Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1935

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Poll Results

OptionVotes
Mr.Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood 4
Auto-da-Fé by Elias Canetti 3
The Circus Of Dr.Lao by Charles G. Finney 3
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? by Horace McCoy 3
Pylon by William Faulkner 2
England Made Me by Graham Greene 1
Swami & Friends by R.K. Narayan 1
Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck 1
Quinzinzinzili by Régis Messac 0
The House Of Men by George Aymé 0
The Crime by Georges Bernanos 0
The Great Divide by Alan Sullivan 0
The House In Paris by Elizabeth Bowen 0
The Stars Look Down by A.J. Cronin 0
Wigs On The Green by Nancy Mitford 0
Bitter Victory by Louis Guilloux 0
The Wine Of Solitude by Irène Némirovsky 0
The Town Of N by Leonid Dobychin 0
Road To Life by Anton Makarenko 0
Paths Of Glory by Humphrey Cobb 0
Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa 0
Jubiabá by Jorge Amado 0
The Frontier by Zofia Nałkowska 0
The Field Of Life And Death by Xiao Hong 0
Before The Dawn by Tōson Shimazaki 0
Barrage Of Fire by Óscar Cerruto 0
Flowering Nettle by Harry Martinson 0
A House And Its Head by Ivy Compton-Burnett 0
The Green Child by Herbert Read 0
It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis 0
The Hour Of The Dragon by Robert E. Howard 0
The Hanging On Union Square by H.T. Tsiang 0
The Grand Gennaro by Garibaldi M. Lapolla 0
BUtterfield 8 by John O'Hara 0
Aller Retour New York by Henry Miller 0
Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand 0
The Secret People by John Wyndham 0
Pied Piper Of Lovers by Lawrence Durell 0
Little House On The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder 0
Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather 0
The Furys by James Hanley 0
Enter A Murderer by Ngaio Marsh 0
Doctor Syn Returns by Russell Thorndike 0
A Clergyman's Daughter by George Orwell 0
The African Queen by C.S. Forester 0
Earth's Quality by Winnifred Birkett 0
Your Turn, Mr.Moto by John P. Marquand 0
Somebody In Boots by Nelson Algren 0
Of Time And The River by Thomas Wolfe 0
Eclipse by Dalton Trumbo 0


Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 21 January 2021 12:31 (five months ago) link

Not read anything in this at all! Really need to brush up on Jorge Amado at least, apparently Camus liked this one?

Waterstones put up It Can't Happen Here in their Oxford Street branch window after Trump got elected, lol

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 21 January 2021 12:33 (five months ago) link

Haven’t read most of these, but let me just say that The House in Paris struck me as quite bad when I read it a few years ago, and I am puzzled by Bowen’s good reputation.

horseshoe, Thursday, 21 January 2021 12:34 (five months ago) link

I think I read it because someone great like Tessa Hadley praised her, and...I am mystified.

horseshoe, Thursday, 21 January 2021 12:35 (five months ago) link

I love Bowen -- only discovered her in the last 18 months -- but THIP struck me as vaporous.`

meticulously crafted, socially responsible, morally upsta (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 21 January 2021 13:00 (five months ago) link

Auto-da-Fé by Elias Canetti

Only one I've read which I am happy to vote for.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 January 2021 13:07 (five months ago) link

Auto-da-Fé by Elias Canetti

Only one I've read which I am happy to vote for.

― xyzzzz__, donderdag 21 januari 2021 14:07 (thirteen minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

Same and same. Been a while, but Kien's downfall always stuck with me.

A Scampo Darkly (Le Bateau Ivre), Thursday, 21 January 2021 13:31 (five months ago) link

write-in for John Dickson Carr's The Hollow Man a.k.a. The Three Coffins. the rare murder mystery where every scene is part of the solution.

wasdnuos (abanana), Thursday, 21 January 2021 13:50 (five months ago) link

The Hollow Man was amongst the last novels I dropped to stay within the 50 books limit. Those detective story guys are all super prolific and being pretty ignorant on the genre it's hard to figure out which works are most acclaimed.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 21 January 2021 13:53 (five months ago) link

1934 was mostly a blind spot for me, and so is 1935. Next year will be a dilemma, however.

pomenitul, Thursday, 21 January 2021 14:23 (five months ago) link

Write-in vote for Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers, arguably the greatest mystery novel ever written.

Lily Dale, Thursday, 21 January 2021 15:57 (five months ago) link

Voting Tortilla Flat because I remember really liking it when I was in my Steinbeck phase (do kids still have those?) though tbh I can't remember one thing about it.

Guayaquil (eephus!), Thursday, 21 January 2021 16:23 (five months ago) link

The fading shadow of my teenage self is having a fret about whether it likes "Of Time and the River" or "Mr Norris Changes Trans" more.

