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Mae

Favorite authors of post WW II 20th century

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Having more than a little extra time to read just now, I thought it was time to try and fill a hole in my education. At school we mostly read 19th century novels as literature, like history, came to a . in 1914. I accepted that until I began to read contemporary literary fiction in the 90s. The period from the end of WW2 to then is pretty empty in a literary sense, despite its huge importance!

 

So what to read? Does anyone else feel they don't know enough about this period too? Or could some of the fearsomely well read people on this forum help me out? I thought I might try to choose one book for each year 1945 - 1995 and began to compile a list, but what to choose? Is it essential to include genres like sci-fi to properly represent the 50s, and if so what? When I spot a 'great' author I've never read eg William Golding, which of his books should I select?

 

I really would be grateful for any suggestions.

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When I spot a 'great' author I've never read eg William Golding, which of his books should I select?

Well, the current BGO read is The Spire, so you could make a start with that and join in with the coming discussion.

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Thanks for that suggestion, it helped me make my way to the Book Group monthly read thread. I will give it a go but is it Golding's best? I had pencilled in Martin Pincher, but what about Lord of the Flies? I have read LotF but hadn't clocked that it was Golding thus displaying the depth of my ignorance!

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The Power and the Glory is fantastic, but I've just checked its publication date which is 1940 and therefore out of my self imposed period. I found the portrait of religious faith as both redemptive and corrupting very affecting, an interesting read alongside The Poisonwood Bible (different time, different continent but some interesting comparisons)

 

The Third Man is 1949 but, despite being good reading for a weekend trip to Vienna, is too short and not quite good enough!

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Our library RG read a collection of Elizabeth Taylor novels last year. We found them an interesting collection. They varied in their quality but there were a few gems amongst them. I liked In a Summer Season and At Mrs. Lippincote's got a number of thumbs-up. I am not certain of publication dates but remember them as being late 40s and early 50s.

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The period from the end of WW2 to then [the 1990s] is pretty empty in a literary sense, despite its huge importance!
Away! There's plenty out there. From the fifties, sci-fi aside, there's the rise of suburban novels, there's those dealing with the aftermath of WWII, be it soldiers coming home or Holocaust survivors; the sixties see in a new wave of experimental fictions (postmodern); the seventies return to war with Vietnam, and so on.

 

I thought I might try to choose one book for each year 1945 - 1995 and began to compile a list, but what to choose?
Well, since there's plenty out there I went to Wikipedia and looked at each of the years. The list there is by no means complete, but there's still some rich pickngs. The only real duffer was 1994. So here's a mixed list of titles, consisting of books that have won prizes, are hailed as classics, inspired movies, caused controversy, were written by Nobel laureates, non-fiction - some originally in English, others from all corners of the globe.

 

1945: Animal Farm, George Orwell / Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

1946: Goodbye To Berlin & Mr Norris Changes Trains, Christopher Isherwood / The Member Of The Wedding, Carson McCullers

1947: The Pearl, John Steinbeck / Doctor Faustus, Thomas Mann / Snow County, Yasunari Kawabata

1948: Cry, The Beloved Country, Alan Paton / The Heart Of The Matter, Graham Greene

1949: The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles / The Trial, Franz Kafka / Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell / Life With A Star, Jiri Weil

1950: Parade's End, Ford Maddox Ford / The Grass Is Singing, Doris Lessing

1951: The End Of The Affair, Graham Greene / The Last Temptation Of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis / The Catcher In The Rye, J.D. Salinger / The Day Of The Triffids, John Wyndham

1952: The Old Man And The Sea, Ernest Hemingway / The Natural, Bernard Malamud / East Of Eden, John Steinbeck

1953: Go Tell It On The Mountain, James Baldwin / Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

1954: Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis / Lord Of The Flies, William Golding / I Am Legend, Richard Matheson

1955: The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith / Mehmed, My Hawk, Yaser Kemal / Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov / The Lonely Passion Of Judith Hearne, Brian Moore / Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

1956: Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin / Sieze The Day, Saul Bellow / Palace Walk, Naguib Mahfouz / The Lonely Londoners, Sam Selvon

1957: On The Road, Jack Kerouac / If This Is A Man, Primo Levi /

1958: Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe / Breakfast At Tiffany's, Truman Capote

1959: Psycho, Robert Bloch / Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs / The Tin Drum, Günter Grass / Goodbye, Columbus, Philip Roth

