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April 15, 2010



just finished Love and Summer by Trevor. wonderful.

nora barnacle

This is a terrific list, (suitably) meandering and fresh.


I love the non-programmatic nature of your list.

And I see you've listed one of my faves - The Blue Flower.

Here's a short list of my own favorites:

The Elementary Particles - Michel Houellebecq
The Ogre - Michel Tournier
Glamorama - Brett Easton Ellis
The Killer Inside Me - Jim Thompson
The Thought Gang - Tibor Fischer
What Was Lost - Catherine O'Flynn
Marooned in Real Time - Vernor Vinge


I love the Regeneration trilogy and The God of Small Things.


Among the big names you left out, I assume would be Alice Munro, who with William Trevor, reign as Queen and King of Shortstorydom.


I think the short story, like the Gospel of Luke, has three kings: de Maupassant, Kleist and Chekhov. We English-speaking men don't even come close.


Double nod for Being Dead and Stoner. I haven't got on the Dan Chaon wagon yet. Any suggestions where to start?

And can we add Gogol to the short story triumvirate? Perhaps make it a proper Mt. Rushmore-like quartet.


Waterland! People don't talk about that book nearly enough anymore. It's the greatest, I reckon. (And by far Swift's best--I'm tempted to say his only really good--book.)

Death of the Heart, too. And Stoner, and But Beautiful. Favorites, all.

Great list, Marisa


Stoner has been everywhere, lately. What a beautiful book. I'm about to read Butcher's Crossing, which I hear is as good as Stoner.


absolutely agree with, among other books on the list, waterland - an all time favorite, definitely his best book. also, i would include anything by penelope fitzgerald....


Mmmmm...Gogol. Yes.

Raining Acorns

Glad to see Waterland made this list--I'm with Matthew, and perhaps would go further to say it's his only really strong book. Not including Alice Munro, though, is a egregious oversight (sorry to be so brusk, but I must in this case). But thanks to Marisa for getting us thinking again about all the incredible, yet under-recognized literary work out there.


Short stories by James Lasdun, Grace Paley, Malamud, Joseph Epstein, Lahiri and yes yes yes Eisenberg and Munro.


Wow, I never see the Doerr mentioned. Never. That is a terrific inclusion! And feel exactly the same way about Graham Greene. My bookshelf looks like that too.

Stella Pierides

Thank you for this list! I love, or should I say respect, Cootzee’s Disgrace. May I add
Doris Lessing, The Grass is Singing; Nikos Kazantzakis, Christ Recrucified and R K Narayan, The Painter of Signs


I add to the admiration here for The Blue Flower -- probably my Favorite Novel Ever for the time being. Also, the Regeneration trilogy (although I've tried a couple of others by Barker I didn't finish). A recent discovery (for me) has been Machado de Assis, particularly Dom Casmurro.


Loved the list - but, as many, I'd add Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Wimbledon Bookclub (@WimbledonBookcl)

Wimbledon Bookclub will be discussing Elizabeth Bowen's "The Death of the Heart" on June 6th 2011 and June 20th 2011.

Any and all are welcome but places are limited.

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  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."


  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald


    Penelope Fitzgerald's second novel is the tale of Florence Green, a widow who seeks, in the late 1950s, to bring a bookstore to an isolated British town, encountering all manner of obstacles, including incompetent builders, vindictive gentry, small minded bankers, an irritable poltergeist, but, above all, a town that might not, in fact, want a bookshop. Fitzgerald's prose is spare but evocative – there's no wasted effort and her work reminds one of Hemingway's dictum that every word should fight for its right to be on the page. Florence is an engaging creation, stubbornly committed to her plan even as uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the enterprise gnaws at her. But The Bookshop concerns itself, finally, with the astonishing vindictiveness of which provincials are capable, and, as so much English fiction must, it grapples with the inevitabilities of class. It's a dense marvel at 123 pages, a book you won't want to – or be able to – rush through.
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbe


    Tim Krabbé's superb 1978 memoir-cum-novel is the single best book we've read about cycling, a book that will come closer to bringing you inside a grueling road race than anything else out there. A kilometer-by-kilometer look at just what is required to endure some of the most grueling terrain in the world, Krabbé explains the tactics, the choices and – above all – the grinding, endless, excruciating pain that every cyclist faces and makes it heart-pounding rather than expository or tedious. No writer has better captured both the agony and the determination to ride through the agony. He's an elegant stylist (ably served by Sam Garrett's fine translation) and The Rider manages to be that rarest hybrid – an authentic, accurate book about cycling that's a pleasure to read. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."