Contemporary Fiction for Old Grumps?

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Contemporary Fiction for Old Grumps?

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Editat: ag. 29, 2006, 3:13pm

The old grump in this case would be my dad, who is highly literate and loves to read fiction but can't stand comtemporary fiction. He seems to believe that literary fiction died out at about the time of Henry James and won't be convinced otherwise. The particular problem seems to be that he intentionally confuses bestseller fiction, which is mostly pretty crap, with literary fiction and uses that to conclude that the modern novel is dead. Well, to some degree he just thinks it's funny to say so, because it drives me nuts.

I am looking for newer fiction that he might be convinced to try, because he is always complaining about not having enough to read. He likes what I'd imagine are the pre-20th century canon and I think Tolstoy, Mellville, and Jane Austen are particular favorites. About the most recent thing I can get him to read is a particular brand of mystery novels from the early 20th century and P.G. Wodehouse who he loves.

Suggestions? Or in a broader sense, what are the contemporary novels that you would use to counter any arguments that literary fiction has degraded past repair?

ag. 29, 2006, 5:28pm

hi there - its quite difficult to recommend something to yr dad as unable to know his likes - think quite few modern authors who are not rubbish -maybe someone like ian macewan or bernice rubens or jane smiley - think many more - problem is many authors from early 20th century write in different style which maybe yr dad is more accustomed to- anyway he can always so no......

ag. 29, 2006, 5:32pm

hi - not knowing yr dad its impossible to recommend anything with confidence but think quite few modern authors are not rubbish but obviously write in different style to authors like james or austin- maybe someone such as ian mcewan bernice rubens jane smiley ..many more im sure - you can but try!!!

Editat: ag. 30, 2006, 9:46pm

I think Crossing to Safety might be an easy recommend. But Melville and Austen make me think humor. (Not on topic, but I assume he's read Bleak House?) And humor right now makes me think Wizard of the Crow. I'm enjoying it so much. Also Middlesex (less funny/more epic) and When Angels Rest. Harington is delightful - see also Choiring of the Trees.

ag. 31, 2006, 10:36pm

What about The Crimson Petal and the White, by Michel Faber? Contemporary fiction, but written in the style of what it sounds like he's used to.

set. 1, 2006, 4:43pm

Try Margaret Atwood, William Trevor or Ishiguro.

If he is truly stuck on James, then try Anita Brookner - he would think HJ came back to life :-)

set. 1, 2006, 5:21pm

Following Sivani's lead: I've never read Brookner, but sometimes I think of McEwan as a James 2.0, more inventive and less pompous (don't get me wrong, I really like the Master, but sometimes he's a bit too, well, Jamesian, don't you think?). Another option would be to get him to read one of the two recent books about James, The master and Author, author - haven't read them but heard they're quite good.

As for contemporary novels to convince the unfaithful, I'd go with Atonement, What a carve up!, Cloud atlas, The line of beauty Everything is Illuminated, White Teeth, La classe de neige (any francophiles around?), The amazing adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and I'm leaving way too much out of the list (not to mention the books and authors I haven't read). It's a brave new world out there, try to talk your old man into it.

set. 1, 2006, 6:17pm

As well as the two books mentioned about James, there is also Emma Tennant's Felony in which he appears, and Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty, where the lead character is writing a thesis on him. Bizarrely, all four of these books were published within 18 months of each other, which led to another writer, Michiel Heyns, unable to sell his novel, The Typewriter's Tale, about James. Lodge's latest nonfiction book The Year of Henry James: The Story of a Novel discusses the whole situation.

Editat: ag. 7, 2007, 10:24pm

What a herculean task!! Very literate with a preference for pre 20th century canon literature? What about all the English and American authors writing during the 20th century? Some I can recall by name from my own literary canon literature classes. Are you referring to the American modern novel or some other universal approach, world, or cultural approach which includes the Russian, French, English, Middle Eastern, or African novel and literature?

Only English authors seem relevant here although there may be several American classics post 1950 to reflect every American culture, style, and sentiment.
With the dawn of pop culture, very likely the great American novel began to decline. There are no personal favorites of my own which I could recommend that would encapsulate my interpretation of America from the Roosevelt years through post-Watergate, although The James' writing style might be best represented by E.L. Doctorow, Isak Deniesen, and Thomas Pynchon.

Some English authors - Graham Greene, E.M. Forster, Anthony Eden, Martin Amis, Kingsley Amis, and P.G. Wodehouse

oct. 5, 2007, 5:00pm

i may be helpful here since i am a classic curmudgeon myself.

by contemporary, let's discard anything before, say, 1920.

feed him THE SUN ALSO RISES, especially if he is a military veteran. Along this line, if he is such, you can then get him FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones, THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Mailer, THE KILLER ANGELS by Mike Shaara, and/or anything by Mike's Son, comme ca, GODS AND GENERALS.

if he likes the deliciousness of exquisite english prose, for heaven's sake feed him Irving's Cider House Rules or PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY.

u get the idea---figure out what his background mind-set is and cater to it! Southern gentleman? TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee....A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND....or is it A HARD MAN IS GOOD TO FIND? always get that mixed up?