10 Essential Surrealist Books for Everyone

by .  Monday July 30, 2012 - Flavorpill

Shane Jones knows a little bit about surrealism. In his first novel, Light Boxes, the inhabitants of a tiny town fought against perpetual February — and in his wonderful and hallucinatory new novel, Daniel Fights a Hurricane, the weather has only gotten meaner — and the people stranger. Because we’re so consistently bewitched by his work, we asked Jones to curate a list of essential surrealist reads for us, so we can pass the time between his novels a little more easily. He writes: ”My motivation here isn’t to offer a pretentious list of obscure artsy books – I could very easily do that – but to provide suggestions for books that can be easily found, tastefully devoured, and will supply a healthy shot of the weird stuff. Nothing too weird, but also nothing too easy – no mentions of Salvador Dal√≠ or my mother’s 1960s era fairy tale pictures that hang in the living room. Here are the essential surrealist works for everyone – some old, some new, all must-reads.” We wholeheartedly concur.

The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim
The family drama novel ripped apart and blended. The opening pages introduce all one hundred brothers, and Antrim spends the next 185 pages discussing the complexity of the brothers’ relationships while in the spare setting of a house. Most books labeled surreal are criticized for a lack of heart. The Hundred Brothers made me cry twice, especially when the narrator, Doug, says near the end: “I was nothing but another Doug.”

The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns
Published in 1959 and written in an offbeat style similar to Robert Walser but even stranger, Comyns walks the line between harsh reality and neon-colored dream when Alice learns she can levitate. When her father discovers her powers, he imagines the lucrative possibilities, and the book ends with a struggle between escapist dream and bruise-worthy reality with room for only one outcome.

Nothing by Blake Butler
Blake Butler’s black-magic fiction is some of my favorite stuff being written today, but it’s his 2011 memoir Nothing that opens a portal to the accessible via heartfelt autobiography. Watching Butler’s mind melt from reality-aware days to insomnia-cracked nights is absolutely beautiful and wonderfully strange.

View the full list at Flavorpill