Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Best American Fiction of the Last 25 Years.

Beloved? Really?

And for God's sake...Philip Roth is more boring than aspirin.

Blood Meridian I can see. There's a point in that book where you realize you're reading something that will never leave you. For me at least. I remember having that thought somewhere near the end, while the boy and the preacher are being hunted across the desert by the Judge and his man-child sidekick. A bizarre, vaguely Biblical sequence.

Jesus' Son, also. So glad that's on the list. Surprising, too.

And The Known World. Certainly my favorite novel of the last decade. Incredible.

But my personal favorite novel from the last 25 years is nowhere on the list. That book is American Psycho, which in my opinion is rivaled only by Lolita for the twin titles of Most Disturbing and Most Hilarious Book Ever.


evaeni said...

Roth is prodigiously boring. For some reason critics are willing to overlook this fact because once upon a time he had a man turn into a giant breast.

Somehow he made even that particular experience seem dull.

None of the books listed were overwhelmingly great. Apparently, poor taste is not limited to the layman.

NickAntosca said...

I do think the three I mentioned were overwhelmingly great, actually. But bizarre overpopulation of Roth titles on the list is distressing.

Trevor Johnson said...

I am happy that "Confederacy of Dunces" was included. I really liked that book for its quirky characters and the themes Toole explored. I was surprised that "Confederacy" didn't make Time's All-Time 100 Novels.

Another thing I've listened to and really enjoyed is "The History of the Devil" by Clive Barker. I only mention this in passing, and not as a contender for the Best American Fiction deal.

Noah Cicero said...

Easton Ellis kicks all their asses.

NickAntosca said...

Lunar Park was abysmally shitty.

But, yeah, American Psycho is one of the all-time great novels ever written. Reading it makes me feel like I'm getting a fever.

The Informers has some great stories too, like the very last one and the vampire one.

reader of depressing books said...

the list is absurd

reader of depressing books said...

here's the list of judges it says:

Kurt Andersen
Roger Angell
A. Manette Ansay
James Atlas
Russell Banks
John Banville
Julian Barnes
Andrea Barrett
Rick Bass
Ann Beattie
Madison Smartt Bell
Aimee Bender
Paul Berman
Sven Birkerts
Harold Bloom
Bill Buford
Ethan Canin
Philip Caputo
Michael Chabon
Susan Choi
Mark Costello
Michael Cunningham
Edwidge Danticat
Don DeLillo
Pete Dexter
Junot Diaz
Morris Dickstein
Andre Dubus III
Tony Earley
Richard Eder
Jennifer Egan
Dave Eggers
Lucy Ellmann
Nathan Englander
Louise Erdrich
Anne Fadiman
Henry Finder
Jonathan Safran Foer
Paula Fox
Nell Freudenberger
Carlos Fuentes
David Gates
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Julia Glass
Nadine Gordimer
Mary Gordon
Robert Gottlieb
Philip Gourevitch
Elizabeth Graver
Andrew Sean Greer
Allan Gurganus
Jim Harrison
Kathryn Harrison
Alice Hoffman
A. M. Homes
Maureen Howard
John Irving
Ha Jin
Thom Jones
Heidi Julavits
Ward Just
Mary Karr
William Kennedy
Frank Kermode
Stephen King
Maxine Hong Kingston
Walter Kirn
Benjamin Kunkel
David Leavitt
Chang-Rae Lee
Brad Leithauser
Frank Lentricchia
John Leonard
Jonathan Lethem
Alan Lightman
David Lodge
Ralph Lombreglia
Phillip Lopate
Janet Malcolm
Thomas Mallon
Ben Marcus
Peter Matthiessen
Ian McEwan
David Means
Daphne Merkin
Stephen Metcalf
Rick Moody
Lorrie Moore
Geoffrey O'Brien
Chris Offutt
Stewart O'Nan
David Orr
Cynthia Ozick
Ann Patchett
Tom Perrotta
Richard Gid Powers
William Pritchard
Francine Prose
Terrence Rafferty
Marilynne Robinson
Roxana Robinson
Norman Rush
Richard Russo
George Saunders
Liesl Schillinger
Joanna Scott
Jim Shepard
Karen Shepard
David Shields
Gary Shteyngart
Lee Siegel
Curtis Sittenfeld
Jane Smiley
Wole Soyinka
Scott Spencer
William Styron
Studs Terkel
Deborah Treisman
Anne Tyler
Mario Vargas Llosa
William T. Vollmann
Edmund White
Tom Wolfe
Tobias Wolff

Justin said...

