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Ten Writers I Need to Recommend

or, How You Learn to Seek and Find

By Kendall Defoe Published 6 months ago Updated 5 months ago 8 min read
Top Story - September 2023
54
Ten Writers I Need to Recommend
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

I seem to have stirred a pot a little too hard for some of you.

In a previous piece entitled “Ten Writers I Can No Longer Read,” I listed the names of authors that I now avoid, with some fair reasons for my choices (I even included a list of other runners-up that could have made the list longer).

Your responses were quite interesting. Many of you defended some of the authors I dismissed (don’t touch Dean Koontz, folks) and others claimed that I must be very well-read (how touching…and almost correct). I am well-read when I am in the zone with a writer who communicates well and makes me feel that I am not wasting my time between their covers (a little uncomfortable with that image, but still…) And I got to thinking about something else; something that should be a follow-up:

The ten writers that you should read and have probably not even heard of.

Yes, I know that there are many of you who will recognize some of the names and will feel that I am being condescending by making such a list. And there will be others who want another smart-ass haiku or critique entry for a Challenge (I have two entries that are also Top Stories, so your comments are still coming in), or just more information about my musical interests (I see you, too, names withheld). So, I will take another chance by putting this out there and I await your responses.

Oh, and one more thing: this is not about other writers on the Vocal page. I know that several of you were concerned that the previous list would tear a new one into one of my fellow scribblers. Sorry, folks, I don’t do that, and I have not felt compelled to really attack anyone in the same boat…except for one name who is going to be nameless.

Here is the list:

Diana Athill

How many great writers can claim that they did their best work after drawing their pension? Saul Bellow is the closest, and even he seemed to be treading the same ground with his later work. Ms. Athill seemed to be doing something quite different with her work. She did write about her time as an editor shepherding the work of people such as V.S. Naipaul into publication, but then she continued to write about old age, sexuality (not a combination that many want to see discussed), looking back at life and accepting the limits imposed by changes in physical ability. I have read “Stet”, “Alive Alive, Oh!” and many of the other works…and I truly wish there were more of them. Please pick up one of these slim volumes and learn about the life that deserves to celebrated and remembered.

Tom McCarthy

This might be a new name to many of you, but I can admit that I learned about his work through the review of another author (Zadie Smith). She reviewed two writers and the role of the novel in our age. I won’t mention the other author here because I have only read the book Mr. McCarthy under review (“Remainder”). A man is seriously injured, receives a huge settlement, and decides to recreate moments in his life with live actors and a real setting. And that is it. Such a self-contained narrative might turn you off at first, but give him a chance, and try the other work, like his collection of essays, “Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish: Essays” (you need to pick it up to understand the title…maybe) and other novels, like “Satin Island”. No one else could have created something like this. No one this talented should be ignored.

Fumimori Nakamura

Another happy accident: in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Montreal, I was picking up a reservation I made and while looking over the shelves, I found a slim novel called “The Thief” by Nakamura-san…and then I fell down the rabbit hole. All the mysteries and weirdness of modern Tokyo and Japanese life spill out in his collection of very thin and suspenseful novels and you owe it to yourself to find this writer. Happy hunting!

Daniil Kharms

A Russian absurdist genius at a time when that powerful nation did not want absurdity from anyone except the government, he created a body of work that reads like a list of the ramblings of a truly disturbed mind. And that is what an artist should do when they are being persecuted, attempting to write about a world that makes no sense, and have a perception of their society that will create even more problems for them (he died in jail from starvation). If you want to start with a genius of this age and time, pick up a copy of “Today I Wrote Nothing,” a collection of his work that includes the brilliant “The Blue Notebook” and many other short pieces worth a look. For a man who had such a detailed and self-contained body of fiction, he seemed to write everything about the human condition. Find and read.

