Thursday, May 11, 2006

Best books

The May 21 issue of the New York Times Book Review will feature a list of the best American fiction of the last 25 years. The list itself, as well as the names of the judges, were posted today on the website
The list of judges was long, impressive, and diverse, including writers and critics, men and women, popular and experimental, old lions and young. The list of winning works, however, was overwhelmingly from the white, male and elderly. Except for the winner.
Toni Morrison's Beloved topped the list, but from there the winners were Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, John Updike and Philip Roth. In the list of others receiving "multiple votes," Roth came up five more times, while DeLillo and Updike came up again twice and McCarthy once. The rest: John Kennedy Toole, Tim O'Brien, Mark Helprin (one for the fantastic side, with Winter's Tale!), Raymond Carver, Norman Rush, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford and Edward P. Jones.
Oh yes, and Marilynne Robinson. With the note that her novel Housekeeping "was not reviewed by the Times." That was the only book among the winners that was so mentioned.
I don't know that I could support tossing any of them out, though I could think of some that I would have voted in. My reading is erratic, and I've read too few of the latest novels to be any sort of expert. The consensus, however, among so many polled was certainly striking.

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