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Favorite authors of post WW II 20th century

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One of the great things about BGO over the years has been the number of books I've read on others' recommendations that I would never have otherwise even considered.  I would be interested in your list of 43, Dan...

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Here's my list.  It does not include any genre writers, even if I think they are great.  I would have a list for fantasy, spy, and detective fiction that is at least this long:

 

Monica Ali (Brick Lane; In the Kitchen)

Julia Alvarez (In the Time of the Butterflies; How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents)

Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits; Eva Luna)

 

Jorge Luis Borges (Various short stories)

William Boyd (Any Human Heart; Restless)

 

Pat Conroy (The Great Santini; The Prince of Tides)

 

William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury; Absalom, Absalom! As I Lay Dying; Light in August--really anything)

 

Jane Gardam (Old Filth, The Man in the Wooden Hat, and Last Friends; God on the Rocks)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude; The General in his Labyrinth; Chronicle of a Death Foretold--really anything)

Ellen Gilchrist (In the Land of Dreamy Dreams; Victory over Japan; Drunk with Love; Light Can be Both Wave and Particle--I like her short story collections more than her novels)

 

Wayne Johnston (The Colony of Unrequited Drams [really, "Dreams," but I left the typo because it's funny]; The Navigator of New York; The Custodian of Paradise)

 

Wally Lamb (I Know this Much is True)

Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird)

 

Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall; Bring Up the Bodies)

Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove--everything else he's written is excellent; Lonesome Dove is the best of the best)

Peter Mathiessen (Killing Mr. Watson)

 

Patrick O'Brian (The Aubrey-Maturin series)

 

Orhan Pamuk (My Name is Red; The Museum of Innocence)

Iain Pears (The Dream of Scipio)

Walker Percy (The Last Gentleman; Love in the Ruins; Lancelot; The Second Coming--he's best known for "The Moviegoer," but that's my least favorite of his books)

 

Vikram Seth (A Suitable Boy)

Zadie Smith (White Teeth; On Beauty)

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; The First Circle; Cancer Ward)

Edward St. Aubyn (The Patrick Melrose Novels)

Susan Straight (Take One Candle Light a Room; Between Heaven and Here)

 

Peter Taylor (The Old Forest and other Stories; A Summons to Memphis)

Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club; The Kitchen God's Wife)

Harry Thompson (This Thing of Darkness (known as "To the Edge of the World" in the U.S.)

Anne Tyler (The Accidental Tourist; Breathing Lessons)

 

Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse-Five; Cat's Cradle)

 

Sarah Waters (Fingersmith)

Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire; The Glass Menagerie--really anything)

Tobias Wolff (This Boy's Life; Old School)

Tom Wolfe (The Bonfire of the Vanities; A Man in Full)

Edited by Binker

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Great list Binker! 8 of those authors ( Wolfe, Solzenitsin, Faulkner, Marquez,Percy, Borges, Lee, Mathiesson) are people I cut from my list because I was sure someone would mention them.

 

One of the great things about BGO over the years has been the number of books I've read on others' recommendations that I would never have otherwise even considered. I would be interested in your list of 43, Dan...

me too

I posted them on the just bought/ thread. Edited by Dan

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Great list Binker! 8 of those authors ( Wolfe, Solzenitsin, Faulkner, Marquez,Percy, Borges, Lee, Mathiesson) are people I cut from my list because I was sure someone would mention them.

Just realized you might be curious so I edited to add :-)

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I wasn't sure anyone on BGO would have read Percy and I think he's fabulous.

 

The other ones I wasn't sure anyone would have read were:  Ellen Gilchrist, Wayne Johnston, and Susan Straight.  I'm also not positive that Pat Conroy has made it across the pond.  But BGOers always surprise me in this regard.  

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I wasn't sure anyone on BGO would have read Percy and I think he's fabulous.

 

The Moviegoer has sat on my shelves for a number of years, but it sounds as if it is not the best place to start. 

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The Moviegoer has sat on my shelves for a number of years, but it sounds as if it is not the best place to start.

