The moon is dark and shadowed, the sun keeps ticking by, silence and solitude, no one left to cry.
November 17, 2011 6:23 PM   Subscribe

(BookFilter): Contemporary Gothic novels.

'Tis the season for novels that are cold, morose, ominous, and full of unease and occasional dread. I suppose Gothic is a good catch-all term here. To give a sense of range, recommendations can be Please, no overt swords-and-sorcery or horror. Limit recommendations to the 20th century or later. Thanks.
posted by Nomyte to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting request, I'll be following this one quite closely; that's a diverse yet still particular range you've outlined there.

Looking at my own collection, I just read Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania - it's YA, but has a lot of heady, gothic elements to it you might enjoy (I reviewed it here).

M. John Harrison's Viriconium books might qualify by some standards. I didn't love them but they're okay.

I can't think of anything else I've ever read like Gormenghast, I'm afraid.

Wide Sargasso Sea By Jean Rhys is the story of Bertha from Jane Eyre; think of it as a tropical gothic. A real classic.

Patrick McGrath's books often would fall into this category. Again I'm not his greatest fan, but it might be what you're after.

Also, Truman Capote's first novel, Other Voices Other Rooms is arguably a southern gothic.
posted by smoke at 6:39 PM on November 17, 2011

Jonathan strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
posted by New England Cultist at 7:02 PM on November 17, 2011

I'm still creeped out by Night Work. A guy named Jonas wakes up one morning in Vienna to discover that everyone in the world has simply vanished into thin air. No people, no animals, no insects. Just him.

He wanders around, tries to locate his parents and girlfriend, leaves little notes and steals a sports car and scavenges for food in grocery stores. For awhile he tries revisiting old haunts to relive memories, but his reveries are slowly intruded on by a series of increasingly disturbing and unexplainable events.

It works well because it sprinkles these moments of intense creepiness into an utterly pedestrian description of his day -- everything's related in a lucid, almost cinematic style that makes the supernatural/psychological aspect more compelling. You can browse around in the Google Books version to get a feel for it. It reads surprisingly well considering it was translated from German.

So, not really cold, but definitely isolating, ominous, and scary.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:13 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you studied the Canadian/Ontarian gothic sub-genre yet? You want Alias Grace, Cat's Eye and The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood. Robertson Davies' stuff is great, too. With him you might start with Fifth Business, part of the Deptford trilogy. My personal favorite of Davies' is Leaven of Malice, the second novel in the Salterton trilogy.
posted by brina at 7:16 PM on November 17, 2011

I enjoyed the heck out of Drood by Dan Simmons. And for you there's a bonus! It has Dickens himself as one of the main characters, heh.
posted by Iosephus at 7:22 PM on November 17, 2011

The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James.

Seconding Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.
posted by cog_nate at 7:25 PM on November 17, 2011

(OK, The Turn of the Screw was originally published in 1898, so it doesn't strictly meet your criteria. However, it's fantastic and so close to the 20th c. that it's really worth your looking into.)
posted by cog_nate at 7:42 PM on November 17, 2011

The Little Stranger couldn't be more on point.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:11 PM on November 17, 2011

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, also anything by Angela Carter.
posted by Allee Katze at 8:43 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'll second Patrick McGrath (whose work gets classed as neo-Gothic) and The Little Stranger. If you like The Little Stranger, see also Sarah Waters' Fingersmith and Affinity.

I have mixed feelings about John Harwood's The Ghost Writer and The Seance, but they sound like what you want.

The late Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night and The Glass of Time are complicated fun, especially if you know something about Victorian Gothic and sensation literature.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:48 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Adding my vote for Angela Carter, especially her short stories.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:06 PM on November 17, 2011

Perfume by Patrick Suskind
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:26 AM on November 18, 2011

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue really captured the unease for me.

It seems like a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction would fit the bill, but I'm not sure how adventurey you're willing to get. (If you are, The Wind Singer by William Nicholson is an odd one.)

Also, perhaps The Theft and the Miracle by Rebecca Wade. It's an unsettling Christmas mystery, very odd (not at all cutesy or small townsy).
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:30 AM on November 18, 2011

Cold, morose and ominous, but only faintly gothic: The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai.

Ominous and somewhat gothic (and magnificent) and occasionally chilly but not morose as such: The Obscene Bird of Night by José Donoso.

Decidedly gothic and luridly ominous but not cold or morose: Malpertuis by Jean Ray.

Superficially gothic and uneasily ominous and intense but not cold or morose: Château d'Argol by Julien Gracq.
posted by misteraitch at 5:13 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Waking The Moon by Elizabeth Hand
posted by Malla at 7:01 AM on November 18, 2011

Perhaps The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruis Zafón.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 11:02 AM on November 18, 2011

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