Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

toptentuesday-1I’ve been taking a break from Top Ten Tuesday, in part because I haven’t been blogging, but also because the topics haven’t felt right for me or my blog. At times, the topics are very ya focused and I don’t read a lot of ya so these topics don’t speak that much to me. However, this Tuesday the theme is authors who deserve more recognition and I love that. I like being giving the opportunity to praise authors whom I love but nobody else does (it’s a bit silly since I can praise them every day on this blog but nevermind. Today is the day.) As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

  1. Joyce Carol Oates. I know Joyce Carol Oates might seem like a odd choice but for some reason, it seems to me that she is not regarded as highly as her (male) colleagues John Updike, Philip Roth and others. I don’t know if this is in any way gender related and I’m not going to claim that’s why but I do think it’s wrong that she’s not mentioned when people talk about the Nobel prize for instance – like Roth is every year. I’m not saying Roth doesn’t deserve the praise – he blows me away when I read him – but I love Oates and she deserves just as much praise and as many accolades.
  2. Georges Perec. I’ve only read Life – a User’s Manual by Perec and it’s a strange novel, detailing the lives of the people living in an apartment building in Paris. I loved it so much. Perec has both written a novel without using the letter ‘e’ and a novel where ‘e’ is the only vowel used. I really want to read more by him because he’s is such a strange and fascinating author and I definitely think he deserves a lot more recognition while at the same time I admit that he’s not for everyone.
  3. Mark Helprin. Maybe I am speaking more for the recognition of the novel Winter’s Tale than Mark Helprin. Winter’s Tale is just such an amazingly wonderful and lyrical novel that is simply an experience I would hate to have been without. I don’t know much about Mark Helprin otherwise – I think maybe he’s a Republican Governor or something but this is not felt in his work. And I appreciate that. Too much politic can ruin a novel. I found this book unread in a secondhand bookstore and I had never heard of the book or author before that so I want to encourage everyone to read this one.
  4. Félix J. Palma. For a wild ride, Palma is your guy. Light sci fi elements, fictional and real characters co-mingling, great story telling. The Map of Time lived completely up to my expectations and was just such a great thrilling ride. I can’t wait to read the follow up novel, The Map of the Sky.
  5. Donna Tartt. Donna Tartt is a very slow writer who have only published two books so far (the third one coming out later this year). I’ve read both The Secret History and The Little Friend and really enjoyed them both. I’m really looking forward to her next novel and hopes that it is as great as the first two. So please try her out.
  6. Jack Vance. I see a lot of readers and bloggers enjoying retelling of fairy tales and for people who enjoys these, Vance’s Lyonesse series is one not to miss. It’s a wonderful wonderful series of three novels with princes and princesses, lost lovers, lost children, fairies, wars, intrigue and everything a fairy tale lover enjoys. It’s really a beautiful book, all three volumes of it, and I loved it. Vance is also a sci fi writer and I really want to explore these as well.
  7. Steven Hall. Hall is the author of one novel, I think, The Raw Shark Texts which is an incredibly imaginative novel about a man who has lost his memory but keeps receiving letters from himself. A man on the run from a mysterious word shark – who even appears on the pages. A book that plays with both the story and the way it’s told in ways which resembles the ways Jonathan Safran Foer plays. Highly, highly recommended.

So that was 7 authors you should give some love. Finally, three authors I need to read more. Authors, that for some reason or other I don’t read enough.

  1. Gabriel García Márquez. I loved Love in the Time of Cholera and have bought One Hundred Years of Solitude. But I haven’t read any else. And I can’t explain why. So he’s on my list of authors I need to dedicate more time too.
  2. Margaret Atwood. I have read and loved two of Atwood’s books, Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale. But for some reason, even though the blurbs to her books always sound fascinating, I never get around to actually reading more by her. I really, really need to do so!
  3. José Saramago. I looooved Blindness. I really really did. It was such a great novel. Since I have been keeping an eye out for Saramago, adding titles to my wish list – but I haven’t bought or read another novel by him. I need to fix that too!

So that was my Top Ten for this week. Have I convinced you to read any of them? Do you agree with me about the authors I need to pay more attention to? (Don’t worry – the list doesn’t stop there…!)

