Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: The Underrated

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish wants us to list ten authors we feel deserves more recognition.

These could range from authors who have fallen out of favour with the reading public to authors who are well known in their native country but not elsewhere.  It’s also interesting because I think that we will all spot writers on other lists whom we think are very well recognised.

Anyway, before I get going, I need to say that I have been feeling very tired, worn out and generally out of sorts and grumpy for a while now.  I have no idea why but this may flow over into my list so please give me a little latitude if I am more crotchety or flat than usual.

1.         P.G. Wodehouse.  Yes, I know he is extremely well known.  Yes, I know I go on about him all the time.  Yes, I know he is one of the most popular authors around but he still deserves more kudos, more attention and, generally, even more love.  In fact, no amount of recognition will ever be enough, as far as I’m concerned.

2.         Walter Moers.  You’ve probably not read The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear.  You really should.  It’s strange, fun, deceptive and entertaining.  It’ll make you look at things in a slightly different way.

3.         H.H. “Saki” Munro.  I love his short stories.  They are wonderfully witty and often just a little bit twisted and I think his recurring hero, Clovis Sangreal, is great.  He’s had plenty of recognition in his time but seems to have faded out of the public consciousness recently.  Go read Toys of Peace.

4.         Susan Cooper.  The ”Dark is Rising” sequence is one of the best children’s fantasy series ever written.  The five books feature hefty slabs of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon myth and folklore and have an Arthurian them running through them.  I am constantly surprised that they don’t appear to be more widely known in the blogosphere.   A film, the Seeker, was made if the series in 2007.  It is one of the most execrable book to film adaptations ever and should be avoided like the plague.  Read the books instead or buy a copy for your children.  You won’t regret it.

5.         Max Beerbohm.  Beerbohm only wrote one novel but Zuleika Dobson is great.  It was named in the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best English language novels of the 20th Century but, even so, I don’t think enough people are familiar with it.  Set in Oxford University during the Edwardian period, it tells the story of the title character, a remarkable young woman with whom men immediately fall in love but who can only love a man who does not do so.  Having caused a mass suicide at Oxford, the novel ends with her boarding a train for Cambridge, a far more suitable target for her fatal charms.

6.         Robertson Davies.  If any of you are Canadian, you will be looking at your screen in puzzlement as he was one of Canada’s most popular authors.  I firmly believe, however, that he is criminally underrated outside the Great White North.  Try High Spirits or The Cornish Trilogy to start off with.

7.         Tove Jansson.  Moomins, Moomins, Moomins.  Read them as a child, loved them, want everyone else to get hold of them for their kids.  One more time, Moomins, Moomins, Moomins!

8.         Geoff Dyer.  Probably because he refuses to stick to one type of writing, I think Geoff Dyer is unfairly overlooked.  He is a novelist, essayist and non-fiction writer.  Basically, he is just a great writer.  Try The Missing of the Somme or Paris Trance to get a flavour of the man.

9.         G.K. Chesterton.  Although he was a reactionary old dinosaur, Chesterton remains one of the great British literary figures of the early 20th Century.  He is unfashionable these days but the Father Brown stories are timeless.  He also wrote some great novels, such as The man who was Thursday.  Described as “a colossal genius”  by GB Shaw, he was also responsible for one of the great openings, in The Napoleon of Notting Hill:

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong...”

10.       Arturo Perez Reverte.  I know he is pretty well known even outside Spain but I don’t think he gets as much recognition as he should.  Skip over the Captain Alatriste stories, as fun as they are, and go straight to The Flanders Panel or The Dumas Club.  You won’t be disappointed.

As I’ve been writing this, many others have sprung to mind, such as Ismail Kadare, Aleksandr Hemon and Manuel Vazquez Montalban.  I reckon that, generally speaking, we in the Anglophone routinely underrate authors who write in other languages.  Our publishing industries are terrible at bringing translated works to the reading public and there are many, many fantastic authors out there who are almost unknown in the Anglophone world.  What a shame for us.

15 comments:

Red said...

I've been trying to expand my literary circle and I've had trouble finding books by non-English speaking authors, so I do think you're right that within English speaking publishing houses these authors are under represented.

Loni said...

I included the international on my list too. I think Hanan Al-Shaykh deserves more recognition. I love Davies too. He's a great author and more peole should read him, not just Canadians :)

Karen said...

Fantastic list. Wodehouse, Cooper and Dyer are all on my must read list. Cooper has been for a long, long time now. Love the moomins!

Thank you for being my third follower. Have followed you back.

booknympho said...

Great list! Lots of writers I haven't heard of but sound like something I'd love! I'm glad to have been introduced to them today!

smellincoffee said...

I've heard a great deal about Wodehouse, mostly from Isaac Asimov -- who seems to have enjoyed his writing tremendously.

Avid Reader said...

I just started the Susan Cooper series last year. I'd never heard of it before and now I'm on the 4th book. I can't believe I made it through my whole childhood and adolescents without someone recommending it to me!

Birdie said...

Great list! There's no such thing as too much Wodehouse :)

I have a friend who is writing her dissertation on Beerbohm, and I confess never having heard of him until she chided me. He's on my TBR list, but it's still going to be a little bit. Why so many good books and so much stupid stuff to do every day when i could be reading?

Alexandra said...

Completely agree with Arturo Perez Reverte. Not even Johnny Deep brought him the fame he deserved...

Dani said...

*jaw drop* How have I not heard of Zuleika Dobson?! It sounds brilliant and right up my alley.

I'll second your recommendation of Tove Jansson. I got exposed to the Moomin books for the first time this year in my Swedish class and thought they were so charming and wonderful.

DL3 said...

http://dl3mashael.blogspot.com/2011/03/brief-illustrated-guide-to.html

LBC said...

Some of yours sound vaguely familiar, but have definitely slipped under my radar (except Saki).

Check out my post here: http://hawthornescarlet.blogspot.com/2011/03/top-ten-tuesday-check-um-out.html

Falaise said...

Red - I've read that, apparently, in the US, only 3% of non-English language novels are translated and published each year and I guess it would be a similar percentage here in the UK.

Loni - I've not heard of Al Shaykh. Do you have a recommendation?

Karen - Thanks for the comment and for following!

Booknympho - thanks for the comment.

Falaise said...

smellincoffee - I didn't know that Asimov was a Wodehouse fan. Thanks for letting me know.

Avidreader - I've seen Susan Cooper appear on a couple of other lists so maybe we can get her some publicity!

Birdie - I agree. Life does have a habit of interfering with reading.

Alex - To be fair to JD, it was a pretty rubbish adaptation. Another in the "film of the book" Hall of Shame.

Dani - Moomins rock!

LBC - Thanks for the comment. I will check your list out.

Katrina said...

I'm completely with you on Saki and Wodehouse. I have Fifth Business by Robertson Davies on my soon to read pile. I do neglect books which haven't been written in English originally, like most Brits - must do better.

The Literary Nomad said...

Great list! I completely support Robertson Davies as I loved Fifth Business. I would be keen to read more of his work. Haven't read any of Arturo Perez Reverte but sounds like he could be a good choice for when I get to Spain?