Monday, May 18, 2009

Five Neglected Books You Must Read -- If You Can Find Them

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2009 at 1:30 PM

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So after reading last week's feature about The Moonflower Vine, Jetta Carleton's novel that was originally published in 1962, subsequently forgotten and, just this spring, resurrected, you're probably kicking yourself right now.

You're thinking, How many other great books have I missed out on? If you're a literary snob, you're also probably thinking, I want to be in the know, too!

The good news is, there are plenty of neglected books out there. Brad Bigelow has made a serious hobby of tracking them down and posting excellent essays on his website, The Neglected Books Page. (He claims that shopping for used books is cheaper than sailing.)

Bigelow's favorite neglected book, the one whose neglect he considers most criminal, is Never Ask the End by Isabel Paterson.

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"It's totally amazing," he says. "Paterson has a very impressionistic style, like Virginia Woolf's. She's able to orient herself to the perspective of the narrator and then moves around. She just has a very insightful understanding about people. She's also funny -- always a wisecracker."

Bigelow also hopes for the reissue of Other Ranks, a World War I novel by W. V. Tilsley. "Only a handful of copies were sold and it instantly went out of print," he says. "You can't find copies on the Internet. I don't even have a copy -- I have a Xerox."

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Jane Smiley, who wrote the foreword for the new edition of The Moonflower Vine, has also written introductions for a number of reissued books, most recently School for Love by Olivia Manning, set in Jerusalem in 1945. It came out from New York Review of Books Classics in February.

Smiley also recommends The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West and The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead.

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