Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Neglected Minor Masterpieces

In 1988, critic and essayist Noel Perrin published A Reader's Delight, a collection of essays examining neglected minor masterpieces of literature.  Perrin describes these works as those that fall just short of classic status and are not well known or may be completely unknown to most readers.

"Almost anyone who reads a lot is apt to have come across at least one such book -- something not in the canon, not famous, probably not even in print -- but all the same sheer delight to read,"  Perrin writes.  

The collection includes essays on sixteen novels, five memoirs, four books of short stories, four books of essays, a diary, a volume of letters, a book of animal stories, a science fiction novella, and a book of fables.

"This book has no overarching pattern or grand design," Perrin explains.  "It's simple purpose is to steer people toward a winter's worth or a summer's worth of unusually pleasing reading."   
Noel Perrin
 (Photo by Joseph Mehling)

Noel Perrin's List of Neglected Minor Masterpieces

  1. Indian Summer by William Dean Howells (1886)
  2. The Valleys of the Assassins by Freya Stark (1934)
  3. Kai Lung's Golden Hours by Ernest Bramah (1922)
  4. The Bottom of the Harbor by Joseph Mitchell (1960)
  5. The Journal of a Disappointed Man by W.N.P. Barbellion (1919)
  6. Watch the North Wind Rise by Robert Graves (1949)
  7. Fables in Slang by George Ade (1899)
  8. On Love by Stendahl (1822)
  9. Period Piece by Gwen Raverat (1953)
10. "The Exequy" by Henry King (1624)
11. Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Thompson Seton (1898)
12. All Hallows Eve by Charles Williams (1944)
13. Roman Wall by Bryher (1954)
14. Democracy by Henry Adams (1880)
15. The Blessing of Pan by Lord Dunsany (1928)
16. Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens (1948)
17. The Semi-Attached Couple by Emily Eden (1860)
18. The Diary of George Templeton Strong edited by Allan Nevins and Milton Thomas (1952)
19. The Walls Came Tumbling Down by Henriette Roosenburg (1957)
20. The Silver Stallion by James Branch Cabell (1926)
21. The Maker of Heavenly Trousers by Daniele Vare (1935)
22. Many Cargoes by W.W. Jacobs
23. Riding the Rails by Michael Mathers
24. The Best of Friends: Further Letters to Sydney Carlyle Cockerell edited by Viola Meynell (1956)
25. A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
26. "Church Going" by Philip Larkin (1955)
27. The Three Royal Monkeys by Walter de la Mare (1910)
28. When the Snow Comes, They Will Take You Away by Eric Newby (1971)
29. Bridgeport Bus by Maureen Howard (1965)
30. Essays in Idleness by Kenko (1332)
31. The Green Child by Herbert Read (1935)
32. A Casual Commentary by Rose Macaulay (1925)
33. The Adventures of Jonathan Corncob, Loyal American Refugee (1787)
34. Instead of a Letter by Diana Athill (1962)
35. Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright (1942)
36. They Asked for a Paper by C.S. Lewis (1962)
37. Born to Race by Blanche C. Perrin (1959)
38. A Genius in the Family by Hiram P. Maxim (1936)
39. My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle by Marcel Pagnol (1960)
40. Far Rainbow by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (1964)