China Miéville's 6 favorite books
The English novelist recommends works by Anna Kavan, Jane Gaskell, and more
White Is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (Nan A. Talese, $25). Did we really need another haunted-house book? It turns out we did. Oyeyemi's bravura work combines sincere respect for this narrative tradition with a radical modern take that never diminishes the fear a literary haunting should evoke. Very much the opposite.
I Am Lazarus by Anna Kavan (Peter Owen, $15). Best known for her justly celebrated novel Ice, Kavan possessed an intense, hallucinatory voice and agonized regard that are even more powerful in these wartime short stories. To look at the world after reading I Am Lazarus is to look at it in a stranger, truer way.
Ape's-Face by Marion Fox (out of print). An offbeat tour de force and an invocation of Englishness, inheritance, and supernatural threat. With its decidedly odd prose and the gloom World War I casts across its pages, this 1914 novel reads as tainted by an effective but accidental — perhaps naïve — modernist sensibility. Too strange to be a classic, Ape's-Face is a startling anti-classic.
The Narrator by Michael Cisco (Eraserhead, $16). A "fantasy" novel, sure, complete with all the furniture (magic weapons, flying armor, war in an imaginary land), but one that in its themes and expressionist language upends all our expectations of what literature can do and be. Cisco is sui generis, and outright brilliant.
A Sweet, Sweet Summer by Jane Gaskell (out of print). All Gaskell's novels are worth hunting down. With their visionary prose and insight, even the less successful are fascinating, and the best are incomparable. This, her 10th (published before she was 30!) won a Somerset Maugham Award, and perfectly combines psychological perspicacity and social critique in an unusual dystopian future London.
The Dogs of the Sinai by Franco Fortini (Seagull, $27.50). In this brief, searing essay, the Italian poet, scholar, and dissident communist Franco Fortini considers the 1967 Six-Day War in the Middle East, his own Jewish heritage, and the degradation of memory and of Italian politics. Fortini's urgent, stern, and elegiac care utterly shakes the reader.
—English fantasy novelist China Miéville is the award-winning author of The City & the City, Perdido Street Station, and Embassytown. His new short-story collection, Three Moments of an Explosion, will be published Aug. 4 by Del Rey Books.