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October 19, 2005


There's no Flannery O'Conner, Thomas Wolfe or John Dos Passos ?????

DaveC: I suspect that, in the case of O'Connor, it's that they weren't counting short stories. Dos Passos I've always thought was one of those either-you-like-it-or-you-don't things. Wolfe, now that you mention it, is bizarre. And the exclusion of any one of the three on a list that includes GWTW is horrible.

Wise Blood is a good book. But of course many of her stories are much richer and better than most good novels. Though some of those I found about as pleasant as, say, _Eraserhead_.

I'm a huge Wolfe fan. If Peace or The Shadow of the Torturer isn't on there, shame on them.

Any such list that includes Neuromancer but not one single book by Robert Heinlein is scarcely worth the effort to sneer at. In fact, the list seems to suffer from a distinct dearth of science fiction, in which genre there is no shortage of legendary literature.

They didn't stick rigorously to the one book per author rule. Orwell and Faulkner are both doubly represented, with 1984 and Animal Farm, and Light in August and The Sound and the Fury. Not sure if there are other exceptions.

Also Lolita and Pale Fire from Nabokov.

I agree with Catsy. More Speculative Fiction; they could have put Handmaids tale by Margareth Atwood at the list for starters.

OK if "Snow Crash" (which I have nothing against, even if it is pulp fiction) made it they have no excuse for leaving out Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany"

Neuromancer but not one single book by Robert Heinlein is scarcely worth the effort to sneer at.

Ditto, catsy. "Stranger in a Strange Land" should have been on there.

why would anyone -- anyone at all -- put Gone With The Wind on a list of the top 100 novels of the day it was published, let alone the last 82 years?

Perhaps for the same reason that Jane Eyre might go on a list of the top 100 novels? Because it is an immortal novel - one that people still read for pleasure even seventy years after it was published.

And if they wanted to put a kid's book on the list, why on earth choose Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, instead of (say) something by Madeleine L'Engle?

I'm interested by that choice - not that I think I would have put Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret on the list: I can think of children's novels I think are finer: but I will admit that particular novel, when I read it, said something to me that I very badly needed to hear, that I didn't know I needed to hear it till it was said to me, and that no other writer, and no one else I knew, was saying.

i'd swap out as i lay dying for the sound and the fury any day.

all in all, it's an odd list. restriction to works in english seems oddly... restrictive. it seems that my tastes tend more towards translated authors, though. any review of this time period seem lifeless without borges, saramago and, arguably, marquez. if we're to include plays, stoppard has to be there, as does garcia lorca.

1923? 1922 Ulysses.

Ubik? High Castle or Martian Time-Slip
Read Cheever stories first
I like Great Notion better than Cuckoo's Nest
Good Soldier too early?
I like Anne Tyler
I am an ignorant slut for reading JR instead of Recognitions

Is My Pet Goat on the list?

Is My Pet Goat on the list?

no, but i heard the cult classic August 6th PDB, "Bin Laden determined to strike in US", nearly made the list. it was cut when they concluded that not enough people had actually read it.

Sunlight Dialogues -- John Gardner

I'd have chosen Love in the Ruins over Moviegoer, or both for the Percy.

And The End of the Road over Sot-Weed factor for the Barth.

Where's Rushdie? Or did the fatwa frighten them off?

J.P. Donleavy?

Finnegan's Wake Yes, so what?

Would Paul Theroux fit? And Doris Lessing?

Was Malamud on there?

And I'm sorry, but given the list as it is, why have we forgotten about Thomas McGuane?

The Horse's Mouth -- Joyce Cary

Pynchon's on there twice as well, for COL49 and Gravity's Rainbow. Nice work including Watchmen, I thought.

As for the above:

Ubik? High Castle or Martian Time-Slip
A Scanner Darkly.

Agreed on Snow Crash - if any Stephenson book can argue for inclusion, it's Cryptonomicon. I know that book has its passionate detractors and defenders, but so do all the books on the list, much more so than SC.

i'd swap out as i lay dying for the sound and the fury any day
Agreed, but I certainly think Light in August is properly on that list.

Wise Blood is a good book
I actually like The Violent Bear It Away better, with its stark three-act catastrophe.

And The End of the Road over Sot-Weed factor for the Barth
You are insane.

Where's Rushdie?

Midnight's Children is there, as it should be.

I've read too few of the list, but if Stephenson's going to be on there, I too am a proponent of including Cryptonomicon rather than Snow Crash.

I do agree with Neuromancer, not because it's Gibson's best work (probably close, but there's room for disagreement), but because it was groundbreaking.

