21 Experimental Novels

I’m very much wedded to experimentalism in my own writing and I shall be blogging shortly about some of my favourite experimental novels and the reasons why I believe that experimental literature is important. For the time being, though, what follows is a list of experimental novels that I have enjoyed reading. The visitor may agree/disagree with me on my choices or perhaps find it a useful introduction to some great titles in experimental literature. It’s a list compiled purely from my own reading journey and I found it extremely challenging to condense down into just 21 titles. The post will explore the experimental nature of these works and explain what it was that appealed to me about them.

  1. Ulysses by James Joyce
  2. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
  3. Molloy/Malone Dies/The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett
  4. Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau
  5. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
  6. A Void by Georges Perec
  7. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  8. How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman
  9. The Unfortunates by B S Johnson
  10. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  11. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
  12. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller… by Italo Calvino
  13. The Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino
  14. Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis
  15. A Very Private Life by Michael Frayn
  16. The Inheritors by William Golding
  17. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  18. Tarr by Wyndham Lewis
  19. The House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
  20. Anthropology by Dan Rhodes
  21. 253 by Geoff Ryman

Happy reading!

2 Responses to “21 Experimental Novels”

  1. La Quemada March 26, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    Thanks for adding some items to my “to read” list. I’ve read some of these but there are many I don’t know.

    One thing that struck me about your list is that you don’t have any female authors. Maybe something you could consider exploring? The first one I would definitely put on a list like this, a book I loved, was A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Have you read it? I might also include Moo by Jane Smiley, though perhaps it fits more conventionally on a list of satire novels. Maybe Fledgling by Octavia Butler? No, that’s closer to fantasy than truly experimental. Is experimental only about form or can it be something like crossing genres?

    • Paul Sutton Reeves March 26, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

      And thank you for commenting! That hadn’t struck me, in fact. How interesting… I wonder what that tells us? Some female writers are among my favourites – Tove Jansson, Muriel Spark and Ivy Compton-Burnett, for example. I’ve had a couple of female experimental writers recommended to me – Scarlett Thomas and Christine Brooke-Rose – but haven’t got around to reading them yet. I read a review of “Moo” when it came out and it didn’t intrigue me. I suppose it all comes down to personal preference and our individual reading journeys. I still can’t decide whether I consider crossing genres to be experimental. If you look at my “21 Experimental Albums” list, on the other hand, you’ll see that several are by female artists.

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