Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1953

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Poll Results

OptionVotes
The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett 7
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler 5
The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley 5
The Adventures Of Augie Marsh by Saul Bellow 2
Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke 2
The Erasers by Alain Robbe-Grillet 1
Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks 1
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 1
Jane And Prudence by Barbara Pym 1
Junkie by William S. Burroughs 1
The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester 1
The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham 1
The African Child by Camara Laye 0
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis 0
Heartsnatcher by Boris Vian 0
Nothing To Make A Fuss About by Roger Nimier 0
And Never Said A Word by Heinrich Boll 0
The Private Life Of An Indian Prince by Mulk Raj Anand 0
Watt by Samuel Beckett 0
Too Late The Pharalope by Alan Paton 0
Requiem For A Spanish Peasant by Ramón J. Sender 0
The Orchid House by Phyllis Shand Allfrey 0
Maigret's Mistake by Georges Simenon 0
The Legion Of The Damned by Sven Hassel 0
The Four Reigns by Kukrit Pramoj 0
Cry Slaughter! by Edilberto K. Tiempo 0
Freedom Or Death by Nikos Kazantzakis 0
The Present And The Past by Ivy Compton-Burnett 0
Mr.Pye by Mervyn Peake 0
Love Amongst The Ruins by Evelyn Waugh 0
Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin 0
In The Castle Of My Skin by George Lamming 0
A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levine 0
The Lying Days by Nadine Gordimer 0
Children Of The Atom by Wilmar H. Shiras 0
Brain Wave by Poul Anderson 0
More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon 0
The Narrows by Ann Petry 0
The Night Of The Hunter by Davis Grubb 0
The Outsider by Richard Wright 0
The Return Of Lanny Budd by Upton Sinclair 0
Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov 0
Sin Pit by Paul S. Meskil 0
The Southpaw by Mark Harris 0
Mr.Stimpson And Mr.Gorse by Patrick Hamilton 0
A Kid For Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz 0
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming 0


Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 25 March 2021 12:12 (four months ago) link

Read Junkie in my early teens. Mostly remember the advice about not driving while high and that it's stupid to think dealers hang around schools trying to get children hooked. Both still OTM, but think I'd be bored to death rereading it.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 25 March 2021 12:14 (four months ago) link

I may actually be torn between "it was a pleasure to burn" and "the bitch was a red"

Call of Scampi: Slack Nephrops (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 25 March 2021 12:21 (four months ago) link

quite a year! could happily vote for five of these, and have read eight.

Bastard Lakes (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Thursday, 25 March 2021 12:25 (four months ago) link

Is Maud Martha good? I read some excerpts recently, and they piqued my interest.

Mark E. Smith died this year. Or, maybe last year. (bernard snowy), Thursday, 25 March 2021 12:53 (four months ago) link

I have read 4(?) of these and Childhood's End is easily the best.

Longest diatribe against Reader's Digest: Fahrenheit 451

wasdnuos (abanana), Thursday, 25 March 2021 13:53 (four months ago) link

yeah, multiple of these

A Kiss Before Dying - the twist here. amazed they pulled it off in the film as well. (levin has a thing of the big twist being in the middle rather than at the end, which means you get to see all the fall-out)

The Kraken Wakes - probably my favourite new read of the last 3 years

koogs, Thursday, 25 March 2021 14:09 (four months ago) link

I've read eight of these, six of the SF ones. The Kraken Wakes is a Triffids do-over but no less enjoyable for it. Fahrenheit 451 is problematic. Voting The Go-Between.

Ignore the neighsayers: grow a lemon tree (ledge), Thursday, 25 March 2021 14:14 (four months ago) link

I can’t pick!!! Augie March, Maud Martha, and The Narrows, all great. Go Tell it On the Mountain a little less great, but still great.

horseshoe, Thursday, 25 March 2021 14:32 (four months ago) link

Maybe Maud Martha, since it may not get a lot of votes.

horseshoe, Thursday, 25 March 2021 14:33 (four months ago) link

Is Maud Martha good? I read some excerpts recently, and they piqued my interest.

― Mark E. Smith died this year. Or, maybe last year. (bernard snowy), Thursday, March 25, 2021 8:53 AM (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

It is delightful. There was nothing Gwendolyn Brooks couldn’t do imo.

horseshoe, Thursday, 25 March 2021 14:34 (four months ago) link

As we get into American midcentury fiction we are getting into the stuff i studied in grad school. It’s nice to realize it survived my education; ie, I still love it.

horseshoe, Thursday, 25 March 2021 14:36 (four months ago) link

I've read nine of these and feel like I ought to have read several others.