Gregory McDonald

Oh, some of you might wonder why I have included this name on my list. Mr. McDonald is the author of the “Fletch” novels, and I doubt that his fans consider him an obscure talent. But I am one of the fans who only discovered his work through the movie adaptations (a new one is coming out later this year; Jon Hamm replaces Chevy Chase – I am curious…). This style of writing is an excellent contrast to what I have mentioned so far on my list: breezy, funny, swift and clever all in several slim novels (I last read “ Fletch's Fortune”, but you don’t have to read them in any specific order). Please let these airport novels take you away.

Ryu Murakami

The other Murakami… I have to say that I was very surprised the first time I read his work – “Almost Transparent Blue” – and wondered to myself if he was related to the author of “Norwegian Wood” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”. Not a chance. They are on very different tangents, and I must confess that I have often found him more interesting than Haruki and his tomes. Read the above and “Coin Locker Babies” for a sample from very interesting master of the modern Japanese novel (I currently have a copy of “In the Miso Soup” next to my nightstand and I would recommend him to anyone daring to look at harsh realities in our age). Take a look…

Claire Keegan

This was another case where I took a chance on a writer, and it paid off. I first read about her in the New Yorker. The review treated this Irish writer as a continuation of a tradition that stretches through Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, and Roddy Doyle: absurd humourists telling tales about real lives. My recommendation would be “Small Things like These”, a story that deals with a very real horror perpetrated by the Irish state and the Catholic Church in tandem, but brings it down to the story of one man and his determination to do the right thing (the ending will stay with you forever). Enjoy…and learn.

Jac Jemc

I promised to cover as many genres as possible with these lists, so I am going to touch on horror thrillers. And I am guessing that for many of you fine readers, horror is Stephen King, Clive Barker and the other big names of the genre (Lovecraft, V.C. Andrews, Peter Straub, etc.) But you should know Ms. Jemc and her work. I read “The Grip of It” and felt uncomfortable in the daylight (always an impressive feat when a writer can get under your skin in the sun). Her short story collection, “False Bingo,” might be an easier way for some of you to enter her world, but neither will disappoint. She is a new voice and one that I look forward to reading for a very long and spooky time.

Etgar Keret

Of all the names on this list, this is the one that I hope you turn to first. I have been a fan of this very quirky writer from the moment I picked up a collection of his very short stories and fell in love with his world. It is a mix of fables, fantasy, and the usual insanity of life, and Mr. Keret is also a filmmaker who has been fortunate enough to have his work entered into competitions and praised just as much as the writing. Even the titles of the collections draw you in: “Missing Kissinger”, “The Girl on the Fridge”, “The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God”, and – my personal favourite – “The Nimrod Flipout”. Please watch the clip attached for an interesting take on one particular story that we could all relate to...I think.

And…?

Here are some runners-up that may surprise you:

Adolfo Bioy Casares (“The Invention of Morel”)

Lester Bangs (see previous article link here)

James Salter (“Last Night”)

Amber Tamblyn! (yes, she writes; find “Dark Sparkler”, her poetry collection based on the lives of certain tragic female celebrities)

Jenny Slate! (“Little Weirds”)

David Duchovny!! (yes, that one; look for “Holy Cow”)

Breece D’J Pancake (yes, that is his real name)

Nam Le (“The Boat”)

Vendela Vida (“And Now You Can Go”)

Juan Pablo Villalobos (“Down the Rabbit Hole”)

Carmen Maria Machado (“Her Body and Other Parties”)

And did you notice that my list of runners-up this time is a little longer and more detailed than the one for the previous article? It was much more fun to share this list than the other (and please, these are just the suggested books you should start with; there is so much out there).

Take some time off and enjoy…

Speaking out loud quietly...

*

Thank you for reading!

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You can find more poems, stories, and articles by Kendall Defoe on my Vocal profile. I complain, argue, provoke and create...just like everybody else.

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About the Creator

Kendall Defoe

Teacher, reader, writer, dreamer... I am a college instructor who cannot stop letting his thoughts end up on the page.

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Comments (29)

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  • Shaun Walters3 days ago

    Thanks for the recommendations! Already halfway through one of Etgar Keret’s collections I picked up from the library today

  • The Dani Writer2 months ago

    Grateful that you were so thoughtful to share such a list AND kudos to you that it was featured!

