Thursday, May 24, 2018

The American male canon

To follow up from the Philip Roth post, this post will list the main works by the most dominant US writers of the 2nd half of the 20th Century, primarily Bellow, Updike and of course Philip Roth.

Philip Roth 
Goodbye, Columbus 1959

Letting Go 1962

When She Was Good 1967

R Portnoy's Complaint 1969

Our Gang 1971

R The Breast (DK) 1972

R The Great American Novel 1973

My Life as a Man 1974

R The Professor of Desire (DK) 1977

R The Ghost Writer (NZ) 1979

R Zuckerman Unbound (NZ) 1981

R The Anatomy Lesson (NZ) 1983

R The Prague Orgy (NZ) 1985

The Counterlife (NZ) 1986

Deception 1990

Operation Shylock 1993

R Sabbath's Theater 1995

American Pastoral (NZ) 1997

I Married a Communist (NZ) 1998

The Human Stain (NZ) 2000

R The Dying Animal (DK) 2001

The Plot Against America 2004

Everyman 2006

Exit Ghost (NZ) 2007

Indignation 2008

The Humbling 2009

Nemesis 2010

In this list, (DK) marks the trilogy of novels featuring David Kepesh, while (NZ) stands for Nathan Zuckerman.  I didn't realize that the so-called American Trilogy -- American Pastoral, I Married a Communist and The Human Stain -- are all partially narrated by Zuckerman.  I thought it was the four parts of Zuckerman Bound, plus The Counterlife and Exit Ghost.  I'm looking into reading those, but would definitely hold off on the American Trilogy for quite a while.  I think eventually I probably will read all of these, but it will take a while, and I'm not really in a hurry.

Saul Bellow
Dangling Man 1944
The Victim 1947
The Adventures of Augie March 1953
Seize the Day 1956
Henderson the Rain King 1959
Herzog 1964
Mr. Sammler's Planet 1970
Humboldt's Gift 1975
The Dean's December 1982
What Kind of Day Did You Have? 1984
More Die of Heartbreak 1987
A Theft 1989
The Bellarosa Connection 1989
The Actual 1997
Ravelstein 2000

As mentioned, I've read all of these except for Ravelstein, which I'll have to get around to one of these days.  I've reread Dangling Man and Seize the Day.  I'm fairly likely to reread Augie March and The Dean's December, which are probably my two favorite Bellow novels.  I'm still deciding if I want to reread Herzog and Humboldt's Gift.  One thing about Bellow is that he does seem to repeat himself (more than Roth certainly), though when he is good, he is very good indeed.

John Updike
(novels only)
The Poorhouse Fair 1959
R Rabbit, Run 1960
The Centaur 1963
Of the Farm 1965
Couples 1968
R Rabbit Redux 1971
A Month of Sundays 1975
Marry Me 1976
The Coup 1978
R Rabbit Is Rich 1981
The Witches of Eastwick 1984
Roger's Version 1986
S. 1988
R Rabbit at Rest 1990
Memories of the Ford Administration 1992
Brazil 1994
In the Beauty of the Lilies 1996
Toward the End of Time 1997
Gertrude and Claudius 2000
Seek My Face 2002
Villages 2004
Terrorist 2006
The Widows of Eastwick 2008

Aside from the Rabit novels, which are in a class of their own (and which I should finally read by the summer), I've seen strong recommendations for The Centaur and In the Beauty of the Lilies and moderate ones for Couples and Roger's Version.  Updike also wrote a huge number of short stories.  They have been collected in a two volume LOA set, though I don't know if this does include the Henry Bech stories, or if this was considered a separate product.  For my part, I will read Licks of Love (mostly because it contains Rabbit Remembered) and The Afterlife.  After that the Olinger Stories, which I don't actually own, and then if I still am inspired, probably the Henry Bech stories, then tackle what is remaining from the LOA Collected Stories set.

Bernard Malamud
The Natural (1952)
R The Assistant (1957)
R The Magic Barrel (1958)
A New Life (1961)
Idiots First (1963)
The Fixer (1966)
Pictures of Fidelman: An Exhibition (1969)
R The Tenants (1971)
Rembrandt's Hat (1974)
Dubin's Lives (1979)
R God's Grace (1982)
The People and Uncollected Stories (1989)

So I've read 4 of 12.  To be honest, I have no interest in The Natural (I'm pretty allergic to sports in literature or real life) and almost none in The Fixer.  I do plan on reading the two remaining novels from the list (A New Life and Dubin's Lives) but mostly I just need to work my way through his stories.

John O'Hara
(novels only)
R Appointment in Samarra (1934)
BUtterfield 8 (1935)
Hope of Heaven (1938)
Pal Joey (1940)
A Rage to Live (1949)
The Farmers Hotel (1951)
Ten North Frederick (1955)
A Family Party (1956)
From the Terrace (1958)
Ourselves to Know (1960)
The Big Laugh (1962)
Elizabeth Appleton (1963)
The Lockwood Concern (1965)
The Instrument (1967)
Lovey Childs: A Philadelphian's Story (1969)
The Ewings (1970)
The Second Ewings (1972)

Somewhat similar to Updike, O'Hara wrote many, many stories.  The new LOA volume is a selection, with relatively limited overlap with his Collected Short Stories (1984).  What is somewhat amusing is that both collections include "Imagine Kissing Pete" but not the other two novellas from Sermons and Soda Water: A Trilogy (this is one that I tracked down at the library a long time back, though I can't remember if the editors' judgement was just).

I know that I am not even going to attempt to get through this many novels by O'Hara (and I suspect most of them are not even in the library).  I'll reread Appointment in Samarra and read BUtterfield 8 and then probably the stories in Collected Short Stories, the LOA Collected Stories and Waiting for Winter (which I happen to own).  This reviewer makes a solid case for O'Hara, and suggests adding three more novels to my list (Ten North Frederick, Ourselves to Know and From the Terrace), but I'm not quite ready to commit just yet.

Enough new lists for now.

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