Tim, Thursday, 21 January 2021 17:18 (five months ago) link

I'm blank again here. I've read Tortilla Flat but can't really remember enough about it.

Just looking at the list again and the name Dalton Trumbo jumped out. Didn't he write the book/screenplay from which Metallica took the story for One?

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Thursday, 21 January 2021 17:25 (five months ago) link

He wrote Johnny Got His Gun, yeah.

Lily Dale, Thursday, 21 January 2021 17:26 (five months ago) link

Not to belabor its omission, but The Hollow Man is peak Carr and often cited as the best locked-room mystery of all time. It includes Dr. Fell's famous Locked Room Lecture:


‘Why discuss detective fiction?’

‘Because we’re in a detective story and we don’t fool the reader by pretending we’re not. Let’s not invent elaborate excuses to drag in a discussion of detective stories. Let’s candidly glory in the noblest pursuits possible to characters in a book.’

Brad C., Thursday, 21 January 2021 17:28 (five months ago) link

30s detective stuff is a big hole in my reading (along with all the other holes). Just looking into Carr and would one miss out by not reading the Fell stories in sequence?

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Thursday, 21 January 2021 17:38 (five months ago) link

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? is terse, dark noir about a dance marathon, adapted to film with Jane Fonda in 1969.

In BUtterfield 8 O'Hara extends the approach of An Appointment in Samarra to a female protagonist. There's a 1960 movie with Elizabeth Taylor that's not quite as gritty as the book but still grim.

The Hour of the Dragon, aka Conan the Conqueror, is Robert E. Howard's only novel and probably the best of the Conan stories. His prose is pure pulp, but the action and creepy occult atmosphere never let up. It's been almost as influential on the high fantasy genre as Lord of the Rings.

Pylon, about bohemian aviators, is Faulkner in non-Yoknapatawpha mode. It's good! He knew the milieu well, having trained as a flyer for WWI (he did not fly in combat, contrary to some of his later yarn-spinning). His brother Dean was also a pilot and died in a crash the same year Pylon came out. It's the basis for the 1957 Douglas Sirk film The Tarnished Angels.

Musashi is a sprawling novel about the historical figure considered to have been Japan's greatest swordsman. Originally a newspaper serial, it was somewhat faithfully adapted in the Samurai Trilogy (1954-56) with Toshiro Mifune crushing the title role.

Brad C., Thursday, 21 January 2021 18:02 (five months ago) link

xp You can definitely skip around with Carr, though you might want to read the first Dr. Fell book, Hag's Nook, before the others in that series. His books from the 1930s are generally better than his later work.

Brad C., Thursday, 21 January 2021 18:08 (five months ago) link

Gaudy Night might be a completely gendered read. Among women who get degrees in English and related fields, it's a cult classic, and if this poll were on a site like The Toast (RIP), I think there would be a lot of discussion about it. I get the impression that most guys haven't even heard of it, but I could be wrong about that.

I think of Gaudy Night as the ultimate Golden Age mystery, in that it's part of an existing mystery series, uses the same characters, follows up on events earlier in the series, and yet it also has clear ambitions to transcend its origins and be a Serious Novel. It's part mystery, part psychological thriller, part novel of academia, part romantic drama. It's a book I loved to pieces at age 12, and as I got older I saw all its flaws: the romanticized view of academia, the author who's blatantly in love with her hero, the intellectual snobbery. But I still love it. It's one of the best, most thoughtful, most feminist, most intensely readable Good Bad Books I've ever encountered.

Lily Dale, Thursday, 21 January 2021 18:51 (five months ago) link

Of those I've read, Mr. Norris Changes Trains, Isherwood.

Respectfully Yours, (Aimless), Thursday, 21 January 2021 19:12 (five months ago) link

Lily Dale otm ... Gaudy Night is very low on violent crime for a Golden Age mystery, and Sayers' love for her characters is on full display, but as a novel it's the best of the series.

I didn't appreciate how much Harriet Vane was a stand-in for Dorothy Sayers -- and what a remarkable woman Sayers was -- until I read Martin Edwards' The Golden Age of Murder.

In snarky critiques of detective fiction, Raymond Chandler and Edmund Wilson famously found the classic English novels too cozy and unrealistic. Their arguments are witty, but from the perspective of 2021 it's obvious how that approach tends to write women authors out of the history of a genre in which they achieved unprecedented popular success.

Brad C., Thursday, 21 January 2021 19:56 (five months ago) link

Don't know Bowen's novels, though have heard this isn't up to her usual. The Collected Stories is catnip doorstop.

