What Authors Did You Discover This Year?

Carrie’s tackled the underappreciated and the disappointments of the year. I’d like to raise her with an oldie but goodie approach. What authors did you read or “discover” for the first time this year? Feel free to name authors, contemporary or classic. (My own 2004 list includes Paula Fox, Lawrence Durrell, Eric Kraft, Flann O’Brien and David Mitchell — all of whom blew me away: Fox, for her incredibly crisp and compact poetry; Durrell, whose poetic ambition is truly sui generis; Kraft, for so poignantly merging Proust with middle American eccentrics; O’Brien, whose postmodern approach is so casual and beautifully goofy that I’m almost tempted to send huge stacks of The Third Policeman to McSweeney’s headquarters for their consideration; and Mitchell, for too many reasons.)

But never mind me. Who are yours? Comment away!


  1. Ooh, very fun, Edward.

    My list (and I may add more later as I think of them):

    John Banville — for his elegant serpentine mind (thank you, TEV) — and John Marquand (from you and now Old Hag)

    William Gaddis (obvs)

    Jonathan Carroll, for what always seems clunky if entertaining, and then moves (always unexpectedly) into original and deeply meaningful. It’s been months since I read The Wooden Sea and I still think about it several times a week

    Rebecca West: I hadn’t read Fountain Overflows before and it’s magnificent — one of my favorite books ever. I plan to read more of her in 2005.

  2. All of mine are contemporary:

    Tracy Daugherty – a few novels, ss collections and a collection of essays – most on Univ. Presses

    MacAdam/Cage helped me find plenty of new authors: Frank Hollon Turner, Amy Koppelman, Beth Ann Bauman and Dayne Sherman all come to mind.

    Thanks to Algonquin I discovered Aaron Gwyn, Scott M. Morris, and Chimamanda Adichie.

    M. Allen Cunningham received plenty of well deserved press for his debut.

    Two others who’ve been around a bit longer that I was just slow to discover were Gary Fincke (short story collections, poetry collections and this year, a memoir about being the father of a rock n’ roller – his son plays guitar for Breaking Benjamin), and Ron Rash – thanks CAAF!


  3. Man, how could I have forgotten John Banville, particularly when I received approximately 3,000 reminders from Mark and there are about three more tomes from the man in bookpile. (Sorry, TEV!)

    And, yes, spread the love for MacAdam/Cage. They are too cool.

  4. There were several, but I have to stump for Donald Harington, whose With blew me away as only a few books have. And because I’d never known Harington’s work before, I now have a considerable backlist to enjoy.

  5. Scott Phillips and Steve Yarborough,Gus Vanderwieghe and Zoe Heller and Ward Just and Joyce Oates, all a pleasure to read for the first time

  6. I’ll second that Zoe Heller. I thought What Was She Thinking? was superb.

    I just finished the second chapter of Ward Just’s An Unfinished Season. Obvs. it’s just winding up.

    RB., is this really the first year you’ve read the Oates? How could that be?

  7. FYI: The Library of America is giving away either its Durrell or its Bowles volume with a book order here at the MLA. Apparently, both titles failed to move….

  8. Must admit CAAF, that question popped into my mind too. About Yarbrough as well, but especially Oates. I haven’t read anything by her since Zombie, which was what, 8 years ago? Yet, I know I’ve read five or six of her works, just because, well, you know.


  9. This was the year I finally got embarrassed by my lack of literary knowledge. These are the authors I read for the first time this year in an attempt to remedy this situation:

    M.G. Lewis
    Gustave Flaubery
    Wm. Thackeray
    Terry Pratchett
    Umberto Eco
    James Ellroy
    Don DeLillo
    Robert Graves
    Friedrich Durrenmatt
    Patrick White
    R.M. Rilke
    Theophile Gautier
    Henry James
    Oscar Wilde
    Alexander Pushkin
    Patrick O’Brian
    Honore de Balzac
    Henrik Ibsen
    Edward Bulwer-Lytton
    Milan Kundera
    B.S. Johnson
    Walker Percy
    Iain Sinclair
    Nikolai Gogol

  10. I know I’m going to forget someone, but: David Mitchell, David Markson, William T. Vollmann, Charles Portis, Kate Chopin, Jonathan Lethem, John Banville, William Gaddis, Stephen Dixon, Adolfo Bioy Casares, David Bezmozgis, Stanley Elkin, Richard Yates, Z.Z. Packer, Robert Coover. And Kate Walbert, in progress.

  11. Okay, to coin a phrase, “mistakes were made.” (See Charles Baxter’s very useful and incisive essay “Burning Down The House”).

