Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1939

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hm might have to side with Jimminy Catbin here but yes as Aimless says these are difficult books to put against each other

rob, Thursday, 4 February 2021 18:44 (three years ago) link

At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O' Brien -- great book, but saving my vote for The Third Policeman which is even better

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler -- nobody needs to have me tell them how good this is, pt 1

Ask The Dust by John Fante -- another of my beloved failing writers in Hollywood classics

The Day Of The Locust by Nathanael West -- brilliant dark comedy nastiness

The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck -- nobody needs to have me tell them how good this is, pt 2

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo -- nobody needs to have me tell them how good this is, pt 3

Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague De Camp -- read this about 2 weeks ago, it's fun time travel nonsense, frictionlessly moving through its plot

Pal Joey by John O' Hara -- I have a weakness for O'Hara, and his novellas are especially good

Tropic Of Capricorn by Henry Miller -- daft bugger

Happy Valley by Patrick White -- for Australians, this long-suppressed novel is like an A Country Practice storyline written by a genius

Coming Up For Air by George Orwell -- lesser Orwell, still very good

The Confidential Agent by Graham Greene -- another excellent Greene entertainment

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys -- nobody needs to have me tell them how good this is, pt 4

Goodbye To Berlin by Christopher Isherwood -- nobody needs to have me tell them how good this is, pt 5

The Mask Of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler -- one of the best Amblers, probably

Party Going by Henry Green -- absolute gem

What's Become Of Waring by Anthony Powell -- entertaining social comedy

Coup de GrĂ¢ce by Marguerite Yourcenar -- this is great, and ridiculously it's out of print

Beware Of Pity by Stefan Zweig -- his only full-length novel, I am a Zweig tragic, Michael Hofmann would not approve

Across The Black Waters by Mulk Raj Anand -- Indian soldiers in WW1; fascinating novel if stylistically undistinguished

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Friday, 5 February 2021 02:30 (three years ago) link

Grapes of Wrath, but Day of the Locust is a great, nasty, bracing read.

horseshoe, Friday, 5 February 2021 11:00 (three years ago) link

Ulysses > Finnegans Wake

I should vote for Grapes of Wrath for its own merits and its extra-literary significance and because it reminds me of stories told by my father and uncles about doing migrant farm labor during the Depression, but it's not really my favorite here.

Jerusalem, If I Forget Thee has some scenes and passages that I've remembered for decades. The parallel storylines shouldn't work but somehow combine to give it the widest emotional range of any Faulkner novel.

The Ambler and Chandler novels are really fun. Anyone who hasn't read The Big Sleep should treat themselves, it's better than the Bogart/Bacall movie.

Agatha Christie doesn't get enough love. She's a powerhouse like Stephen King; the overabundance of books and some obvious weaknesses tend to conceal the merits of her best work. And Then There Were None is one of the trickiest of her mysteries, but to me it's best read as horror -- the ur-text for slasher movies and every other story in which an isolated ensemble is killed off one by one.

Brad C., Friday, 5 February 2021 16:57 (three years ago) link

That's a really great take on ATTWN Brad!

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 5 February 2021 17:02 (three years ago) link

Yes! Never occurred to me, but of course it is!

Really, I think what makes Christie so consistently readable, despite the thin characters and the mechanical plots, is that all her books have one foot in horror - not in the sense of meeting the genre conventions the way ATTWN does, but in the sense of atmosphere. Even when she's got Hercule Poirot investigating a death at a country house, or something equally gimmicky and by-the-numbers, the books are still suffused with this intense underlying feeling of horror that murder exists and that human actually do this to each other.

I am not a psychic community (Lily Dale), Friday, 5 February 2021 17:42 (three years ago) link

human beings, I meant to say

I am not a psychic community (Lily Dale), Friday, 5 February 2021 17:43 (three years ago) link

Embarrassed to say I've only read "Day of the Locust", which is as great as everyone is saying it is.

o. nate, Friday, 5 February 2021 18:37 (three years ago) link

1939 saw publication of quite a few great books. It was a rich year for movies, too. Probably pure coincidence.

Compromise isn't a principle, it's a method (Aimless), Saturday, 6 February 2021 04:21 (three years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Sunday, 7 February 2021 00:01 (three years ago) link

I read The Big Sleep to try to figure out why the movie is so confusing. The answer: The book covers two cases, one for each sister, Carmen and Vivian, and they don't intersect until late on. In the movie, Carmen's case got censored (it involved pornography) and cut down, leaving a lot of loose threads and a lack of structure. Also, Chandler fucked up regarding the death of the family's driver, heavily implying that it was murder in one chapter then never explaining who did it.

wasdnuos (abanana), Sunday, 7 February 2021 00:31 (three years ago) link

Which I think he realised working on the script.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Sunday, 7 February 2021 11:43 (three years ago) link

If you want a more faithful adaptation you can always look at Michael Winner's horrible 70's version with the action relocated to London. But I wouldn't recommend you do so.

Daniel_Rf, Sunday, 7 February 2021 13:30 (three years ago) link

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

System, Monday, 8 February 2021 00:01 (three years ago) link

Ha! Did not expect Joyce to be beaten. In fairness this was a hellish year to poll.

A Scampo Darkly (Le Bateau Ivre), Monday, 8 February 2021 00:10 (three years ago) link

Aw, no votes for Ask the Dust. I do love that book, but to be honest it never stood a chance in this company.

emil.y, Monday, 8 February 2021 00:27 (three years ago) link

Yeah but agreed, it's still pretty sad it didn't get a single vote! I voted Sarraute, having thrown Fante a vote two years earlier, knowing he'd be up against some giants this year. But no mistake, Ask the dust is phenomenal.

A Scampo Darkly (Le Bateau Ivre), Monday, 8 February 2021 00:29 (three years ago) link

Did not expect Joyce to be beaten.

The poll is for Favorite Novel, not Most Critically Admired and Academically Blessed. We are but human.

Apocryphal Anecdote Warning:

James Joyce was attending a party some time after Finnegans Wake had been published and a woman who had approached him, in reference to its famous multi-linguistic puns and structural impishness, asked him, "But Mr. Joyce, you don't expect us poor readers to spend the rest of our lives disentangling all these knots, do you?"

To which Joyce replied, "Yes. I most certainly do"

Compromise isn't a principle, it's a method (Aimless), Monday, 8 February 2021 02:17 (three years ago) link

Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 1940

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 8 February 2021 13:40 (three years ago) link

Thought the Joyce anecdote would be about a handshake request.

The Ballad of Mel Cooley (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 8 February 2021 16:11 (three years ago) link

Remembering an all-time great from Kate Beaton:


Daniel_Rf, Monday, 8 February 2021 16:17 (three years ago) link

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