Perfidious Literature

For the past week or so, some perfidious folk have been posting about a list of "great works" that had been circulating the net. I won't go into the details of the list, nor will I denote which works I've read (I've read several, but not a ton and not as much as several of the people who responded to that post), but I did want to comment on their attempt to revise the list to include some science fiction and humor. In addition to the list cited above, they came up with:
HST: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Miller: The Canticle of Leibowitz
O'Rourke: Parliament of Whores
Stephenson: Cryptonomicon
Bester: The Stars My Destination
Heinlein: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Toole: Confederacy of Dunces
Pynchon: Gravity's Rainbow
Bukowski: Run With The Hunted
Burroughs: Naked Lunch
Hammett: The Maltese Falcon
An excellent list, though I have only read a few of them (and if they weren't in the book queue, they are now). Then they went ahead and asked for some more, with the following ground rules:
First, nothing newer than, say, about 1970. Works need some time to settle into a canon, and we should not be thinking about something written after I was born. Second, philosophy and history should be eliminated from the list unless they have compelling literary value. Clausewitz is terrifically important, but nearly unreadable. Gibbon however, is a delight to read as well as being profoundly ensmartening. Third, light on the poetry. And fourth, no matter how painful it is, no more than one example of an artist?s work unless they are a) Shakespeare, b) writing in two distinctly different genres/modes, or c) both.
With those rules in mind, Buckethead came up with these additions:
Milton, John - Paradise Lost
Chandler, Raymond - The Long Goodbye
God - The Bible
Gibbon - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Frank Herbert - Dune
J.R.R. Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings
These additions to the original list turn out to be more in line with what I tend to read. In general, these sorts of lists tend to eschew genre, especially science fiction, fantasy, horror, and even mystery, which is why I like the additions so much. So in the spirit of this discussion, I'd like to make a few humble additions.
  • More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon: This exceptional 1953 novel about a group of misfits banding together for survival should be accepted as a genuine piece of literature. It is a powerful novel, and it's just as relevant as Bradbury, Heinlein or Asimov.
  • I am Legend by Richard Matheson: I've mentioned this novel on the blog several times before, but it's worth repeating: This 1954 novel is a study of isolation and grim irony that turns the traditional vampire story on its head. This might be one of the most influential novels you've never heard of, as there have been many derivatives, particularly in film. This is the sort of novel that gets passed over becaues it is a genre piece (and, even worse, it's about vampires!) However, even a short glimpse at it's contents reveals that it cannot be relegated to the obscurity of the horror bin...
  • The Haunting by Shirley Jackson: This 1959 book is a classic that is rightly praised as one of the finest horror novels ever written. Undeniably creepy, but still profound and worthy of a list such as this...
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov: This was a difficult choice, as there is a lot to choose from when it comes to Asimov. But this is the work he is best known for, and there is a reason for that. When I refer to Foundation, I'm referring to the three central novels (really 1 story made up of 8 short stories collected in 3 volumes, which is why I'm bending the rules slightly to include this one). These were originally written between 1942 - 1949, and they have aged well.
Honorable mentions or novels at least worthy of consideration would include the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Kafka, and Arthur C. Clarke (and I think I might even favor Rendezvous with Rama over 2001, though it's a toss-up). Again, all of these novels are generally passed over in discussions of high literature simply because they are genre pieces. However, whatever respect that science fiction or horror have gained, these works are at least party responsible for...

Just for fun, and to keep up with this perfidious discussion, here are the books I've been reading recently. I tend to read more fiction than non-fiction, but that has been steadily changing as time goes on. In any case, I'm only including the last few... Here they are:

The Confusion by Neal Stephenson (current)
Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Galveston by Sean Stewart
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson
1984 by George Orwell (re-read)
Red Army by Ralph Peters
Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (illustrator)
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson (current)
Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich
Parkinson's Law by C. Northcote Parkinson
Blind Man's Bluff by Sherry Sontag
On War by Carl Von Clausewitz
There you have it. If you'd like to share what you've been reading lately, feel free to leave a comment...