Novelists No One Reads Anymore

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Bonus points for being completely out of print. Such as:

Wilfrid Sheed.

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:12 (two months ago) link

Although some stuff of his like his Great American Songbook survey and maybe some memoirs and baseball books can still be found.

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:14 (two months ago) link

And it looks like Real James Morrison read Max Jamison in recent years.

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:14 (two months ago) link

Checked for any earlier such thread but couldn’t find one.

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:22 (two months ago) link

George Gissing

link.exposing.politically (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:26 (two months ago) link

Gilbert Frankau.

Fizzles, Monday, 26 September 2022 19:28 (two months ago) link

Harold Frederic

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:29 (two months ago) link

xpost Extraordinarily popular at the time, and i found to my astonishment at the weekend, also wrote poetry. The only novel i attempted to read was almost unbearably boring.

Fizzles, Monday, 26 September 2022 19:30 (two months ago) link

Peter de Polnay

Fizzles, Monday, 26 September 2022 19:30 (two months ago) link

*forty novels in 45 years*

Fizzles, Monday, 26 September 2022 19:31 (two months ago) link

again, v popular. again, very hard to find any worth these days, though i think he was favourably mentioned by Julian McLaren-Ross somewhere.

Fizzles, Monday, 26 September 2022 19:32 (two months ago) link

Another Peter de...

Does anyone read Peter de Vries any more?

Fizzles, Monday, 26 September 2022 19:33 (two months ago) link

Edward Jenkins

SincereLee 'Scratch' Perry (President Keyes), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:34 (two months ago) link

There's a book on this topic, The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler. Here's an article about it, hilariously the hyperlink to the book on his publisher's website is now a 404.

https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20171010-the-great-writers-forgotten-by-history

link.exposing.politically (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:37 (two months ago) link

J.G. Holland
William Black
J.W. DeForest
Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen

I like these btw

SincereLee 'Scratch' Perry (President Keyes), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:38 (two months ago) link

Arnold Bennett

lord of the rongs (anagram), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:38 (two months ago) link

Another Peter de...

Does anyone read Peter de Vries any more?

Good one! A friend once decided to lend me his copy of Slouching Towards Kalamazoo which I eventually returned years later unread except for the first page or two.

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:39 (two months ago) link

George Meredith
Sinclair Lewis

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:40 (two months ago) link

Arnold Bennett

― lord of the rongs (anagram)

In a college course on the British modernists, my professor said in ref to Woolf's attacks on Bennett, "Ha, ha, actually, Arnold Bennett's a pretty good novelist!"

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:40 (two months ago) link

Ever heard of Alexander Baron or Mary Elizabeth Braddon?

I'd say Braddon is no longer "forgotten." Lady Audley's Secret has 22, 573 ratings on Goodreads, for example.

SincereLee 'Scratch' Perry (President Keyes), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:41 (two months ago) link

Sinclair Lewis

― Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, September 26, 2022 3:40 PM (eleven minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

It Can't Happen Here got a bump after the 2016 election. It along with Arrowsmith, Babbitt, and Main Street appear to be print as "The Essential Sinclair Lewis."

Infanta Terrible (j.lu), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:56 (two months ago) link

if i’ve read them they don’t belong in this thread, so sinclair lewis def doesn’t

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Monday, 26 September 2022 19:59 (two months ago) link

Sir Walter Scott was once the towering novelist in English, roughly equal in stature with Dickens. Now, he's a dim blip on a fast receding horizon. And who reads John Galsworthy nowadays?

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Monday, 26 September 2022 20:00 (two months ago) link

_Another Peter de...

Does anyone read Peter de Vries any more?_

Good one! A friend once decided to lend me his copy of _Slouching Towards Kalamazoo_ which I eventually returned years later unread except for the first page or two.


the blood of the lamb is v good indeed, and out of the way of his other writing, as it seems likely it’s about his daughter dying of leukaemia iirc. he does bring sharpness and humour to the matter, but it’s profoundly moving. I have never read the entirety of any of his comic novels tho.

