Going Down by David Markson -- Although more of an extended vacation, three Americans spend their days frolicking, fornicating and fighting in a small Mexican town filled with artists before one is killed and a newcomer tries to get to the bottom of things. Surreal and sultry and super sexxxy.
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry -- Again, ex-pats in Mexico and death and existentialism, takes place over the course of 24 hours and deals with the big three: Love, Death and Alcoholism! Fun! The amazing thing is that the three main characters are actually likable, curious for American mid-century novels. Unfortunately, that makes reading about the downward spiral all the more painful. Get used to seeing this baby in Friday Fiction because I will not rest until everyone is bummed out after finishing it.
Deliverance by James Dickey -- Who's up for a canoe trip! The most amazing thing about this novel of man vs. nature vs. murderous hillbillies is that you might actually still want to take a canoe up through the Appalachians because Dickey's prose is so incredibly lush and vivid, the whole "squeal like a pig" thing is so brief that even the most squeamish could handle it and what's left is just a story of survival and what a human being is capable of in an extreme situation. Great movie but the novel is better by about a thousand dueling banjoes.
Plain Pleasures by Jane Bowles -- There are many reasons to love Jane Bowles, so many that there will be a post dedicated to her in the near future, but her writing definitely comes in first. Plain Pleasures is a short story collection (the only stories she wrote) and the majority deal with travelers and American ex-pats, and hot damn are they great! She is a master of pacing, of obnoxious characters that even their own mothers would hate, of bad timing, of sinister undertones, of the best character description I've ever read: "He disliked Lilina; probably because he suspected intuitively that she was a person who could fall over and over again into the same pile of broken glass and scream just as loudly the last time as the first"(from A Guatemalan Idyll). Bowles showed her characters no mercy, and the best part is she sided one hundred percent with the native inhabitants of the land in which her ex-pats and vacationers gracelessly bombard.
Short list but sweet and full of death; suddenly salt-stained boots and wind-chill ain't looking so bad.
Hey, enjoy the weekend, ok? Say hello to your mother for me.
Alex Snider is a Toronto-based writer, a Contributing Editor for the Little Red Umbrella and the co-creator of the Once Again, To Zelda blog, which is where a version of this post originally appeared. You can read the rest of her posts here.