's written a lot of other good books, most notably We Have Always Lived in the Castle] and Marilynne Robinson who got famous for Gilead lately but also write Housekeeping which I think is brilliant. Both of them have the "kids raised by wolves" trend which is one of the things I like about O'Connor. If that is not a thing you like, you might not like it.

Also not sure how you feel about non-fiction but I found Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, about sharecroppers in Alabama before the New Deal, absolutely riveting, despite its being non-fiction. It's not a southers story per se but it is a very well written narrative about The South, the older south. Other people speak highly of Padgett Powell as far as new southern writers are concerned. I liked Edisto and Edisto Revisited quite a lot.
posted by jessamyn at 4:56 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

If southern gothic is your taste, you might like The Ballad of the Sad Cafe.
posted by Maxa at 4:56 PM on August 29, 2010

You might try Henry James, maybe Portrait of a Lady to start.
posted by fshgrl at 5:06 PM on August 29, 2010

Larry Brown is often compared to O'Connor and Faulkner, though I find him a lot more accessible than the latter. Whiskey soaked writing all taking place in northern Mississippi. I'd start with Joe.
posted by gordie at 5:38 PM on August 29, 2010

I don't have a specific recommendation off the top of my head, but What Should I Read Next? gives recommendations based on a title or author you specify.
posted by uniq at 6:02 PM on August 29, 2010

Pat Conroy- I'm reading Beach Music right now, and would definitely recommend it for both the Southern and the (albeit more modern) epic qualifiers.
posted by questionsandanchors at 6:21 PM on August 29, 2010

It sounds like you are a perfect candidate for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It's like the Napoleonic wars meets grown-up Harry Potter and it is absolutely massive.
posted by JoannaC at 7:04 PM on August 29, 2010

East of Eden by Steinbeck, if you haven't read that.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:55 PM on August 29, 2010

I just finished Winter's Bone by Woodrell, and I loved it. It's set in Appalachia, which could fit into your Southern writer thing, depending on what you find appealing there.
posted by nevercalm at 3:06 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Gilead by Marilyn Robinson is fantastic!
posted by OmieWise at 5:34 AM on August 30, 2010

I'd offer up two from the Southern Writers' Front:

Peter Taylor (Novels: In the Tennesse Country or Summons to Memphis; Short stories: the Old Forest). Tremendously portrays Tennessee culture of a certain stature and the emotional life that strains to be kept under wraps.

Allan Gurganus (Novel: The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All; Short stories: White People)

And one more: my first thought when you mentioned O'Connor and Faulkner was Barry Hannah, mostly because nobody ever reads him. And then, what do you know?, an Amazon reviewer name-drops both when considering Hannah's short story collection Captain Maximus

Good luck to you.
posted by yamel at 8:37 AM on August 30, 2010

Edith Wharton is good for specific time/place, subtle wit, good prose, and substance. If you're interested in old New York society, try The House of Mirth or The Age of Innocence. If New England country is more your style, there's Summer and Ethan Frome.

None of these count as epics, unfortunately, but she has a really large body of short stories and several novels if you get hooked on her voice.

You might also be interested in Eudora Welty, another southern writer. I haven't read her fiction, but I just finished her autobiographical treatise on writing, and really liked her. Her prose seems rather poetic to me.
posted by Ouisch at 1:13 PM on August 30, 2010

« Older Where in Manhattan/Brooklyn can I buy Dogfish...   |   ±99 Luftballons Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.