Books Fiction: Five masterpieces of contemporary fiction recommended by Lee Polevoi.
Resuscitation of a Hanged Man by Denis Johnson
This book tells the story of a failed suicide’s recovery via gigs as a disc jockey and private investigator in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and his love affair with an on-again, off-again lesbian. Leonard English is staggering through his life in a dreamy world of New England coastal fog and the dense undergrowth of his own feverish imagination. He’s a walking poster boy for the “unreliable narrator,” though in Resuscitation of a Hanged Man, this is a considerable artistic achievement. By the end of the novel we understand him deeply as one who’s terrifically confused about what others say or mean or intend to do.
Outerbridge Reach by Robert Stone
This is a classic seafaring work of fiction, though much also takes place on land—the Eastern Seaboard, specifically. Owen Browne, Stone’s erstwhile protagonist, embarks on a solo sailboat journey around the world and falls prey to maritime dementia. It’s an absolutely riveting and harrowing novel.
Going Native by Stephen Wright
Wright’s trail-breaking book traces the journey of a serial killer, appearing in a range of settings and as a variety of differently named—and highly volatile—characters. What happens in each chapter isn’t always clear, but the dense, textured prose is always compelling and rewarding.