Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Best Novel?

So, the New York Times Book Review decided to name the greatest novel in the past 25 years. Time Magazine has a lovely (and short) article about it here. Even better, Laura Miller, one of the judges explains here why she declined to vote.

The end result almost doesn't matter (but if you're dying to know, it's Toni Morrison's Beloved). It's a bizarre thing to do, gathering a group of judges to pick "the best" novel of any given period. Trying to distill literature into some sort of athletic contest with one "winner" is ridiculous. The picks were also nearly all by white men, though they did ultimately choose a black woman as the author of the "best" book. Overcompensating much? I love Toni Morrison, and I think Beloved is brilliant, but I also think this group of mostly old white guys choosing the best book might have been consciously trying to avoid accusations of favoring other old white guys.

I like what Time Magazine did with their list of the 100 best books since 1923 (Why 1923? Who knows?). It gives room for diversity, for a multitude of experiences and viewpoints, for authors trying to accomplish different things. The NYTBR exercise drives me nuts because literature is collective, not singular, and no one novel can represent all great novels of the last 25 years.

Hey, how'd I get on this soapbox? Can somebody help me down?


Kirsten said...

How many of the "100 Best Books" has everyone read? I count 11 for me.

allisonmariecat said...

Wow, I hit 29 (30 if you count Infinite Jest, which I TRIED to read, but couldn't stand more than 30 pages). A lot of them I read in high school, actually.

I LOVE that Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret is on the list :) That book shaped my adolescence.

Now, I feel like I should read some Philip Roth, just to see what the fuss is about.

Holly said...

I've read 15. I was kind of surprised by a couple of them that had just come out that were on the list like Never Let Me Go. Seems hard to suggest a book will be a classic/leave a lasting impression when it just came out a year ago. But maybe its that good. That book has been popping up everywhere. I may have to read it just to see what all the fuss is about.