Related posts:

2011 Favorites

So I’ve read 41 books this year. Some good, some bad. Here’s a list of my favorites. I haven’t written reviews of all of them (yet) but for each book, I’ve written a reason for why it’s one of this year’s favorites. And I’ve linked to the review I have written. So in no particular order, my best reads of 2011.

Fiction

  • A.S. Byatt: The Children’s Book: This was the first book I read this year and it was a good start to the year. It was my first Byatt and I loved it. Byatt might make it onto the favorite author list one day! Especially since this is apparently isn’t one of her best books if I am to trust other reviewers and bloggers. For me, the best part and the part I keep on remembering is what gave the book it’s name. How the mother in the family wrote a story for each child and each child had it’s special notebook, decorated so it fitted the child and the story. Loved it!
  • Charles Dickens: David Copperfield: I have a weakness for Dickens. At least I think I do. I loved this, I loved A Christmas Carol, and I loved Nicholas Nickleby when I saw it in it’s entirety in a theater some years ago. David Copperfield is an amazing book, apparently kind of self-biographical. This is the story of David Copperfield’s life, starting with his birth, and it’s good.
  • Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections: Not only did I love this book and added Franzen to my list of potential favorite authors, my review of this also made it to the Fresh Pressed page here on WordPress which makes me remember it even more fondly. What can I say? It’s an amazing book. Franzen writes so so so good and everything in the book is just perfect (almost).
  • Colum McCann: Let the Great World Spin: This one surprised me. It involves a lot of different stories, most of which cleverly connect over the marvelous feat performed by a tightrope walker, walking between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The various stories gives the impression of a huge city, where a lot of it’s inhabitants get to share an experience that in some ways can be said to define the uniqueness that is New York.
  • Orhan Pamuk: Snow: The language in this one, the way he uses snow as an image and a metaphor … This is so good. Even though he reveals parts of the story, Pamuk still keeps you hooked. This is an amazing book and it has made Pamuk one of my potential favorite authors.
  • Marcel Proust: Swans Verden 1 (På sporet af den tabte tid 1)/Swann’s Way 1 (In Search of Lost Time 1): Proust is Proust. He’s in a league of his own. I don’t know yet if it’s a league above everyone else but I know he has his own league. Some of his thoughts are so interesting. And it’s weird that an entire book about a man who has just woken up but hasn’t gotten out of bed yet, can be so interesting. I need to read on to really figure out what my thoughts on Proust exactly are.
  • Jack Vance: The Complete Lyonesse: If you like a fairytales, this is a book for you. This is a beautiful and well-written and wonderfully long fairytale with princesses, princes, magicians, kings and queens, fairies and everything else, that makes a fairytale. This is good!

Non-fiction

  • Melanie Joy: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism: The argumentation in this is simple: We’ve all ben indoctrinated to think that it’s all right  to eat our fellow animals but it really isn’t. I’m not vegan or even vegetarian but I hope to one day have the guts to take the step. Books like this are preaching to the choir – still, I think the argumentation in this was more sound than in lots of other books. And I loved it.

So out of 41 books, 8 got 5 stars. So close to 20% of the books I read, I gave 5 stars. Looking back now, the only one I might regret giving 5 stars, is the first volume of Proust’s Remembrance of Times Past/In Search of Lost Time. But I had a hard time figuring out what to rate it. And it’s Proust. I’ve had him on a pedestal forever so I couldn’t rate it anything else. Maybe I’ll change my thoughts about Proust as I read on.

When I look back, 2011 has felt like a really lousy year with regard to reading (and health). Still, I’m sitting here pain free, I got engaged this year (something I never thought I would be) and I did actually read some darn good books this year! So thanks for everything 2011 and see you in 2012! (Oh, and maybe I need to read a bit more non-fiction next year!)

Happy New Year!

Review: The Complete Lyonesse

Jack Vance: The Complete Lyonesse (Gollancz, 2010).

This book contains all three books in the Lyonesse trilogy. Therefore, spoilers to book 1 can be found in the review of book 2 and so forth. I’ll review each book below and then briefly summarize my thoughts about the entire series.

