Four Great 90s Authors

Four of my favourite authors were born in the 1890s and wrote mainly from the inter-war years onward.

There seems to be something about that generation’s idiom, taste and experience that resonates with me. But maybe it’s just an artefact of chronology. I got into them all as a boy: I was born right about the time when the kids of the 1890s were dying off, which turned the spotlight on their generation once again and led to re-issues. Anyway, check them out!

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21 thoughts on “Four Great 90s Authors

  1. Then you’re in for a treat! They’re the best large bodies of work our language has produced. Add perhaps Astrid Lindgren to that, but I read most of her as a child.

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  2. I have read a lot of the three latter ones, and enjoyed them a lot, but nothing by Lovecraft – is there a particular book you would recommend to start with?

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  3. To be honest, the latter three are really good – and if you haven’t read Piraten yet, Hans, I envy you – but Lovecraft is more of a curiosity. Definitely an author I “get,” but not comparable with the other three.

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  4. The whole Lovecraft thing is very strange… He’s gone from being a virtually unknown pulp author to a major cultural touchstone, and I’m really not sure how. Practically everybody I read online (and that’s a pretty diverse group) is a Lovecraft fan.

    If you like Lovecraft and Tolkien, you may like to try Dunsany, if you can find any. The King Of Elfland’s Daughter is marvellous.

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  5. I’ve read Dunsany: King of Elfland and Gods of Pegana, but I’m afraid he doesn’t quite tickle my spot. Matter of taste, of course.

    To mention another great early fantasist, Mervyn Peake is a genre unto himself!

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  6. Maybe I will cause a stir here, but I find Lovecraft rather uneven. In my opinion some of the novelle are excellent, others entirely run-of-the-mill (and I am not talking about the mill in ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’).

    / Mattias

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  7. I disagree completely. Lovecraft is not rather uneven. He is dramatically, violently, ostentatiously uneven. About a third of his stuff is absolutely abysmal. But I love the best third!

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  8. Agree on Lovecraft. When he is bad he’s pathetic, but when he’s good he is so very, very good. Martin, if you have the chance, grab hold of “Ernst-Hugo JäregÃ¥rd läser Lovecraft” sometime. Those two go together beautifully. Of course, JäregÃ¥rd could probably have read a shopping list aloud and made it sound eldritch.

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  9. To go against the grain a bit, I find that Tolkien really isn’t that strong of a writer. The LOTR trilogy is a strong *story*, but the writing in it is uneven. Much of his other work I find to be ploddingly dense.

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  10. No one so far has made any comments on Frans G Bengtsson. He was my favourite from highschool and quite many yers onwards. I think I’ve read the Vikings a dozen times and I have actually written it once too. I learned typing that way, my hands on the typewriter, a towel on top of them and “The Vikings” next to me. It took me a couple of weeks.

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  11. Tolkien’s all right, especially in the Hobbit. But how about H.G. Wells? I don’t know his birth and death dates, but he must have been approximately contemporary. His works were less into fantasy, but since his science fiction is so dated, it’s loads of fun. “War of the Worlds” especially, with that world war that lasted most of the twentieth century. That was pretty good. Love those Morlocks!

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  12. Thinker –

    Click on my name for the very best intro to Lovecraft. All of his works are available at that site (as well as a great many others).

    Honestly, I am very fond of what Tolkien inspired, but not all that fond of Tolkien’s work. I have similar problems with his writing that I do with Steven King – he goes on and on with inane descriptives that leave nothing to the imagination. Might as well watch tee vee. One of the few cases where I really prefer the movies over the books…..

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  13. I read a very cool book this semester
    The Worm Ourobouros.
    forget the cat’s name but a contemporary of these fellows
    you may like if not already read
    Pseudo-Spenserian English, deep winding florid description, epic wars between the good demons and bad witches.
    Good Night Doc

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  14. I compulsively read and re-read Tolkien when I was young, but I can’t read his books these days, for whatever reason. Tastes change, and certain books resonate, I think, with a particualer period of one’s life.

    Mervyn Peake, though — yes, he’s a genre of his own! I’m looking forward to reading the Gormenghast Trilogy again one of these days. The early Ballantine paperbacks included Peake’s spooky illustrations; they greatly enhanced the novels, I think. They had a slightly psychotic feel to them; just thinking of those drawings gives me a frisson!

    And the names! Like Tolkien, Peake was a master of giving characters evocative names. Steerpike, Sourdust, Titus Groan…

    As for Lovecraft, at his best he can summon creepy feelings of horror (which is never explicitly described), but his work is uneven, as others have remarked. Then there’s that pervasive racism… and no female characters to speak of. One weird dude… All Hail Cthulhu!

    Dunsany? I used to love his stuff, but now I’m mainly fond of his story titles and the singular illustrations by Sidney Syme. Art Deco meets European fantasy… Maxfield Parrish on acid.

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