Top 5 21st Century Novels?

Started by BWV 1080, May 24, 2023, 02:02:16 PM

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Archaic Torso of Apollo

Quote from: Brian on May 26, 2023, 06:48:17 PMRe info dumps, too many people think they can pull off Moby-Dick. Melville inspired the wrong kind of imitation.

Moby-Dick is one of the two books I blame for this. The other is Ulysses.

Speaking of BR Myers, have you read his article "A Reader's Manifesto"? I don't agree with everything he says, but it's definitely worth reading:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/07/a-readers-manifesto/302270/
formerly VELIMIR (before that, Spitvalve)

"Who knows not strict counterpoint, lives and dies an ignoramus" - CPE Bach

ultralinear

Quote from: BWV 1080 on May 24, 2023, 02:02:16 PMTrolling for some new reading material once I finish my WTV / Pynchon binge, but here is mine in no particular order.  Mine are mostly big & dark

WG Sebald Austerlitz
Roberto Bolano 2666
William T Vollman Dying Grass
Jonathan Littell The Kindly Ones (Les Bienveillantes)
Thomas Pynchon Against the Day

I'm afraid I wasn't able to finish Against the Day - in fact I don't think I've read the whole of any Pynchon novel since Bleeding Edge - and the last one I can honestly say I enjoyed thoroughly was Inherent Vice.  I get the feeling with Pynchon's more recent books that he's piling stuff on top of other stuff in the belief that you can't have too much of a good thing - if 100 pages is good then 1000 pages must be better.  There was a time when I looked forward to each new Pynchon but alas no more. :(

I enjoyed Vollman's Europe Central well enough but haven't tried any others.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is probably the recent book that I most enjoyed and was impressed by.  Dave Eggers' The Circle was also good though events look like outpacing it. :-\

Archaic Torso of Apollo

Quote from: ultralinear on May 27, 2023, 06:41:22 AMStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is probably the recent book that I most enjoyed and was impressed by. 

Good to see another vote for this.
formerly VELIMIR (before that, Spitvalve)

"Who knows not strict counterpoint, lives and dies an ignoramus" - CPE Bach

Brian

Quote from: Archaic Torso of Apollo on May 27, 2023, 06:38:44 AMMoby-Dick is one of the two books I blame for this. The other is Ulysses.

Speaking of BR Myers, have you read his article "A Reader's Manifesto"? I don't agree with everything he says, but it's definitely worth reading:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/07/a-readers-manifesto/302270/
Parts of it rang faint memory bells, but it was still a pleasure to revisit (even if, like you, I don't always agree). Then I went on to the Franzen one containing the remark you noted earlier.

I'll have to read Station Eleven as soon as possible. For a long time I thought it was "pops" fiction, not helped by a recommendation from a family member I do not trust on books, but it seems to be building consensus in this thread!

One more stray criticism to make: though many people put Americanah on lists like this, and though the first portion seemed to have that kind of promise, to me it ultimately felt like an awkward coupling of scathing, brilliant nonfiction political essays with soft, fluffy romantic comedy. Jane Austen did that kind of thing, of course, but she more tightly integrated those strands so her novels didn't feel like they had standalone romance and satire chunks.

Archaic Torso of Apollo

Quote from: Brian on May 28, 2023, 07:12:34 AMParts of it rang faint memory bells, but it was still a pleasure to revisit (even if, like you, I don't always agree). Then I went on to the Franzen one containing the remark you noted earlier.

One thing I disagreed with rather strongly was his disparagement of the style of White Noise. This is a 1st-person narrative, which means that every sentence is by definition a revelation of character. If DeLillo's style is convoluted and ridiculous, that's because the thoughts of his main character are convoluted and ridiculous. (Of course, one is free to dislike the character.)

