Thursday, October 19, 2006

Unread Books That Deserve to Be Read

There are the classics, which richly deserve to be read and richly repay the reading.

And then there are the dross books, the dreck books that sell by the pile: they leave me scratching my head in puzzlement every time I wander through a bookstore.

And thirdly there are those wonderful but neglected books which deserve to be more widely read, though somehow they've slipped into obscurity. Here are just a few of my own obscure favorites:

A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay. Makes you feel the world of Tormance, where there are five primary colors, and the phaens (who are neither male nor female) are referred to by their own third-sex pronouns.

Jack of Eagles by James Blish. One pulp plot device is piled on top of another, in this gripping good read about an ordinary everyday man who is waking up, perhaps too late, to his own psi powers and their central role in an unseen battle of good versus evil. (Original title: Let the Finder Beware.)

Humanism: The Wreck of Western Culture by John Carroll. "We live amidst the ruins of the great, five-hundred-year epoch of Humanism. Around us is that 'colossal wreck'. Our culture is a flat expanse of rubble... We are destitute in our plenty. We are homeless in our own homes." Ah, and with these opening words of his prologue, Carroll is only just warming up, in his gale-force critique of Western culture from the Renaissance to the present...

The Creation of Cloah Sark by Johnny Clougher. The autobiography of a destitute New Zealand ne'er-do-well who lived in a tin shed— and how he designed and built the oceangoing yacht of his dreams single-handed.

How about you? Which great though neglected books are among your favorites?

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6 Comments:

Blogger ForNow said...

Emanuel Carnevali came to the USA and wrote beautifully in English a single book published 1925 in one printing and out of print ever since, costing you a pretty penny to buy as a collectible. Both W.C. Williams and Sherwood Anderson wrote about him. Carnevali's book A Hurried Man consisted of stories and poems. He returned to Italy and died of a disease.

66~~~~~
TALE ONE

I hope something will be done about this, my God!

Her name was Melany Piano and she was born of a very good family, in Turin, Piedmond, Italy. Turin is a grey serious earnest city with long straight streets, a huddle of square blocks. If she had been born out in the mountains where Emily lived this wouldn’t have happened, but then . . .

I saw the old photographs of the family, a yellowish mist on them. Photographs of the romantic period. Period in which one still believed in the solemn face or the melancholy face or the noble face or the pale face. The face of her mother was solemn and mysterious. The face of her father was that of a man with the heart of a knight ; crowned with the well-balanced smile of the successful man ; life to him was an adventure in gallantry — women and war. He was, in fact, an officer of the Italian army in the Erythrean expedition.
~~~~~99

Thursday, October 19, 2006 8:31:00 PM  
Blogger ForNow said...

I forgot to mention that I read Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay (one of the books on your list) many years ago and liked it a lot.

Friday, October 20, 2006 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Burgess said...

Yeah, David Lindsay once said (and I paraphrase), "I don't think my book will ever be read by a large audience, but it will always be read by at least one person a year." It's certainly had more readers than that, but nevertheless it's remained undeservedly obscure.

I first read A Voyage to Arcturus when I was high school age. It made such an impression on me that I purloined Lindsay's third-sex phaens (with due acknowledgment) in a very dark science-fiction novella, Bearing Light, which I wrote in my early 20s.

Friday, October 20, 2006 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger ForNow said...

Wow! Dangerous Visions material.

Friday, October 20, 2006 4:42:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Burgess said...

Yeah, in my high school & college years I also had on my science-fiction bookshelf Dangerous Visions and the two volumes of Again, Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison— read 'em through over and over again, not just the stories in them but also the foreword to each story by Ellison, and the afterword to each story by its author.

The style and tone of Bearing Light, to say nothing of its content, was clearly influenced by late 60s and early 70s "New Wave" science fiction. (I wrote Bearing Light in 1980-81. That was also about the time I was disengaging from keeping up with newer trends in science fiction. I've read tons of SF in my time, but amazing little that's been published in the past generation.)

Saturday, October 21, 2006 5:00:00 PM  
Blogger ForNow said...

A Voyage to Arcturus was in my mom's sci-fi collection. Simply that word "Arcturus" made me want to read it, it looked like some arcane Latin future-participle version of "arctic." Not that I thought or hoped that it would be about an icy place. Just something extremal, hyper-polar.

I'm no pro, but I think your story is well written, especially the sacrifice, you neither buffer against the horror (it's disturbing!) nor sensationalize the horror (you don't seem sadistic). And the sheer weirdness of the phaens and their "rights"! And those murky Jungian archetypes, presented without sentimentality as frightening forces reaching through the actual universe. Say, why didn't you become a writer?

Sunday, October 22, 2006 12:40:00 AM  

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