Any Books Like Night In The Woods Or Kentucky Route 0?


#1

Does anybody have any recommendations for books like NitW or KR0? Strange, ethereal, gothic, magical realism with old decaying towns, lost highways, strange things in the woods. About depression, lost friends, anxiety and strangeness of everyday life.


#2

So the impolite but correct thing is to link to the Superlevel article on Kentucky Route Zero that explains that KRZ is a very unique can of worms, but I’ll also do the nice thing and say Flannery O’Connor and the rest of Southern Gothic will do you right here.


#3

These are good recommendations, but nevermind what that article says about Márquez and absolutely do read him; 100 Years of Solitude is the obvious place to start. It’s a different cultural context, of course, and arguably a different set of preoccupations (the immense traumatic weight of both history and family, if I had to sum it up) but if you’re already interested in magic realism, he’s the biggest Big Name Guy associated with it, and you can absolutely see the aesthetic lineage in kr0. Frankly I’m kind of upset at the suggestion that the relation is only surface-level.


#4

Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, just read it recently. Especially since you mentioned strange things in the woods.


#5

I pretty much joined the forum purely on the basis of wanting to reply to this thread (and to get some wicked recommendations). I definitely second a lot of these (though Flannery O’Connor is someone who has been on my to-read list for a long time); and I’d add a lot of other Murakami’s works too (Kafka is probably the best bet, but the end of Pinball, 1973 has a section that I found had that beautiful dreamy strangeness of some of KRZ’s locations).

My suggestions with regards to books like Kentucky Route Zero would be Mason and Dixon and Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon. A lot of his works have some elements of magical realism to them, but these two novels are highly centred around the idea of how capitalism’s expansion (in their respective historical settings of the 18th century and the early 20th) acts as a sort of reduction of the world’s wonder, promise, and mystery. Both are sprawling novels, structured in a fairly “episodic” way - vignettes that may be eerie, surreal, humorous, that are reminiscent of the little stories you come across in KRZ when driving around and exploring through the map.

Having mentioned Kafka on the Shore, I’d also maybe suggest the novels of Franz Kafka (all sadly incomplete to varying extents). It’s been a few years since I read them but I think Amerika, a weird depiction of the country that Kafka himself never actually set on, is possibly the most _KRZ_ian.

I can’t think of as many examples of books similar to Night in the Woods (though, as I loved this game, I’d love to come across a few). Murakami’s Trilogy of the Rat (Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball, 1973, and A Wild Sheep Chase capture that sense of youthful aimlessness really well, and blend it with a healthy dose of strangeness and odd humour).

I’m tempted to suggest A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan as a novel that deals - to varying extents - with “depression, lost friends, anxiety and the strangeness of everyday life”, even if the similarities aren’t so massive (maybe they are, I need to re-read this, too). Along the same lines, The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton depicts how the connection / communication between young and old generations can sever in a pretty interesting way.

Hello, Waypoint, I suppose!


#6

Thanks for the recs everybody. Think I’m going to start with Kafka On The Shore since I know Austin has talked a bit about Murakami.

Also, has anybody read A Good Man Is Hard To Find? Scott Benson refrenced it as insperation.


#7

Yeah. It’s a short story and from what I recall, it’s way more misanthropic than NitW, much like most of O’Connor’s output ime. Should be easily available online.


#8

Joyce Carol Oates is worth checking out for non-magical southern gothic.

Gilbert Hernandez half of the love and rockets has a far amount of magical realism in a central American setting focused a community over time.

Infinite ground by Martin MacInnes. A very recent work of magical realism and the wilderness

More general :
Yan Lianke has won the Kafka award for his Kafkaesque works based in China. Having a decent knowledge of Chinese history from 49 onwards would be helpful.

Death with Interruptions by José Saramago is set in a country where death decides to stop working for a time and chaos ensues.

Wizard of the Crow by Thiong’o, Ngũgĩ wa is Kenyan magic realism dealing with a heavy focus on politics.


#9

While it’s light on super natural elements, Stonemouth by Iain Banks really captures a similar feeling of alienation and rediscovery as regards returning to a home town.


What'cha reading?
#10

I’m so here for this thread. Definitely going to use this to scoop some new reading material.

The first book that comes to mind is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Definitely light on the supernatural elements, somewhat less so in terms of magical realism, but way high in terms of alienation, lost friends, the strangeness of everyday life. Beautiful, heartrending book–definitely one of my all-time favorites.


#11

Been considering reading this for a while (my parents have a copy) and you may have convinced me to add it to the enormous to-read list I’m generating for this year


#12

I would also throw in the tv shows Queen sugar and Rectify, heavy on the south and community, anxiety etc but modern day.


#13

What a great list of book recommendations, I have some familiarity with most of these authors, but none of these specific books. Throwing those in my to-read list!


#14

Lots of good suggestions here, I’d also point to Universal Harvester by John Darnielle (of the band The Mountain Goats). It’s slightly less magical realist than some suggestions here, but does a really excellent job capturing some of the beauty of mundane mid-west life with an interesting mystery.


#15

Thank you! :slight_smile:
I’m close to finishing a second read of Mason & Dixon and I do think, of all his work, it’s the strongest counterargument to the criticism (which I disagree with generally) that Pynchon is all post-modern “clever-cleverness” at the expense of emotional depth.


#16

I think, one of these days, I’m going to get into John Darnielle in a massive way. The Mountain Goats (even the name is a guaranteed :+1: ) are a band I keep encountering, pretty much in line with my musical interests (the adjective “lo-fi”), but who still yet to actually listen to.


#17

Oh my goodness please do so - I was in a similar position to that 10 years ago and was so happy when I decided to investigate further. I’d encourage you to start with The Sunset Tree or Transcendental Youth.


#18

Thank you for this very, very good thread, Waypoint community!


#19

I haven’t played either of those games yet, but I get the feeling from the rest of the thread that The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen might appeal to some of you.


#20

Completely forgot about Universal Harvester, thank you. I’d also recommend Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle, which I can’t believe I forgot about. Again, not big on magical realism, but beautiful character study with midwest isolation and alienation by the truckload (plus Satanic Panic! Yay!)