I'd kick Margaret Mitchell the hell off, and put in anything by Pat Conroy, or even anything by Wally Lamb. I'd have suggested Sinclair Lewis as being a representative of that timeframe, but I've only read Main Street and Arrowsmith; Main Street is unsuitable time-wise and Arrowsmith, although a good book, is not as widely read.

If we're going to put up a Heinlein book, I would lean more toward The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. It's not that I'm not fond of SIASL, but I do think that TMIAHM is a much better (not to mention well-edited) story.

American Pastoral, Infinite Jest ?

isn't it a bit early to put these in the "All Time" list ?

no Twain ?

Blood Meridian ? i remember that book for its convoluted prose (and use of the word "slathered") more than anything else.

(other peoples') lists. bah.

ah.. 1923. yeah, that might explain Twain.

Mark Helprin's "A Soldier of the Great War" beats about half of what is on that list.

I can't believe I forgot Pat Conroy, and Heinlein.

T C Boyle should have been a contender.

I think that Conrad Richter's "The Trees / The Fields / The Town" deserves some consideration as well.

I didn't think Neuromancer, on its own merits, was either particularly groundbreaking nor particularly good. It's not that I have anything against cyberpunk--of which genre Neuromancer was not even the first--it's just that I don't think Gibson is a very good writer. Obviously, some people disagree.

As for Heinlein, I'm inclined to agree above--either SIASL or TMIAHM should have made it. Both are legendary; Mistress is a better book but I'd argue that Stranger had more impact.

Agreed also on Cryptonomicon being a better book than Snow Crash; however, Snow Crash is more accessible and widely read.

Sorry, folks, but I have to guess you're just bashing Snow Crash as a comedic book. It's certainly not pulp fiction; it's a classic in the cyberpunk genre, despite (because) its being a clear parody of the entire genre conventions.

It's also definitely a lot more influential than Cryptonomicon: it seems incredibly common in literature circles, plus it's a more in-genre SF novel.

But of course, I don't think it and Neuromancer should be in the same list, because it is an overrpresentation of cyberpunk (which was, after all, a rather short-lived movement) What about classic groundbreaking Fantasy, like Lovecraft or Dunsany?

Still, at least they included Watchmen.

Like all such lists, the problem is that "great" here doesn't know if it wants to mean "popular," "historically significant," or artistically "great" in some vaguely defined way. Significant as Mitchell is in popular culture, it's a little unfair to ask her to hold her own with Faulkner and Nabokov and Woolf. And as much as I enjoy Gibson and Moore and Stephenson, suggesting that they're among the "greatest" works of the last century is just, well, silly.

There's no Patrick White, no Morley Callahan, no Dawn Powell, no Katherine Anne Porter, no Gore Vidal, just to name a few more deserving.

Um, I'm not really bashing Snow Crash - I liked it a lot, for the reasons you mention. But if you don't think that Snow Crash was meant to move about a thousand miles an hour and be pulpy as all hell, you must have read a different edition than I did, or something.

I hadn't read that Helprin book, wilfred, but I'll put it on my list (near the top). I've read A Winter's Tale and Memoir From Antproof Case, the latter of which certainly deserves to be on the list more than quite a few that were included.

Oh, and one reason I discount Snow Crash (among others; I just don't think it was his best work and certainly not better than The Diamond Age) is the entire reason his villain is anywhere near the threatening dude he is is this notion that one can actually make a functional super-sharp knife from plate glass whose molecule-fine blade will survive first contact with anything substantial.

While a big fan of P.K. Dick (currently re-reading a battered copy of Ubik), and I have all his books except the weird religious ones he published near the end), Heinlein (have all his books), and Neal Stephenson, come ON, people. The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz would come way, way before those, as well as Down and Out In Paris and London by Orwell (yeah, I know, already represented), Homage to Catalonia by you-know-who, or many other under-represented authors who were far, far better writers.

Speculative fiction is fun, and I'm especially an admirer of P.K. Dick, but the man wrote poorly, to be generous, as did Heinlein. Sorry, but the attraction is to the ideas they presented, not to the skill with which they wrote. I still cringe at some of Heinlein's ham-fisted dialogue when I read it. "Oh cheree, I am so 'appee." Shudder.

I'm happy they have Gaddis on there, although I think JR is better than The Recognitions. Richard Yates too--he's a great writer kind of lost in the shuffle.

What should be on there: Jane Bowles' Two Serious Ladies, Beckett's Watt (or Murphy), Miss Lonelyhearts instead of Day of the Locusts, Delaney's Dhalgren, and last but not least, Finnegans Wake.

