Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Great underappreciated authors (UPDATED)

The ever charming and irreverent Ella (Box of Books) has been vacationing for the last couple weeks, but she left behind for us a series she's recently collected of interviews with her fellow bloggers. She even invited me to participate and I did: I discuss a number of uninteresting things at length. (Shut up, already, Isabella!)

Ella's one control question put to all her subjects: “Who is your favorite underappreciated author, and what makes them great?”

These are the suggestions elicited:

Suggested by Kate (Kate's Book Blog):
Anna Kavan — "She’s extraordinary. Powerful, disturbing, unconventional tales. One critic referred to her as "Kafka’s sister" and she’s worthy of the comparison."
Adele Wiseman — "She took on topics thought at the time to be decidedly unsavoury for a woman writer... She is a daring, uncompromising, accomplished writer."

Suggested by Bud Parr (Chekhov's Mistress):
Mesa Selimovic — "It's something of a feat to pull off nearly five hundred pages of a man thinking, without a great deal of action. So, I would say that it's subtlety and nuance that Selimovic is great for." Death and the Dervish.

Suggested by Iliana (BookGirl's Nightstand):
Denise Chavez — "Her stories are always filled with eccentric characters."

Suggested by Dorothy (Of Books and Bicycles):
Mary McCarthy — "She has this very honest, forthright voice that is devastatingly intelligent." Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood.
Also, great underappreciated book: U and I, by Nicholson Baker.

Suggested by Rachel (Milkbreath and Me):
Mark Alan Stamaty — "Full of fastidious, eccentric, hilarious, creepy, obsessive, possibly drug-addled detail, these books are surrealist classics." Who Needs Donuts? and Small in the Saddle.

Suggested by Susan (Paged Turned):
Rebecca West — "She's smart, versatile, and writes like a dream."

Suggested by yours truly:
Amin Maalouf — "Exotic locales, spiritual quests, stories within stories."

Suggested by Stefanie (So Many Books):
Ursula K LeGuin — "She tends to approach many of her novels and stories from an anthropological viewpoint, dissecting and commenting on the societies and cultures she creates but that are ultimately reflections of our own in some way."

Suggested by Danielle (A Work in Progress):
Mary Wesley — "Wikipedia says it nicely: "Her take on life reveals a sharp and critical eye which neatly dissects the idiosyncrasies of middle-class England with humour, compassion and irony, detailing in particular sexual and emotional values.""
Sebastien Japrisot — "He wrote a series of atmospheric noir thrillers."

Suggested by Phil Wade (Brandywine Books):
Lars Walker — "He is a good writer and I believe he has strong stories... It's good historical fantasy."

Suggested by Julia (Bookworm) — "It's pretty obvious (to me) what makes both of these authors great; what's sad is that I believe they're underappreciated only because they write genre fiction":
Patrick O'Brian
Ray Bradbury

Suggested by Jeff (Necessary Acts of Devotion):
Christopher Morley — "He has a keen eye for detail, a profound respect for books, and a wonderful sense of humor."

Suggested by Diana (Diaphanous):
John Banville
Also, great underappreciated book: We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver.

And Ella answers the question (among others) herself — "All three have that mix of tension and dreaminess I find particularly nice in a novel":
WH Hudson
Mary Webb
George du Maurier
Also, great underappreciated book: The Enormous Room, by ee cummings.

I've heard of some of these authors,in passing, mainly on the blogs of those people who put the names forth, but on the whole they are new to me and wonderful discoveries. Other names I know quite well, but are typically circumscribed by some genre or other label: "underappreciated" is a subjective judgement.

I'm determined to hunt down some work by Anna Kavan (particularly Ice), since earlier this year I read a short essay (by Doris Lessing, in Time Bites) summing up three of her books.

The Underrated Writers Project thread is still open at MetaxuCafĂ© — nominate your own favourite underappreciated writer. See the Introduction and the list of 55 writers compiled at Syntax of Things.
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