 

Well I would agree with Binker that Moviegoer is my least favorite Percy. But that's like saying 'Fierce invalids...' Is my least favorite Robbins or 'Water-method man' is my least favorite Irving or 'The Gambler' is my least favorite Dostoyevsky. They are still thoughtful, entertaining and well-written books. Just not up to the extraordinarily high standards set by the other works. Edited by Dan

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I wasn't sure anyone on BGO would have read Percy and I think he's fabulous.

 

The other ones I wasn't sure anyone would have read were:  Ellen Gilchrist, Wayne Johnston, and Susan Straight.  I'm also not positive that Pat Conroy has made it across the pond.  But BGOers always surprise me in this regard.

 

Really glad to hear about Alvarez, Conroy, McMurtry,Tan and Gilchrist. I'm familiar with all their names but never knew if they were actually really good or just really popular. And I'd never heard of Ali, Johnston or Straight.

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Conroy's writing is a bit florid, but you just have to embrace it.  Everything else about the books is really good.

 

I LOVE Larry McMurtry, especially Lonesome Dove.  If you read my reviews of it, you'll be able to tell.  

 

Ellen Gilchrist's short stories are wonderful.  She has recurring characters and it's a joy when one of them pops up in a story again.  Some of her stories are hilarious.

 

Johnston writes about Newfoundland and I learned so much from reading his books, which are also very engaging reads.  His writing might be a touch florid, too.  I guess I don't mind florid.

 

Straight was a discovery I made last year after a great review in the Dallas Morning News.  I wrote reviews of her books, but they disappeared in the Great Disappearance.  She's a professor at UC-Riverside and apparently was born and raised in Riverside.  The two books I've read tell the stories of a black/ mixed-race family from Louisiana that relocates to California after WWII.  And that short sentence doesn't begin to do justice to the books.  I highly recommend them. 

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Really glad to hear about Alvarez, Conroy, McMurtry,Tan and Gilchrist. I'm familiar with all their names  but never knew if they were actually really good or just really popular.

Am curious about your remark re "really popular"  - is it not possible to be really popular and really good too?  I have found that some books that are raved about as being really good, to me they don't hold a lot of charm whereas quite a few of the really popular ones are interesting reads.  I guess it's all according to taste.  :)

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Am curious about your remark re "really popular"  - is it not possible to be really popular and really good too?  I have found that some books that are raved about as being really good, to me they don't hold a lot of charm whereas quite a few of the really popular ones are interesting reads.  I guess it's all according to taste.  :)

There are many books that I would say are really good and really popular. But it seems that a lot of popular books may have an interesting story without it being well plotted, original, or very well written. I can think of several popular authors where the prose is either rather insipid or excessively melodramatic. And I can think of several who are actually very good story tellers, without necessarily having much style or flair to their writing, many of whom are deservedly popular. But I would think that for an author to be listed as someone's favorite they would have to tell an interesting story in a well structured fashion with a certain distinctiveness to their prose. So I was glad to see that Binker thought these authors possessed those traits.

In a side note Momac- I quoted you on the 'Orlando' group read page but merely wrote it out so you may not have noticed. Loved your comments re; Orlando!

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Here are some that nobody has mentioned. Most of them are American, but my top pick is Scottish:

 

Dorothy Dunnett (The Lymond Chronicles, The House of Niccolo)

William Styron (Sophie's Choice, The Confessions of Nat Turner)

Mark Helprin (Winter's Tale, A Solder of the Great War)

Alice Walker (The Color Purpose, The Temple of My Familiar)

Syvia Plath (The Bell Jar)

John Crowley (Little, Big)

E.L. Doctorow (The Book of Daniel, Billy Bathgate, Ragtime)

Mary Renault (The Bull from the Sea, The King Must Die)

Herman Wouk (Winds of War, War and Remembrance)

James Clavell (Shogun, Taipan, Noble House)

Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose, Crossing to Safety)

Nevil Shute (A Town Like Alice, On the Beach)

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Can't believe I wrote "The Color Purpose" for Alice Walker. Duh!

