Tuesday 12 March 2013

More Men than Women?

From the responses that have come in, via Comments and by way of Patrick Kurp and Frank Wilson, to More Women Than Men (below), we can assemble quiet an impressive list of 20th-century male novelists worthy of more attention and/or a higher reputation.
Henry Green is certainly deserving, but I suspect he never has got his due and never will - and he is too 'difficult' (rather as Ivy Compton-Burnett is 'difficult') ever to be widely read.
L.P. Hartley has The Go-Between most definitely keeping his name alive - it's a fixture on GCSE syllabuses over here - but I've never heard a good word about any of his other novels. Maybe they're worth a look...?
Richard Hughes is an excellent candidate, with at least two novels (A High Wind in Jamaica and The Fox in the Attic) that are not only very good but very readable - and yet he seems permanently on the margins.
John Cowper Powys has often been commended to me by readers of sound judgment, yet something keeps holding me back from reading him. I wonder what it is - perhaps the daunting scale of his oeuvre?
William Gerhardie wrote two brilliant early novels (Futility and The Polyglots), which deserve to be better known and more highly valued. But he then seems to have embarked on kind of prolonged career suicide - is any of his later stuff worth reading?
Ford Madox Ford seems to have come back to public attention, thanks to the BBC dramatisation of Parades End - I've actually seen people reading the tie-in paperback on the train - but I imagine he'll slip back into relative neglect. Leaving aside the trilogy and The Good Soldier, his work is too uneven and diffuse, and he simply wrote too much.
I must confess I've never warmed to Anthony Burgess, early or late, though I'm quite prepared to believe he is/was good.
V.S. Pritchett is probably the most underrated English 20th-century writer of all - but underrated (at least in England) for his short stories, criticism and other writings, rather than the novels.
And of course G.K. Chesterton, yes, abundantly - and of course Ronald Firbank, though his works will never attract more than a cult following.
Somerset Maugham anyone? J.B.Priestley? Even H.G. Wells these days... and what about Arnold Bennett? Wait a minute - it's beginning to seem as if the men are the underrated ones now...


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  2. i notice how many talents, after their "golden years", burn out, take to drugs or drink- wih a few notable exceptions, e.g, me, nige and your own good selves...imagine the world with bolan still around, and all the rest of them...so many!

  3. How did I forget J.G. Farrell? I'd also add a few one or two-hit wonders: Francis Wyndham, B.S. Johnson, Jocelyn Brooke.

  4. Of course! J.G. Farrell - a huge omission.

  5. Richard Hughes' High Wind in Jamaica is one of my favourite novels. Fox in the Attic is very, very odd, however. Brilliantly written but the construction is bizarre (though it was intended as the first in an unfinished trilogy).

  6. J G Farrell, one of my favourite authors (it's embarrassing how many times I've read Troubles, Siege of Krishnapur, and The Singapore Grip), was a great fan of Richard Hughes, writing admiringly of the latter's 'hallucinating clarity of image.' You can see Hughes' influence as Farrell constructs the wonderful elaborate images in those books.

  7. May i offer t.h.white? Whose remarkable "Once and Future King" was rather ovwrshadowed by Disney...

  8. yes, Firbank...jus too good to be popular!