1960: To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee / Rabbit, Run, John Updike

1961: Catch-22, Joseph Heller / Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates / The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark /

1962: A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess / The Man In The High Castle, Philip K. Dick / One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey / The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing / One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

1963: The Ice Palace, Tarjei Vesaas / Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut

1964: Herzog, Saul Bellow

1965: The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, Philip K. Dick / In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

1966: The Master And Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov / The Magus, John Fowles / Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys

1967: The Magic Toyshop, Angela Carter / One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez / A Grain Of Wheat, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

1968: A Kestrel For A Knave, Barry Hines / Cancer Ward, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn / Couples, John Upike

1969:The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles / Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth / Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut

1970: Fifth Business, Robertson Davies / Papillon, Henri Charrière

1971: The Book Of Daniel, E.L. Doctorow / Angle Of Repose, Wallace Stegner

1972: Watership Down, Richard Adams / To Serve Them All My Days, R.F. Delderfield / Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson

1973: The Rachel Papers, Martin Amis / Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

1974: Something Happened, Joseph Heller

1975: Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow / Humboldt's Gift, Saul Bellow

1976: Kiss Of The Spider Woman, Manuel Puig / Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, Raymond Carver

1977: The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch / The Wars, Timothy Findlay / A Book Of Common Prayer, Joan Didion

1978: The Stories Of..., John Cheever / The Three-Arched Bridge, Ismail Kadare

1979: The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter / The Executioner's Song, Normal Mailer / A Bend In The River, V.S. Naipaul / If On A Winter's Night A Traveler, Italo Calvino

1980: The Name Of The Rose, Umberto Eco / Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess / Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie / A Confederacy Of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

1981: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver / Lanark, Alasdair Gray

1982: The House Of The Spirits, Isabel Allende / The Color Purple, Alice Walker

1983: Life And Times Of Michael K., J.M. Coetzee / The Piano Teacher, Elfried Jelinek / Cathedral, Raymond Carver

1984: Money, Martin Amis / Empire Of The Sun, J.G. Ballard / The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks / Neuromancer, William Gibson / The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, Milan Kundera /

1985: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood / Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy / Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez / Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson

1986: The Old Devils, Kingsley Amis / The Sportswriter, Richard Ford / The Year Of The Death Of Ricardo Reis, Jose Saramago

1987: Moon Tiger, Penelope Lively / Beloved, Toni Morrison / The Child In Time, Ian McEwan

1988: Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco / The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie / The Fifth Child, Doris Lessing

1989: A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving / The HIstory Of The Seige Of Lisbon, Jose Saramago / The Remains Of The Day, Kazuo Ishiguro

1990: The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien / The Black Book, Orhan Pamuk

1991: Time's Arrow, Martin Amis / Posession, A.S. Byatt / American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis

1992: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, Roddy Doyle / The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje / Sacred Hunger, Barry Unsworth

1993: The Emigrants, W.G. Sebald / Like Water For Chocolate, Laura Esquivel / The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx

1994: How Late It Was, How Late, James Kelman

1995: The Unconsoled, Kazuo Ishiguro / Blindness, Jose Saramago / The Ghost Road, Pat Barker

 

So see what you make of that.

 

Is it essential to include genres like sci-fi to properly represent the 50s, and if so what?
Not really.

 

When I spot a 'great' author I've never read eg William Golding, which of his books should I select?
My approach, which I'm doing with Philip Roth, Jim Crace and plan to do with Cormac McCarthy, is to start at the start and work my way forward, observing the same themes developing into richer fictions. Although I've read books by Steinbeck, Ishiguro, Yates, and Nabokov, I'm going back o the start with all of them.

 

My personal recommendations would be:

 

  • The Name Of The Rose, Umberto Eco
  • If On A Winter's Night A Traveler, Italo Calvino
  • The Remains Of The Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates
  • Goodbye, Columbus, Philip Roth
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  • Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  • The Ice Palace, Tarjei Vesaas
  • A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
  • A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving

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Thanks for that suggestion, it helped me make my way to the Book Group monthly read thread. I will give it a go but is it Golding's best? I had pencilled in Martin Pincher, but what about Lord of the Flies? I have read LotF but hadn't clocked that it was Golding thus displaying the depth of my ignorance!

