Adult Literary Fiction
Article in Category:Adult Fiction
The topics, concerns, and quality of literary novels raise them above the level of novels written and consumed mostly for entertainment. Written artfully, and with what sometimes qualifies as actual genius, they tend to be serious novels, though they may be humorous as well, capturing something readers recognize as universal, and therefore of more lasting significance.
- The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
- Packer's first novel was a surprise best seller in 2002. It relates the story of Carrie Bell, who flees her ex-fiance, Mike, and her native Wisconsin after Mike suffers a broken neck in a freak accident - the dive. But Carrie is tortured by self-doubts and pressure from her family back home as she struggles to make a life in New York with the mysterious Kilroy. Closely observed, beautifully written, and deeply affecting, Packer's book is not so much like reading a story as it is like living vicariously another's life.
- The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
- A mystery embedded in a novel of ideas. Powers -- winner of the MacArthur 'Genius' grant -- is a writer of deeply layered, scientifically astute works that many critics find emotionally remote. Not this one. A young man's truck overturns in rural Nebraska, leaving him in a coma. He comes out of it with a rare neurological condition wherein he remembers everything about his life except that he perceives everything that was dear to him -- his sister, his dog, even his house -- as imposters. A famous neuroscientist (no doubt fashioned on Oliver Sacks) is drawn to his case and becomes enmeshed in the mystery and his own mid-life crisis: What caused the accident? Was it an accident? A suicide attempt? What of the cryptic note found by his hospital bed? Is the famous scientist's life and reputation unraveling? The only witnesses to the crash are the sandhill cranes (the echo makers of the title) that stop over at the crash site on their annual migration south.
- From the Teeth of Angels by Jonathan Carroll
- Occasionally a novel speaks to fundamental issues that transcend insight and enjoyment. This is one. Neither Sci-Fi nor fantasy, Carroll's story tears the fabric of reality and goes to one's unexpressible fear and longing to address primal concerns, not unlike the effect fairy tales have on children. Yet he does it in a world where the natural laws apply. Death is a character here and becomes frighteningly real, but, miraculously, we're offered a way to triumph over him, if only for a time. And the way is as simple as child's play... literally.
- The Great American Novel by Philip Roth
- Appropriating the sweeping example of Moby Dick (the opening line is, Call me Smitty), Roth has produced one of the funniest books ever by an American novelist. It's certainly the funniest book about baseball ever written. Throwing in every literary reference he can find, Roth tells the sad, if hilarious, fate of the Port Rupert (NJ) Mundays, in the final season of the now forgotten Patriot League. The unscrupulous brothers who own the team sell the Munday's home ball park to the Army as an embarkation point for departing troops in WWII, so the Mundays must play their entire final season on the road. With the war on, most of the quality players are away fighting the war, so the Munday's have to resort to the oddest assortment of 'players' imaginable. Laugh out loud funny from start to finish.
- Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips
- This is a lyrical, beautiful, and mesmerizing prose poem built from the least promising materials: the story of two orphaned children set against a wartime massacre of innocent civilians and a major flood along the Kanawha River. The book is the achievement of a great soul. A helpful reading guide is available at Amazon.
- Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
- Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2002, this is a beautifully written, multi-generational saga of Callie Stephanides, born intersexed, who is raised as a girl until she realizes that she is actually a boy. What follows is his/her evolution into Cal, a man who, at 40, narratives the story in retrospect. But the hermaphrodite aspect is only the core around which a witty, warm, and totally engaging story is wound, encompassing colorful ancestors who came from Asia Minor at the end of Ottoman rule to Detroit during the Great Depression and following Cal to the uproarious 1960s. One of those books you slow down toward the end so as not to finish too soon, as the characters have become a part of your life and you want to hang onto them.
- Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
- Hans, a native of the Netherlands, and his family have been displaced from their Manhattan apartment to the Chelsea Hotel. After his wife and son move back to England, Hans' cricket playing friends become his channel for adapting to and becoming at home in the US. Trinidad native Chuck Ramkissoon, entrepreneur, cricket promoter, and rogue becomes a close and diverting friend to Hans.
- Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen
- In this re-rendering of the Watson trilogy, Matthiessen combines Killing Mister Watson, Lost Man's River, and Bone by Bone, re-writing substantial parts of each, to create a seamless story that mirrors the history of the south from the Civil War to World War II. Based on an actual pioneer of southwest Florida, Edgar J. Watson, Matthiessen creates a fictive context for the coming of age of the state of Florida and the dying of the south's old order through the life story of Mr. Watson who became a law unto himself in the sparsely populated Thousand Islands area of south Florida's Gulf coast. It's a bracing and tone-perfect account of life in pre-civil rights America. This book won the 2008 National Book Award.
- Snow by Orhan Pamuk
- Ka, the protagonist in Nobel Prize Winner Orhan Pamuk's novel, visits Kars in eastern Turkey. Ka's encounters with all manner of people produce a survey of the clash between radical Islam and western ideals in Kars. Ka is a poet, has lived in Germany, and hopes to return to Germany with Ipek.
- The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
- Queen Elizabeth's visit to the Bookmobile at Buckingham Palace leads to her becoming a voracious reader. The impact on her life and reign make a thought provoking short novel a worthy read.
- Underworld by Don Delillo
- Delillo's masterpiece and a history of the United States in the last half of the 20th century. From the famous 1951 'Shot Heard Round the World' -- Bobby Thompson's home run that gave the NY Giants the pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers, the same day the Soviet's tested an atomic bomb -- through the Cold War, featuring the high and low points of cultural history, Delillo captures the spirit of America with his trademark crystalline prose. Including some personages as J. Edgar Hoover, Frank Sinatra, Mick Jagger, and Jackie Gleason.
- Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee
- An allegory of apartheid South Africa by arguably the greatest living writer working in English. Coetzee, winner of the 2003 Nobel prize for literature, creates great emotional tension with disarmingly simple language and clear imagery in works of novella length. This is a story of an elderly magistrate in a remote part of the empire whose life is turned upside down by an administrator from the capital come to question two 'barbarian' suspects. The magistrate finds himself siding with the native population which sets himself up for trouble with his empire's administrators. This is a work that will stay with you long after you finish the story. This book was chosen by Penguin for their 'Great Books of the 20th Century' series.
- What I Was by Meg Rosoff
- An adolescent boy, miserable at his third school, St. Oswalds in East Anglia Britain, a watery world on the sinking coast of Britain where Roman forts failed at staving off the advances of Saxons and Viking hordes, meets an enigmatic boy during a training run with his classmates. Finn lives self-sufficiently alone in a small hut on the causeway, accessible only at low tide. Our narrator falls in love with the person he would like to be. A completely beguiling novel told in perfect voice.
- The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
- Balram Halwai narrates The White Tiger via letters addressed to the Chinese Premier who is slated to visit India. In essence the story is Balram's autobiography moving from his school days to his employment as a chauffeur for a wealthy family and on to his success as an entrepreneur in Bangalore. Balram's criminal activities and low caste status are the dark side and give insight into India's social and political turmoil. Adiga won the 2008 Man Booker Prize for this title.