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Wallace and William

Of the 29 books read so far this year, 18 are written by authors who are new to me. Being on the panel for Independent Literary Award, and that I’m reading the shortlist of Lambda Literary Award certainly have a tipping effect. I have a predilection for literary fiction, or literature that exudes quiet majesty out of pulchritude of language. Since a reader’s career is always a work in progress, to expand the reader’s eyes is an ongoing exercise. The latest enlightenment comes in the form of two authors.

Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) is deservedly regarded as the author of some of the finest literary accounts of the American West. He was an American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist, often called “The Dean of Western Writers.” I’m currently reading his last novel, Crossing to Safety, a story of the 40-year-old friendship of two academic couples that chanced to meet in Wisconsin in the 1930s. Next in line will be Angle of Repose (1971) for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.

William Trevor (1928– ) is both a novelist and a short-story writer; he is a fine writer in either genre, but his true métier, is the story. He lives and works in Ireland, and all of his work is set there; typically his stories view with irony tempered by compassion the foibles of people who for one reason or another cannot fit comfortably into the rigid limitations of Irish family. That said, I will go against popular opinion, by reading a novel, Love and Summer.

What new (and new old) authors have you discovered this year?

19 Responses

  1. OK you little person you. This is totally how I get distracted. I had to go back and add up all the books I’d read and reviewed YTD (which goes out until the end of May). According to my count, I’ve read 64 books. Of those, 44 were new-to-me authors. So wow, there are alot of them I’ve “discovered”. The most classic ones would have to be Charlotte Perkins Gillman or John O’ Hara. Alot of really new ones, but I think my favorite is Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) or Jennifer Eagan (Goon Squad). Joe Hill is lots of fun too.

    • Hehehe…I just flip over my Moleskine journal and the books are all there. Sorry you have to be distracted from your reading to tabulate. I think it’s true to a lof of serious readers like us, that we end up discovering a whole new bandwagon of writers whom we’ll continue to read. Book bloggers are just great resources to finding new books to read. Who is Tom Franklin? I’ve never heard of him, but I will go check it out since you enjoyed reading him.

  2. I’m a huge fan of Wallace Stegner! Crossing to Safety may just be my all-time favorite novel. It’s been over 10 years since, so it’s time for a reread. Just finished The Big Rock Candy Mountain on audio and am in awe. This was one of his early novels and also the most autobiographical. Also enjoyed Angle of Repose. Can’t wait to hear what you thing of Crossing to Safety.

    William Trevor has been on my ‘authors to read’ list for a long time. Hope to get to his work soon.

    • Crossing to Safety is a gem! I find it very difficult to part with it when it’s time to begin work. I’m almost through with it and am still amazed by his beautiful writing. What a great find! I got Angle in Repose.

      • When I first read Crossing to Safety I found myself reading passages of it aloud — and, yes, I’m alone here, so this is not the usual thing. But I thought such beautiful writing needed to be spoken.

  3. I keep meaning to read William Trevor. If only he’d win the Booker I could put him on my list for sure. But I should anyway.

    • Didn’t he? I’ve lost track. Everybody whom I talked to about William Trevor recommended his short stories. The recalcitrant child that I am, I’m going for the novel.

  4. Trevor and Stegner are old favorites of mine. This year I discovered Ward Just — can’t believe I overlooked him for so long, but it is lovely to “discover” an author who has already written so many novels — I feel as though I’ve uncovered buried treasure.

    • Ah, Ward Just just appeared in the conversation at work. I have overlooked him for a very long time also. Wallace Stegner has also written a huge oeuvre of novels, and the one I’m reading is his very last. I have also noticed that people who echoed their predilection of authors like Just, Stegner, and Trevor are rather mature in life. I wish younger readers (meaning, younger than me) would read them as well.

      • I wish that, too, Matthew. Like many older readers, I worry that the younger folks are missing something quite grand and I wish I knew the secret of inspiring them to give these authors a try. These are books and stories to carry with you throughout life, to be read again and again, finding new pleasures and meaning with each reading.

  5. The two that stand out for me are Charles Portis with True Grit and (finally) Ray Bradbury with Fahrenheit 451. I’m looking forward to reading more from both of them.

    • Thanks for mentioning–I didn’t know True Grit was a novel. Everybody seems to have read Fahrenheit 451except for me—so this makes me feel better. See why I like to throw question out there? Bloggers just come back to me with all these wonderful recommendations!

  6. I have to say that, from the way it looks now, I’m just going to have to add William Trevor to my list of authors that simply must be looked in to! I’ve spent most of my year digging in to the older works of Tennessee Williams and the later works of William Faulkner and, while they’re not new authors, I guess you could say that I’m discovering whole new sides to them, which might be even more fun.

    • I am intimidated by William Faulkner—and I have voiced about this fear on several occasions. The experience with Absalom, Absalom in high school had such traumatic impact that mentally I have shut him off. I’m actually reading The Sound and the Fury, rather slowly, chapter by chapter. It’s been alright.

  7. Have read 20 books, 19 of them are new to me. The only one I have read before and I enjoyed reading is Beloved Toni Morrison. Amongst the 19 new ones I loved most is Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton and A Question of Power by Bessie Head.

    • Beloved is one of my all-time favorite novels. I make a point to re-read it every year. I also enjoy Sula. The next Morrison for me will be The Bluest Eye. Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, thanks to you, is now on my top priority list.

  8. I have had Stegner on my list forever. I’m looking forward to your review as I am sure it will encourage me to get to his work sooner.

    • Stegner is one of those authors whom we just overlook. I certainly have seen his books over and over again because I always browse the S section for Steinbeck. He’s just a notch over and I blame myself for not having picked up even one of his books for so long.

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