During my vacation I perused the Internet, scanning various lists of the 100 greatest works of fiction of the 20th century. There are quite a few and not all of them agree. Sure, the basic titles and authorís youíd expect show up on almost all of them: Kafka, Joyce, Faulkner, blah, blah, blah. I couldnít help but notice some (in my view) glaring omissions though, mostly a few of the more obscure authors and titles that have greatly influenced my own writing. So I decided to put together a list of my top 100. Then I realized what a lot of work that is so I decided to cut it short at 50. Still, thereís a lot of overlap with other lists, so here is my list of the 10 greatest books of the twentieth Century that were left off of most everyone elseís list (in no particular order):
1. The Hearing Trumpet, Leonora Carrington
2. In watermelon Sugar, Richard Brautigan
3. Radio Free Albemuth, Philip K. Dick
4 Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
5. City of Glass, Paul Auster
6. Another Roadside Attraction, Tom Robbins
7. Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges
8. The Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll Pataphysician, Alfred Jarry
9. The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
10. Illuminatus!, Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea
Iíll be posting sporadically little capsule reviews of each book. Here are the first two:
1. The Hearing Trumpet, by Leonora Carrington
A coven of little old ladies, with the help of a pack of wolves, a nest of bees and a freelance mailman named Taliesin, steel the Holy Grail from the descendants of the Crusaders and return it to the Goddess from whence the Christians stole it in the first place. While illuminating the pagan roots of the Christian Mythology, Leonora Carrington also admonishes the church for its historically cruel treatment of women, especially the elderly variety, as second class citizens. But more then that, Carrington, a surrealist painter and writer, manages to evoke a brilliant sense of dreaminess and real emotion, something conspicuously absent from most surrealist writings. Personally, this is one of my all time favorite books. Iíve read it three times, and will probably read it for a fourth very soon.
2. In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan
Richard Brautigan has been all but forgotten by the world of literature, it seems. Which is sad because his books are so joyful, melencholy and funny that to let them slip into obscurity is, I think, a loss to humanity. I think the reason he has been junked is because of his late fifties, early sixties Late Beat, proto-Hippy voice. You can picture him sitting in a tent in the woods, smoking a joint and dancing in the moonlight with some hairy girlfriend. Now, I hate Hippies as much as the next guy. But he manages to evoke the appreciation of innocence, the silly optimism in the face of existential horror of modern life; all that is good in Hippiedom, without the dirty feet and self-righteous hypocrisy. Aftr all, when the eities rolled around and all the other Hippies went home to mommy and daddy and became yuppies Brautigan at least had the guts and the honesty to kill himself instead of voting Republican.
Oh, and the book is about this strange group of people living in a post apocalyptic utopia where all the days are lit by different colored suns and tigers eat the parents of the narrator, then help him with his arithmetic. They eat some carots, make statues out of wastermelon sugar and despite all reason are happy.
This book is curently only available in an omnibus with Trout Fishing in America, probably the best novel ever written about absolutely nothing and a collection of mediocre poetry. I recomend all three, even the poetry. Some of it isn't too bad.