Suldrun’s Garden
In some ways, this is a strange book. After reading it, and thinking about the story, you’re kind of wondering why you were so caught up in this, given that it’s a rather well-known and simple story, a story that has been told so many times before about a princess who is useless because she’s a girl and then becomes useful as a pawn to ensure diplomatic ties between countries. We’ve heard about this in the real world, we’ve heard about this in fiction.
But Suldrun’s Garden, is an amazing book. It begins in Lyonesse and I was immediately drawn in to the story about the princess with an indifferent father and mother, with only her wet nurse caring about her. How she grew up in this rather hostile environment and only become interesting to her father when he realized he could marry her away and thereby ensure an ally for his kingdom.
The man, Faude Carfilhiot, he decides to marry her off to, however, is a somewhat magician, and Suldrun feels that something is off and refuses. Her father therefore banishes her to an old garden, where she must remain till she will obey his will and behave like a proper princess, for the best for her country.
One night though, a man is carried by the waves to the garden, almost drowned. Suldrun nurtures him back to life and they fall in love. The man is Prince Aillas, from Troicinet, a country that Lyoness is at war with. Suldrun and Aillas marry in an old ceremony and Suldrun becomes pregnant. The two plan to flee to ensure their and their baby’s future – this, however, is thwarted. Prince Aillas is put in a hole in the ground to die.
Suldrun gives the child, a baby boy, to her old wet nurse who hides it away. But the child is discovered and Suldrun’s father wants to bring it home.
But the child he brings home, is a girl, Madouc, a fairy changeling.
For the rest of the book, we follow Aillas trying to rescue their son Dhrun from the fairies as well as see the relationships between the various countries strain or prosper. We also follow several magicians since this is a time of magic, of unicorns and fairies, of ogres and trolls.
All these various story lines come together come together beautifully in the end and it’s a marvelous story, a fairy tale for adults.
There are definitely some harsh scenes – some very nasty torture scene, a suicide and more. These are however written so sparingly that for the most part I had to go back and re-read them to make sure that what I thought had happened, really did happen. People were not kind to each other back then!
But the most of the book is just captivating, engrossing and beautiful. I hadn’t expected to enjoy this so much and I’m looking forward to continue with the next two books in the series.
Here is a quote from the book to try and show what makes it so special: “What are dreams? Ordinary experience is a dream. The eyes, the ears, the nose: they present pictures on the brain, and these pictures are called “reality”. At night, when we dream, other pictures, of source unknown, are impinged. Sometimes the dream-images are more real than “reality”. Which is solid, which illusion? Why trouble to make the distinction?” (p. 262) – as a philosopher, having read Descartes, I love this! No need to bother with trying to discover which is ‘real’, they both are.
Here’s an example of a conversation (between Suldrun and Carfilhiot): ‘You do not enjoy the admiration of men?’ ‘I have done nothing admirable.’ ‘Nor has a rose, nor a sapphire of many facets.’ ‘They are ornaments; they have no life of their own.’ (p. 61).
I didn’t know of Lyonesse before reading this book but Lyonesse is a part of Arthurian legend and is especially known to be the home of Tristan and Iseult. It’s part of celtic myth along with countries such as Ys (also mentioned in this book) and is said to have sunken beneath the waves at one point, which is why some have compared it to Atlantis.
4 stars.

