(Updated June 19th, 2012.)
Erica Jong has published more than twenty books: fiction, essays, poetry, literary criticism, and even an illustrated book about the history and cultural meaning of witches. However, she’s still primarily known for a book she wrote in her late twenties. Fear of Flying became part of the cultural fabric of the 1970s, and while she’s “proud of it,” as she told the Boston Herald, “I get sick of hearing about Fear of Flying, but people won’t let it go."
When Oprah Winfrey chose Jacquelyn Mitchard’s debut The Deep End of the Ocean for her first Book Club selection, she has proceeded to hit—and miss—the bestseller lists. About her 2007 novel Cage of Stars, Mitchard says, “(It) was called ‘the nearly perfect novel’ by Pay It Forward author Catherine Ryan Hyde. It's still one of my top three faves and it sank like the Andrea Doria, despite having everything—crime, revenge, repentance, terrible secrets, and even Mormons. No one knows why.”
Did you know that both Amy Tan and Salman Rushdie have published delightful children’s books? And that the mind behind the thirteen A Series of Unfortunate Events books, Daniel Handler, also wrote Adverbs, a novel for adults? Both Tobias Wolff and Maxine Hong Kingston may be known for their memoirs, but each has a fascinating body of work that includes novels, short stories, poetry, and essays.
So we asked Red Roomers to recommend a lesser-known book by famous author in their blogs. Three stood out this time around:
- Member Len Boswell had never heard of The Chips Are Down by Jean-Paul Sartre, and even though he "had suffered through Being and Nothingness and the Critique of Dialectical Reason," he took his friend's advice and read it. Read about his pleasant surprise in "Being and Nothingness When the Chips are Down."
- Kazuo Ishiguro is most famous for his award-winning books The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go. While critics initially reviled his 500-page 1995 book The Unconsoled, but member Nina Milton read it "with intense absorption and enjoyment, understanding exactly what he was getting at..." In "The Lesser-known Book That I Love Best," Nina reports that critics have started to come around to her way of thinking.
- Member Rebbecca Hill reminds us that Hermann Hesse, whose best-known books are Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, The Glass Bead Game, and Demian, originally published a collection of fairy tales in journals and newspapers. Read about her attachment to his Wandering: Notes and Sketches in "Hermann Hesse, Kindred Spirit~ The Fairy Tales of Hermann Hesse and Wandering: Notes and Sketches."
Three bloggers will win books by Red Room authors:
- What if Tom Jones had been a woman? What if Fanny Hill had been as witty as she was sensuous? What if Moll Flanders had been as tenderhearted as she was tough? You would have a hint (but only a hint) of Fanny Hackabout-Jones. In Fanny: being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones, Erica Jong combines the historical reality of 18th century England with a woman whose consciousness and aspirations are thoroughly contemporary.
- A dead World War II soldier reaches through time to touch the people he loved most in Catherine Ryan Hyde's novel Walter's Purple Heart. As the dead man's past becomes entwined with present-day main character Michael's own memories, this spiritual connection moves Michael's mind and transforms his identity and direction.
- In Jacquelyn Mitchard’s Cage of Stars, a twelve-year-old girl’s life is changed forever by murder, and she swears vengeance. The lessons about sin and compassion she learns growing up will lead her to a decision that will change her and her family's lives forever.
We also want to recognize Thomas Burchfield for his erudite review of Vladimir Nabokov's Pnin. Thomas says that while "Pnin may not strike a major chord like Lolita and other Nabokov books, its bright, charming lyricism and tender regard for the hapless soul at its center, has a way of sticking with you." Thomas's vampire novel Dragon's Ark recently won an Independent Publisher Book Award ("IPPY"). Congratulations, Thomas!
I hope you'll read all the entries in the lesser-know books by famous authors blog challenge, and leave comments on your favorites. All of Red Room's past blog challenges are collected here. Thanks as always for blogging!
–Huntington W. Sharp, Senior Editor, Red Room