Most influential short stories and novels in terms of style since 1950?
August 26, 2011 5:05 AM   Subscribe

Which novels and short stories, from any genre, since WWII, have been the most influential on prose style in "literary fiction"?
posted by shivohum to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Nake and the Dead by Norman Mailer could be one of them. Invisible Man. Howl.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:11 AM on August 26, 2011

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
posted by him at 5:25 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, probably Lord of the Rings. The voice isn’t much emulated outside of the fantasy genre, but the scope of the thing and the ambition of the world-building has certainly been influential beyond its genre.
posted by him at 5:29 AM on August 26, 2011

Gravity's Rainbow
posted by empath at 5:33 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by milarepa at 5:38 AM on August 26, 2011

Infinite Jest, Slaughterhouse Five.
posted by empath at 5:39 AM on August 26, 2011

More recent, but named as influences in a lot of reviews I've seen, are the works of W.G. Sebald - particularly The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 5:45 AM on August 26, 2011

Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Influential, obviously, for much more than its prose style, but in terms of just that, I think it's a critical baroque counterpoint to the sparse prose stylings of the modern realists that dominated in the U.S. from the 1920s through the 1950s. García Márquez made it OK to use words, and lots of them, again.
posted by drlith at 5:46 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Jack Kerouac, On the Road
posted by jabes at 7:17 AM on August 26, 2011

A Universal History of Infamy by Borges, first published in English in 1972 is cited as the beginning of magical realism, but it was published in Spanish in 1935 and had mediated influence before its English publication.
posted by Jahaza at 7:18 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, Thomas Pynchon, Paul Auster, Borges, Italo Calvino, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut.
A feature of many of these is the mix of high diction and street slang and high culture with pop culture, the mix of casual prose with high purpose.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 8:01 AM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Not sure if you'll count it as literary fiction or not, but Nora Ephron's Heartburn included recipes for (I believe) the first time ever in a novel, along with other whimsical approaches to storytelling that you see a lot in chick lit today.
posted by Mchelly at 8:58 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson, if my MFA classmates were to be believed.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:00 AM on August 26, 2011

Couldn't have had Denis Johnson without Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, and Tobias Wolff; Carver was influenced by John Gardner.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:09 AM on August 26, 2011

William Burroughs, Naked Lunch
posted by infinitewindow at 1:07 PM on August 26, 2011

White Noise, by Don DeLillo.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:12 PM on August 26, 2011

Hmm, I'm going to be the eighteenth commenter, but the first to mention any women--not counting Monsieur Caution's enigmatic comment, and the reference to Ephron that then immediately dismisses her as only having had an influence on 'chick lit' (the question's about "literary fiction", which deserves the scare quotes, since it immediately implies... well, the sort of priapic old geezers who write Fond Memories of Vagina).

So how about Muriel Spark? The obvious novel to pick is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but read her collected short stories or her other novels and you can feel that you're reading a 'source' for other writers in the way that when you listen to Jimi Hendrix you know you're listening to someone other guitarists go back to again and again.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 3:32 PM on August 26, 2011

Yes to Muriel Spark.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 4:21 PM on August 26, 2011

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