Feature

6 book recommendations from B. Catling

The author recommends works by Raymond Roussel, Cormac McCarthy, and more

Brian Catling, who writes as B. Catling, is a poet, performance artist, and author of The Vorrh trilogy, a fantasy series set in and near an unchartable forest. The British writer's new novel, Hollow, follows a band of mercenaries across 16th-century Europe.

The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien (1967).

Hilarious, overwhelming, and profound, O'Brien's novel is a massive work of the imagination skulking beneath everyday surrealism. Take care, as it can catch you out between jaw-­dropping wonder and choking fits of laughter. Buy it here.

The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas (1981).

The White Hotel is a novel I wish I could read again without knowing what awaits. It holds and pets its strangeness in a subtle and loving way, building a dark, poetic nest of addiction. Buy it here.

Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake (2020).

Heretic scientists are as rare as hen's teeth, and one that writes this well is rarer. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures is a book that alters the worn-out perspectives on life that we all carry in the cellar of base agreement we learned in school. Much of what I imagined in fiction about forests is now being rooted in fact. Buy it here.

Poems in English by Samuel Beckett (1961).

Fifty-three pages of distilled genius. Poems that glint, bite, backslap, and give miracle and nerve to a reinvented language: bar drivel sanctified into haiku. The first time I read this book, I did not get it until I awoke the next day and knew that it had been talking to me all night. Buy it here.

Impressions of Africa (1910) and Locus Solus (1914) by Raymond Roussel.

Classic works of imaginative writing, created through a tiresome process that became sublime. The plot of each book is merely a string onto which gems of surrealistic incident and invention are strung. I stole the name of the Vorrh jungle from Roussel, as I think he stole the name from Edgar Allen Poe's Vurrgh in "A Descent Into the Maelström." (All roads lead to Poe.) Both books can also be seen as performance art manuals, tableaus of interaction between human figures, and constructed devices. The very essence of expanded fiction. Buy them here and here.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (1985).

The writer Iain Sinclair had been prompting me for years to write a novel, laying all kinds of books out like lures and traps. This novel did it. Rich, exotic, and extraordinary. It unfolds at a wonderful pace of mythic grandeur, led by the nose of mindless violence. Buy it here.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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