Literary opinion is like professional wrestling or something.
It’s like professional wrestling, except instead of a bunch of ripped motherfuckers, they have a bunch of old white men that look both serious and slightly bemused.

It’s like Tom Wolfe will be like “John Updike is one of the three Stooges.” (found this on Wikipedia under him)

And then Updike will be like

“Wolfe, I’m going to destroy you!”

If you go to the site linked in the original post on here,

It has pictures of like, Updike, Roth, McCarthy and DeLillo, shots of their heads, and they all look like basically the same guy, like you took a bunch of passport photos of the same guy at different times and with his haircut slightly changing.

Actually Toni Morrison is also in that spread of photos and she also looks like a serious and slightly bemused old white man.

All those twenty-five books probably were written by the same guy, and he just gets members of his Rotary Club to pretend to be the other authors.

I want to write a story about this idea, but someone else can do it if they want.

(P.S. I don’t actually know what a Rotary Club is, but it makes me think of some kind of rollercoaster or something…like you’re being strapped into the Rotary Club, and there’s signs that are like “Caution: pregnant women and children under this height will not be admitted to the Rotary Club”)

reader of depressing books said...

"Actually Toni Morrison is also in that spread of photos and she also looks like a serious and slightly bemused old white man."

that is funny

jane said...

nick it's jane. i made a blog just so i could tell you I have reservations at Katz' Deli. NOT IN THE FACE is the other thing that i wanted to say.

NickAntosca said...

i don't think i know a jane...did i do something to your face?

i have never been to katz' deli, although i have walked past it.

Ian said...

I understand people's antipathy to Roth, as he can be rather ponderous at times, but I have to hand it to anyone who can write, "I was the Raskolnikov of jerking off...the sticky evidence was everywhere!"

jane said...

Nick it's jane. I made myself a blog just so i could tell you i have reservations at Katz' deli. and NOT THE FACE is the other thing I wanted to say. Its cranapple. . .cranapple and dove bars.

jane said...

they are lines from american psycho, fresh in the head. maybe i have the wrong guy. from the cloisters cafe? what with the armor and all.

NickAntosca said...

oh...jane "L. as in Lavender"? i called you in maybe october and you never called me back. i don't remember any armor. i need to reread american psycho now that i live in new york.

NickAntosca said...

Ian - fine, okay, that's a great sentence. What book is it in? I never get past the first few pages. Something about his writing just bores me so cruelly.

Ian said...

Portnoy's Complaint. I've read three of his novels, and this was the only one that didn't bore me -- though for the life of me all I can remember of it is that one scene when the narrator was a kid, projectile ejaculating in the family bathroom. I suppose that says something -- whether about the book or about me, I won't venture any guesses.

NickAntosca said...

I read the first page or two of that, and I just could not go any further. It wasn't wretched, or offensive, or was just...dead. That happened to me with The Human Stain and American Pastoral as well. Three pages, no more. I will try again. I will try Operation Shylock or whatever it's called.

Ian said...

Why? What do you stand to gain by reading something that bores you and likely will leave a dry imprint on your psyche, should it affect you at all?

I think that one's least favorite authors/books are just as idiosyncratic as one's most favorite. Personally, the fact that I derived little from, say, Catch-22, and yet thought that A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was the greatest novel ever published just evidences something about me as a reader; and insofar as one's reading influences one's writing, I would be well advised to read more Joyce and less Heller. Those themes, ideas, and methods that touch us will also enlighten us, and those that lay a dead hand upon us will conversely dull us.

I actually suspect that Roth means something particularly important to Jewish people. It's like reading Malamud and feeling at the end as if I've just watched the Lifetime channel for an afternoon -- no matter how hard I try, I'm not going to feel the profundity of the predicament presented in the material, because it doesn't apply to me -- at least not in its full force. That doesn't lessen the artistic accomplishment or minimize the aforementioned predicament in any way, but it does mean that my limited energies are perhaps better spent in another arena.

Maybe in a few years when you're going over the obligatory reading list like Professor Crowley, you can revisit Roth because you have to. Otherwise why bother, when there's so much compelling reading out there?