Outmoded authors

I have tried to stay away from reading challenges because, although I like the idea in principle, in practice I find myself not doing all the reading, pushing myself to do the reading, and then getting annoyed with myself when I don’t. And reading should be fun, right?

But … you know how it goes. Someone comes along with a new challenge and it seems intriguing, and next thing I know I’m signed up. I should not get so caught up in trying to finish these things and should just think about what they are good for: getting me to read things I might not otherwise.

(I still am thinking about Kate’s Reading Across Borders challenge, by the way, which is an excellent one for getting me to read new things. I feel like I should do some version of this challenge every year, perhaps with a different focus or theme. You see why it’s hard for me to stay away from these things?? I’ve completed three out of my planned five books, but I have until the end of the year so finish, so I just might make it.)

This time it’s Imani who’s come up with interesting new challenges, and the Outmoded Authors one has caught my eye (she has also proposed the Index Librorum Liberoram challenge). She’s created a list of unfashionable authors that participants can choose from, and the plan is to read as many books as people want from the list over the course of six months.

The list is quite long, and there are tons of authors I’d happily read from it. I think, though, to increase my chances of actually completing this thing, I won’t decide for sure which ones until the last moment, with one exception: I’d really like to read Walter Scott. I’ll probably read Waverley, as it’s the one I have on my shelves. Other than that, I’d like to read maybe two or three other authors from the list. Here are some possibilities:

  • Christina Stead. I own a copy of her novel The Man Who Loved Children, and I don’t know anything about it whatsoever, except that it’s on Jane Smiley’s list from her book 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel. Perhaps it’s time to find out.
  • Djuna Barnes. I’ve wanted to read Nightwood for quite a while, although I’m a bit nervous about not getting it; as I understand it, it’s an experimental novel and sometimes those work for me and other times they don’t.
  • Elizabeth Bowen. I think she’s someone I’ll like when I finally read her. I own a copy of The Last September, which would do nicely.
  • John Dryden. He’s someone I suggested, not so much because I’m excited about reading him, but because he someone I don’t think non-academic readers read very often. If people are going to read something from his time period, it’s more likely to be Aphra Behn or maybe one of the comic plays, or more likely it’ll be something from a bit later like Daniel Defoe. But maybe I should read more of his work (beyond what I’ve read for various classes).
  • Radclyffe Hall. I own a copy of her book Adam’s Breed, and Imani has written so intriguingly about The Well of Loneliness, I may just give it a try.
  • Sybille Bedford. Litlove mentioned A Favourite of the Gods as one of her favorite books from 2006, so surely that would be a good choice.
  • Other possibilities: Merce Rodoreda, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Malcom Lowry.


Filed under Books, Reading

10 responses to “Outmoded authors

  1. Edd

    Dorothy W.,

    As you know I am the older gentleman who is now reading genres that please him, Thrillers, Mystery, Suspense, Historical Fiction, and an occasional Science Fiction and Non-Fiction. I came across a book that I thoroughly enjoyed but my liking may not be to your liking but I mention it simply because someone facing a terminal illness – Oh well, I just liked it. The book is “Chosen by a Horse” by Susan Richards.

    Your South Carolina friend…


  2. SFP

    Stead, Bowen, and Bedford will be on my list. Also Maugham and Lawrence.


  3. This should be a fun one. Looking forward to what you think of Scott. I’ve never read him and Emerson loved him but he has the reputation of being rather overblown. You will be assisting me in my curiousity 🙂


  4. I think J.D. Salinger is becoming an outmoded author. John Cheever? Irwin Shaw, for certain. A depressing list for a writer guy like me to compile…


  5. I’m looking at Well of Loneliness, with Nightwood as the bookend. Still in the midst of drawing up a list. Not sure of how I’ll handle Nightwood, but just thought I’d try.


  6. I’ve heard of Barnes’s Nightwood, but I had no idea it was experimental. Since I have several authors in my piles that would fit in nicely I decided to join as well. It helps that the guidelines are so open and there is six months to read the books! I am thinking of reading Bedford, too, as well as Lawrence. Not sure which others I will choose. Maybe Dawn Pwell. My public library has those nice American Library editions that have her complete novels. I had not ever considered reading her, but after reading a bit about her I am interested. It’s sad to think of so many of these authors just falling out of popularity. It makes you wonder what really good stuff you’re missing!


  7. Eva

    I’m reading The Last September for the challenge as well! It sounds really fascinating; I’m bookmooching it. Look forward to reading your thoughts. 🙂


  8. hepzibah

    I think you’ve inspired me to create one of these lists! I really think its importantant that these authors are no longer overlooked, the problem is where to begin? I like American lit, as you know, but where to find these authors, I guess is the question?


  9. You have no idea how hard it’s been for me to resist this challenge, but I am falling behind in my other ’07 challenges and think it would be very unwise for me to take on another one. Or maybe I ought to dump the others and do this one. No, no, no. I WILL resist…


  10. Thank you for the recommendation Edd! And thanks for stopping by 🙂

    Susan, maybe there will be a bunch of us who will read Stead — Stefanie also said she was interested in reading her.

    Stefanie — I think I’m used to those overblown writers! I’ll certainly have a full report 🙂

    Cliff, I do think “outmoded” means different things to different people; I wouldn’t have thought of Salinger as outmoded, and yet I can see that for a lot of people, he’s no longer all that interesting.

    Orpheus — well, maybe we can read Nightwood together!

    Danielle — I don’t know much about Nightwood at all, but I do think I’ve heard about its experimental nature. But what that means exactly could be a lot of things. I’m glad you are joining the group!

    Eva — Oh, good, I’m glad you’re reading Bowen too. We’ll have to compare notes (if I get to her that is …)

    Hepzibah — good question. Anthologies are good sources of information, I think, and sometimes course syllabi (many of which are available online from many different schools). Certain publishing houses specialize in lesser-known authors. For British novels, for example, Oxford World’s Classics has tons of stuff. And then good used bookstores have things … I suppose what I’ve learned about outmoded authors comes from a lot of different places. You keep your eyes open and take notes on what you find. So your idea of keeping a list is excellent. Oh, and a certain English professor you and I both know is a great source of information, of course 🙂

    Emily — oh, come on, you know you want to join up! Surely you were planning on reading a bunch of those authors anyway, right???


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