Fizzles, Monday, 26 September 2022 20:13 (two months ago) link

Mrs. Alexander (Annie Hector)
Margaret Oliphant

SincereLee 'Scratch' Perry (President Keyes), Monday, 26 September 2022 20:17 (two months ago) link

Have read some Mrs. Oliphant, as she was credited in the anthologies where I found her---don't remember other particulars, but thought she was very good.

dow, Monday, 26 September 2022 21:01 (two months ago) link

Mervyn Peake

the floor is guava (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 26 September 2022 21:07 (two months ago) link

oliphant still has several regular readers at my library (granted it's a strange one); have seen bennett, braddon, and gissing all go out too.

devvvine, Monday, 26 September 2022 21:11 (two months ago) link

Some of the long-book high modernists -- Robert Musil, Ford Madox Ford, John Dos Passos -- feel this way to me. Still famous, I think, but read?

Guayaquil (eephus!), Monday, 26 September 2022 21:11 (two months ago) link

has anyone not writing a disraeli biography read a beaconsfield novel?

devvvine, Monday, 26 September 2022 21:13 (two months ago) link

Mervyn Peake

― the floor is guava (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, September 26, 2022 10:07 PM (nineteen minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

No way, I read Titus Groan just this year.

link.exposing.politically (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Monday, 26 September 2022 21:28 (two months ago) link

I still want to read Peake, also Gissing's New Grub Street, sounds v. relatable. Did read a lot of Dos Passos a few years ago, but seemed like would have been best read in high school (later confirmed by ILB founder Scott Seward). Enjoyed the Ford memoir I read, haven't gotten to the novels. Will read my copy of The Man Without Qualities when I can dig it up.

dow, Monday, 26 September 2022 21:53 (two months ago) link

eephus' list are all authors I've thought I should read at some point or another and never did, so you might be onto something there (xp)

For some reason I read a couple of Sinclair Lewis books in high school (on my own, not for class). I was assigned Galsworthy in college, but it was his plays for a course on modern drama. A friend gave me a copy of Titus Groan not too long ago, so definitely not Peake.

Booth Tarkington, maybe?

rob, Monday, 26 September 2022 21:55 (two months ago) link

Booth Tarkington is a GREAT one. Probably looking at old Pulitzer winners is a good way of finding likely candidates.

Guayaquil (eephus!), Monday, 26 September 2022 22:00 (two months ago) link

Sir Walter Scott was once the towering novelist in English, roughly equal in stature with Dickens.

Probably greater in stature actually.

Narada Michael Fagan (Tom D.), Monday, 26 September 2022 22:02 (two months ago) link

I don't like Gissing, afraid he's often like "what if Dickens or Zola was a tory who hated poor people and thought they deserved all they got?"

link.exposing.politically (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Monday, 26 September 2022 22:11 (two months ago) link

Wanna read BT's The Magnificent Ambersons. (Just now finally got irony of family name btw.)

dow, Monday, 26 September 2022 22:14 (two months ago) link

I did read Lewis's Kingsblood Royal: rising young pillar of a Minnesota community is urged by his daddy to investigate family tree, which may be like title says. Turns out key ancestor, whom they knew to be Canadian immigrant, was originally Haitian---Creole at least. Youngblood conceals findings from father, and self for a while, but eventually is told by out Black people of Minnesota race crimes, one of which (been so long, can't recall) may well be the Duluth lynching which some Minnesotans think is referenced in first verse of Duluth native's "Desolation Row." Novel, even by Nobel Prize winner, seems to be pushing envelope of late 40s, when civil rights was said by proto-McCarthyites and some others to be subject to Commie plots.

dow, Monday, 26 September 2022 22:35 (two months ago) link

Robert Musil, Ford Madox Ford, John Dos Passos

Musil recently had a minor revival with new translations coming out and I read Man Without Qualities several years back. I've read Ford's most famous novels, and thought his Parade's End trilogy much better than The Good Soldier. Every time I try to read anything of Dos Passos I bog down before I get to page 20.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Monday, 26 September 2022 22:56 (two months ago) link

I figure very religious novelists are less read today, like E.P. Roe who was hugely popular and is probably now just read by Christians.

