Monday 1 May 2017

A Personal Canon

Inspired by Anthony at Time's Flow Stemmed, I've compiled a personal list. It's proved a sobering exercise, revealing something about the limited and static nature of my tastes, and also putting me in mind of the time I have left to remedy this. And yes, of course there is some Brookner.
  • Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils
  • Elizabeth Bowen, Eva Trout
  • Anita Brookner, The Next Big Thing
  • Anita Brookner, A Private View
  • Ivy Compton-Burnett, The Present and the Past
  • Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
  • Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems
  • Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend
  • George Eliot, Daniel Deronda
  • T. S. Eliot, Collected Poems
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, The Unconsoled
  • Henry James, The American Scene
  • Henry James, The Bostonians
  • Franz Kafka, The Castle
  • Philip Larkin, Collected Poems
  • David Lodge, Nice Work
  • Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time
  • Samuel Richardson, Clarissa
  • W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz
  • William Makepeace Thackeray, Pendennis
  • Anthony Trollope, The Small House at Allington
  • Evelyn Waugh, Sword of Honour
  • Virginia Woolf, The Years


  1. Hello. Good evening. I came here to comment on your insightful reading of Henry James and Anita Brookner but alas, I could not resist the allure of the intriguing title 'A Personal Canon' appeared on the left hand side of your blog. So, the comment for James and Brookner will need to wait for another time. Before I forget, I ought to thank you for introducing this wonderful blog called Time's Flow Stemmed which is like stepping into the literary saloon from a bygone age that entices people (and above all, the host himself) with the best literary taste.

    This is a wonderfully eclectic (rather than 'static' I would say) personal cannon. Thank you so much for sharing. Your list makes me feel humble as it occurs to me how little I have read. All the usual suspects (Eliot, James, Woolf, Mann and above all, Brookner and Sebald) are present here but I'm surprised that there is no Miss Pym's novel on your list. I suppose it is always difficult to make such a list and to include everyone. I tremble to think who I will choose or which novel out of all Brookner's novels that impresses me most. But I can safely say that with this personal choice of books, I am in the presence and company of an idealist.

  2. Time's Flow Stemmed is excellent, isn't it? As for Pym, I think it would have to be one of the later ones, probably Quartet in Autumn. I notice that several of my choices are from authors' latter phases. But I do like The Bostonians. Those middle-period Jameses are so readable. I recently read a long short story of his called 'The Chaperon' - very light, but not slight.


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