A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists
September 13, 2016 7:22 PM   Subscribe

So I've just finished "A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists" by Jane Rawson. I've read everything by Tom Robbins, Douglas Adams and Franz Kafka.

What similar authors can you recommend? The back cover of AWTATOOUL mentions James M. Cain and J.G. Ballard, but searching on them shows that they are darker than I'd be interested in.
posted by falsedmitri to Writing & Language (28 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe Tom Holt? His 'comic fantasy' that's ... actually kinda dark if you think about it... seems to hit the same buttons for me.
posted by The otter lady at 7:46 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I liked Richard Brautigan, and Kurt Vonnegut. I spent a summer and read all of Hemingway, I also recommend that.
posted by Oyéah at 7:46 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I hadn't heard of Richard Brautigan or Tom Holt (looking him up ... today so happens to be his birthday). I'll look into them. I should have mentioned I've read most of Kurt Vonnegut (duh).
posted by falsedmitri at 7:49 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Brautigan and Barthelme. I think The Abortion is Brautigan's best book (and it's not really mostly about an abortion, it's about a library) and Amateurs is the best by Barthelme (self link: here is more by Barthelme). You might also like Stephen Millhauser.
posted by jessamyn at 7:58 PM on September 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Terry Pratchett?
posted by humboldt32 at 8:04 PM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

Also, on looking at the description of the book you mentioned, I'll suggest James P. Blaylock-- try "The Paper Grail", or "All The Bells On Earth", or "The 13 Coins". Also in this line is Tim Powers-- "Last Call" and "Expiration Date" I might suggest.
posted by The otter lady at 8:05 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Definitely Terry Pratchett.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:13 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Haven't read it, but based on the title and similar authors try Flann O'Brian's The Third Policeman. And James M Cain and JG Ballard are quite dark, but also brilliant.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:39 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Jasper Fforde?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:42 PM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

José Saramago.
posted by teremala at 8:58 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Stanislaw Lem. The Cyberiad, Solaris, The Investigation, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub etc etc
posted by generalist at 9:52 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Charles Stross's Laundry series. Kafka meets LeCarre crossed with Lovecraft, with some Douglas Adams on top.
posted by straw at 9:53 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

perhaps you're ready for a little Illuminatus!
posted by philip-random at 10:36 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Third Policeman. Also Catch 22.
posted by fshgrl at 12:38 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Robert Sheckley - Options
posted by crocomancer at 7:01 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Jonathan Carroll's Sleeping in Flame
posted by xylothek at 7:42 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you enjoy Robbins, you will probably like Christopher Moore. The same sense of whimsy and kooky characters.
posted by archimago at 7:54 AM on September 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Try The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips. It's a quick read, but very enjoyable.
posted by Tentacle of Trust at 8:22 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kate Atkinson, especially the earlier stuff. Leslie What. Kellie Wells. Julia Elliott. Karen Joy Fowler (especially the short stuff, and the more SF-nal stuff; probably not _The Jane Austen Book Club_.) And most importantly, Kelly Link.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:41 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

George Saunders.
posted by vunder at 2:03 PM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, Neil Gaiman of course...
posted by The otter lady at 6:49 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Get thee to some Phil Dick. Start with Ubik.

Some of Jonathan Lethem's early novels -- Gun with Occasional Music; As She Climbed Across the Table. Rachel Pollock's Unquenchable Fire and Temporary Agency. Definitely try some Kelly Link (her first collection, Stranger Things Happen, would do) and R.A. Laffetry (900 Grandmothers.) Definitely Sheckley's short stories -- he really never maintained the punch at longer lengths. Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley is probably an okay place to start.

Oh my God. Howard Waldrop. Pretty much all of it, but start with these: Things Will Never Be the Same:Selected Short Fiction 1980-2005, Other Worlds, Better Lives: Selected Long Fiction 1989-2003. Though they leave out one of my favorites, Mary-Margaret Road-Grader.

Ellen Klages' Portable Childhoods. Garth Nix' Keys to the Kingdom YA novels. Matt Ruff's Set This House in Order. And Sewer, Gas, and Electric.

And, yeah, you've got to try Pratchett. Some of the early ones were weak... I'd actually given up on the series until I read Lords and Ladies and it was tremendous. And try Gaiman's American Gods. And John Crowley's Little, Big.

Roger Zelazny's Doorways in the Sand! And A Night in the Lonesome October. Pat Murphy's There and Back Again, Wild Angel, and Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell. But you must read all three and will have little idea through the first two why ... but they build on each other.
posted by Zed at 12:09 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was also coming here to recommend Gun with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem. Also try Lexicon by Max Berry.
posted by aaanastasia at 8:19 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Zed's got some really great recommendations for you. I particularly want to echo him on R.A. Lafferty, Howard Waldrop, Matt Ruff, and John Crowley.

(Oh my heavens, John Crowley. Little, Big is one of the most beautiful things written in the 20th century, IMO. )

Also recommended: Edward Carey, especially Observatory Mansions and his Iremonger series, which is YA.

Also: Paul LaFarge, especially Artist of the Missing.

Also: Amelia Gray. Start with the shorter stuff.

Also: Jedediah Berry's The Manual of Detection.

In addition, you may want to check out some of Elizabeth Hand's work. Her darkest work (about 1/3 to 1/2 of her total output) may be grimmer than what you enjoy, but a sizeable chunk of her oeuvre is stuff you'd probably dig. I'd start with Last Summer at Mars Hill, which is a collection of short work.

Some of Richard Grant's work may also be of interest. (I'm talking about the American novelist, born in 1952, not the US-based, British travel writer, born in 1953. I don't know anything about the British travel writer.) Check out Views from the Oldest House and/or Tex and Molly in the Afterlife.

Finally (and I can't believe I forgot these before) you probably would really, really, really like Jan Morris's Hav books. Sort of similar in concept to the Jane Rawson book you mentioned above, they're a seasoned travel writer's learned improvisations about a an imaginary country, and they explore both the history and culture of that country, and what happens to that country as the political events of the mid-to-late 20th century unfold. The books are stellar.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:43 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Forgot to mention:

Alan DeNiro's work is not for everyone. (Some people find it really perplexing, and sometimes there's a bit of academic coldness to it.) But DeNiro is an absolute surgeon of the surreal and fantasical, and if you're the right type of reader, you'll fall completely head-over-heels for this stuff. Check out Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead to see if it's for you.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:52 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ha, I'd been trying to remember the title of The Manual of Detection to recommend it, but didn't twig to it even after its initial mentions here...

I realized that for Zelazny, Creatures of Light and Darkness and Lord of Light should be higher on the list than A Night in the Lonesome October. Much as I love Night, it doesn't really have the absurdist slant I think you're going for here.

Corrupting Dr. Nice, John Kessel. A bunch of his short fiction, too.

ZOMG! How can we all have neglected to mention William Browning Spencer?! Zod Wallop. Resumé with Monsters. Irrational Fears. Saying this reminds me that I've never read Maybe I'll Call Anna and makes me want to go fix that right now.

Connie Willis' "Blued Moon" especially, but it's hard to go wrong with anything in Fire Watch or The Winds of Marble Arch, though many of them hit different buttons than the work of the authors you asked about...

Barry Longyear's Circus World books.

And if you haven't read Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, well, you should.
posted by Zed at 4:37 PM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Douglas Adams writing style is so delightful. His friends Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie have each written novels where the style has reminded me of his, although neither person writes in the same genre as he did.
posted by w0mbat at 8:41 PM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

You might like Tommaso Landolfi.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:47 AM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

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