(Photo credit: The Toni Morrison Society.)
When one thinks of the 1970s, what comes to mind are such things as Watergate, the latter part of the Vietnam War, disco music, Star Wars, and…a number of notable novels.
I’m going to mention about 30 of those books — most of which I’ve read — now that I’ve just finished Song of Solomon.
Toni Morrison’s 1977 novel is complex, nuanced, harrowing, occasionally funny, full of superb prose, socially conscious in its depiction of racism and sexism, and astute in dissecting a dysfunctional family. It also offers several of literature’s most memorable names for its memorable characters: protagonist Macon Dead (aka Milkman), his sister Corinthians, his aunt Pilate, his friend Guitar, etc.
Song of Solomon was Morrison’s third novel — following The Bluest Eye (1970) and Sula (1973).
Margaret Atwood began writing novels a year before Morrison did, with 1969’s The Edible Woman. She followed with the very good Surfacing (1972) and Lady Oracle (1976) before starting a run that would include various much-better-than-very-good works over the ensuing decades.
Herman Wouk also had an ultra-successful 1970s with his lengthy tour de force novels The Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978), both set during the WWII era.
In between those Wouk works was Alex Haley’s Roots, the saga of slavery and more that was widely read as a novel (1976) and then widely watched as a blockbuster TV miniseries (1977).
Meanwhile, Stephen King took the book world by storm with his debut novel Carrie (1974) — quickly followed by ‘Salem’s Lot (1975), The Shining (1977), The Stand (1978), and The Dead Zone (1979).
Joyce Carol Oates, an author I haven’t sampled much, also had quite a 1970s run — as did two novelists I’ve read several times: Margaret Drabble and Kurt Vonnegut.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez? I haven’t gotten to his The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), but have read several of his excellent novels written in previous and subsequent decades. The first English-language edition of his 1967 masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude came out in…1970!
John Irving’s first major success was his quirky 1978 novel The World According to Garp. Soon after, Cormac McCarthy really hit his stride with the absorbing Suttree in 1979 — the same year of Octavia E. Butler’s searing time-travel classic Kindred.
The start of that half-century-ago decade saw the publication of another time-travel novel, Jack Finney’s haunting Time and Again (1970). Also arriving that year were Alice Walker’s first novel The Third Life of Grange Copeland and Erich Segal’s sappy but romantically readable Love Story. (I can’t believe I just put those two authors in the same sentence. 🙂 )
Other notable 1970s releases included William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist (1971), Richard Adams’ Watership Down (1972), Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying (1973), James Michener’s Centennial (1974), Peter Benchley’s Jaws (1974), Thomas Tryon’s Lady (1974), E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime (1975), James Clavell’s Shogun (1975), Agatha Christie’s final mystery Curtain (1975), Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time (1976), Anne Rice’s debut novel Interview with the Vampire (1976), Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds (1977), William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice (1979), and Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979).
Any 1970s novels you’d like to name and discuss? I know I left out quite a few.
And here’s one of the most beautiful songs of the 1970s — 1972 to be exact:
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — containing more of my reaction to an appalling education-related opinion piece by a local leader — is here.