Well, choosing an author's 'best' book is always a bit of a subjective thing. I would say that if you're keen to become familiar with the 'canon' as it were of post WWII literature then you probably should choose LOTF, since it is an undoubted classic and highly influential. I suggested The Spire for the current book group read because it's less well known (since LOTF tends to be done to death in schools) and certainly one of his very best. Pincher Martin is an extraordinary book for many reasons and well worth a read, though not quite of the calibre of the other two. If I were to recommend any others from his output it would be The Inheritors.

 

So, take your pick - but I thought The Spire would be a good way to immerse yourself in BGO!

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Philip Roth called A Perfect Spy by John le Carré "the best English novel since the war."

 

*EDIT: I'll also add my voice to the works of Graham Greene, Love in the Time of Cholera, and The Remains of the Day. I'll add Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, The Human Stain by Philip Roth, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (although these last three are after 1995).

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Brideshead Revisited, Brighton Rock, To The Lighthouse, any DH Lawrence

 

 

Of these suggestions you will find only Brideshead Revisited was written or at least published after WWII. Lawrence died in 1930 and To The Lighthouse was written in 1927.

 

How about trying some of the novels of Kingsley Amis (Lucky Jim for example) or Alan Sillitoe (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning). Or there's Muriel Sparks' The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie published in 1960.

 

If you're not confining yourself to British authors the world's your oyster with Albert Camus or the Americans like John Steinbeck or Raymond Chandler.

 

In fact, it might be worth investing in one of the Bloomsbury Good Reading Guides to start you off.

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I think if you start with Stewart's list, stick around at BGO and add a book or two every week - your TBR (to be read) pile will grow in no time. ;)

BTW - Stewart, great list!

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BTW - Stewart, great list!

 

It sure is! I feel anything I add will be woefully inadequate by comparison. Nevertheless, as Mae has asked about sci-fi and as Stewart seems to have dismissed it out of hand, I would say two things:-

 

1. It's up to you what you read, so by all means take note of the various suggestions and recommendations, but don't force yourself to read books you're not enjoying. Life's too short!

 

2. If you want to give sci-fi a go, try Frank Herbert's Dune saga. It is sci-fi, but it's a lot more than that, really. A study of humanity is how I would describe it - showing how politics and religion can be used and abused.

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'while Stewart seems to have dismissed Sci-fi,' his list actually includes a nice splattering of sci-fi: Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut, 1984 by Orwell, The Handmaid's Tale by Atwood and Neuromancer by Gibson.

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Well it looks like my thread on recent authors has about run its course. So now I wanted to ask all you good folks about your favorite dozen or so authors of the post WW II 20th century. Notice I didn't add the 'literary' appellation which limited the last thread. Considering the number of previously unknown authors I discovered on the previous thread I'm very interested in hearing about all the great authors from outside the US which I've missed.

I really had to whittle to get this list down to a dozen. I ended up with this grouping by eliminating a bunch of authors which I was sure others would mention and went with a primarily Americentric list. So to get it all started here is my list;

 

Thomas Pynchon

Kurt Vonnegut

Tom Robbins

John Barth

Norman Mailer

Douglas Adams

Charles Bukowski

Jack Kerouac

Henry Miller

Gunter Grass

Joseph Heller

Flannery O'Conner

 

An honorable mention goes to these next three authors because the each wrote one really great novel

Ken Kesey- Sometimes a great notion; yes 'Cuckoos nest' is very good, but 'Notion' is a remarkable achievement

David James Duncan- The Brothers K

John Rechy- City of Night

 

So what do you all think?

Edited by Dan

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This is a long list. I've been reading adult fiction since the late fifties, and read  most avidly in C20 .

I may need to add to it, if others surface from my memory. :D

Many of these authors wrote well in to C21, and are still writing.

 

I have restricted myself to two books per author with great difficulty (especially for William Boyd)

 

 

 

Susan Hill  Gentleman & Ladies (1968)  I’m The King of The Castle (1970)

Thomas Keneally (Australian) The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (1972), Schindlers List (1982)

Margaret Laurence (Canadian) The Stone Angel (1964) The Fire Dwellers (1969)

Penelope Lively Moon Tiger (1987) Passing On (1989)

William Trevor (Irish) The Children of Dynmouth (1976) Felicia’s Journey (1994)

Robertson Davies (Canadian) wrote three trilogies, the most well known are The Cornish Trilogy and The Deptford Trilogy. I haven't yet completed either of them, but i intend to.

