Outsider Books

On my bookshelves are perhaps 25 books that survived several relationships and at least five or ten moves, and are still in my possession. Some of them I have owned in several different editions and some only ever appeared in one edition. These are books that influenced me profoundly and/or impressed me mightily. (See my list at the bottom of the page)

Among my most treasured books are Colin Wilson’s The Outsider and John Gardiner’s remarkable and profound short novel, Grendel – which I have always regarded as the “ultimate” outsider story.
It wasn’t until I looked at all the books that were profound enough or striking enough to hook me that I recognized how important the “outsider” theme has always been to me and how much it has influenced my own writing. My novel, The Goblin’s Cloak takes the central conceit of Gardener’s Grendel – the perspective of a monster on the periphery of civilization – the ultimate outsider. It examines our society's millennial preoccupation with self (especially the popular concepts of beauty and heroism) and our conversely increasing sense of isolation as we each become one with our cyber-selves. (If you don’t know what I mean, take a trip on public transit and count the passengers who are immersed in their own realities via cell phones and tablets).
In this increasingly connected and overcrowded world, intimacy is becoming harder to find than ever.

My goblin in The Goblin’s Cloak is a teenaged monster that grows up believing she is human and learns at the age of eight she is actually a hideous monster.

Her over-protective father had cast a glamour spell to protect her from the cruel truth. When he dies, Jaynie, the goblin, becomes a exile from human society – a creature despised and hunted for no reason beyond the fact that she exists. She is raised in isolation by her mother – a legendary beauty to whom Jaynie is always comparing herself.

She falls in love with a human boy and yearns to be human so she can have a genuinely intimate relationship with him, In pursuit of this goal, she learns to use her innate magical power to turn herself into a beautiful person at will – but at the same time, she finds herself growing more and more comfortable in her own skin. The people she cares about all love her and she finds herself with the power to protect them from the true monsters, necromancers that readers get to know as the Dark Monarchs – who treat human souls as both currency and food – and hold continued life/potential immortality as carrots to their control their zombified servants – the barrow-imps.

If you have not read John Gardner's Grendel - do yourself a favour and read it!

Other titles include William Gibson’s Neuromancer and William Browning Spencer’s Zod Wallop, of which I still have a copies despite the number of first edition copies I gave to friends, lent to friends and never got back, or had stolen. I’ve also held onto Gibson’s Burning Chrome; Michael Swanwick’s The Iron Dragon’s Daughter; a copy of John Shirley’s Heatseekers with illos by Harry O. Morris; David Lindsay’s The Haunted Woman; Iain Bank’s The Bridge; a couple of Elizabeth Hand books and Harlan Ellison collections; The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise by R. D. Laing, the collected poems of T. S. Eliott; Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; and Tim Powers’ Last Call

Please comment and share your favourite outsider book.

#Grendel #Gardner #Outsider


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