ST, I still don't think Snow Crash is pulp fiction. In particular, it doesn't have the thin characters I associate with typical pulp stories... sure, it's a novel that races along, rocket-propelled, but that doesn't suffice to make it pulp fiction.

But Slart, its the conjunction of technology and eastern warrior mysticism! Don't you get it? Cyber! Cyber! Cyber!

OT - Man, this Wolf Parade album is good.

Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree on exactly how three-dimensional Hiro Protagonist was, or was meant to be.

To add to the list of inexplicible omissions: What about A Confederacy Of Dunces? Anything (anything) by Joyce Carol Oates or Ursula K. LeGuin??!!??

Both Blonde and The Left Hand Of Darkness are far more deserving of recognition than a number of the titles included here (Gone With The Wind my black ass...)

Personally I think a lot of Snow Crash's reputation is based on the first 15-20 pages, which are fantastic. It slows down a lot after that, though, IMO.

As for who else deserves to be on the list, I cast my vote for Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose. :)

Amen on Eco, but for me, Foucault's Pendulum wins by a nose. Except, of course, that both of those wonderful books were written in Italian.

If I was going to put a William Gibson novel on the list, it would be Pattern Recognition instead of Neuromancer. Gibson has really come into his own as a stylist. And I'm told it's the first piece of literature to use "Googled" as a verb.

Including Blind Assassin over The Handmaid's Tail = "A bunch of the former got remaindered and the publisher would like help moving them."

Much the same way, why Ishiguro's latest rather than The Remains of the Day? What makes the former "greater" than the latter?

Nice to see Raymond Chandler on there.

The list looks bad enough if it's limited to novels written in English only; it's even worse if we're adding translations.

I'm not sure how much SF I'd put on the list at all. Of anglophone writers I'm thinking only Delany and Ballard--and maybe Le Guin--have the chops to really compete with the big girls & boys on a list of "great" 20th century novels. Then, I think I'd be more likely to put Peake on my list than Tolkien, too.

Gormenghast! Yay! (source of one of my favorite lines ever: "You say 'ah', but I tell you, it is more than ah!")

Covaithe--Personally I think a lot of Snow Crash's reputation is based on the first 15-20 pages, which are fantastic. It slows down a lot after that, though.

The first chapter of it is exerpted in the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Fiction, along with The Crying of Lot 49 and White Noise.

On any list like this one, look to inclusion in some popular academic anthology as a big selection factor, since it will be a touchpoint for many people who have read little 'canon' since college.

Margaret Mitchell also likely makes the list because it is arguably the best selling novel of all time and the alternative (Valley of the Dolls) is an even bigger embarassment on a list like this.

"I didn't think Neuromancer, on its own merits, was either particularly groundbreaking nor particularly good. It's not that I have anything against cyberpunk--of which genre Neuromancer was not even the first...."

Although I am a mass of personal bias on all this, I'm fairly curious what you regard as better, earlier, novels of cyberpunk, as well as those that render the book non-groundbreaking. Elaboration, perhaps, please?

"Speculative fiction is fun, and I'm especially an admirer of P.K. Dick, but the man wrote poorly, to be generous, as did Heinlein."

I'd agree that Dick -- who wrote a lot of work under speed, and deadlines of mere days, or a couple of weeks -- wrote awkwardly, and not stylistically admirably.

Heinlein, on the other hand, whatever his various faults, of which there are a number, wrote quite differently. While not absenting him from criticism at all, I'm rather startled to see such two different writers grouped in being flawed; they are both flawed, but in entirely different ways. Other than both writing in the science fiction genre, and both being given to short and punchy (Heinlein with skill, as a rule; Dick, not so much), I can't see how they are at all in common. I'm a little baffled to see them grouped as if their flaws are much related. And is Heinlein's better work actually "written poorly"?

Since I started the Snow Crash "bashing." Which I don't think anyone is doing, after all I really enjoyed it and have read it several times. But most of the characters are stock cutouts and Hiro is clearly a Mary Sue type, again this is not in and of itself a bad thing. It's just that as a

clear parody of the entire genre conventions.

It just didn't work for me (although I haven't read much cyberpunk). I do like it because it is a fast paced thriller/adventure (except when Stephenson gets bogged down in ancient Babylon). I will say that the world Stephenson created in Snow Crash was facinating and well ahead of its time, having been written prior to the popularization of the internet.

thanks for the recomendations Slarti, I really need to read both of those Helprin books. They have to beat "The Historian" which I'm slogging through now.

And why, oh why, is Catcher in The Rye ALWAYS on these lists? It was a stultifying tale told by an unpleasant protaganist. I have never met anyone like Holden, and I never want to.

