Next week, the New York Times will publish its list of the best novels of the past quarter-century. Culling its results from a distinguished panel of writers and critics, the list is headed by Toni Morrison's Beloved, followed by Don DeLillo's Underworld, Updike's Rabbit quartet, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and Philip Roth's American Pastoral. There are a number of runner-ups, including DeLillo's White Noise, John Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces and Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping.
Ah, those lists. We love to hate them, hate to love them. It's so easy to gripe and bitch when things are so neatly taxonomized, so efficiently shunted into neat columns. But I ask you - are you really going to nitpick this list? It does a very good job of summing up what was great about literature over the past twenty five years; reading it, you get that same misty-eyed nostalgic pang that Chuck Workman's Oscar montages always seem to evoke. Are there too many Roth and DeLillo books on the list? Come now - of course not! Check it out for yourself.