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Everyone I know loves Wallace Stegner, so I have to move him up on the must-read list.

 

 

Can't believe I wrote "The Color Purpose" for Alice Walker. Duh!

Ha!  I have a friend who, in 1985, raved and raved about the wonderful movie he had seen the previous weekend:  "Color Me Purple."  I told him it sounded like a porno movie.  I actually had lunch with a group of friends, including him, today, and we took the opportunity to tease him about it.  Again.

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I would give a mention to CP Snow's Strangers and Brothers series - a series of semi-autobiographical novels set (mostly) in the worlds of academia and government from the 1930s to the 1960s. The insight is brilliant, the langauge and style quite ahead of its time, and I haven't come across the subject matter elsewhere - certainly not contemporaneously.

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Everyone I know loves Wallace Stegner, so I have to move him up on the must-read list.

 

 

Ha!  I have a friend who, in 1985, raved and raved about the wonderful movie he had seen the previous weekend:  "Color Me Purple."  I told him it sounded like a porno movie.  I actually had lunch with a group of friends, including him, today, and we took the opportunity to tease him about it.  Again.

 

That's hilarious!

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There are many books that I would say are really good and really popular. But it seems that a lot of popular books may have an interesting story without it being well plotted, original, or very well written. I can think of several popular authors where the prose is either rather insipid or excessively melodramatic. And I can think of several who are actually very good story tellers, without necessarily having much style or flair to their writing, many of whom are deservedly popular. But I would think that for an author to be listed as someone's favorite they would have to tell an interesting story in a well structured fashion with a certain distinctiveness to their prose. So I was glad to see that Binker thought these authors possessed those traits.

In a side note Momac- I quoted you on the 'Orlando' group read page but merely wrote it out so you may not have noticed. Loved your comments re; Orlando!

Hi Dan: I did see where you mentioned my Orlando comments. Will always remember Orlando! I see you have a great stash of books ahead of you - will look forward to your reviews of the ones you like.

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The Moviegoer has sat on my shelves for a number of years, but it sounds as if it is not the best place to start. 

 

I finally asked my husband to tell me which Walker Percy novel was his favorite and he couldn't remember/decide.  So really any of the 4 I've mentioned would be good.  I think that both of us thought Love in the Ruins was the best.  

 

My husband (age 53) says that these books contain by far the most nuanced and accurate description of racial relations in the Louisiana of his childhood.  At one point he put the book down, looked at me and said, "This is just so exactly right" and then had me read the scene.  And I'm pretty sure it's in this book.  It is the scene where the main character goes to get something (or drop something off) at his club with the black man who works on his parents' home and with whom he's become good friends in the car (pickup truck?) with him.   The unspoken discomfort the black man feels, the sudden realization by the main character that he has put this man in a terrible position, and the instantaneous decision he makes about how to fix the problem are exactly right.  At least to white people of a certain age.  

 

Whenever my husband tries to tell the children how it used to be ("all the black people sat up in the balcony at the movie theater"), both children protest that it was well after the Court decisions came down and legal protections were passed that should have done away with those kind of requirements.  He always tells them that those habits and expectations did not disappear as soon as those decisions came down and laws were passed.  And then we both smile that that behavior is now considered shocking. 

 

Sorry, off topic, but I it's part of why I have found Walker Percy so powerful.

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There are two authors whom I particularly admire and forgot to mention, probably because they are already uploaded in my mind and don't need to be recalled and put on a list, they just live there all the time.

 

One is John McGahern. Amongst Women is a marvellous novel, but all are great.

 

The other is Penelope Fitzgerald. The four last novels are terrific but The Beginning of Spring and The Blue Flower are her best. I was reminded of her because I caught the end of a Radio 4 programme today ("Past Perfect") which discussed her life and works and made me want to read them all over again.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03dvbyw

Edited by brightphoebus

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Wow, check out that comprehensive list of Stewart's on Page One, it's excellent, it could certainly keep everyone well occupied working through those great books and authors - thank you Stewart if you are still around the Forum and many thanks tag for finding the thread.

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