Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Read Them As Soon As They Come Out

There are about 60,000 new titles published every year in the English language. It's hard to keep up with new authors and new books, and the hot new titles the gatekeepers offer us from The New York Times and Fleet Street are often inside jobs. I do try to read new books (I'm reading a galley by Sebastian Barry at the moment which is excellent) but in this blogpost I wanna talk about those living authors whose books I read as soon as they come out i.e. I buy the bastard in hardback if I can't persuade someone to give to me for free to review. Here are those authors in no particular order. 

Don Winslow: I began with The Trail To Buddha's Mirror when I was still in university. It must have been 1992 or 1993 or thereabouts and since then I've read pretty much everything. If you are going to start anywhere the best place is probably The Power of the Dog (2003) which all of us in the know realised was a masterpiece way back then. Winslow's prose is economical and beautiful and his characters are all too human. Winslow's Mexican novels are mimetic of a very tough world so steal yourself...

David Peace: Another author I started reading in the 1990's and haven't stopped since. My first one was 1974 which is book 1 in The Red Riding Quartet. I believe Peace took the English novel in an entirely new direction with these books which no one else has been brave enough to follow. My favourite Peace is Red or Dead which I reviewed for the Sydney Morning Herald, here. I've read everything he's written.  

James Ellroy. American Tabloid (1995) hit me like a side slewing Volvo XC90 into the back of my motorcycle (something that really happened but this isn't the place to discuss that). Wait a second, you're allowed to do that in a novel? I asked myself 10 pages into Tabloid. Ellroy perfected his brilliant telegraphic style with the mean spirited, utterly crazy The Cold Six Thousand which was the first great American novel of the 21st century. 

Ursula Le Guin. I started reading Le Guin in 1980 and I've read everything she has published since then. Did you know she went to high school with Philip K Dick? No, you didn't but you do now. Still firing on all cylinders is Ms Le Guin. An American literary legend. 

Thomas Pynchon. Read my first Pynchon novel in high school, didn't really get it but then I read Vineland in 1990 in college following Salman Rushdie's review of it in The Times. After that I became a Pynchon completist which can be a long and lonely road at times. Read them in this order 1) Vineland 2) Gravity's Rainbow 3) Inherent Vice 4) V 5) Mason & Dixon 6) Lot 49 7) Bleeding Edge 8) Against the Day.

Donna Tartt. She writes a book every 10 years and its always a masterpiece. What's not to love? Begin with The Secret History. 

Cormac McCarthy. Back in 1984 I was the only person reading Cormac McCarthy in the whole of Belfast I reckon. Certainly nobody else had ever heard of him and the library had trouble getting his books in. Then Oprah came along and spoiled everything. I'm still a completist though - even the plays and screenplays. Start with Blood Meridian, the greatest piece of Star Trek fan fiction ever.*  

Zadie Smith. Like everyone else I was captivated by White Teeth's humanity and humour and it was easy to jump on the Zadie train. 

Dan Woodrell: I read a review of a book called Under The Bright Lights in 1986 and pestered the librarian at Belfast Central Library to get it in and when she finally did I knew I was onto something. Mr Woodrell has never let me down since. Begin with Tomato Red or Winters Bone.

Michel Houellebecq. He's mad, bad and dangerous to know. He's got the worst hair in all of publishing (unlike Donna T above who has the best hair). His books have been getting nuttier and less funny of late but still, each one is a publishing event and I read em all. 

There are many others I was going to name, but I'm just going to end it here otherwise we'll be at this all night.  

*Arena s1 e18