Off-beat, Eclectic, Quirky, Slightly Askew Fiction

Fiction ranging from Redneck Gothic to really dysfunctional families to just plain, well, different. If you like stories that are a teensy bit bent, these titles are for you.

Ray in Reverse

By Daniel Wallace

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"Sitting in Last Words group where everyone is recounting their last words on earth, Ray is embarrassed. He didn't declare his love. He didn't say anything symbolic. He didn't reveal his benevolence or goodwill. In fact, he didn't even finish his sentence. His words didn't measure up, and now he can't seem to get them out of his head. Now, in Heaven, he has time to reflect on his short life of fifty years. This is the darkly humorous story of that life, told backward."
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The Intuitionist

By Colson Whitehead

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"It is a time of calamity in a major metropolitan city's Department of Elevator Inspectors, and Lila Mae Watson, the first black female elevator inspector in the history of the department, is at the center of it. There are two warring factions within the department: the Empiricists, who work by the book and who dutifully check for striations on the winch cable and such; and the Intuitionists, who are simply able to enter the elevator cab in question, meditate, and intuit any defects.

"Lila Mae is an Intuitionist and, it just so happens, has the highest accuracy rate in the entire department. But when an elevator in a new city building goes into total freefall on Lila Mae's watch, chaos ensues. Sabotage is the obvious explanation: It's an election year in the Elevator Guild, and the good-old-boy Empiricists would love nothing more than to assign the blame to an Intuitionist, and a colored one at that. But Lila Mae is never wrong.

"The sudden appearance of excerpts from the lost notebooks of Intuitionism's founder, James Fulton, has also caused quite a stir. The notebooks describe Fulton's work on the 'black box,' a perfect elevator that could reinvent the city as radically as the first passenger elevator did when patented by Elisha Otis in the nineteenth century. When Lila Mae goes underground to investigate the crash, she becomes involved in the search for the portions of the notebooks that are still missing and uncovers a secret that will change her life forever."

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Fluke, or I know Why the Winged Whale Sings

By Christopher Moore

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"Just why do humpback whales sing? That's the question that has marine behavioral biologist Nate Quinn and his crew poking, charting, recording, and photographing very big, wet, gray marine mammals. Until the extraordinary day when a whale lifts its tail into the air to display a cryptic message spelled out in foot-high letters: Bite me. Trouble is, Nate's beginning to wonder if he hasn't spent just a little too much time in the sun. 'Cause no one else on his team saw a thing, not his longtime partner, Clay Demodocus; not their saucy young research assistant; not even the spliff-puffing white-boy Rastaman Kona (ne Preston Applebaum). But later, when a roll of film returns from the lab missing the crucial tail shot, and his research facility is trashed, Nate realizes something very fishy indeed is going on."
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Watching TV with the Red Chinese

By Luke Whisnant

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Readers see themselves and their society through the eyes of three visiting Chinese graduate students who are perplexed by the difference between Tide, Cheer, and Biz; Monday Night Football; Dallas; and other American cultural phenomena as viewed through the tube in 1980s Cleveland.

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The Mammy

By Brendan O'Carroll

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"Chronicles with raw humor and great affection the comic misadventures of a large and lively North Dublin family in the 1960s."
Later made into the film, Agnes Brown--starring Angelica Huston.

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Parlor Games

By Mavis Cheek

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"Celia - housewife, mother, wonderful cook - lives in Bedford Park, London, where the major worries are dailies, private schooling and the misplaced zeal of neighbourhood watch vigilantes. She is celebrating her 40th birthday. The armpit of the English bourgeoisie never felt snugger."
(Known in the U.K. as Parlour Games)

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My Year of Meats

By Ruth L. Ozeki

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"When Jane Takagi-Little finally lands a job--producing a Japanese television show sponsored by BEEF-EX, an organization promoting the export of U.S. meats--she takes her crew on the road in search of all-American wives cooking all-American meat. Over the course of filming, though, Jane makes a few troubling discoveries about both. Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, in Japan, Akiko Ueno watches My American Wife! and diligently prepares Coca-Cola Roast and Panfried Prairie Oysters for her husband, John, (the ad-agency rep for the show's sponsor).

"As Akiko fills out his questionnaires, rating each show on Authenticity, Wholesomeness, and Deliciousness of Meat, certain ominous questions about her own life--and the fact that after each meal she has to go to the bathroom and throw up--begin to surface. A tale of love, global media, and the extraordinary events in the lives of two ordinary women, counterpointed by Sei Shonagon's vibrant commentary..."

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Cold Comfort Farm

By Stella Gibbons

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When a well-educated young socialite in 1930s England is left orphaned and unable to support herself at age twenty-two, she moves in with her eccentric relatives on their farm.

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A Case of Curiosities

By Allen Kurzweil

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In France, on the eve of the Revolution, a young man named Claude Page sets out to become the most ingenious and daring inventor of his time.

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Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories, and Other Disasters

By Jean Shepherd

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The creator of A Christmas Story shares more of growing up in the Midwest--this time during his teenaged years:
"...a universal (and achingly funny) orchestration of Midwestern puberty rites, from the gut-wrenching playground antics of one Delbert Bumpus, to the supernal glow surrounding unapproachable high school beauty Daphne Bigelow, to the memorable disaster that was Shepherd's (and everyone else's) junior prom."
Stories include:
The grandstand passion play of Delbert and the Bumpus hounds --County fair! -- Scut Farkas and the murderous Mariah -- Ollie Hopnoodle's haven of bliss -- The star-crossed romance of Josephine Cosnowski --Daphne Bigelow and the spine-chilling saga of the snail-encrusted tinfoil noose - - The return of the smiling Wimpy doll -- Wanda Hickey's night of golden memories.

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