Friday, May 12, 2006

Best Novel of the Past Twenty Five Years

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.


Anonymous said...

What makes my eyes mist is your classy self-restraint in not ripping the list apart (congrats on that). Come now - Toni Morrison? Has anyone actually gotten through her books? The list shows complete lack of breadth or imagination. Was the list compiled by the Pulitzer committee? And if so, why did they not award a Pulitzer to Plot Against America when they had the chance? -IW

wassupjohjoh said...

That is classy...but then I have to ask: Why do we like to rip into lists like this?

It seems only a barometer of what is good out there. The second someone calls it "the best of" the warning lights go on. It's really just the short way of people saying "The Best Of What These 'Highly Acclaimed' People Think of as the Best."

Let's not forget the true reason why these lists exist: To Sell MORE Books.

I was thinking about making my own list of the "Best 25 jazz records of the last 25 years," and then put my own record on it. Self-serving, to be sure. I'm sure they feel very guilty when the publisher's 2nd quarter numbers come in.

I think I'd rather see the "25 ugliest writers" list, as mentioned in a post about a month ago. Now that is worth looking at.

Sidebar: I'm sure you'd excluded from that list, Marc

MW said...


oh i be uugllly!!

wassupjohjoh said...

Let's see!

MW said...


you can go my amazon page...there's a mug there....