Saturday, May 13

Best of, Shmest of

The New York Times went around and sent letters to "a couple of hundred prominent writers, crtics, editors and other literary sages" and asked them what they thought was "the single best work of American fiction in the last 25 years." A.O. Scott acknowledges that the question "invites..a scrutiny of assumptions and categories":
"What do we mean, in an era of cultural and economic globalization, by 'American'? Or, in the age of James Frey, reality television and W.M.D.'s, what do we mean by 'fiction'? And if we know what American fiction is, then what do we mean by 'best'?"
The resulting list wasn't really that interesting to me. For one, the list by dominated by men--Philip Roth, John Updike and Don DeLillo with several novels each. Sure, the top pick was Toni Morrison's Beloved, but I've come to connect her with Oprah, which leads us to Dr. Phil, and it's a short way down from there.

Except for Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried and Carver's Where I'm Calling From, I don't think I was even enticed by all the others in the list. Perhaps American fiction isn't really where the action is. Where are the fun books? When will Tyra Banks create her own book club?

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