Fictional Summer Reading List

Art books and Paul Dodd paintings
Art books and Paul Dodd paintings

Steve Hoy posted a comment to this blog a few weeks back asking if anyone had recommendations for some good fiction. Pete replied:

STEVE: “i just finished reading john irving’s last night in twisted river, and while it was good i kinda got antsy to finish it, unlike thomas bergers ‘ (my main man) 2nd little big man book, which i was sorry to come to the end. can anybody recommend some good american fiction?”

I’m the wrong one to ask because my favorite books are all picture books. I did, however, know who to ask. Pete LaBonne sent back a list that should get you through the summer.

PETE: “Sorry for not responding sooner, but I picked up a few Donald Westlake books and didn’t get around to it. Let me make it clear though, I don’t advocate the buying of books. Except maybe for Alaska Bear Tales by Larry something.

If you have to read anything other than William T. Vollmann:
From the old school there’s The Wild Palms by Faulkner, East Of Eden by Stienbeck, & The American Claimant by Twain.

I don’t know if you can consider Conrad & Nabokov american, Hugo was sure french though. While, and you can quote me on this, Flannery O’Connor left the nastiest and most beautiful legacy in the Catholic language, you know, except for the Petticoat Junction theme song.

Tristan Egolf (Lord Of The Barnyard) killed himself, as did David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest). Saul Bellow died on his own. I haven’t seen anything new by D. Keith Mano (Take Five) in a long time or come to think about it or by Pete Hautman (The Mortal Nuts) but you never know unless you go to the trouble to find out. Thomas Pynchon is still alive and getting better. Mason & Dixon is great and so is Inherent Vice.

We do know all about Richard Bachman (of The Regulators fame).

Paul Theroux has written several great books, O Zone, Picture Palace, The Family Arsenal & probably something else I’m forgetting. While Theodore Rozak wrote only one masterpiece which would be titled Flicker.

Then there’s Robert Coover’s wonderful novel Gerald’s Party which I read three times. In fact I read most of these three times. While you’re in “C”, You might want to check out Cormac McCarthy if your library sometimes throws first names into it’s alphabetization scheme.

Then the shit starts getting nasty with Chuck Pahlaniuk which might have a misplaced “H”. Then it gets downright EVIL with Nykanen’s The Bone Parade.

But. There are two books which scared the HELL out of me; L.A. Rex by Will Beall and Alaska Bear Tales by Larry something.”


9 Replies to “Fictional Summer Reading List”

  1. I recommend ‘Barometer Rising’ by Hugh MacLennan; I’ve read it 3 times and have enjoyed it immensely, it’s not too long, and as a historical fiction novel I find it fascinating.
    I also recommend ‘Roger Sudden’ by Thomas Raddall; another historical fiction…both books were published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd. as part of their New Canadian Library series.

  2. I’ll try Mike Rae’s picks, I’ve seen MacLennan at the bookstore
    I work for & wondered about him. More recent americas books:

    Horacio Castellanos Moya – a Salvadoran living in New Hampshire. His
    DANCE WITH SNAKES is thoroughly up to date, creepy, & hilarious.

    Roberto Bolano’s SAVAGE DETECTIVES is his best. He got tons of hype
    & is actually worth it. Truly 21st century writing from this exiled Chilean
    hater of magical realism

    Myriam Laurini is an Argentine-Mexican who writes about the corrupt
    world of modern Mexico City. It’s fascinating & a little too familiar.

    Martin Solares BLACK MINUTES is another Mexico City novel about the
    sad & scary urban world. His style is kind of melancholic but hopeful.

    & to Pete: Larry Kaniut? His books are terrifying. True stories about bear attacks, right? Karen favors anything about animals killing humans, so
    I get to see his writing a lot. I love Donald Westlake too. All work stops
    when I find a new one.

    Jeez, this is way too long. What about CRUDDY by Lynda Barry? Great
    novel by a great artist, bitter, tough & beautiful. I always recommend it
    to young ladies who come to the store looking for something better than
    the usual commercial options. Barry is SO GOOD.

    Anyway summer is a good time to read, too hot to do anything else.
    Next paper version of REFRIGERATOR is coming out any day now I hope.

  3. The best new novel I have read in a long time is REMAINDER, by Tom McCarthy, who has a new book coming out this summer entitled “C”. My favorite contemporary writer is Enrique Vila-Matas; translated from Spanish are Montano’s Malady and Bartleby and Co. These are highly original, transcending the “novel” altogether. And then there is Robert Walser. And if you really want a challenge, Thomas Bernhard.

  4. I bought The Ax by Donald Westlake this am and am reading it on the iPad. My first Westlake book. 99 to go. The purchase experience was so quick and easy since my account was already set up. And I found Last Call in the store and got that. It wasn’t in the store last week. Only at Simon and Schuster which was a fiasco documented on this blog.

  5. Steve if you are still seeking ‘good american fiction’ — you can always check out
    Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke, Richard Price’s Lush Life (or Ladies Man), Elmore Leonard’s Pagan Babies, Saul Bellow’s Mr. Sammler’s Planet, Annie Proulx’s Accordion Crimes, or Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater. (Note the absence of Thomas Pynchon.)

  6. I always read one by Nathaniel Hawthorne every summer. This year it’s Doctor Grimshawe’s Secret. Nothing happens per se ever in Hawthorne’s books. Something HAS happened of possible interest maybe to the cast of characters in his charming and suspenseful books, and maybe you get to find that out if you keep reading.

  7. My favorite Nathaniel Hawthorne is a short story “Rapaccini’s Daughter”.
    Another short story, a mystery (the ending surprised me), was one by Daphne duMaurier “No Motive”.
    This spring – have been reading some of Barry Lopez. “Resistance” another book of short stories and have started his novel “Arctic Dreams”. I think his writing is beautiful.

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