Have read several of this year's other choices, going way back to Thomas Wolfe and John O'Hara binges in high school: Butterfield 8 was more low-down on what grown=ups do, appreciated by teen me, as said of Appoitnment, but mainly enjoyable as salty anecdote--Pylon made the widest, deepest, rollercoaster-est impression: brainstorm as barnstorm, with deep purple-blue mood banks: Paul Goodman observed in passing, "Even Faulkner is Beat, in a complicated way," and this goes beyond Kerouac (proto-Beat in a different way than Tropic of Cancer). But WF always zooms back into and through the storyline (like K.. at least in On The Road, the only one of his I've read). Also written to "let off steam," taking a working break from another project, I read somewhere.

I hereby second Brad C.'s take and cast my vote for Pylon.

dow, Thursday, 21 January 2021 21:11 (five months ago) link

Butterfield 8 was "mainly enjoyable *to me then* as salty anecdote" and sexy soap opera---might get more out of now, as has sometimes happened with others from way back, like Hemingway stories (haven't read his novels either).

dow, Thursday, 21 January 2021 21:15 (five months ago) link

It's entirely possible that I would have gone w Ivy Compton-Burnett, if I'd read that particular novel.

dow, Thursday, 21 January 2021 21:18 (five months ago) link

Swami & Friends by R.K. Narayan -- very good early book, coming of age stuff; his later stuff is better, though

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? by Horace McCoy -- tremendous bleak little thing: YOU WILL FAIL AND YOU WILL DIE is the moral here

Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand -- also bleak, very good

Aller Retour New York by Henry Miller -- entertaining frippery from creepy fantasist

BUtterfield 8 by John O'Hara -- he's very out of fashion these days, I guess, but this I liked a lot; sort of like lesser Scott Fitzgerald, i guess?

The Circus Of Dr.Lao by Charles G. Finney -- mad and fun and creep

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis -- not a brilliantly written book, but quite a perceptive one; probably more fun to read now Trump's got the arse

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck -- one of Steinbeck's most entertaining books, but I'm guessing he's out of fashion these days too?

A Clergyman's Daughter by George Orwell -- thought it was pretty good when I read years ago, but can't remember much about it--hop-picking happens in it, I think

England Made Me by Graham Greene -- great stuff, great sociopath villain with his spider under the glass

A House And Its Head by Ivy Compton-Burnett -- incredibly mannered masterpiece comedy of dialogue

Mr.Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood -- lovely, evocative stuff

Wigs On The Green by Nancy Mitford -- minor Mitford

Auto-da-Fé by Elias Canetti -- brilliant, maybe gets my vote, I don't know, this is hard

The Frontier by Zofia Nałkowska -- I WANT THIS having read other books by her, a Polish Modernist writer, who is quite amazing--her book on the Nazi death camps, Medallions, is brilliant

Paths Of Glory by Humphrey Cobb -- grim as fuck, very good

The Wine Of Solitude by Irène Némirovsky - entertaining but minor Némirovsky

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Friday, 22 January 2021 00:27 (five months ago) link

I kind of want to vote for They Shoot Horses... purely on the basis of the film's genius, but I will not. Had to check if Mr Norris... was part of the Berlin Stories, and it is, but I feel like if it's the only one of these I've read and I didn't even remember it well enough to distinguish it then maybe I shouldn't vote for it. I did rate them highly at the time of reading, though.

emil.y, Friday, 22 January 2021 01:13 (five months ago) link

voted Circus of Dr. Lao

Lily Dale, Friday, 22 January 2021 01:21 (five months ago) link

Gaudy Night might be a completely gendered read. Among women who get degrees in English and related fields, it's a cult classic, and if this poll were on a site like The Toast (RIP), I think there would be a lot of discussion about it. I get the impression that most guys haven't even heard of it, but I could be wrong about that.

I did hear about it, but I think from The Toast? In my mind Sayers is the second most famous golden age detective person (after Agatha Christie, admitidely by a huuuuuge margin) and I've been including her stuff, just didn't remember this one being her most canonical (my bad) and have gotten trigger happy at removing novels from authors who write a lot.

On a different note, I just realised that wikipedia ain't listing Miklos Banffy's Transsylvanian Trilogy in these, boooo.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 22 January 2021 11:05 (five months ago) link

John Wyndham, The Secret People - pretty standard boys own adventure stuff, he hadn't honed his 'cosy catastrophe' shtick yet.

ledge, Friday, 22 January 2021 11:58 (five months ago) link

Gaudy Night might be a completely gendered read. Among women who get degrees in English and related fields, it's a cult classic, and if this poll were on a site like The Toast (RIP), I think there would be a lot of discussion about it. I get the impression that most guys haven't even heard of it, but I could be wrong about that.

