Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1950

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Poll Results

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury 6
The Sea Wall by Marguerite Duras 3
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis 2
Strangers On A Train by Patricia Highsmith 2
Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake 1
Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns 1
The Four Chambered Heart by Anais Nin 1
Barabbas by Par Lagerkvist 1
People In The Room by Norah Lange 1
The House Of Breath by William Goyen 1
The Judge And His Hangman by Friedrich Durrenmatt 1
Thirst For Love by Yukio Mishima 1
Pebble In The Sky by Isaac Asimov 0
Petrov Case by Tetsuya Ayukawa 0
The Lost Musicians by William Heinesen 0
The Blue Hussar by Roger Nimier 0
Night Is Darkest by Georges Bernanos 0
The Red Grass by Boris Vian 0
Pinjar by Amrita Pritam 0
Insurrection by Liam O'Flaherty 0
The Begining And The End by Naguib Mahfouz 0
The Drinker by Hans Fallada 0
The Hive by Camilo José Cela 0
Helena by Evelyn Waugh 0
The Family Moskat by Isaac Singer 0
The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing 0
Shadow On The Hearth by Judith Merril 0
Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym 0
The Town And The City by Jack Kerouac 0
Across The River And Into The Trees by Ernest Hemingway 0
Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates 0
Dark Green, Bright Red by Gore Vidal 0
The Dog Star by Donald Windham 0
The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon 0
The Drowning Pool by Ross MacDonald 0
The Five Gold Bands by Jack Vance 0
Foxfire by Anya Seton 0
Quatrefoil by James Barr 0
The Town by Conrad Richter 0
Women's Barracks by Tereska Torrès 0
A Long Day's Dying by Frederick Buechner 0

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 15 March 2021 12:26 (four months ago) link

People In The Room by Norah Lange

The recent translation of this completely blew me away. Such an amazing portrayal of fractured loneliness. 100% getting my vote.

emil.y, Monday, 15 March 2021 13:12 (four months ago) link

Duras, in keeping with my boringly franco-centric picks.

pomenitul, Monday, 15 March 2021 13:20 (four months ago) link

Norah Lange looks right up my alley.

Duras was early, she doesn't get going until later iirc?

I'll probably go for Durrenmatt though I like the Mishima I won't get to vote for the former again.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 15 March 2021 13:40 (four months ago) link

I'd say Gormeghast cos it's pretty other. NIce atmospheric dystopian Ruriutarian(?) fun.
I'm seeing a number of things I've read over teh decades or seen films of (or at least sharing a title with)

Town and the City is interesting in being teh Kerouac book that he wrote while still trying to write the great American novel instead of reinventing it.

Strangers on a Train got carried around with me as my bus book but didn't get read and teh cover fell off. I think it coincided with me finding out I could listen to podcasts on my phone.
Really want to read more of her but I think i've only read one Ripley

Stevolende, Monday, 15 March 2021 15:20 (four months ago) link

Ray B, for me. Conrad Richter won the fiction Pulitzer for The Town, but I haven't read it yet.

the body of a spider... (scampering alpaca), Tuesday, 16 March 2021 13:03 (four months ago) link

I read Our Spoons Came from Woolworths last year. A solid post-war account of poverty and a failed marriage with a naive, almost childlike narration which belies the grim contents. The chapter about childbirth was maybe even harder to read than the part about the actual death of the child.

Ignore the neighsayers: grow a lemon tree (ledge), Tuesday, 16 March 2021 14:09 (four months ago) link

I'll confess I included on the strenght of the title alone.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 16 March 2021 14:26 (four months ago) link

House of Breath.

bulb after bulb, Tuesday, 16 March 2021 14:51 (four months ago) link

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury -- people love this and love Bradbury; I do not and do not

Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym -- lots of prickly fun but I will never care enough about who the new vicar is

The Drowning Pool by Ross MacDonald -- top-drawer PI writing

Strangers On A Train by Patricia Highsmith -- one of the great crime novels, absolute masterpiece

Women's Barracks by Tereska Torrès -- haven't read this, but an extremely porny-covered edition of this was the only interesting book available to my grandmother on the communal shelves when she had to spend a month recovering from a fall in an assisted living place

Helena by Evelyn Waugh -- easily his worst novel, and even worse than the travel writing

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis -- still haver a lot of affection for this, despite the ill-considered world-building; its scary and thrilling bits genuinely work, despite Lewis's many failings as a writer

Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns -- funny and horrible; the weird writing style came out partly because the editor refused to fix Comyns's spelling on the grounds that it fit the voice of the character, which made her incredibly embarrassed when the book came out

The Four Chambered Heart by Anais Nin -- Nin, Nin, doing her thing; does anyone read her any more?

