Sunday, May 19, 2013

More Fiction of the 21st Century

I've been writing for the past month or so about some authors of the new century that I've discovered. Only four names have emerged which I can recommend without reservation. There are other books though that I've come across that stand out and merit a mention. I can refer here to actual books specifically rather than the author's work in general because having enjoyed these books I've gone on to read other novels by the author and I've found them disappointing or unremarkable, or found other reasons not to pursue the author's work.

I'll start out with Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story. This is a dystopian science fiction story about an aging, lonely man, Lenny, a lover of books in a society where youth and celebrity is prized above all and the smell of an old paperback book is thought to be disgusting. America has become a police state and the Chinese are busy buying up anything of value. Can Lenny and Eunice find happiness in this world? Get ready for some super sadness.

I already quoted a selection of Alexander Theroux's Laura Warholic; or, The Sexual Intellectual in a previous posting not long ago. As I think I mentioned, it's little more than a series of rants on a large and sometimes surprisingly diverse series of topics. Eventually, it gets exhausting though in parts it is fresh, informative and fun. If I ever come across any of Theroux's other novels, I'd be happy to give them a look, but his work is relatively obscure.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke's first novel is a fantasy about witchcraft and witches in early 19th century England. Fantasy is not something I typically read, and I doubt I'll be on the look out for Clarke's next work, but the author is a highly accomplished writer and has given us something which surpasses Tolkien (and that's not saying a lot) in imagination and story telling. Those who have a higher tolerance for fantasy should find this novel immensely enjoyable.

Finally, I should add a couple more novels that are notable for their mixing of fact and fiction. 2003 Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello is one, and Ian McEwan's Solar is the other. Both mix fiction with polemics: thoughtful meditations on animal rights in the former, and energy in the latter. I will probably get around to reading more of both these authors eventually, but I'm in no hurry. There's still lots to be read of the previous century as well as novels of this century by novelists I've long been familiar with. Right now, with my exploration of new novelists of the 21st century at a close, I'm returning to new works by old favourites. I'm a good way into Murakami Haruki's 1Q84. Too early yet for a definitive recommendation, but at just over 200 pages into an 1,100 page book, I'm giving 1Q84 a provisional thumbs up.

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