Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

Both suggestions this time come from author A.S. Hatch. His novel, This Little Dark Place, was published in paperback by Serpent’s Tail on 2 April 2020.

His first suggestion is The Grass Arena by John Healy, published by Penguin on 31 July 2008.

In his searing autobiography Healy describes his fifteen years living rough in London without state aid, when begging carried an automatic three-year prison sentence and vagrant alcoholics prowled the parks and streets in search of drink or prey. When not united in their common aim of acquiring alcohol, winos sometimes murdered one another over prostitutes or a bottle, or the begging of money. Few modern writers have managed to match Healy’s power to refine from the brutal destructive condition of the chronic alcoholic a story so compelling it is beyond comparison.

This is what he had to say:

“This is the memoir of an alcoholic man living on the streets in London in the 50s and 60s. The situations are truly harrowing. But the language is luminous. He could teach many modern novelists a thing or two about constructing memorable sentences.”

His second suggestion was The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, republished by Faber and Faber on 5 September 2019.

Published in 1922, The Waste Land was the most revolutionary poem of its time, offering a devastating vision of modern civilisation between the two World Wars.

This beautifully designed edition forms part of a series of ten titles celebrating Faber’s publishing over the decades.

Here’s what he had to say:

“Poetry is a necessary evil for the modern novelist. I’ve read more than my fair share of it. I think of it as yoga for the linguistic part of my mind, often painful but always rewarding. But I can count on two fingers the number of poetry books which have truly moved me. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes, and this. The wordplay is masterful. The imagery disturbing and yet familiar. There is nothing like it. A rich black feast of words.”

So there we have it, two books that had certainly flown under my reading radar. Have you read either of them? Do you have a quiet book you’d like to shout about? Do let me know.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    I’m not fond of TS Eliot as a person (especially following the unsealing of his letters to his American former lover and lifelong supporter), but I do like his poetry and The Waste Land is one of those that I return to again and again. I never imagined it might be useful to a novelist, but it’s a moving description of an irrevocably changed way of life (and so might be extremely relevant once more).


  2. I’ve not heard of the Healy but it sounds immensely powerful. One for when I’m not focussing on comfort reading like I am now!


  3. The Healy is new to me and sounds excellent. As for Eliot, I *have* read The Waste Land. I wouldn’t claim to completely understand it, but I love the sound of the language!


  4. I’d never heard of this one but it sounds fascinating! Thanks Janet, this is such a great series.


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