SincereLee 'Scratch' Perry (President Keyes), Monday, 26 September 2022 23:19 (two months ago) link

I figure very religious novelists are less read today, like E.P. Roe who was hugely popular and is probably now just read by Christians.

― SincereLee 'Scratch' Perry (President Keyes)

oooh, how about lew wallace?

first one to come to mind was james branch cabell

do people read, like, james clavell? james a. michener? how about clive cussler, author of the extremely popular "dirk pitt" series of novels? how about don pendleton, whose character mack bolan, the executioner, was the inspiration for marvel comics' "punisher", and is really the guy cops _should_ be celebrating?

Kate (rushomancy), Tuesday, 27 September 2022 00:40 (two months ago) link

J.F. Powers?

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 September 2022 00:53 (two months ago) link

Thought Powers got revived by NYRB.

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 27 September 2022 00:55 (two months ago) link

I bet Executioner books are still read by gun show types

SincereLee 'Scratch' Perry (President Keyes), Tuesday, 27 September 2022 01:01 (two months ago) link

99% sure my dad still reads clive cussler

Guayaquil (eephus!), Tuesday, 27 September 2022 01:14 (two months ago) link

I'll see your James Michener and raise you Herman Fucking Wouk

Guayaquil (eephus!), Tuesday, 27 September 2022 01:15 (two months ago) link

"Historians, novelists, publishers, and critics who gathered at the Library of Congress in 1995 to mark Wouk's 80th birthday described him as an American Tolstoy.[2]"

Guayaquil (eephus!), Tuesday, 27 September 2022 01:16 (two months ago) link

Feel like the most canonical answers so far are

Arnold Bennett
George Meredith
James Branch Cabell

I even seem to remember something the subject of the original post said about Meredith, have to go look for it.

Of course all the other answers are welcome as well, although some authors that have been named seem to have had recent enough revivals to be disqualified, such as Mervyn Peake, as someone has already brought up.

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 27 September 2022 01:19 (two months ago) link

Meredith mentioned here:

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 27 September 2022 01:25 (two months ago) link

Fantasy strikes me as a genre where there are lots of readers willing to dig deep, and where writers can have a long shelf-life compared to literary writers of similar relative status.

jmm, Friday, 28 October 2022 15:42 (one month ago) link

i feel MM kept his excellent ideas well out of the elric series

mark s, Friday, 28 October 2022 15:42 (one month ago) link

(xpost!)
Sinkah has had some choice words to say about Moorcock's way with words but hard to locate them in the archives.

Capital Radio Sweetheart (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 28 October 2022 15:52 (one month ago) link

yeah, fantasy, horror and science fiction readers are quite willing to read older, out-of-fashion writers

he was always the go-to pop poet for midbrows to hate on (runner-up: leonard cohen)

― mark s, Friday, 28 October 2022 bookmarkflaglink

✔️✔️✔️

xyzzzz__, Friday, 28 October 2022 18:24 (one month ago) link

Didn't get into first Elric trilogy (too soon after Urth of the New Sun, for one thing), didn't really focus on his Hawkwind lyrics, but in last five years or so have come across some good new stories. Well, the first part of one (I think in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction) about most recent (American & allies involved) Afghanistan War seemed a bit stilted in the battlefield, maybe because he'd never been in war, but when the main character gets to Kabul, and re-encounters a woman x olde webs of complicity and duplicity re dealing with various factions of governments, as well as each other---it gets better. Also liked the brawny sandy savvy steampunker he contributed to Old Mars, a good RR Martin-Dozois-edited collection of all-new stories. Di

dow, Friday, 28 October 2022 19:09 (one month ago) link

I had no idea Hawkwind was an actual band when I read Time of the Hawklords.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 28 October 2022 19:18 (one month ago) link

he was always the go-to pop poet for midbrows to hate on (runner-up: leonard cohen)

