The Overshadowed Books

Posted by on Sep 7, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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When you think of the greatest book of all time, you’re going to likely choose a famous one. It’s one that has had super success, most likely deservingly. But what about the other books those great writers pump out?

Everyone knows The Great Gatsby but what about The Beautiful and Damned? Everyone knows For Whom the Bell Tolls’s warning about modern war thwarting Romantic idealism, but what about On the Beach by Nevil Shute or even Hemingway’s own Islands in the Stream?

I’m offering here a list of books I think we should read more often and in addition to the famous few “classics” in literature.

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Everyone knows Fitzgerald for The Great Gatsby and even in his lifetime everyone knew him for his hugely popular debut novel This Side of Paradise. Known for penning the struggle of the Lost Generation, who Fitzgerald described himself as “a new generation grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken,” his second novel The Beautiful and Damned tells the cautionary tale of Anthony Patch and wife Gloria as they await Anthony’s tycoon grandfather’s death so they can inherit his riches.

The novel itself was popular at the time, gaining a film adaption in 1922, but has since been overshadowed by the success of his third novel The Great Gatsby. What I love most about The Beautiful and Damned is that it is the perfect halfway point between This Side of Paradise and Gatsby.

After the commercial success of his debut novel, its critics said that the storytelling was too lengthy. Yes, that’s right someone called the 122-page Gatsby pen too lengthy. But it’s fairly true. With the progression of Fitzgerald’s novels, one notices not necessarily a shortening, but certainly a more concise brand of storytelling develop.

The Beautiful and Damned is the in-between novel – it has the beautiful poetry only Fitzgerald can accomplish in prose leftover from Paradise (which some call lengthy but I call Romantic) that is moving in the direction of the succinct storytelling he perfected with Gatsby.

Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

When you think of magic realism you most likely think of Gabo or Borges, their novels bringing to light the true love of the art of the genre. But One Hundred Years in Solitude and Universal History of Infamy aside, Isabel Allende’s fiction arises as an eminent example of contemporary magic realism.

Her work has garnered her honorary doctorates, a National Prize for Literature, and even the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014. She is most known for her debut novel The House of the Spirits and City of the Beasts, but I think she has produced gold with Eva Luna.

With Eva Luna, Allende takes her magical realist storytelling chops to paper and pens the story of the eponymous protagonist and her journey through several decades in a Latin American country. What’s so beautiful about the novel is that Allende uses the generational storytelling so prevalent in magic realism that she perfected with The House of the Spirits and combines it with the young adult fiction writing of City of the Beasts.

What results is this geopolitical story about the turmoil of Latin America in the late half of the 20th century. It is everything great about magic realism: generational storytelling, fantastical events accepted as realistic, and political commentary.

Another Country by James Baldwin

Baldwin is best known for his semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It on the Mountain or for Giovanni’s Room, but Another Country combines his expertise in telling the story of LGBT protagonists with his homage to the struggles of people of color in the 20th century.

In this novel are the stories of Rufus Scott before his suicide and the group of Scott’s friends after the event. The several characters end up having sexual affairs with one another, their own relationships strained by the confusion and guilt they feel due to Scott’s decision to take his life.

Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway

We all know Hemingway for The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and A Farewell to Arms. He was one of the most successful 20th century writers and, as Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer recipient, is considered to be perhaps the most influential writer of the 20th century. Many consider him to be the final voice of the Lost Generation and as such he became the father of modern English-language fiction.

His meticulous, shorthand storytelling gave matter-of-fact views spoke of the nature of love and war and the loss that comes with both. But before the success of The Old Man and the Sea, he had begun penning Islands in the Stream but it was not published until after his death, when his editor and wife pieced together the novel.

It tells of the story of painter Thomas Hudson with his friend Roger Davis, a writer, and Hudson’s three sons as he (Hudson) grappling with the melancholy and depression of loss that comes when his misadventures in the Caribbean go even further south, both metaphorically and geographically. It is Islands in the Stream that Hemingway meant to restore his reputation after the commercial and critical flop of Across the River and Into the Trees but he stopped writing to complete Old Man.

The beauty of Islands is the terminal melancholia of the protagonist’s journey from an open, free love of the world to that introverted cynicism so prevalent of Lost Gen. caused by the events we cannot control.

On the Beach by Nevil Shute

We all know Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls warns us of the true loss of war, the title coming from Donne’s 17th Meditation wherein he said, “Any man’s death diminishes me,” but the true warning of 20th century wartime became the Cold War. With the huge worry of nuclear holocaust, British-Australian aeronautical engineer and author Nevil Shute offers to us On the Beach.

Published in 1957, the novel is a sci-fi post-apocalyptic novel he wrote as a warning of what the world would be like shortly after a huge nuclear war. The novel follows an ensemble of characters in Melbourne as the nuclear dust clouds make their way to Australia, the last remaining population of humans in the world, by way of wind currents.

Though also a rave of the importance of human life, the book does not use Donne as epigraph but rather Eliot’s “The Hollow Man” – “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.”

The Fall by Albert Camus

Camus’ huge success in America came after his absurdist hero Meursault in The Stranger made its way across the Atlantic. Post-war America loved the absurdist hero and related to his sardonic melancholia. Camus became hugely successful, too, for his novel The Plague, making a metaphor about Nazi-occupation at the end of the Second World War.

But The Fall is equally as magnificent. It is often overlooked because of its philosophically thick plot and stream-of-consciousness storytelling, but The Fall is a work of fiction that deals with post-war mankind at its most basic level: a society questioning its own moral sensibility.

The narrator in The Fall is a portrait of the modern man, alluding to The Fall from Grace, and ultimately coming to the inescapable realization of every man – no one is innocent and no one may therefore judge another from any higher moral standpoint. This is the true grief and guilt of post-war society and Camus’ protagonist sitting on a bench gets there in 147 “fortunate” pages.


P.T.StoneP.T. Stone is a student at Clemson University studying English and Philosophy. He is an avid writer of poetry and prose, a composer, a frequent Facebook ranter, and a pure-bred digital generation brat. He is finishing his first novel, flowers with no petals, and has literary blogs here and here. When he isn’t trying to become famous writing, acting, or singing, Preston can be found chasing fluffy kitties to use as pillows while they purr or Instagram stalking Lady Gaga.

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