Friday, May 19, 2006

Best American Fiction

The New York Times recently undertook an unscientific poll of a hundred writers, critics, etc, to try to compile a list of the best American fiction of the last 25 years.


There are not a lot of surprises. I found that a lot fo my favorite fiction from that time period is not American (Ian McEwen, J.M. Coetzee, Nick Hornby, Zakes Mda, V. S. Naipaul, etc.). Since my ambit is nonfiction, naturally i have not read everything on the list. Notable omissions? Anything on the list that does not belong? Do you agree that Beloved is the best work of American fiction in the last quarter century? Discuss.

2 comments:

montana urban legend said...

The link was down, but I perused that article the other day. I'm not sure what they're counting as "American" - certainly not all the authors (Coetzee, others?). It might be less ambitious, but more interesting to note authors who have deftly captured something distinctively identifying in the American spirit, like Kerouac (whom I haven't read) or Dave Eggers (who while too young to make such a list, did an incredible job introducing a new literary format to describe the all too uniquely identifying experience of living and working in San Francisco during the tech boom of the '90s and trying to get on MTV's The Real World, while raising his newly orphaned younger brother).

Now if that isn't uniquely indentifying to the American experience, I don't know what is.

dcat said...

I should clarify that Coetzee, etc. are on my list of favorites, and that shows that i have not been reasding as much American fiction as other stuff. their list is wholly American writers. In fact, maybe I can reproduce it here:

THE WINNER:
Beloved

Toni Morrison
(1987)


THE RUNNERS-UP:
Underworld

Don DeLillo

(1997)

Blood Meridian

Cormac McCarthy

(1985)

Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels

John Updike


American Pastoral

Philip Roth

(1997)


THE FOLLOWING BOOKS ALSO RECEIVED MULTIPLE VOTES:
A Confederacy of Dunces

John Kennedy Toole

(1980)


Housekeeping

Marilynne Robinson

(1980)

Winter's Tale

Mark Helprin

(1983)


White Noise

Don DeLillo

(1985)


The Counterlife

Philip Roth

(1986)

Libra

Don DeLillo

(1988)


Where I'm Calling From

Raymond Carver

(1988)


The Things They Carried

Tim O'Brien

(1990)


Mating

Norman Rush

(1991)



Jesus' Son

Denis Johnson

(1992)


Operation Shylock

Philip Roth

(1993)


Independence Day

Richard Ford

(1995)


Sabbath's Theater

Philip Roth

(1995)


Border Trilogy

Cormac McCarthy


Philip Roth

(2000)



The Known World

Edward P. Jones

(2003)

The Plot Against America

Philip Roth

(2004)


I agree on some of the authors you mention -- think of the whole McSweeney's/Believer crew, for example. And it seems to me that the list reflects the elite opinions of favorite authors -- Philip Roth gets a lot of play there, similarly Updike, McCarthy, etc. It's definitely a list of a certain type.

dcat