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EN3224 Ideas in Contemporary Fiction

Summer Reading List 2017-18

Course Tutor: Professor Robert Eaglestone

Here are the rules by which the novels were selected.

Published no more than ten years from the beginning of the course.

This means that some novels I love and have loved teaching have gone (for example, Sarah Waters Fingersmith (2003), Marilynne Robinson Gilead (2005) both superb novels).

Only ‘literary fiction’

We will discuss this issue, I think, throughout the course. It means that we are not reading, for example, Alison Bechdel’s great graphic novels Fun Home (2006) and Are You My Mother? (2012), or fantasy like George R. R. Martin The Winds of Winter (2018?) or historical genre fiction like Bernard Cornwell, The Flame Bearer (2016). I really wanted to teach John Green, The Fault in our Stars (2012) but YA is also excluded. None of these exclusions are about literary value, and we will discuss these matters during the course.

With something interesting to say in form or content

We will usually be reading one other piece of criticism of theory alongside.

Not too long

Nothing too long. For example, Hanya Yanagihara A little life (2015) is an important and heart-breaking novel, but too long to teach in a week.

Two are will be chosen by you.

The last ‘slot’ in each term is will be chose by you, not by me. We’ll discuss this in the course.

Week

Novel

Notes

  1.  

Arrival, no teaching

 

  1.  

Ali Smith, Autumn (2016)

One of our best writers. You should also read, if you can, her most celebrated novel The Accidental (2006). And Keats’ ‘To Autumn’.

  1.  

John Burnside, Glister (2008)

A really striking poet, too.

  1.  

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant (2015)

This novel isn’t his best - his Never Let me go (2005) is one of the best novels written this century, you should read it, and The Remains of the Day (1989) is also impressive (I’ve never seen the film of either of these) – but it has lots to say, buried in the text.

  1.  

Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2011)

The only novel which has a powerpoint presentation in it.

  1.  

David Markson, The Last Novel (2007)

WARNING!  There is a NEW EDITION of this, in with This is Not a Novel and Other Novels (2016). BUY THIS NEW EDITION.

Two things: it looks long, but it isn’t (you’ll see why) and after you’ve read it you can read This is not a novel (2001) in the new edition you have just bought. Again, looks long, but really isn’t.

  1.  

Reading week

  1.  

Eleanor Catton, The Rehearsal (2008)

Her novel The Luminaries (2013) is wonderful – won the booker, I read it straight through on a flight and then sat in a coffee bar in Heathrow to finish it before going home. Too long to teach on this course (828 pages). But this, her debut, is fascinating and fun.

  1.  

Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (2015)

I preferred this to her criticism in The Art of Cruelty (2011)

  1.  

Eimear McBride, A Girl is a half-formed thing (2013).

Prize-winning, deservedly. Her new one, The Lesser Bohemians (2016) I have, but haven’t read yet.

  1.  

Han Kung, The Vegetarian (2015)

Strong stuff.

  1.  

Novel to be decided by seminar group

We’ll discuss how this happens.

Winter holiday

  1.  

Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station (2011)

Everyone seemed to love this. His very short book The Hatred of Poetry (2016) is funny.

  1.  

Teju Cole, Open City (2011)

My copy is ruined because I read it by the Brockwell Lido in Brixton.

  1.  

Junot Dias, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)

You know when you pick a book up by accident and it’s just marvellous and you laugh and cry at the same time. That. It’s killing me that this is the last time I can do it this course.

  1.  

Andrea Levy, The Long Song (2010)

Her Small Island (2004) is a lovely novel. This is more unsettling.

  1.  

Colson Whitehead, The Underground railroad (2016)

Rightly lauded in the USA.

  1.  

Reading week

  1.  

Max Porter, Greif is the thing with Feathers (2015)

I’m not even sure this short thing is a novel. Go and read Ted Hughes horrible poetry book Crow (1970)

  1.  

Sarah Hall, The Wolf Border (2015)

At first, I didn’t like this quite as much as her How to paint a Dead Man (2009) but it sort of crept up on me.

  1.  

Karen Joy Fowler, We are all completely beside ourselves (2013).

SPOILER ALERT. Seriously, do not spoiler this novel for people.

  1.  

Laline Paul, The Bees (2015)

Kept me buzzing all the way through.

  1.  

Novel to be decided by seminar group

We’ll discuss how this happens.

 

This table aims to help you plan your work by telling you how much reading each book asks for, and also indicates if you might be able to buy the book second hand/cheaply.

Week

Novel

Reading time

Chance to buy cheap/second hand

  1.  

Arrival, no teaching

 

 

  1.  

Ali Smith, Autumn (2016)

Medium to low (big print lots of gaps)

Low

  1.  

John Burnside, Glister (2008)

medium

medium

  1.  

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant (2015)

medium

high

  1.  

Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2011)

Medium (looks longer than it is, you’ll see why)

high

  1.  

David Markson, The Last Novel (2007)

Low (mainly gaps!)

Nearly zero, buy new 2016 edition, sorry.

  1.  

Reading week

 

  1.  

Eleanor Catton, The Rehearsal (2008)

long

low

  1.  

Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (2015)

Medium to low

low

  1.  

Eimear McBride, A Girl is a half-formed thing (2013).

Medium but a hard read, so give it time.

medium

  1.  

Han Kung, The Vegetarian (2015)

Medium to low

medium

  1.  

Novel to be decided by seminar group

Who knows?

Winter holiday

 

  1.  

Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station (2011)

Medium to low

medium

  1.  

Teju Cole, Open City (2011)

Medium

Low, and I need one too.

  1.  

Junot Dias, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)

Medium edging to long

medium

  1.  

Andrea Levy, The Long Song (2010)

Medium edging to long

high

  1.  

Colson Whitehead, The Underground railroad (2016)

Medium edging to long

medium

  1.  

Reading week

 

  1.  

Max Porter, Grief is the thing with Feathers (2015)

Very short

high

  1.  

Sarah Hall, The Wolf Border (2015)

long

low

  1.  

Karen Joy Fowler, We are all completely beside ourselves (2013).

Medium edging to long

medium

  1.  

Laline Paul, The Bees (2015)

Medium edging to long

medium

  1.  

Novel to be decided by seminar group

Who knows

  

  
 
 
 
 

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