Friday, May 12, 2006

Summer reading?

Seems Roth-heavy to me. I like the inclusion of Confederacy of Dunces. Agree with this list? What would you add? (Comments are working again, btw. Don't know what happened yesterday. Gremlins, I suppose.)

May 21, 2006

What Is the Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years?

Early this year, the Book Review's editor, Sam Tanenhaus, sent out a short letter to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to please identify "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years." Following are the results.
Toni Morrison

Don DeLillo
Blood Meridian
Cormac McCarthy
Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels
John Updike
American Pastoral
Philip Roth

A Confederacy of Dunces
John Kennedy Toole
Marilynne Robinson
Winter's Tale
Mark Helprin
White Noise
Don DeLillo
The Counterlife
Philip Roth
Don DeLillo
Where I'm Calling From
Raymond Carver
The Things They Carried
Tim O'Brien
Norman Rush
Jesus' Son
Denis Johnson
Operation Shylock
Philip Roth
Independence Day
Richard Ford
Sabbath's Theater
Philip Roth
Border Trilogy
Cormac McCarthy
The Human Stain
Philip Roth
The Known World
Edward P. Jones
The Plot Against America
Philip Roth


Blogger DVE said...

Wow, I thought I was well-read, but I've only read Beloved and part of The Things They Carried.

*but I've read all of Jane Austen! she cries, as her English major badge is torn from her*

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give or take his personal politics, I was so pleased and surprised to see Helprin's Winters Tale on this list. It's my favorite book.

5:11 PM  
Anonymous K. said...

It's not just Roth heavy, it's also male heavy. No Amy Tan? No Leslie Marmon Silko? No Maxine Hong Kingston? No Anna Castillo?

While I guess it can be argued that these aren't exactly "American" in that they are ethno-centric...BUT STILL!

5:59 PM  
Blogger Yvette said...

I read every day yet I've yet to read one of the books on the list (though some by authors on it). I feel bad. That or science fiction doesn't count as fiction, because there's no other way I can understand the exclusion of Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein...

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

infinite jes by david foster wallace?

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i jest, i jest! infinite jest.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Professor Zero said...

on the blog in general, you seem smart & sane, someone one would want to have as a colleague. i think you should have a great writing career and, in this way, get back at all those silly professors!

1:37 AM  
Blogger Gleth said...

Thank god for Housekeeping as well as Beloved. You'd think women just didn't write any fiction.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I teach creative writing in an MFA program. Roth is almost never taught to young writers. Three writers not included on this list who regularly are: Alice Munro (who, as a Canadian, may not count), Tobias Wolff and Lorrie Moore. I'm also surprised not to see Doctorow on this list. (Another writer not taught, but widely admired.) The writer most admired and arguably most widely taught in MFA programs is probably the late and largely unknown William Maxwell.

11:21 AM  
Blogger theprofessor said...

Great comments, y'all. I agree about the male dominance on the list. But one man left out is one of my favorites, Ray Bradbury. I've read everything he's written and read nothing by Philip Roth. Another favorite author: Chaim Potok. If you've never read My Name Is Asher Lev, you must. It's as unforgettable as Beloved. And I didn't read Beloved until last year! (A tough read, but worth the effort.) More! More, please!

11:38 AM  
Blogger J said...

OMG Where iz Dan Brown? I LUUVD the DaVinci Code! It wuz so gud.

On a more serious note, Yes. David Foster Wallace deserves a nod, as does anyone who was dedicated enough to read all of Infinite Jest. Also Zadie Smith White Teeth. No Joyce Carol Oates? Shame, shame on you all.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Meg said...

25 years, huh? That cuts out some great stuff, though! Dune, Raymond Chandler...

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone needs to expand their reszding list. Toni Morrison? Are you kidding me? I have never read anything so cliche as her writing in my American Literature class. I'm fairly certain (I'm not even 25 yet) that these books all reached the bestsellers' lists. What about books that appeal to those with better literary taste rather than the millions of great unwashed, undereducated, and unread masses that put so many awful books (DaVinci Code anyone?) on the bestsellers' list in the first place?


2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd add Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake. Also, Lionel Shriver's We Need to talk about Kevin.

4:49 AM  
Anonymous wordsalad said...

I love love love Toni Morrison's Beloved. I read it in AP English in high school and it blew me away. I'm not the type to re-read books generally, but I've read this one about 4-5 times.

6:35 AM  
Anonymous Abi said...

Ergh. There is too much Roth on that list. I would include Shiloh by Phyllis Naylor. Yes, it is for 3rd graders, but it evokes West Virginia well.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Yvette said...

This might sound like an odd question, but what's so "awful" about the Da Vinci Code? I had fun reading it and it looks like several million other people did too, and sometimes that's all your looking for in a book anyway. That and I'd prefer people read something rather than nothing, even if I wouldn't call it the pinnacle of literary fiction...

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd add anything by Barbara Kingsolver or Alice Munro.

8:57 PM  
Blogger LadyLazarus said...

Someone smarter than me noted that the Roth-heaviness is due to the fact that it's about individual novels, not individual authors. Though that's still no reason for the lack of women.

9:50 PM  
Blogger . said...


did you forget toni morrison also received a nobel prize in literature? and that beloved won the pulitzer in 1988?

just because it was on the best-seller list doesn't mean it lacked aesthetics. it meant she reached a wide range of people, and brought the worlds of literary academics and the not-so-well-read public closer together.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look at the list of Nobel and Pulitzer prize winners fifty years back, and see how many of them are still respected as serious writers rather than embodiments of the Zeitgeist.

Morrison has a period style. Once the politics of the 80s-00s have faded, so will much of her work, including the much overrated Beloved.

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Toni Morrison is the politically correct choice. But her writing is totally platitudinous and unstimulating.

12:50 AM  

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