Fill my bookshelves.
June 16, 2006 6:00 AM   Subscribe

Given my favorite authors from the modern and pomo canon, please help me find some young, lesser-known contemporary writers.

I've done a lot of reading in the modern and postmodern literary canon, and am fairly well-versed in 20th Century fiction. But I find that my finger really isn't on the pulse of today's literary scene. Can anyone list some young, new authors (maybe with just one or two books to their credit) who would jive with my better-known favorites?

I've read and enjoyed David Foster Wallace, William T. Vollmann, Richard Powers, and others from their generation--but I'm looking for writers even less established. I'm open to fiction and drama, and also poetry.

My favorite books are these:


Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow
Pynchon, Mason & Dixon
Gaddis, The Recognitions
Gaddis, JR
Alisdair Gray, 1982, Janine
Gray, Lanark
Martin Amis, Money
Any of Beckett's fiction
Any of Flann O'brien's novels
Anything by Nathanael West
Nabokov, Lolita
Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!
Melville, Moby-Dick


Everything by Sam Shepard
Everything by Pinter
Most of Ionesco
Beckett, Endgame and Krapp's Last Tape
posted by scarylarry to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, also, I looked at the helpful discussions here and here, but neither answered my specific question, so I thought it warranted a new post.
posted by scarylarry at 6:03 AM on June 16, 2006

For drama I recommend anything by Len Jenkin (particularly Dark Ride and My Uncle Sam) and anything by Mac Wellman. Wellman's novels are also very good, Annie Salem being the best.

I'm drawing a blank on contemporary novelists that fit in your list. I've recently heard good things about Henry Green, a writer from the first half of the 20th century that might be worth checking out, but I haven't read anything by him yet.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:20 AM on June 16, 2006

A recent first novel I enjoyed very much (and you might too, given your favourites) was Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper. It has some very nicely-done po-mo touches.
posted by misteraitch at 6:35 AM on June 16, 2006

Evelin Sullivan, The Correspondence
Evelin Sullivan, Games of the Blind
Evelin Sullivan, The Dead Magician

Sullivan's novels are wonderful, dark, and very much in a Nabokovian vein. I especially recommend the first two.

You might also try some of Philip Roth's later works, such as Sabbath's Theater, The Counterlife, and American Pastoral.

Also Thomas Bernhard: try Correction; The Loser; and Extinction (although all of his novels basically seem like rewrites of his other books; to some degree, if you've read one Bernhard book you've read them all).

David Markson: Wittgenstein's Mistress; Reader's Block; and This is Not a Novel.
posted by jayder at 6:44 AM on June 16, 2006

If you like The People of Paper, you may like Richard Brautigan. I was strongly reminded of his Sombrero Fallout while reading Plascencia.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:46 AM on June 16, 2006

You can't go wrong with some works by Joanne Rowling in your bookshelf.
posted by schwa at 6:48 AM on June 16, 2006

Hmmm, this garden path is paved with ə shaped tiles.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:58 AM on June 16, 2006

I think you will like George Saunders. He writes short stories; Pastoralia is one of my-all time favorite books. You can try him out at the New Yorker site with his short story COMMCOMM.
posted by lilboo at 7:06 AM on June 16, 2006

He's quite well established, but I think Haruki Murakami sounds right up your alley.
posted by j-dawg at 7:11 AM on June 16, 2006

Ben Marcus' The Age of Wire and String (as well as many of the other authors published by Dalkey Archive) might be of interest to you.

Also, you might begin to explore Oulipo, particularily the work of Harry Matthews and George Perec. The Oulipo-ean emphases on constraint and its members' interest in games and play are a couple of the more interesting though under-explored literary tendencies of the post-war period. You see its influence popping up in the work of a whole host of seemingly disparate authors.

Also, try Colson Whitehead. His The Intuitionist and John Henry Days are both excellent.
And Steven Millhauser. His Martin Dressler is particularily good.
posted by Chrischris at 7:12 AM on June 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

You need to read Evan Dara's The Lost Scrapbook. I'd also recommend the Collected Stories of Breece D'J Pancake.

I'd also second Millhauser, Markson, Mathews, and the Oulipo, but they are not young or new (neither is Pancake for that matter).

You would probably really like Gary Lutz (similar to Ben Marcus imo).

If you want to take a pulse from time to time, join our David Foster Wallace list!
posted by mattbucher at 7:34 AM on June 16, 2006

Evan Dara's The Lost Scrapbook is a challenging, sophisticated read that far too few fans of serious modern lit are aware of.
posted by boombot at 7:37 AM on June 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

Wow, I can't believe that happened.
posted by boombot at 7:38 AM on June 16, 2006

Any and all books by David Foster Wallace. From the back of his epic Infinite Jest: "The next step in fiction.... Edgy, accurate, and darkly witty.... Think Beckett, think Pynchon, think Gaddis. Think." It should be right up your alley.
posted by adamdrici at 7:49 AM on June 16, 2006

adamrici did not read the question.

I've read and enjoyed David Foster Wallace, William T. Vollmann, Richard Powers, and others from their generation--but I'm looking for writers even less established.