― mark s, Friday, 28 October 2022 bookmarkflaglink


explain to me again how hating on utter abysmal shit is somehow bad— if you’re defending McKuen, just do it.

poppin' debussy (the table is the table), Friday, 28 October 2022 19:22 (one month ago) link

Rod McKuen piece in Slate recently

https://slate.com/culture/2022/10/rod-mckuen-best-selling-poet-songs-what-happened.html

I’m in my 40s but only heard his name as a punchline in Giffen & DeMatteis Justice League comics

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 28 October 2022 21:04 (one month ago) link

That Slate link is the ICP of this thread

Insane clown posse?

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 28 October 2022 22:18 (one month ago) link

Just a reference to the “Bands with their own subculture “ thread where people continuously post ICP
(The Slate link has been posted here 3 times btw)

Ha oops

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 28 October 2022 23:15 (one month ago) link

In fairness one of those posts was within the quote part of a reply to the previous such post.

Regex Dwight (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 28 October 2022 23:23 (one month ago) link

As Angus Wilson and Murdoch have both been mentioned I came across this review of a book by the former on the latter.

Wilson's value, if any, was as a gossip.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/sep/06/biography.highereducation?

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 30 October 2022 07:15 (four weeks ago) link

You're confusing AN Wilson with Angus Wilson there

Ward Fowler, Sunday, 30 October 2022 07:34 (four weeks ago) link

Haha ah so that's a writer I do not know a lot about.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 30 October 2022 10:27 (four weeks ago) link

the old men at the zoo (angus w) was made into a TV drama in the early 80s!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldvbZmtm7_E

mark s, Sunday, 30 October 2022 11:11 (four weeks ago) link

tho tbh i feel this was a last little throb on the slope of his forgetting

mark s, Sunday, 30 October 2022 11:12 (four weeks ago) link

that title has stuck with me, and that appears to be the extent of my knowledge

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 30 October 2022 11:14 (four weeks ago) link

Two kids authors that were relatively omnipresent on the mid-80s WH Smith shelves of my childhood, but now never even turn up in charity shops: JH Brennan and John Antrobus

Chuck_Tatum, Monday, 31 October 2022 00:43 (four weeks ago) link

None of the novelists today will be read.

there’s so little contemporary literature that has the potential to be classic (i.e. to be appreciated outside its immediate context). nobody in a hundred years is going to read donna tartt or sally rooney as literature (even if they might read them as cultural history)

— rose ❤️‍🔥🗡 (@roselyddon) November 1, 2022

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 1 November 2022 14:27 (three weeks ago) link

tweeters with a time machine

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 1 November 2022 14:29 (three weeks ago) link

Incidentally I am not sure if I ever read a piece of old literature as cultural history xp

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 1 November 2022 14:32 (three weeks ago) link

I read Madame Bovary once to find out what kinds of hats were considered unfashionable at the time.

(We're Not) The Experimental Jet Set (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 14:33 (three weeks ago) link

Think cultural history is at least a component in my enjoyment of...everything, really.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 1 November 2022 14:35 (three weeks ago) link

Yes, what will last is silly. But there are many novels published in the last two decades that will have an interest as exciting things to read

xp = guess the Anatomy of Melancholy is interesting as an insight of how people thought about depression, but it's the expression of it that really holds for me.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 1 November 2022 14:38 (three weeks ago) link

I kind of feel like the default case for literature is to be forgotten. What percentage of old books are remembered decades or even centuries later? I would guess much less than 1%. So predicting that something will be forgotten is kind of easy.

o. nate, Tuesday, 1 November 2022 14:43 (three weeks ago) link

OTM. See also all the languages gone missing over the millennia.

(We're Not) The Experimental Jet Set (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 14:47 (three weeks ago) link

It is hard to think of recent authors who I actively hope will be read in the future. Whether as literature or as a time capsule.

