10.Favorite Novelists

10. Favorite Novelists. Hong Zaixin asks about what novelists I enjoy reading, and I respond:

My favorite novelists. In early days I read everything in sight, jumping all over. I had a period of reading the Irish writers, being half Irish myself and admiring their writings. I read Henry James, and was very fond of E. M. Forster, and enjoyed a number of contemporary British novelists: Anthony Powell, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene etc. I've always been fond of thrillers, and have several favorites--Eric Ambler for spy novels, Ross Thomas for a particular kind of crime/intrigue novel. (He was the one Baxandall also liked.) Lately I've read several by Elizabeth Bowen, very fine; somewhat like Edith Wharton, another I like. And right now I've re-discovered a wonderful spy novelist, an American who was in the CIA for a while, named Charles McCarry. He started a series in the early 1970s, wrote seven novels involving a character named Paujl Christopher; his seventh was supposed to be the last, but last year he wrote another, a kind of coda, titled Old Boys, and lots of people, including myself, began searching frantically for all his earlier ones, realizing how good he is. I'm on my next-to-last.

I had some years of reading hardboiled detective novels, the "private eye" genre; the best are by Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler, but some others are pretty good too. I haven't read them lately because although a great number continue to appear, nobody keeps up the level of those. Thomas Perry, in his early period, was very good; Robert Crais. Martin Cruz Smith, four or five very good ones. There are no doubt others I've forgotten.

Other American novelists whose works I've read most of: John Updike (the Rabbit series helped Hsing in strengthening her English), Thomas Berger, some of Paul Theroux, Saul Bellow (better than the othes). Like everybody, I was overwhelmed by Moby Dick and had trouble with most of Melville's other writings.

Japanese: Kawabata Yasunari, whom I got to know fairly well before his death (suicide). He was also a collector of Japanese and Chinese paintings, a very sensitive man.

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