American Fiction Collection: The Lows

Yesterday we reported our top-issuing titles in our American fiction collection. But there are a small handful of titles that have not issued at all yet, and we would love to see them get some attention.

Why not check out…

Carrie by Stephen King. Initially planned as a short story, it is a fearful take on high-school life that has terrible resonance today. King based his title character on two high-school girls he knew, one a bullied schoolgirl who committed suicide and a second who struggled with epilepsy and a religiously fervent mother. Central to the relentless bullying is the demonization (and self-demonization) of women, recalling the supernatural mass hysteria of the Salem witch trials.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. The story of Hank Morgan, a nineteenth-century American who is accidentally returned to sixth-century England, is a powerful analysis of such issues as monarchy versus democracy and free will versus determinism, but it is also one of Twain’s finest comic novels.

Humbolt’s Gift by Saul Bellow. For many years the great poet Von Humbolt Fleisher and Charlie Citrine, a young man inflamed with a love for literature, wer ethe best of friends. At the time of his death, however, Humbolt is a failure and Charlie’s life has reached a low point. But then Humbolt acts from beyond the grave, bestowing upon Charlie an unexpected legacy that may just help him turn his life around.

The Assistant by Bernard Malamud. Malamud’s second novel about the immigrant experience is the story of Morris Bober, a grocer in postwar Brooklyn, who “wants better” for himself and his family. First two robber appear and hold him up; then things improve when broken-nose Frank Alpine becomes his assistant. But there are complications: Frank, whose reaction to Jews is ambivalent, falls in love with Helen Bober; at the same time, he begins to steal from the store.

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. A naive young secretary forsakes Cleveland for San Francisco, tumbling headlong into a brave new world of laundromat Lotharios, cut throat debutantes, and Jockey Shorts dance contests. The saga that ensues is manic, romantic, tawdry, touching, and outrageous.

The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich. On a cold spring morning in 1932, two children leap from a boxcar. Orphaned in the most peculiar way, they have come to Argus, in the heart of rural North Dakota, to seek refuge with their aunt Fritzie. So begins an exhilarating tale, spanning some forty years and brimming with unforgettable characters.

The Bostonians by Henry James. From Boston’s social underworld emerges Verena Tarrant, a girl with extraordinary oratorical gifts, which she deploys in tawdry meetinghouses on behalf of the ‘sisterhood of women.’  This novel was not welcomed by James’s fellow countrymen, who failed to appreciate its delicacy and wit, but a century later this book is widely regarded as James’s finest American fiction, and perhaps his comic masterpiece.

The Sketch-book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. by Washington Irving.  Writing in the persona of Geoffrey Crayon, an erudite American traveler visiting the Old World, Irving produced a volume which mixed stories and digressive essays, including ‘Rip Van Winkle’, the story of an henpecked husband who falls asleep and only awakes twenty years later, and ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’, where Ichabod Crane encounters a supposed ghost known as the Headless Horseman.

The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike. Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie, divorced and dangerous, revel in their new-found powers. With their ex-husbands reduced to mere mementos, they find that their potent longing can stir up thunderstorms and fracture the domestic peace of those who cross them. But when the devilish Darryl Van Horne, a charismatic magus of a man, breezes into Eastwich, he entrances the trio, luring them to his mansion where he becomes the evil focus of their sensuous celebrations.

A Time to Be Born by Dawn Powell. Set against an atmospheric backdrop of New York City in the months just before America’s entry into World War II, this book is a scathing satire of New Yorkers stalking each other for selfish ends. At the center of the story are a wealthy, self-involved newspaper publisher and his scheming novelist wife, Amanda Keeler, modeled on Clare Boothe Brokaw, the beautiful playwright and journalist who married Henry R. Luce, cofounder of Time magazine and later elected to U.S. Congress.

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