This was an amazing year for SF novels. The Demolished Man is a snappy hybrid of SF and mystery, not as innovative as Bester's next book but stylish and surprising. More Than Human introduces tropes that have been recycled ever since, usually with less intelligence and sensitivity (sorry, X-Men); applying Sturgeon's Law, it's part of the ten percent of everything that isn't crap. I haven't read the Anderson or Bradbury. I don't think the Asimov holds up (his robot books are better). Childhood's End has been on my list forever, I should get on that.

Casino Royale is arguably the best Bond novel because he's more human than he becomes later, but it's less fun than some of the later books.

I've read The Long Goodbye many times, most recently a couple of months ago, and that gets my vote. It's not as well-paced or rich as The Big Sleep or Farewell, My Lovely, but it was Chandler's final, best attempt to turn the pulp PI into literature. I have mixed feelings about that effort, but it's a great detective novel, slow and thoughtful, often funny and often very sad. I suspect his frustration with the success of emulators like Ross Macdonald incited him to raise his game.

Brad C., Thursday, 25 March 2021 16:29 (four months ago) link

Read a few of these. I think teen me is calling for me to go for a Burroughs vote this time around.

Never even heard of Maud Martha, didn't know Brooks wrote novels, but it sounds p cool. I'm a fan of vignette-based novel structures, particularly at the moment when my concentration is shot.

emil.y, Thursday, 25 March 2021 17:24 (four months ago) link

it’s her only novel, and it’s in verse (I realize how that might sound, but it’s very accessible and not annoying at all)

horseshoe, Thursday, 25 March 2021 17:30 (four months ago) link

Yeah, I was just reading about it. I mean, it obviously depends on how well the style is carried out, but I think it's something that pulls me toward the book rather than puts me off.

emil.y, Thursday, 25 March 2021 17:37 (four months ago) link

The Unnamable is one of the greatest things ever written, so that.

pomenitul, Thursday, 25 March 2021 17:59 (four months ago) link

I'm not sure Junky even qualifies as a novel.

Judge Roi Behan (Aimless), Thursday, 25 March 2021 19:57 (four months ago) link

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming -- extended testicle-bashing scene ahoy

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester -- his second-best book, a breath of fresh air in SF up to this point

Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin -- this was pretty autobiographical, I assume; wonderful, horrifying book

Junkie by William S. Burroughs -- a memoir, surely? 'Queer' is a better book

The Adventures Of Augie Marsh by Saul Bellow -- I loved this when I first read it, but have tired a bit of Bellow's thing in the years since

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury -- another overrated wet fart from Bradbury

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler -- his best book, probably

More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon -- one of those rare SF fix-up novels where it all comes together really well

The Night Of The Hunter by Davis Grubb -- pretty great, but the movie is even better

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke -- again, despite the functional prose, Clarke some manages some elegiac beauty

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley -- brilliant in spite of the author's intentions

Mr.Stimpson And Mr.Gorse by Patrick Hamilton -- Gorse #2: brilliant funny novel of duelling ladykiller sociopaths; shame the third and final Gorse book didn't follow through on all the build-up (Hamilton was dying when he wrote it)

Jane And Prudence by Barbara Pym -- lots of fun, but I STILL don't care about the new vicar

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham -- really quietly wonderful implacable alien invasion novel

Love Amongs The Ruins by Evelyn Waugh -- (not Amongst) very odd anti-socialist novella where the women have sexy moustaches

The Present And The Past by Ivy Compton-Burnett -- she's so good and so strange, I can't remember which book has what happen in it but they're all wonderful

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis -- good book which gifted us the name of a terrible band

The Erasers by Alain Robbe-Grillet -- entertaining games with crime fiction

Maigret's Mistake by Georges Simenon -- high quality control continues

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Thursday, 25 March 2021 22:39 (four months ago) link

got to be beckett for me

《Myst1kOblivi0n》 (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 25 March 2021 22:41 (four months ago) link

As usual, I've read some of these long ago, and will vote for the only one I remember fairly well: in this case, The Demolished Man Peter Nichols' Bester article in the Sciene Fiction Encyclopedia is otm, incl.
Bester's first two sf novels, The Demolished Man (January-March 1952 Galaxy; 1953) and Tiger! Tiger! (October 1956-January 1957 Galaxy as "The Stars My Destination"; 1956; rev vt The Stars My Destination 1957; rev 1996), are among the genuine classics of Genre SF. Structurally they are the sf equivalent of the Jacobean revenge drama: both feature malcontent figures, outsiders from society bitterly cognizant of its corruption, but themselves partly ruined by it, just as in The Revenger's Tragedy or The Duchess of Malfi; like them, too, Bester's novels blaze with a sardonic imagery, mingling symbols of decay and new life – rebirth is a recurrent theme of Bester's – with a creative profligacy; they were cited by Brian W Aldiss as major examples of the subgenre he termed Widescreen Baroque.