  • S. A. Crawford5 months ago

    This list is very eye-opening, I'm going to add a few of these to my TBR pile! I was so happy to see Claire Keegan on this list, I feel she doesn't get the love she so deserves for her stories. Small Things Like These was so horrifying, but so beautifully written. If I were writing a list like this, which I might after having been inspired by this post, I'd add Carsten Jensen, Kevin Powers, and Jonas Jonasson.

  • E.K. Daniels6 months ago

    Always love to find new writers here! Congrats on the TS!

  • Stan Matthews6 months ago

    Thanks for the recommendations. Not familiar with most of them.

  • Chloe Gilholy6 months ago

    I have In the Miso Soup in my bookshelf.

  • Paul Stewart6 months ago

    My goodness, lol, you keep adding to my mythical TBR, and to be honest, I like that you are outspoken and enjoyed the previous piece (I will need to check if I actually commented, because I might have read, liked and then left lol) because even if there are things I might disagree with, I enjoy learning other's opinions and thoughts and I felt your last piece, like this, was so eloquently written. Congrats on a fine Top Story!

  • Rachel Deeming6 months ago

    I wrote them down. Oh man. Like my TBR list isn't long enough. But I'm excited. I love discovering new writers and entering their imagined worlds. And I know none of these! None! I can't wait!

  • Babs Iverson6 months ago

    Marvelous list of recommended writers!!! Congratulations on Top Story!!!

  • Dana Crandell6 months ago

    Ah, more authors to add to the list, thank you! It's getting to the point that I hope to read them all while in my lifetime. I am also hoping to manage to become an author that at least gets a few reads while drawing a pension.

  • Alexander McEvoy6 months ago

    I love these writer recommendation lists, always find authors I’ve never heard of before

  • Everyday Junglist6 months ago

    Also, if you ever want to learn advanced smart-ass haiku. I take pretenders to school all year round. lol! https://vocal.media/poets/mountain-haiku-03i1zg0cun

  • Judey Kalchik 6 months ago

    I like the actors-that-are-authors on your list. That could be an interesting post on its own.

  • Naveedkk 6 months ago

    Excellent work and congrats TS

  • Everyday Junglist6 months ago

    For the record I would love to see your list of what this story is not about, aka "other writers on the Vocal page" for good or bad. BTW, If Michael Chrichton did not make your writers to avoid story he should have, he also should make everyone's humans to avoid stories. I kid, I actually have no idea how terrible a human being Michael Chrichton is though I have some idea how terrible of an author and "scientist" he is. And, to defend Dean Koontz, without him bookstore shelves would be empty on those 2-4 days each year when Stephen King does not have a new book being released. Oh wait, what bookstores? And what year am I talking about? Ahh, fuck who knows...In any event, congrats on a top story, please spend your 5 dollars wisely. You would be surprised how quickly one can burn through 5 bucks these days. It does not go nearly as far as it used to back when Stephen King and Dean Koontz were popular and bookstores still existed. lol!

  • Rene Peters6 months ago

    I've never heard of any of those authors. 😅

  • Andrei Z.6 months ago

    Bookmarking the names! They sound like interesting reads! Thanks for sharing:)

  • Oneg In The Arctic6 months ago

    Absolutely LOVE Etgar Keret’s short stories.

  • Moharif Yulianto6 months ago

    Good information, we are from Indonesia...in our country there are many publishers, but unfortunately the interest in reading is very minimal, especially school children.

  • Nice job❤️💯 Congratulations on your Top Story😉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Dana Stewart6 months ago

    Always appreciate recommendations. Congratulations on the TS!

  • ThatWriterWoman6 months ago

    Brilliant, I will check some of these authors out at my library!

  • Mark Graham6 months ago

    I have heard of some of these authors. Good work.

  • Am I the only one here that doesn't know any of these authors? 😅 Also, I agree with Alex! You forgot yourself!

  • Alex H Mittelman 6 months ago

    Great authors, all! But you’re forgetting one, Kendall Defoe! He’s the greatest writer of them all!

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