The Village Voice polls writers on favorite obscure books

May 16th, 2008

Source: “Our Favorite Writers Pick Their Favorite Obscure Books”, the Village Voice, 13 May 2008

In an attempt to get folks thinking about something other than best-sellers for their summer reading lists, the Village Voice polled sixteen writers to name their favorite obscure book. At least one suggestion is utterly cryptic: of Jim Dodge’s Fup, which has been in print forever and had its steady stream of fans, Colum McCann writes, “The less said about it, the better.”

On the other hand, Jennifer Egan got me interested in Harold Q. Masur’s detective novels from the 1940s and 1950s with these opening lines from You Can’t Live Forever:

It started with a summons, a brunette, and a Turk.

The summons was in my pocket, the brunette was in trouble, and the Turk was dead.

Egan writes, “In his savvy, stylish novels of the ’40s and ’50s, Masur manages to wink continuously at the detective genre even as he revels in it.”

Novelist Donna Tartt offers Blood in the Parlor, by Dorothy Dunbar, commenting that, “Each of the 12 stories is an account of a 19th-century murder told with a light, macabre sense of humor. I’d love to see it back in print with illustrations by Edward Gorey.” Ed Park names an early novel by Harry Stephen Keeler, whose goofily bizarre mysteries have been rediscovered lately and who now has his own society of fans. Jonathan Ames nominates The Lunatic at Large, one of several of the prolific Scots comic writer J. Storer Clouston you can read or download online from Project Gutenberg. Between this article and this site, we may be able to put a dent in the sales from Oprah’s book club.

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