It's a very abstract question and it is, of course, not ours to decide. There's a (possibly apocryphal) thing about how if Henry Ford had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said "faster horses."

Elinor Glyn was pretty popular; so was I dunno Tom Clancy or whoev. If you time-traveled to 1850 and asked art critic which painters would still be talked about in 100 years, they would almost certainly answer wrongly.

I do not weep for the legacy of, say, Donna Tartt. But in my secret heart I kinda hold out hope that maybe George Saunders will still be read in future.

blissfully unawarewolf (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 15:07 (three weeks ago) link

Think the concept of timelessness during the time of the author’s life is weird and it’s not as though it’s remotely objective.

after several days on “the milk,” (gyac), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 15:12 (three weeks ago) link

Also, books not being read anymore is hardly indicative of this quality, like trends affect books too.

after several days on “the milk,” (gyac), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 15:14 (three weeks ago) link

I know, we’re talking novelists, but George Crabbe is a perfect example of this— someone well-regarded in his time by Byron, Edmund Burke, Samuel Johnson, and others, he is virtually unheard of in English letters today. I think that part of it is his form— he wrote exclusively in heroic couplets lmfao— and part of it is that the narrative poem, with some exceptions, has dramatically fallen out of favor with the reading public.

The whims of the reading public are unpredictable, and so any predictions re: timelessness are quite silly.

poppin' debussy (the table is the table), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 15:38 (three weeks ago) link

I predict the Captain Underpants books will still be read in 2407

I met a traveller from an antique land iirc

(We're Not) The Experimental Jet Set (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 15:40 (three weeks ago) link

Every other sentiment an antique.

(We're Not) The Experimental Jet Set (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 15:41 (three weeks ago) link

Crabbe was on the syllabus when i did English Lit in the late 80s, tho only in a minor way. his biggest connection to the present is probably Britten's Peter Grimes i'd guess

wearing wraparounds (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 15:48 (three weeks ago) link

anyway it's hard to write anything at length about the contingencies of what "lasts", never mind a quick Tweet with a lazy handwave at The Canon

wearing wraparounds (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 15:48 (three weeks ago) link

my tweets will last, yours are already forgotten

mark s, Tuesday, 1 November 2022 15:52 (three weeks ago) link

Crabbe was on the syllabus when i did English Lit in the late 80s, tho only in a minor way. his biggest connection to the present is probably Britten's Peter Grimes i'd guess


Yes, this was how I knew of him, had never read anything by him until Sunday— weird and interesting work, the heroic couplet allows for some strange rhythms and cadences to come to the surface, as funny as it is, too.

poppin' debussy (the table is the table), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 15:58 (three weeks ago) link

We read him alongside Pope in an 18th century lit class.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 16:02 (three weeks ago) link

Dryden obv has more name recognition but he's not much read/discussed, is he?

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 16:03 (three weeks ago) link

Nothing odd will do long. Sinkah's tweets will not last.

(We're Not) The Experimental Jet Set (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 16:05 (three weeks ago) link

Thoroughly unpopular opinion, but I think Tom Wolfe's novels and the research within will have an audience a century from now.

The self-titled drags (Eazy), Tuesday, 1 November 2022 16:07 (three weeks ago) link

I could see Bonfire being read as social portrait of the world Trump sprang from

Wouldn't it actually be rational to assume that most novelists are no longer read, and the ones who are extensively read are exceptional?

― the pinefox, Wednesday, September 28, 2022

the pinefox, Tuesday, 1 November 2022 18:47 (three weeks ago) link

re: predicting legacy while the writer is alive

I was looking at some lit journals from the 1870s and a critic was giving a run down of recent Russian publications. Anna Karenina had been coming out as a serial but was as yet unfinished by Tolstoy. The critic said something like "Even if Tolstoy dies before finishing the novel the existing portions are already great enough to ensure its permanent place in great literature."

"the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon [Wuthering Heights] is that it will never be generally read"

abcfsk, Tuesday, 1 November 2022 19:45 (three weeks ago) link


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