Barabbas by Par Lagerkvist -- brilliant book, a man on the edge of an astonishing world-changing event spends the rest of his life trying to deal with what the hell happened

The Drinker by Hans Fallada -- downbeat minor masterpiece

The Judge And His Hangman by Friedrich Durrenmatt -- pleasantly oddball crime novel

Thirst For Love by Yukio Mishima -- great crazy stuff from a loon

Torn between Highsmith, Comyns and Legerkvist here.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Tuesday, 16 March 2021 23:43 (four months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 00:01 (four months ago) link

I do love me some Martian Chronicles, but don't feel like I've read enough of the other options to vote for it. The only other one I've read is Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe, which I last read probably when I was about 10 years old. I do still have fond memories of it. I'd say it packs more suspense, mind-bending fantasy, pathos and chills than say Harry Potter, to use a more recent example of popular children's fantasy (grumpy old man alert: this opinion is based solely on overhearing the Harry Potter audiobooks which my son listens to, I haven't read it myself).

o. nate, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 01:15 (four months ago) link

I like Bradbury but often feel like a little of him goes a very long way. The Martian Chronicles, though, I would probably vote for if only for the story "Mars is Heaven" which scared the absolute shit out of me as a kid and to be honest still does.

Lily Dale, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 04:04 (four months ago) link

but don't feel like I've read enough of the other options to vote for it. Even if I've read only one in a given year, as has happened several times with these polls, and I really really like it, I'll vote for it, no regerts. But there are several years, like this one, where I haven't read any books on the list--the authors, o hell yes, but not these particular books, or not all the way through, or sometimes I think I did read it, or read about, but it didn't make enough of an impression to stan for.

dow, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 04:27 (four months ago) link

Feels like cheating to call The Martian Chronicles a novel. didn't stop me voting for it though.

koogs, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 05:27 (four months ago) link

The three Comyns novels I’ve read have been remarkable (Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead was definitely the most outright enjoyable) and I’m still a bit wary of Our Spoons Came From Woolworths. The Martian Chronicles appears to be the only one I’ve read, though I have a copy of Some Tame Gazelle lying around.

JoeStork, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 06:29 (four months ago) link

I like to think it is a testament (no pun intended) to my lack of religious instruction (or maybe lack of paying attention, I did to go C of E schools) that I never knew what the fuck was meant to be going on at the end of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe.

Ignore the neighsayers: grow a lemon tree (ledge), Wednesday, 17 March 2021 08:45 (four months ago) link

Yeah, being raised atheist and approaching the book from a Tolkien fan perspective the religious subtext flew over my head, too - ok so Aslan comes back from the dead, big whoop, so do most Marvel characters.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 11:16 (four months ago) link

Ha, yeah, I totally failed to get any religious allegory out of TLTWATW (tl; twat w?). He's a big cat and he's got superpowers, that was pretty cool to my kid brain.

emil.y, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 15:31 (four months ago) link

I don't remember if I connected it to religious allegory, but I do remember it made me feel uncomfortable because of the huge guilt trip the book laid on Edmund (was that his name?) for BETRAYING Aslan, when from my perspective he was a kid who'd been drugged by an adult and none of this was his fault.

Lily Dale, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 15:59 (four months ago) link

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

System, Thursday, 18 March 2021 00:01 (four months ago) link


Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Thursday, 18 March 2021 00:27 (four months ago) link

i went with "the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe," which i first read when very young and have always loved in spite of everything. as i've gotten older the flaws of the narnia books have gotten harder for me to overlook. i can see why tolkien didn't care for them: narnia doesn't have the solidity of middle-earth, where you can come back from a quest and visit the pub you left behind a thousand pages ago to find it more or less unchanged, and finally find the pony you were tearfully parted from eight hundred pages ago. narnia is a place where it can be winter for hundreds of years but animals still have no trouble finding food. narnia is, basically, whatever lewis felt like writing about. and the central concept of the books crumbles apart if you try to take it seriously: whatever else aslan is, he is not much like the jesus of the gospels. if lewis really thought he was, that's baffling to me. 

and yet he came up with so many indelible, dreamlike images: the snowy wood in the wardrobe, the faun with the packages, the witch on her sledge, aslan on the stone table, the vanishing white stag. and lewis's obsession with the potential evil lurking in our most ordinary actions, which only annoys me in his apologist writings, is one of the things that makes some of his fiction great to me. the passage where edmund tries to convince himself that he is doing the right thing in betraying his siblings, fails to do so, and yet somehow can't make himself turn back, has haunted me all my life. 

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Thursday, 18 March 2021 04:34 (four months ago) link

Yeah, I very much expected Lewis to win this one, actually - I guess ILX is always a little less British/anglophilic than it is in my mind.

I remember rereading TLTW&TW on a plane and tearing up a bit at the part where Lewis explains that, in Narnia, no one would ever be blamed for crying. Mind you I have plenty of little embarassing moments like that, I tend to well up a lot when reading on planes. Must be the air pressure.


Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1951

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 18 March 2021 11:31 (four months ago) link

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