Favorite Reissues of Neglected Books

shelved under Fiction

My web site, The Neglected Books Page, is devoted to the subject of forgotten, underappreciated, and (in some cases) never-discovered books. I usually focus on books that are out of print, but we are fortunate to have a number of publishing houses willing to take a gamble on reissues of books that have fallen by the wayside of popular and critical taste, and I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to a dozen examples from some of these fine publishers.

 

Warriors: Life and Death Among the Somalis

by Gerald Hanley

The real-life counterpart of Dino Buzzati's The Tartar Steppes or Julien Gracq's The Opposing Shore. Hanley's memoir of his time on the fringe of World War Two in Somalia, attempting to organize Somali tribemen against the Italian-led Ethiopians, is so unotherworldly as to seem hallucinatory. An unforgettable, atmospheric story. From Eland, which specializes in superb reissues of fine classics of travel writing.

 

Karmesin: The World's Greatest Criminal -- Or Most Outrageous Liar

by Paul Duncan, Gerald Kersh

Outrageous, outlandish, and quite unbelievable, yet absolutely entertaining. These tales have something in common with a few of the more fabulous adult stories of Roald Dahl and Spencer Holst. (This title is published by Crippen and Landru, a fine small press devoted to reissuing long-lost masterpieces of crime writing.)

 

Life and Fate

by Robert Chandler, Vasily Grossman

An epic novel of the Russian Front in World War Two, this classic ranges from the airless insanity of Stalinist conspiracies to the gas chambers of Auschwitz to the frozen rubble of Stalingrad. From the superb New York Review Classic series.

 

Sweet Dreams

by Michael Frayn

A magically perfect fable of life in heaven — which bears a remarkable resemblance to life on Earth, except that you can fly. If you want to. It's a bit sophomoric to do so, though.

 

The Moonflower Vine

by Jetta Carleton

I'm happy to say my site played a small role in the reissue of this fine novel from 1962. It's about the lives of four sisters and their parents — a family from western Missouri — and how each tries to come to an understanding of love. Of all the titles featured on my site, The Moonflower Vine has generated the most enthusiastic responses from readers recalling it over four decades after their first reading. From Harper Perennial.

 

Memoirs of Duc de Saint-Simon

by Duc de Saint-Simon, translated by Lucy Norton

Perhaps the richest, juiciest insider account of power and intrigue ever written. This is the first of three volumes. Le Duc was a member of the court of Louis XIV — the Sun King — and recorded all the intrigues, jealousies, affectations, and petty squabbles of daily life at Versailles. From 1500 Books.

 

His Monkey Wife

by Eva Brann, John Collier

First published in 1930, His Monkey Wife puts its story right there on the title page. Yes, this is a story of man-ape love. But Collier wraps that outrageous situation in a swath of beautifully-rendered Victorian sensibilities. Foolish Alfred Fatigay is saved by the dedication and ingenuity of his faithful, adoring chimpanzee, Emily. It's at once a satire of and affectionate tribute to the Victorian conception of love. From Paul Dry Books.

 

The Works of Love

by Wright Morris

A haunting story of a taciturn Midwesterner who seems a spectator in his own life. He never manages to connect with his wives, one of whom wraps herself in the sheets like a mummy each night. He tries in the end to reach out to his son, but comes instead to an odd and tragic end, drowning in a Santa Claus costume. From the outside, this probably sounds like a preposterous story, but Morris' subtle, sensitive touch transforms it into a profoundly moving book. From the University of Nebraska Press, which has done a true public service in keeping much of Morris' work in print.

 
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Hermanos

by William Herrick

A powerful novel of the Spanish Civil War, written by a veteran of the International Brigades. Herrick's account of the passions, betrayals, in-fighting, and cynicism of the Communist, Socialist, and Anarchist factions on the Loyalist side is as nuanced as that of Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. A welcome reissue from Second Chance Press.

 

Curios: Some Strange Adventures of Two Bachelors

by Richard Marsh

A collection of seven short stories told by two rival collectors, who compete to find the most exotic and bizarre items. Each tale is a mix of horror, mystery, and humor. One tells about a pipe that seems to be haunted when smoked. The other comes into the possession of the hand of Lady Wishaw, which is said to carry a curse. Wonderful baroque fun from Valancourt Books.

 

Sofia Petrovna

by Lydia Chukovskaya, translated by Aline Werth

Banned from publication when written, this Soviet classic first saw the light of day during the Khruschev "thaw." Sofia Petrovna is a good Soviet citizen — hard-working, obedient, believing. Then her beloved son Kolya is arrested as an enemy of the state. The facade of the good state begins to crumble before her eyes and Sofia comes to recognize the true face of Stalin's Great Terror. A powerful yet beautiful novel from Northwestern University Press' European Classic series.

 

The Far Cry

by Susan Hill, Emma Smith

Emma Smith published two novels before the age of 25. This, her second, won the James Tait Black for 1948, and was critically acclaimed as the finest novel of the Anglo-Indian experience since Forster's A Passage to India. Then she married, packed away her typewriter, and vanished from critical and public attention for almost 40 years. This reissue is just one of many examples of the work of fine English women novelists rescued from obscurity by the wonderful Persephone Press.