The sad part is, everything else Salinger wrote is brilliant, and nobody pays it any attention.

trilobite: you calling me nobody? ;)

I came across a copy of _Nine Stories_ recently and tried reading it without success.

Any list which doesn't have A Canticle for Liebowitz isn't worth much. One of the best books EVER.

I also miss Asimov. And Night's Dawn Trilogy from Peter Hamilton. Can't they do a best SF list ;) ?

I've not read all of the books. I am curious about the latest Ishiguro now though ;) and will move watchmen more to the top of the pile. I didn't like V for Vendetta much, so maybe Moore is not my thing. And in the graphical novels section I think Palestine by Joe Sacco should win. Though that is not fiction of course.

Big snooze for Watchmen.

The Big Sleep isn't Chandler's best book, or his second best book.

Midnight's Children is there, as it should be.

What about Shame? The Ground Beneath Her Feet? The Moor's Last Sigh?

And why choose Money (Martin Amis) over the far superior London Fields?

That said, I'm happy to see Bowles' The Sheltering Sky and Kingsly Amis' Lucky Jim made the list.

Oh, for the love of God, Infinite Jest made the list. I liked it better the first time, when it was entitled Gravity's Rainbow (also, correctly this time, on the list).

von lives!

Let me also add to the cry over the absence of Ms. L'Engle from the list, as well as the inexplicable failure to name The Left Hand of Darkness.

Mrs. Dalloway's absence is also hard to explain. (Somehow, between junior year of HS and senior year of college, I recycled the same paper on Mrs. Dalloway no less than three times. Hmm. Maybe that's my explanation.)

von lives!

And in Hartford, CT, no less. Whew. Long day of meetings and travels; now time for bed (so it can start all start again).

John Crowley's _Little, Big_ isn't on the list, so the list is an offense in the eyes of G*d.

And now that I know that some authors did make it on twice, I can say: what about To The Lighthouse?

Is it just books they reviewed?

I propose Instance of The Fingerpost or The Dream of Scipio, by Iain Pears. Two of the most accomplished novels I have read in the last ten years, and so disturbing that I have yet to reread them.

Also, if you're going to put in I, Claudius, how about The Last of The Wine or The Mask Of Apollo, which are more historically accurate, more imaginative, and more relevant to the modern world.

I like Snow Crash a lot, but I think its McGuffin is a little too silly for that book to make the list. If you want free-wheeling philosophical absurdist sf, try Varley's The Golden Globe, or Matt Ruff's The Public Works Trilogy (one volume, despite the title)

Hilzoy, I would never dream of calling you nothing. Ah, but the things I do dream of...

st: "You are insane."

Yes, but insanity earned me the just dessert of my own open thread.

On the other hand, I could have chosen "Giles Goat-Boy".

I agree with Phil-- I'm surprised that they chose Atwood's The Blind Assassin instead of A Handmaid's Tale.

With The Left Hand Of Darkness, A Wizard of Earthsea, and The Disposessed (all LeGuin), at least one should have made it.

A Handmaid's Tale was flawed I thought by an agenda and by being not very good. I thought Cat's Eye was much better and The Blind Assassin was much better received than either.

No Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle on the list either.

What about Shame? The Ground Beneath Her Feet? The Moor's Last Sigh?

Well sure, I'd put Rushdie's entire oeuvre in front of some of their selections (though to be honest, I haven't read Shame). For that matter, what about Satanic Verses -- that has the notoriety to go along with the literary merit.

I think I'd also have put A Confederacy of Dunces on my personal list, although there are many books on Time's list that I haven't read, so perhaps it wouldn't make the cut for a more voracious reader.

And in Hartford, CT, no less.

Hey, you're in my neck of the woods! (That is, assuming a neck can stretch for 45 miles). Hope you've had a chance to enjoy the New England autumn.

See, these lists are not actually designed to be an objective ranking, rather their sole purpose is to give readers an opportunity to show off their erudition and refined taste while criticizing them and to get people to discuss literature once in a while - so what's not to like ;)

Since I have not added any actual literary grist to the mill (surely some sort of capital crime for a lit critter, whether he believes in canons or not), I had best weigh in.

I'd like to add Dictee by Theresa Cha to the mix. It is completely outside of my focus area (posthumanism, rhetoric, literature and technology), but I found it fascinating, haunting, and beautiful.

"While a big fan of P.K. Dick (currently re-reading a battered copy of Ubik), and I have all his books except the weird religious ones he published near the end), Heinlein (have all his books), and Neal Stephenson, come ON, people."

I can't believe you're saying that while rereading Ubik. The thing's a work of genius. That said, I agree with other posters complaining about LeGuin's omission.

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