Underrated classics?

Anonymous's picture

I am always on the lookout for great recommendations from well-read folks. How about your thoughts on authors/books that you particularly enjoyed but do not receive the accolades or top-of-mind mentions as Great Literature that you think they deserve?

A few years ago, when I was looking for new authors to explore, I started reading the Modern Library's list of the top 100 books of the 20th Century. Lists and rankings are, of course, rather silly ways of thinking about great books, but I thought it was interesting in that there were books and authors on that list that I had never heard of. Now, I wasn't an English major so maybe I was just less familiar with authors beyond the usual suspects, but I consider myself to be more clued in than the average person as I read a lot.

In any case, I came across a few books thanks to that list that I really loved and it made me wonder how they had slipped a bit more into obscurity. A couple of favorites were The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington, The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett and Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara.

Let me know who else is out there that I should be checking out!

Kevin Longrie's picture

A few greats are "Stoner" by

A few greats are "Stoner" by John Williams and "Beware of Pity" by Stefan Zweig. Both are available on New York Review of Books (NYRB) which has a LOT of overlooked classics. They're amazing.

Odile's picture

Bout "Stoner"...Kevin did

Bout "Stoner"...Kevin did you see "The Stone Reader", a documentary by Mark Moskowitz...about his quest to find John Williams (not ours who lives in Brooklyn). http://www.stonereader.net/thefilm.php

swivel hips's picture

The Fortress of Solitude -

The Fortress of Solitude - J. Lethem

WmAnthony's picture

Odile ~ You're confusing

Odile ~ You're confusing your stones.
The Stones of Summer was written by Dow Mossman and IS the subject of a documentary called The Stone Reader.
Stoner by John Williams is a novel set on the campus of the University of Missouri, published in the late sixties.

Odile's picture

Thanks, Wm! Trust me, these

Thanks, Wm! Trust me, these are not the only stones I know nothing about! 

I guess I gotta run and buy Stoner now. Or how about creating a list of all the books with the words 'Stone" in the title?

casper goodwood's picture

I don't know about that, but

I don't know about that, but how about books to avoid with the word "stone" in the title?! "Stones in the River" is a lovely lovely attempt to take on a very serious topic (Germans within Nazi Germany) in some subtle ways. There are many good things about the book. Unfortunately, it also has that tendency of some historical fiction to feel like it is a little too obvious of a narrative serving history, rather than history as part of the narrative. For example, there is, in my mind, a BIG build up to the main character's lover making a visit to Dresden in Feb 1945. At any rate, it all feels like so much Deus ex Machina concluded with the fire-bombing of Dresden.

Unnecessary rant, I'm sure, but I just had to get it out with all this "stone" talk going on...

Odile's picture

Casper, your post suddenly

Casper, your post suddenly reminded me of Ursula Hegi's beautiful Stones from the River. It takes place in fictitious German village between/over the two world wars and the main character, a dwarf, is a librarian who collects stories. Need I say more about the "association"? Totally off, I guess, since I don't think it is considered a classic.