1. DIARY OF A BLOOD DONOR
What it is: Mati Unt manages to remix the Dracula myth with post Cold-War angst and plenty of sex, humor and existential despair. Talk about (har har) new blood!
Why it needs some love: It’s Estonian.
2. WAS SHE PRETTY?
What it is: A book of brilliantly captioned, lithely-drawn studies in sexual and romantic anxiety. Typical Shaptonism: “Alec’s ex-girlfriend Renata was an heiress with a thing for father figures.”
Why it needs some love: Mixed-media works don’t get the critical attention they merit.
3. THE STARS MY DESTINATION
What it is: A foundational work for contemporary SF. Alfred Bester’s explosive novel of revenge and liberty recasts THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO in a far-future society where everyone can teleport.
Why it needs some love: Bester’s mostly known among “genre” fans. Let’s get the word out.
4. ADIOS, HAPPY HOMELAND!
What it is: A (brilliant; fake) anthology of short stories about migration and flight by various (also fake) contemporary Cuban authors, allegedly collated by one (meta; super-fake) Herberto Quain.
Why it needs some love: It basically slipped under the literary radar when it came out. Time to remedy that!
5. HARD RAIN FAILLING
What it is: Don Carpenter’s 1966 novel charts the territory where Richard Yates meets David Goodis. A boy is born, lives a life of petty crime, tries and fails to redeem himself and loses everything (except, maybe, hope).
Why it needs some love: Carpenter could and should be having a big moment now in our arty-noir-obsessed culture.
6. SEVEN GOTHIC TALES
What it is: A 1934 collection of philosophical, eerie short stories, pierced with a cutting wit.
Why it needs some love: You hear Isak Dinesen, you think OUT OF AFRICA. Or BABETTE’S FEAST. But there’s so much more to the Baroness Blixen’s body of work.
7. THE PEOPLE OF FOREVER ARE NOT AFRAID
What it is: An intimate, brutally-clear eyed look at the lives of three young women during their time in Israel’s compulsory military service.
Why it needs some love: American ideas about contemporary Israeli fiction are shaped largely by old and middle-aged men: Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman and the youngish but not young Etgar Keret. Time to break up that old-dude monopoly.
8. SEASON OF MIGRATION TO THE NORTH
What it is: Tayeb Salih’s novel takes on the agonies of homecoming, political alienation, the legacy of European colonialism in Africa, and the dangers of sex and love, in an intense, Dostoyevskian rumination.
Why it needs some love: This book should be as famous as A BEND IN THE RIVER. Buy, read and get to proselytizing.
What it is: The story of a middle-aged Panamanian bureacrat/canned-food speculator/amateur taxidermist who, in the course of a single night, writes a poem that inspires a generation of Central American literary avant-gardism.
Why it needs some love: Only a tiny fraction of Aira’s output has made it into English. The more the merrier, we say.
10. LAUGHTER IN THE DARK
What it is: A bleak, blazing tour through the intricacies of artistic excellence, sexual obsession, Berlin philistinism, and the movies.
Why it needs some love: Because you’re sick of hearing people praise Nabokov for the books critics love to love: LOLITA; ADA, OR ARDOR; PALE FIRE.
What it is: A robot family lives down the street. Your teacher is having an affair with a wizard who inherited a fortune made in heroin trafficking. At night, the slow ships of an ineffable alien presence float across the suburban sky.
Why it needs some love: See above.
What it is: A classic war story by Xenophon of Athens, about a Greek mercenary corps fighting its way out of Persia. (Also the inspiration for the ever-watchable film THE WARRIORS.)
Why it needs some love: It’s a standard text for students of Ancient Greek. And those are about the only readers it’s big with, these days.
What it is: Russian political corruption, war crimes in the Caucasus, dissident literature and fairy tales all flow together in Mikhail Shishkin’s works-on-twelve-levels-at-once novel.
Why it needs some love: There’s always room for another Russian classic.
What it is: A fractured, darkly lyrical study of father-son antagonism. Young Jacob Katadreuffe struggles out of poverty, hindered at every step by his iron-headed father, the feared repo man A.B. Dreverhaven.
Why it needs some love: Ferdinand Bordewijk’s literary career in the Netherlands spanned seven decades. His profile in the U.S.? Nonexistent.
15. WE CAN BUILD YOU
What it is: Louis Rosen’s electronic spinet business is in trouble. His partner attempts to save the company by launching a line of Abraham Lincoln androids. Because that’s always a viable new strategy, right?
Why it needs some love: Philip K. Dick’s book takes on deep, thorny questions of authenticity and identity.
16. THE MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES
What is is: Ulrich — seducer, engineer, cavalry officer, mathematician, professional daydreamer — witnesses the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in this unfinished novel of supermassive intellectual scope.
Why it needs some love: Its brilliant author died impoverished, embittered and underappreciated.
17. THE INVISIBLES
What it is: A band of occult freedom fighters tries to save humanity from extra-dimensional monstrosities, bad sex and boredom. With cameos by Princess Diana and the Marquis de Sade.
Why it needs some love: No-one can rip reality apart and stitch it back together again quite like Glasgow’s own Grant Morrison.
18. A TOMB FOR BORIS DAVIDOVICH
What it is: The Russian Revolution and its long aftermath, revealed in seven pseudobiographies — interconnected stories of lives and deaths stretching from the battlefields of Spain to the slave-labor camps of Kolyma.
Why it needs some love: Danilo Kiš is an heir to the best of European modernism.
19. THE HUNDRED BROTHERS
What it is: You start with a family reunion (of the titular siblings) and end with a human sacrifice. Just another night at home in the wilds of American surrealism.
Why it needs some love: Antrim is now a certified genius (at least according to the MacArthur Foundation). Let’s keep the momentum going, shall we?
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