QuoteI'll have to read Station Eleven as soon as possible. For a long time I thought it was "pops" fiction,

It's really a literary novel with some "soft" SF elements.
formerly VELIMIR (before that, Spitvalve)

"Who knows not strict counterpoint, lives and dies an ignoramus" - CPE Bach

ultralinear

Quote from: Brian on May 28, 2023, 07:12:34 AMI'll have to read Station Eleven as soon as possible. For a long time I thought it was "pops" fiction, not helped by a recommendation from a family member I do not trust on books, but it seems to be building consensus in this thread!

I was put off initially by what I suspected was a load of media hype - and may well have been - but tried it anyway and thought it very good.  I'd describe it as "imaginative fiction" rather than SF (with what that usually implies.) The chronological back-and-forth irritated me a lot less than it usually does, seeming for once to serve a valid purpose other than to disguise the thinness of the narrative (c.f. A Visit from the Goon Squad. ::) )

Looking along my shelves last night I came across an obvious choice which I guess I overlooked because there's nothing particularly modern about it, although it was published as recently as 2016:  A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.  This too has become a very popular selection, fortunately I read it when it first came out so didn't have a chance to be put off by that. ;D

vers la flamme

Quote from: BWV 1080 on May 24, 2023, 02:02:16 PMJonathan Littell The Kindly Ones (Les Bienveillantes)

I've been wanting to read this ever since I first heard about it, but it's damn long and intimidating to start.

I'm unable to comment, as I have not read nearly enough 21st century literature to give an informed opinion.

BWV 1080

I don't get the issue with long books - how long is Harry Potter?  10,000 page multi-book fantasy or SF epics make bestseller lists.  If the writing is engaging then it's all good, if not does not matter if the book is 100 pages or 1000.

Also unlike the multi-volume SF/Fantasy epics where details in book 1 become important in book 8 or whatever, in lit fiction like Pynchon or Vollmann or Joyce or Bolano, its often just a series of vignettes- like a big book of short stories.

But this dread exists of big lit fiction books that spawn dissertations.  Just as one can listen to Bach or Mozart or Carter without a theoretical analysis, these books can be read simply for their immediate visceral impact.

Archaic Torso of Apollo

Quote from: BWV 1080 on May 28, 2023, 02:07:22 PMI don't get the issue with long books

The issue isn't so much length as whether the length is justified. I don't think The Brothers Karamazov or Ulysses or Middlemarch are too long. I do think a lot of contemporary novels are, because the length is a result of padding that actually makes the book worse.
formerly VELIMIR (before that, Spitvalve)

"Who knows not strict counterpoint, lives and dies an ignoramus" - CPE Bach

Mandryka

#29
Quote from: Archaic Torso of Apollo on May 29, 2023, 07:35:30 AMThe issue isn't so much length as whether the length is justified. I don't think The Brothers Karamazov or Ulysses or Middlemarch are too long. I do think a lot of contemporary novels are, because the length is a result of padding that actually makes the book worse.

Well a lot of earlier novels were too long too, think Dumas and Dickens  and (I would argue) Proust too. I don't think it's a particular problem of recent literature. Getting the length right is a real skill, like knowing when a painting is finished.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darĂ¼ber muss man schweigen

Artem

Quote from: BWV 1080 on May 24, 2023, 02:02:16 PMWG Sebald Austerlitz
Roberto Bolano 2666

+

Soldiers of Salamis - Javier Cercas
Traveler of the Century - Andrés Neuman
The Factory - Hiroko Oyamada

Pohjolas Daughter

Quote from: SimonNZ on May 24, 2023, 07:47:54 PMThese days I don't read much fiction and when I do it tends to be older - not because I've got anything against modern fiction, but because I've got a 3000-year backlog.
I understand the feeling!

PD

vers la flamme

Quote from: Artem on May 31, 2023, 08:13:56 AMThe Factory - Hiroko Oyamada


I loved this book, and also liked The Hole. The more recent book of hers that was translated and published about 6 months ago, I think, I didn't like as much. Still she's a great writer, and I'll read anything of hers that gets translated. She's an Akutagawa Prize recipient and is taken pretty seriously in Japan.