    Yeah, yeah, I have read a bit of Oates {Black Water and What I Lived For) but to read a couple of her books is to not even scratch the surface of a writer who is taken for granted [at least by me and I bet by others] in large part because of her amazing output. Reading THE FALLS was like discovering someone new.

    It’s a good thing I keep some lists as it turns out I have read Yarborough’s Oxygen Man (on the recommendation of Patricia Henley} but it was a soft cover, so it doesn’t count.

  12. Tops on the list are Irene Zabytko and Ward Just (both thanks to the esteemed Golden Rule Jones), plus Halldor Laxness, Jonathan Lethem, and William Golding (really; I don’t get out much).

  13. RB,

    That makes sense. And I agree, Oates is very easy to overlook because of that output. As one who generally wants to read everything an author has written, she has me too intimidated to become a hardcore fan.

    I believe most read Oxygen Man in paperback – MacMurray & Beck didn’t have the readership they should have. The Henley suggestion makes sense, she’s thanked in his Visible Spirits acknowledgements for driving through Indiana with him on some research.


  14. I’m having trouble rememberizing! I keep thinking of people I discovered last year.

    So far, I’ve come up with:

    Sarah Shun-lien Bynum (whose work I will definitely be keeping a close eye on in future) and Kage Baker (I read all her Company novels and most of her short fiction this year; I call it “substantial fluff,” realizing the fluff part sounds like a put down, but isn’t meant that way at all — it’s meant to denote the pleasurable texture of the text, the way it floats you along the story; she plots like a s.o.b.).

    There will be more as I smack palm to forehead in remembrance. This year, I really want to read more mystery/crime fiction.

  15. Gwenda, I completely agree with you on Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum. On the NBA tip, I was glad to read Lily Tuck’s News From Paraguay and am going to try to lay hands on her previous two.

    I’m also starting to feel avuncular and protective over Samantha Hunt, speaking of young hottie female writers. Oh oh oh, and David Mitchell was new to me this year too, and now I think he’s just fabu.

    By the by, Ed, I can’t tell you how disturbed I am by the Steve Perry fan fic site resting above. Four chapters on “Lovin Touchin Squeezin” … ye gawds.

  16. Thanks Gwenda, your multi-posting made me think a bit more about this and I realized there were a few authors who I dipped into books of in 2004, and just hadn’t finished them:

    Rattawut Lapcharoensap and his ss collection Sightseeing
    Hannah Tinti and Animal Crackers
    John Haskell’s I Am Not Jackson Pollack and I just started his American Purgatorio
    Daniel Stolar’s The Middle of the Night

    CAAF, why no love for Mr. Perry? Do you actually disagree with Bob the Bachelor who stated, “If you say you don’t like Journey, you’re just lying!”?
    and Rachael Perry’s collection of optimistic little gems, How to Fly.

  17. Nothing against Mr. Perry. I’ve got “Don’t Stop Believin'” loaded on the iPod, and the lyrics to “Sherry” (and its video images) take up a significant chunk of my brain.

    Listen, I love Led Zeppelin, for example — have had to replace the box set twice from overuse. Yet it never occured to me sit down and write a short story based on the band members. Though maybe I should? “Robert Plant jumps the shark”?

  18. p.s. Incidental funny story (with apologies to Ed for commandoing his thread):

    When I was in high school Blue Oyster Cult played an outdoor concert in my hometown, Appleton. It was a bid deal, and all of us went in our tie-dyes, with our bowls in the back pocket. It was strange because at that point the band had only one original member, a little scraggly guy who looked very eyelinered and longhaired for Wisconi. He kind of looked like a fine-boned version of the lead singer of Ratt. Anyway, about midway through the show, he stopped the concert and shrieked in total rock & roll exultation, “I. want. to. make. love. to. an. Appleton. woman!!!!!!” It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen — poor guy, reduced to coming on to northern Wisconsin’s tubetopped dames. My friend Beck said she thought of it all during the Playoffs this year because they’d play “Godzilla” to introduce Matsui. She sent out an email and six(!) of those of us who were there that night still think about that moment when they hear Blue Oyster Cult.

    Anywho, I bring this up because I misheard him at the time and thought he’d cried, “I. want. to. make. love. to. an. Abalone.” Which, cuz of Hammer of the Gods, didn’t seem so far-fetched.

  19. Wow, you folks sure know how to keep a party going. 🙂

    JCO: As much as I’ve joked about her remarkable output, make no mistake. The woman can cook. Whether it’s Gothic, crazed fantasy, or pure existential drama, the only thing that’s stopped me from picking up every Oates book is the fear that my entire bookpile will become unduly prejudiced towards her. It’s a completely separate side issue — this whole matter of being prolific. But I think Birnbaum’s sensation of “discovering” Oates certainly holds. I’ve discovered her several times myself and am long overdue to discover her again.