Peter Carey (Australian) Bliss (1981)  The Tax Inspector (1991)

Margaret Forster Mother Can You Hear Me (1979) Lady’s Maid (1990)

Muriel Spark (Scottish)  Memento Mori (1959) The Abbess of Crewe (1974) - I hate her most famous book, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)

Angela Carter Nights At The Circus (1984)  Wise Children (199)1

Margaret Atwood (Canadian) The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)  Alias Grace (1996)

Lyn Reid Banks The L-Shaped Room (1961), Dark Quartet (1976)

William Boyd A Good Man in Africa (1981) Brazzaville Beach (1990)

John Fowles The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969)

Richard Adams Watership Down (1972)  The Plague Dogs (1977)

Beryl Bainbridge The Dressmaker (1973) An Awfully Big Adventure (1989)

David Lodge The British Museum Is Falling Down  (1965) Nice Work (1988)

Dirk Bogarde Jericho, 1991 A Period of Adjustment, 1994

Mervyn Peake  The Gormenghast Trilogy (omnibus 1967, individual novels 1946 - 1959)

Bernice Rubens (Welsh) The Elected Member (1969)  A Five-Year Sentence (1978)

Paul Scott The Raj Quartet (omnibus1976, individual novels 1966 -75)

William Golding  Lord of the Flies (1954)

 

edited to add:

Jim Crace  Quarantine (1997) Being Dead (1999)

Carol Shields (Canadian) Mary Swann (1987) The Stone Diaries (1993)

Josephine Tey The Franchise Affair (1948) The Daughter of Time (1951)

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As well as the novels and writers I highlighted on the other thread, I'd add J G Ballard, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams and Philip K. Dick. I guess these writers would be considered to be at the more literary end of the science fiction spectrum. 

 

In crime, Georges Simenon, Ian Rankin, Carl Hiaasen and Henning Mankell are all very good at what they do.

 

Elsewhere, special mentions to Patrick McGrath, The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, Kazuo Ishiguro, Iain Banks, Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City sequence and Michel Faber.   

 

I'd also second bobblington nod to the great P G Wodehouse.  

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A few to be going on with...

 

Stephen King (The Dark Tower saga)

 

Terry Pratchett (Discworld)

 

Ian Banks (Rebus)

 

Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger)

 

Christopher Priest (everything I've read of his has been outstandingly different, even when he was using HG Wells as his starting point)

 

Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time saga)

 

Frank Herbert (the Dune saga)

 

Stephen Donaldson (Thomas Covenant)

 

John Steinbeck (Cannery Row was just post WWII)

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Tastes change over the years but here goes and in alphabetical order - (U.S. authors not included 'cos Dan will know them well)

 

Elizabeth Bowen- The Death of the Heart

John Braine - Room at the Top

Peter Carey - Oscar and Lucinda

Jim Crace- Harvest

Umberto Eco - The Name of the Rose

Hans Fallada - Alone in Berlin

John Fowles - The French Lieutenant's Woman

Jane Gardam - the Old Filth

William Golding -  The Inheritors

Graham Greene - Brighton Rock

Kate Grenville - The Secret River

Patrick Hamilton - Hangover Square

Kazuo Ishiguro - Remains of the Day

P. D James(various 'tec novels)

Andrea Levy - Small Island

Hilary Mantel - Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies

James Meek - The People's Act of Love

Ian McEwan - Atonement, Enduring Love

Paul Scott - The Raj Quartet

Alan Sillitoe - Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Muriel Spark - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Elizabeth Taylor - Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

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Tastes change over the years but here goes and in alphabetical order - (U.S. authors not included 'cos Dan will know them well)

Well Chuntzy you shouldn't assume I know all of the good ones :) Ann Beattie and Anne Tyler had slipped under my radar until my recent searches. Still haven't read either one but have been assured they are very good. And beyond my own desire to find great books I'm hoping these lists help others to do the same. Thanks for your list! A few of them I've read and enjoyed, several are on my tbr list, many are names I'd heard but didn't know if they were actually good, and a bunch were completely unknown to me.

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This is so cool! Went to my usual boring thrift stores yesterday and because of the reccos here and on the 25 year thread I bought 43 books(for a little over $50) by authors I've never read. In fact I've accumulated so many books since joining this group that my sweetheart has declared a moratorium on book buying until I get new bookshelves. Won't bore you with the list but you can be assured I will comment on them as I read them. Buying new shelves today so keep those recommendations coming!

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