Abandoned Books

Reviews of books and authors not much discussed on the web.

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Abandoned Books?

This blog means to give out information, and more importantly critical evaluations, to books and fiction writers that currently aren't prominent on the web.

That's the only real stipulation. Some of these writers are very famous, some of them quite obscure. Some of these were bestsellers in their day, some weren't. All genres and countries and types of writing will be represented -- as long as its fiction and, in my opinion, needs discussion. The goal, ultimately, is to have something out there so that if some poor guy wants to google "Leon Uris" he can find something relevant.

Note -- my opinion. It seems obvious, but maybe is worth being discussed once: the books and authors are chosen by me, partly due to my interest in the writer, partly due to availability in my area, partly due to the state of my finances , partly due to whim. If a writer you want to see hasn't been talked about yet, probably sooner or later I'll be getting to him/her. Of course, it may be later rather than sooner -- it just depends.

Some authors, even if they're not much discussed on the web currently, won't be discussed here because they're probably best talked about in a different context. I like Men's Adventure paperbacks, for instance, the grottier the better, but most of them will probably not be talked about here, because there's already good dedicated outlets for that kind of talk. Now, mind, I definitely will be talking about writers in all genres -- including Men's Adventure Paperbacks -- it's really just a judgement call of mine about whether he or she will "fit" in here. One rule of thumb is that if they attained popular success but still wrote genre, they may fit in here, because they may not be talked about much in genre circles. Lawrence Sanders comes to mind.

I will be talking about "literary" or "highbrow" or "serious" or whatever-you-want-to-call-it fiction, too, but again, whether a given author fits here or not will be a judgement call. Some authors I think clearly do not: Nabokov and Updike come to mind. Others may. I'll figure it out as I go along.

I am, of course, always open to suggestions as to whom to focus on next.

Life is short and books are many, and I can't pretend to have read every book by the authors being discussed. I have tried to cover either the most famous books of a writer (Irwin Shaw) or a representative sampling (Lawrence Sanders). In some instances an author's career essentially rests on one book, and that's the one I've chosen to discuss (Alan Drury's Advise and Consent). And some authors strike as just very bad; a long discussion of each of their miserable books seems truly beside the point (Arthur Hailey).

Once I get this thing up and running I will be opening my pieces up to comments, and I'm especially interested in people reviewing books by these authors that I haven't talked about. The best of these I'll put in an update or a seperate post, again so the information's out there. You needn't agree with my opinions to submit a review. Obviously I think I'm right , or I wouldn't have said it, but I'm most interested in having critical evaluations of these works out there, period. I'm trying to fill a need.

As you will see, I'm most interested in talking about writing through the context of author's careers. I'm interested in how an author's style or approach shifts about from book to book -- I think that's the most informed way of appreciating his or her work. A book like Marquand's Point of No Return makes far more sense in the context of his career, I'd argue, than it does hanging out there in the air as an example of Fifties Discontent, say. (Although it certainly does that, too.) Now, a true classic does rise above the author's circumstances and the socio-historical circumstances of his time, and stands alone. If we happen to stumble upon one in these investigations I'll certainly point it out. We haven't yet, though.

I am also interested in people contributing basic information about these writers: links, pieces, remembrances, anecdotes, whatever. There is a stunning lack of informationon some of these writers out there. (What I can find that seems interesting I will link, if possible.)

Originally the plan was for Abandoned Books to have both short reports on some authors, and longer essays on writers I think are of especial interest. (Of this first group I originally intended to write longer essays on Marquand, Shaw, and Du Maurier.) Unfortunately I read these books in staggered intervals of time, and honestly it's just too damn hard for me to go back to books I read six months or a year previously and try to talk about them in detail. Most of them I did not take notes on, and while my general opinions are still clear, the specific examples illustrating this point or that are a bit hazy. I might as well reread the damn things again.

Starting with Irving Wallace (yeah, he's up next), I plan to read everything by whoever I'm discussing one right after another. Longer, more detailed essays will come.

What else? My current interest for this project is bestsellers of the past, partly because there seems to be a real dearth of information on these authors, partly because I'm interested in what books become popular, what these authors share (or don't share), and partly because it's relatively easy to find them. I'll probably be on these guys and gals for awhile -- but sooner or later I'll branch into other areas, never fear.

Naturally if my main interest here is critical evaluation you should expect some criticism here. My opinion of many of these writers -- Uris and Hailey, for instance -- is pretty harsh. If you're interested in arguing with me in the comments, that's fine, but I'll probably ask you to defend your opinion. Another interest of mine with this project is to, at least in a small way, help raise the general level of book talk on the web.

And finally, I do have ambitions for Abandoned Books beyond it's current incarnation. This is just the first step.

2 Comments:

Blogger Philip Swan said...

What a great idea for a blog! We are kindred spirits, though I beg to differ about Uris - I've read (or re-read) several of his books over the past few months and enjoyed them very much - he was a good storyteller. Unfortunately, along with other storytellers such as James Michener, Harold Robbins, and Arthur Hailey, he outlived his fame and popularity. I agree about dreary Drury - how did ADVISE AND CONSENT win the Pulitzer over Michener's HAWAII, and which book is still in-print today? I work for a major bookseller, and am often reminding my co-workers how fleeting fame and bestsellerdom are, warning them that nothing lasts forever, and whilst Nicholas Sparks and others are selling by the truckload, so did the authors named above, along with Jacqueline Susann, Irving Stone, Taylor Caldwell, Thomas B. Costain, and Fannie Hurst! These names, of course, evoke blank stares of non-recognition!

11:38 AM  
Blogger Philip Swan said...

What a great idea for a blog! We are kindred spirits, though I beg to differ about Uris - I've read (or re-read) several of his books over the past few months and enjoyed them very much - he was a good storyteller. Unfortunately, along with other storytellers such as James Michener, Harold Robbins, and Arthur Hailey, he outlived his fame and popularity. I agree about dreary Drury - how did ADVISE AND CONSENT win the Pulitzer over Michener's HAWAII, and which book is still in-print today? I work for a major bookseller, and am often reminding my co-workers how fleeting fame and bestsellerdom are, warning them that nothing lasts forever, and whilst Nicholas Sparks and others are selling by the truckload, so did the authors named above, along with Jacqueline Susann, Irving Stone, Taylor Caldwell, Thomas B. Costain, and Fannie Hurst! These names, of course, evoke blank stares of non-recognition!

11:39 AM  

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