    Steve Perry: Perhaps, Carrie, you should be more disturbed about my rediscovery of 1980s hair bands. Damned karaoke, I tell ya. At one point, nearly every male between the ages of 25 and 40 has sung “Anyway You Want It” to himself.

    “Hammer of the Gods” — Man, do I even want to confess here that I not only owned that book, but had long hair and was really into metal (later industrial and punk) in the late 80s?

  20. Mrs. Tingle, that just might be the all time best mishearing of a lyric/singer that I’ve ever heard/read? As if the dude in BOC could even pronounce abalone, let alone know what one was!

    Ed – I think I still have my copy rolling around here somewhere. Odd, I was never really into Led Zep but was into that mid-late 80’s hair metal scene enough to know CAAF’s referring to Stephen Pearcy of Ratt and later Arcade, before reforming Ratt. Never had the long hair myself though – usually stuck out like a sore thumb at those concerts. Short hair, glasses, knit polo shirt, khakis, and tennis shoes. Didn’t quite fit with the long hair, earringed, jeans, black t-shirt and boot crowd all that well.

    And CAAF, it’s about time you commandeered somebody else’s thread – God knows RB and I have taken many of yours in directions you never intended.


  21. I suppose I discovered a lot of new writers, but I can’t bloody remember them all so I’ll stick to two: Newton Thornburg, who wrote CUTTER AND BONE, among others, and it is so flat-out fantastic and bleak that it puts a lot of wannabe noiristes to shame; and Maritta Wolff, whose debut novel WHISTLE STOP, written way back in 1941 (at the ripe old age of 22!) will be reissued in April and totally, utterly knocked me for a loop. I expect to be blogging about this book more at length in the new year.

  22. Way too long a list, but I’ll mention a few I was very glad to discover (and the first book I read): BS Johnson (Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry), Abdul Rahmen Munif (Cities of Salt), Allan Seager (Amos Berry), Antonio Tabucchi (Pereira Declares), Lawrence Thornton (Sailors on the Inward Sea), Irene Zabytko (When Luba Leaves Home).

  23. Oh, that’s a fab story. Now I’m going to commandeer one of Mr. Rowe’s about Blue Oyster Cult in exchange (it’s a lot better when he tells it):

    In the very early nineties, Mr. Rowe was a sort of a roadie for a heavy metal cover band called Romper Rume (complete with an umlaut over the u in the rume). One night they got to a club in St. Louis and they found out, much to their surprise, that the umlaut-ridden band was going to be opening for Blue Oyster Cult. They were extremely psyched and set up to do the soundcheck. During the soundcheck, the tour manager for Blue Oyster Cult oozed in. He listened for one song, coincidentally also the length of one cigarette. Then he declared, “You’re not fucking opening for Blue Oyster Cult.”

    Oh, the shame! Fame, so close!

  24. Oh my gawd, cut from opening for early ’90s Blue Oyster Cult?!? Missing the chance to hear the singer cry out, “I. want. to. make. love. to. a. St. Louis. woman!!!!!”

    p.s. Dan, you know way too much about the career of Stephen Pearcy.

    p.p.s. Just to date how much a child of the heavy metal ’80s I was, Tawny Kittaen was, like, my idol of womanhood.

  25. Let me guess CAAF, early reltionship surprises for Mr. Tingle included you carwheeling over the hood of his car in lengthy, yet see-through, clothing!

    I admit to the knowing too much about too many of those bands (Pearcy’s drummer in Arcade was the guy from Cinderella). Way too much. In the fairly recent VH-1 100 Metal Moments, I think I recognized about 90 percent of them as things I already knew about.

    I hope Romper Rume at least did the rest of us a favor and helped diminish their disappointment by making fun of that tool for being BOC’s manager two decades after their fucking prime.


  26. Tawny Kittaen! At a party with a bunch of SF writers a few years ago, I made everyone do the Kittaen-inspired “sexy crawl.” Sadly, we had to just use the floor instead of the hood of a car, but still… Hours of fun!

  27. Please put out a strong warning to Mr. Tingle though if TK was CAAF’s role model. I don’t remember which Cleveland Indian pitcher it was who last year filed charges against her for domestic abuse, claiming she regularly beat the living hell out of him.

    Mr. Tingle? Mr. Tingle?

  28. I read all of Markson for the first time this year, in a trance of pleasure. Those who love him might want to find Evan S. Connell’s neglected POINTS FOR A COMPASS ROSE and NOTES FROM A BOTTLE FOUND ON THE BEACH AT CARMEL.
    Also devoured Wesley Gibson’s wrenching & hilarious memoir YOU ARE HERE.

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