The Demolished Man, which won the first Hugo for Best Novel, in 1953, tells a story which in synopsis is straightforward:(spoilers deleted)It is the pace, the staccato style, the passion and the pyrotechnics that make the novel extraordinary. The future society is evoked in marvellously hard-edged details; the hero is a driven, resourceful man whose obsessions are explained in Freudian terms that might seem too glib if they were given straight, but are evoked with the same New Yorker's painful, ironic scepticism that informs the whole novel.
...Bester's innovative, ferocious, magpie (his word) talent has certainly been influential in Genre SF, on writers as disparate as James Blish, Samuel R Delany and Michael Moorcock. In many respects his work was a forerunner of Cyberpunk. He is one of the very few genre-sf writers to have bridged the chasm between the old and the New Wave, by becoming a legendary figure for both – perhaps because in his sf imagery he conjured up, with bravura, both outer and Inner Space. In 1988 he posthumously received the SFWA Grand Master Award; he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2001. (PN)

Is also fair re his decline.
From: http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/bester_alfred

Bester himself, very entertaining re his adventures w SF (professionally, he was more involved with comics and Madison Ave)---incl. "my one demented meeting" w gifted genre-kingpin & L. Ron buddy John W. Campbell Jr.
http://sciencefiction.loa.org/biographies/bester_writings.php

dow, Friday, 26 March 2021 00:50 (four months ago) link

"Junkie", "The Silver Chair" and "Augie March" are the three I've read. All are good, but I'd probably go with "Augie March" here, partly because it's the one I've read most recently.

o. nate, Friday, 26 March 2021 03:04 (four months ago) link

Lots of good stuff here but The Unnameable is the greatest novel of the 20th century.

Zelda Zonk, Friday, 26 March 2021 03:55 (four months ago) link

Probably voting The Go-Between. I taught it to a 200-level college writing class - so, a bunch of freshman and sophomores who hadn't taken college lit before - and a lot of them were surprised by how into it they got.

I also taught Fahrenheit 451 a few years ago, at HS level, and liked it better than I had remembered. All the stuff about the omnipresence of technology, people doing everything with their earbuds constantly in till they become uncomfortable with silence, was much more interesting and prescient than what I remembered, which was just the book-burning part of it. I was student teaching that year at a school on an island, and when we got to the part where he reads "Dover Beach" out loud, I took the students out to the beach and read it to them out there with the sound of the waves behind us, which sounds cheesy but what else could I do? The beach was right there.

Others I've read here are The Long Goodbye - my least favorite Chandler, probably - and The Night of the Hunter, which was surprisingly great and exactly like the movie, and yet somehow still overshadowed by it.

Lily Dale, Friday, 26 March 2021 15:14 (four months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Sunday, 28 March 2021 00:01 (four months ago) link

There’s just enough time to read The Unnamable and vote for it if you haven’t already.

pomenitul, Sunday, 28 March 2021 00:11 (four months ago) link

I'll abstain. I've actually read many of these, but none of the 'important' ones, so I'd just end up voting for some book I found entertaining for a few hours and no longer recall very well.

Judge Roi Behan (Aimless), Sunday, 28 March 2021 17:31 (four months ago) link

The Unnamable, though The Erasers and Vian are good too.

Quite like to read that Canara Laye..

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 28 March 2021 19:16 (four months ago) link

"The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley"

Though I haven't read this is another one where the film could be better.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 28 March 2021 19:18 (four months ago) link

Film not better.

It Is Dangerous to Meme Inside (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 28 March 2021 19:21 (four months ago) link

'll abstain. I've actually read many of these, but none of the 'important' ones, so I'd just end up voting for some book I found entertaining for a few hours and no longer recall very well.
This would be okay! You might, for inst., lead us to unknown or forgotten pleasures.

dow, Sunday, 28 March 2021 21:03 (four months ago) link

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

System, Monday, 29 March 2021 00:01 (four months ago) link

Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1954

koogs, Monday, 29 March 2021 11:50 (four months ago) link


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