Project Type: Modern fiction

The Surrendered, by Chang-Rae Lee

“The formal device of characterization in Chang-rae Lee’s novel, <emThe Surrendered, depicts differences between the ontology of race and the ontology of disability in ways that reveal the stakes of reading at the intersection of Asian American studies and disability studies.”  – Stephanie Hsu

Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was, by Sjón

This novel is set in 1918 Reykjavik and has themes of homosexuality, the first movies, the great Spanish flu epidemic, the arrival of the independence of Iceland, the eruption of the local volcano, Katla, the First World War, the cruel treatment of lepers and homosexuals, and the Icelandic obsession over the “perversion” they believed was caused by watching too may films.

The Whispering Muse, by Sjón

In The Whispering Muse, the first person narrator is “Valdimar Haraldsson”, who is something of a pompous ass who has spent his life obsessed with the connection between fish and the superiority of Nordic Culture, and was the publisher of an obscure publication on that subject.

Umbrella, by Will Self

You have to be determined to finish “Umbrella”. It’s 379 pages of text with no line breaks. Seriously. Self does not use paragraph breaks, nor indents, nor chapters to structure his narrative or help the reader to make sense of what’s going on. At an average of 13 words per line, 29 lines per page, this makes 142,883 words, non-stop.

Rhino Ranch, by Larry McMurtry

Larry McMurtry knows how to write, that’s for sure. His technique is perfectly suited to his subject matter, in this case, Texas country: strong, no-nonsense and to the point, like the State, by reputation; dry and a bit caustic, like the cowboys and oilmen of whom he writes.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

While the plot of “The Goldfinch” revolves around art, it is not a Künstlerroman about an artist’s growth to maturity, but rather a Bildungsroman about an art lover’s growth to maturity, with the 17th century artist, Carl Fabritius, as an ever-present type of Ghost in the Machine.

The Fat Years, by Chan Koonchung

“The Fat Years” is a profoundly disturbing novel. It has been banned in mainland China and officially has not been published there. However, the author has said digital copies were disseminated “on the Internet within the Chinese firewall” before being deleted.

Hausfrau, by Jill Alexander Essbaum

The lead character in “Hausfrau”, “Anna Benz”, must be one of the most disagreeable people I have had the misfortune to experience in a novel. Not vicious or dangerous, but rather self-indulgent, passive, helpless, self-pitying, weak, out of control, and needy oh, good grief, so needy.