I’m a little alarmed that I’ve signed up for at least three different “Best of” Lists for various places that pay me. They’ll be fun to compile but I admit this list, of books I adored that were published in years past (recent or not-so-recent) will be my sentimental favorite of the bunch.
- The entire backlist of Dorothy B. Hughes, but in particular, THE EXPENDABLE MAN (1963), reissued by NYRB Classics this summer; RIDE THE PINK HORSE (1946); and DREAD JOURNEY (1945), ostensibly about a cross-country train trip where someone will die before the last stop but really a lacerating examination of Hollywood mores of the time. Way more on Hughes in the essay I wrote for the LA Review of Books in August.
- Thomas Tryon, THE OTHER (1970). Before he turned to novels, Tryon was a promising actor whose career was essentially derailed by noted asshole Otto Preminger’s relentless abuse on set. Tryon quit Hollywood and found his real voice with this, his first novel, about 13-year-old twin boys who are polar opposites: Niles the eager-to-please one, Holland the simmering, surly one. The great thing about THE OTHER is that you’re free to interpret events any way you like, and it’s totally okay. Tryon leaves things that open.
— Raymond Kennedy, RIDE A COCKHORSE (1991) — Another NYRB Classics reissue. My god, what a monster Frankie is! Her transformation sudden, unexplained, but then she takes what she wants (like the high school bandmember in the opening chapter, then leadership of the bank where before she was a mere mousy teller) and it seems great until it isn’t. But what a ride. Shocked glee is the best way to describe reading this book.
— Elizabeth Taylor, ANGEL and A GAME OF HIDE AND SEEK — based on these two books, the first about a young woman determined to be a successful writer (and though she achieves this, it’s also her undoing), the other about the way a brief, aborted love affair hangs over lives for decades afterwards, I clearly need to read more of her books.
Okay, so we modify the post a bit. But out of the ten “Favorite Book Published Earlier Than 2012” chosen by Sarah Weinman on her blog Off On a Tangent, four of them were our titles. And that’s as it should be.