In response to Matt Schwartz’s question on his Facebook page, “What are some of your favorite sweeping historical brick-sized novels written since World War II, along the lines of Pynchon’s V. and Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke?”, here’s my list:
Among North American-focused works (sort of) that are mostly in English & definitely going to stand the test of time, not counting Underworld & Jest Infinite, I’d list Ellison, Invisible Man, Baldwin, Another Country, Bellow, Humboldt’s Gift, Kingston’s Woman Warrior and China Men (they were written together but then forced to be published separately), McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and The Crossing, Franzen’s The Corrections, Cisneros’ Caramelo, Eugenides’ Middlesex, Yamashita’s I-Hotel, Chabon’s Kavalier & Clay, Urrea’s Hummingbird’s Daughter, and Gaiman’s American Gods.
All are epics worthy of the name, but intimate too–and all are excitingly revisionist re both history and the idea of the novel. Linguistic pyrotechnics, but always in the service of character & story, not author show-off points.
Of course, nothing since 1980 matches Mason & Dixon, but then nothing can; it’s da greatest (and also the most fun & funniest) if we’re looking at just the last 20 years.
Imho, of course.
For Matt’s page and some of the excellent suggestions he got, go here.