I notice that I am almost always automatically drawn to novels from other lands and other cultures .. or at least novels written by authors with foreign sounding names promising me new experiences from unfamiliar people and unfamiliar places. Sometimes this tendency lets me down but more often it helps keep my reading fresh and interesting.
Then there are the novels that re-submerge me into a geographical area or lifestyle that despite a been-there-done-that undertone allows me a very satisfying sub-text where I might even have been the model for the hero of the book. Some novels are like maps to the stars where you are the star and your early life is the stage. Generally I identify with anything referencing Southern California in the 1960s and all of Philip Roth’s novels.
That’s a strange combination: Southern California and Newark, New Jersey. In the past whenever anyone questioned my leaving the beaches of San Diego only to end up in an Italian neighborhood in Newark, I would look forlorn and remind my interrogator that I spent a year or two in St. Louis in between and that prepared me for living just about anyplace.
So my question to you is whether you corral your reading in a safe, familiar place or whether you’re adventuresome and drive out on the peninsula with no luggage other than a book or two translated from a far-away land of mystery and intrigue (or even just dull, everyday stuff that you hadn’t yet experienced?
Check your reading list. Familiar authors? Mostly in-country novelists? Everything written in your primary language? Familiar authors and even familiar books read and re-read? You probably need a transfusion of novels from China or Egypt or Chile. Go for it!
There may be a couple of interesting titles in my July reading pool. Take a peek.
- How German Is It — Walter Abish
- Hurma — Ali al-Muqri
- Gold Dust — Ibrahim al-Koni
- The Bridge on the Drina — Ivo Andric
- Oracle Night — Paul Auster
- Afsaneh: : Short Stories by Iranian Women — Kaveh Basmenji
- Magrit — Lee Battersby
- Antwerp — Roberto Bolaño
- Octavio’s Journey — Miguel Bonnefoy
- The Western Lands — William S. Burroughs
- Moonglow — Michael Chabon
- Odysseus Abroad: A Novel — Amit Chaudhuri
- The Green Room — Nag Mani
- Untitled — Kgebetli Moele
- We Were the Mulvaneys — Joyce Carol Oates
- The Last Days — Raymond Queneau
- Barrel Fever — David Sedaris
- The Tokyo Zodiac Murders — Soji Shimada
- I, the Jury — Mickey Spillane
- The Drowning of a Goldfish — Lidmila Sováková