I mean, I'm not saying this is completely off-base, but as a(n admittedly somewhat GNC) woman who has degrees in English and related fields... I've never even heard of Gaudy Night. I don't know, I'm always wary of "women read like this" statements, but at the same time I want to be supportive of other literary women, but at the same time again I'm mad about being included in a sweeping generalisation that in fact doesn't adhere to my experiences AT ALL, and once more, simultaneously I'm like, "huh, maybe I should read this book". (The fact that this makes my head explode is why I didn't address the statement in the first place tbh.)

emil.y, Friday, 22 January 2021 15:52 (five months ago) link

I did say cult classic! I was trying to convey that even within that group not everyone has read it, but a lot of the ones who have are devoted to it. It came across as more of a sweeping generalization than I meant.

Lily Dale, Friday, 22 January 2021 16:02 (five months ago) link

I used to think no one but me had read it, and then I started reading The Toast and other sites with a very female comments section, and realized that a lot more people than I thought also had it as a formative teenage reading experience. That was all I was trying to get across, but I see how it came across as a massive generalization about women English majors. Sorry about my clumsy wording!

Lily Dale, Friday, 22 January 2021 16:10 (five months ago) link

I think things like this tear me up more than they should because I end up wondering if it's a deficiency in me, that I'm not performing womanhood properly, or I was too socialised to like Dude Literature. But then, as you can see from my posts on these threads, I mostly only know the modernists from this era anyway (my specialism tends to be post-war avant-garde lit), so it's not all that surprising that I don't know it, and maybe I should give myself a break. I'm absolutely not trying to start a fight or anything!

emil.y, Friday, 22 January 2021 16:13 (five months ago) link

As a big reader of Dude Literature myself, I would never want to make anyone feel that way! I think it more depends on whether you were raised on Golden Age mystery fiction than anything else.

Lily Dale, Friday, 22 January 2021 17:03 (five months ago) link

If you happened to be raised on these books, then Gaudy Night had a good chance of meaning a lot to you because it's a feminist novel sneaked into the end of a series about a man. (And also because it's a swoonily immersive romance of the kind that makes a big impression when you're a kid.)

Lily Dale, Friday, 22 January 2021 17:11 (five months ago) link

I'm curious to check it out. Is it necessary to read any of the earlier books first?

jmm, Friday, 22 January 2021 19:24 (five months ago) link

I'm not sure. I mean, yes, it definitely picks up a lot of stuff from earlier books and tries to resolve it, so you'd probably get more out of reading it as part of the series. But I'm not sure it's worth that much investment on your part. The series as a whole is uneven, and it gets more ambitious as it goes on. One of the interesting things about Gaudy Night is Sayers's (mostly successful) attempt to graft a heavy weight of character development and motivation onto the very slim stalk with which the series started.

So I think you can go straight to Gaudy Night, but if you like mysteries and would like a fun and well-written (though also pretentious and snobbish) series to read in lockdown, these are the books I'd recommend:

Whose Body - Good, light, slightly stylized intro to the series. Lord Peter at his most Bertie Wooster-ish, with some interesting stuff about PTSD.
Clouds of Witness - Okay country-house mystery, not my favorite but fine.
Strong Poison - Introduces Harriet, the main character of Gaudy Night. Tonally all over the place - can't decide if it's drama or comedy - but quite readable all the same.
Have His Carcase - Lord Peter and Harriet investigate a crime together. The archest and most bitchy book in the series but not bad.
Murder Must Advertise - Part mystery novel, part satire about the advertising business. Wildly improbable and pretentious, but pretty good!
The Nine Tailors - All about the bell-ringing in a church in the fens. You either find this one atmospheric and stately or flat and over-researched; I go back and forth. The most ambitious of the books aside from Gaudy Night.
Gaudy Night - Harriet goes back to her old college to help them investigate episodes of vandalism and harassment.

Lily Dale, Friday, 22 January 2021 21:23 (five months ago) link

I've read some great descriptions of Gaudy Night, usually ranked among Sayers' best, would like to read all those you list, but may not happen---as daunted by all the big rep unread mystery writers as science fiction (and everything else). (And I'm a dude, at least/most lowercase.)

dow, Friday, 22 January 2021 22:01 (five months ago) link

xp Thanks. I might start at the beginning and see how it goes.

jmm, Saturday, 23 January 2021 15:24 (five months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Sunday, 24 January 2021 00:01 (five months ago) link

The only one of these I've read is House In Paris, which I read last year and enjoyed. I'm always a sucker for a good frame story structure.

o. nate, Sunday, 24 January 2021 02:25 (five months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Monday, 25 January 2021 00:01 (four months ago) link

Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1936

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 25 January 2021 14:11 (four months ago) link


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