The Green Pearl
The main focus in this book is actually two story lines. First of, it’s king Aillas’ attempt to establish himsefs as king of all of Ulfland. Second, it’s king Casmir’s attempt to find out who princess Suldrun’s child really is.
Aillas as a new king has several challenges – one of them is dealing with the barons of Ulfland who fights with each other, captures and tortures and kills. Another is dealing with the Ska who has invaded parts of Ulfland.
King Casmir had a magicial mirror tell him a prediction about princess Suldrun’s son which confuses him since he thought the princess Madouc was Suldrun’s child. So he starts to investigate and hires the magician Visbhume to investigate. Visbhume spares nothing to figure out the truth and soon he’s on the trail of prince Dhrun and princess Gwyneth. But since no one wants to really tell him, he ends up tricking Gwyneth into another world, another reality.
Of course, there are several smaller story lines in this epic book as well. We follow the green pearl which was released when Faude Carfilhiot was killed in the first book in the series. It brings some luck – but the luck is short lived and the pearl always end up turning on it’s owner.
Tied into the story of the green pearl, is always the story of the magicians. I love how one of the magicians, Murgen, has decreed that no magician should intervene in events because then they would get out of hand and the magicians would end up facing off against each other. Of course – they don’t hold true to this and the two best magicians, Murgen and Tamarello, have smaller magicians they can get to do work for them so they don’t necessarily come face to face.
Another side story is the story of how king Casmir’s wife, queen Sollace, tries to bring Christianity to Lyonesse with the aid of the (very annoying) monk Father Umphred who played a key role when princess Suldrun and Aillas were discovered and then torn apart in the first book and who now wants king Casmir to build a cathedral – and maybe have a secret that the king will pay to learn. This is interesting, not only for it’s place in the bigger story but also because of the conflict between christianity and the old beliefs, the pagan, celtic and magicial beliefs. King Casmir has his room filled with magic elements, he has contact to the magician Tamarello and he doesn’t want to see any of the Lyonesse wealth sent to Rome and he dislikes Father Umphred.
This is another great story. So many of the classical fairytale elements in the story alongside myth, romance and war and it’s just beautifully written and very engaging. Even though this book feels like the classic 2 which basically is a bridge between volume 1 and 3, this is still a really great book. So far, I’m just in love with this entire series.
4 stars.

Madouc
I had high hopes for this final volume in what so far had been an amazing series – and it didn’t disappoint. This is such a great trilogy, truly a fantastic read.
The main character in this volume, is the princess Madouc. The fairy changeling who was raised by King Casmir and Queen Sollace in the belief that she was princess Suldrun’s daughter. In this book, Madouc really come to life and she’s a very interesting character to read about. She is a lot like Suldrun, not very princess-like but a bit more tomboy in her ways, and Casmir and Sollace have learned nothing by their failure with Suldrun. The only complaint I have about these books, is the lack of love and affection that Casmir and Sollace had for Suldrun – and now for Madouc. Of course, Casmir learns that she is not his grandchild rather early in this volume – but still, after raising her for so many years, just a bit of affection would be realistic. On the other hand, it doesn’t feel out of character. He seems like a man driven by his affection only and as we saw with Suldrun, he only starts to think about Madouc seriously, when he thinks he can use her to further his political interests.
Sollace, on the other hand, is a very non-caring mother. She only cares about her faith and building a cathedral that can make her a saint. When she is involved with Madouc, it’s only because others complain so much about her that she can’t ignore it.
They try to mold Madouc into being a proper princess – but just as Suldrun did, Madouc rejects it. Suldrun got tucked away in a garden, Madouc takes it upon herself to find her pedigree, that is her father, after she quite by chance discovers that her mother is a fairy. She ventures out on a quest for this – a quest that also involves the holy grail.
Meanwhile, king Casmir discovers who Suldrun’s child really is and starts plotting to get prince Dhrun to fulfill a prophecy so he can afterwards be killed off and King Casmir can fulfill his dream of ruling over all of the Elder Isles.
Much happens in this book – and Vance masterly keeps it all together and creates a stunning finale to this compelling and engaging series. I was sad to see it all end and immediately searched to see if there wasn’t further novels in this series – alas, no.
5 stars.

This is one of the best series I’ve read in a long while – and three of the best books. It reminds me a lot of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell which I also loved. Besides these fascinating people you live with and love, it has all the best fairytale elements. I’m fascinated by faeries – these beautiful creatures that are wicked or generous, depending on their moods. And there’s a lot of faeries in this book. But despite all these fantastical elements – faeries, trolls, ogres – the book feels real, the people in it feels real – and how I wish, I could read more about them. You care for the characters and feel for them when they suffer and their plights feel real – even though, of course, it’s not in the everyday for most people (!) to fight trolls, search for your fairy mother or quest for the holy grail. But Vance still makes this feel real – maybe because we know of these stories from our childhood fairytales. This is definitely a fairytale – and it’s definitely not for children with sex, violence, torture – but it’s an amazing trilogy and I can’t recommend it enough.