Wallace reviewed a young prose-poetry writer named Jon Davis for Rain Taxi and even paid for Davis's book to be advertised in the journal. The book is called Scrimmage of Appetite. He should meet your "less established" criteria.
posted by mattbucher at 7:56 AM on June 16, 2006

Jeffery Renard Allen's first (and to date only) novel Rails Under My Back may interest you.

Publishers Weekly gave a starred review to Marisha Pessl's first novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics, but that won't be out until August.
posted by Prospero at 8:06 AM on June 16, 2006

Jose Saramago is fairly well established by now, but he may jive with your tastes. I discovered him with Blindness and just finished the quasi-sequel to that, Seeing.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:12 AM on June 16, 2006

Along the Oulipo lines, I would recommend Jeff Noon, especially Cobralingus. Of course, this is pretty far afield from the poster's original list of authors. Noon's earlier books are alos wonderful in a less experimental vein.

Although Ben Marcus is wonderfully innovative, I liked Matthew Derby's slightly less obscure Super Flat Times better. I look forward to another book by him.
posted by Hubajube at 8:13 AM on June 16, 2006

I'll second George Saunders, have you read any Steve Erickson? If not, I would try "The Sea Came in At Midnight."
posted by drezdn at 8:14 AM on June 16, 2006

Seek out everything you can by Lydia Davis- novels and short stories. You won't be disappointed.
posted by kelegraph at 8:14 AM on June 16, 2006

A bit further from your stated criteria, as he is already an established writer—in Hungary, Germany, etc.—but still building a reputation in the English-speaking world: László Krasznahorkai. Two of his novels have been translated into English thus far: The Melancholy of Resistance, & War and War, both of which I enjoyed immensely & would put in the same ball-park as Sebald’s Austerlitz and Bernhard’s Extinction. The opening chapter from War and War is online here.
posted by misteraitch at 8:23 AM on June 16, 2006

J. Milton is a good start.
posted by billtron at 9:02 AM on June 16, 2006

John Crowley's Aegypt/Love & Sleep/Daemonomania.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:24 AM on June 16, 2006

If you're going to read Marcus, go first with Gary Lutz and Gordon Lish.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:41 AM on June 16, 2006

Hard to believe answers have gotten this far without mentioning Don DeLillo.
posted by Topkid at 12:06 PM on June 16, 2006

Vladimir Sorokin, a Russian, esp "Goluboe Salo", possibly translated into Englih as Blue Fat. He's a gruelling read, though. PS nice to see so many semi-colons in the posts ;-)
posted by londongeezer at 1:12 PM on June 16, 2006

In the vein of some of Pynchon's goofier tangents crossed with Wallace's near-future-absurdism in Infinite Jest, I really like Matt Ruff's Sewer, Gas, and Electric
Sewer, Gas & Electric is the exuberant follow-up to Matt Ruff's cult classic and critically acclaimed debut Fool on the Hill. High above Manhattan android and human steelworkers are constructing a new Tower of Babel for billionaire Harry Gant, as a monument to humanity's power to dream. In the festering sewers below a darker game is afoot: a Wall Street takeover artist has been murdered, and Gant's crusading ex-wife, Joan Fine, has been hired to find out why. The year is 2023, and Ayn Rand has been resurrected and bottled in a hurricane lamp to serve as Joan's assistant; an eco-terrorist named Philo Dufrense travels in a pink-and-green submarine designed by Howard Hughes; a Volkswagen Beetle is possessed by the spirit of Abbie Hoffman; Meisterbrau, a mutant great white shark, is running loose in the sewers beneath Times Square; and a one-armed 181-year-old Civil War veteran joins Joan and Ayn in their quest for the truth. All of whom, and many more besides, are caught up in a vast conspiracy involving Walt Disney, J. Edgar Hoover, and a mob of homicidal robots.
If that blurb doesn't pique your interest, well...

I'd also second Saunders and Marcus. People also keep telling me I should read WG Sebald since I love Richard Powers so much, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. That might be a good lead if you haven't. And nobody has mentioned Umberto Eco yet, but I assume you probably know him based on what else you've read.
posted by jdunn_entropy at 1:50 PM on June 16, 2006

Fourth for George Saunders. I think his debut story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, hangs together better than Pastoralia, but I liked both; they're angry, over-the-top satiric, heartbreaking, sad, inspirational, etc - particularly the novella Bounty. In a Gothamist interview last fall he discussed his latest short book, which has shapes as characters and is apparently influenced by Dr. Seuss and Monty Python.
posted by mediareport at 6:41 PM on June 16, 2006

No particularly young or unknown, but Ishmael Reed is good. I particularly like Flight to Canada. Richard McCann's Mother of Sorrows is fantastic, and definitely not as well known as it should be. I'm halfway through David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (not to be confused with Liam Callahan's The Cloud Atlas which was published at roughly the same time) after months of picking it up and putting it down and I'm enjoying it so much that I'll probably finish it in a day or two. Finally, check out Gaetan Soucy -- I loved The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches and I've heard Vaudeville! is even better (it's likely next on my reading list).
posted by Felicity Rilke at 8:38 PM on June 16, 2006

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