Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fragment 2007


The Modern Library list of ‘100 best novels published in English since 1900’ has stirred vast amounts of controversy since it was published ten years ago. Some interesting points which arose in the subsequent discussions, are the preeminence of American writers (as against the under representation of Indians, for example, who have written some of the best novels certainly in the latter half of the century); the whole notion of a list, and the random number of a 100 (rubbish, lists are great!); the preeminence of modernism in the list (all that Conrad, Forster, and Woolfe); the under representation of women writers (the inclusion of the grossly overrated Wide Sargasso Sea seems to Murr to be a sop to the feminists’ objections in this area); the weighting of the list towards books published in the first 50 years of the century.
Another very interesting debate was stirred when readers polled their own 100 best novels, creating a list in which Ayn Rand and L Ron Hubbard feature very heavily in the top 10. This for Murr stomps all arguments about who knows best: readers or critics. Readers who think the rancid incompetent drivelings of Rand and Hubbard are the best fictional works in English simply should never be let out of the house, let alone be allowed to vote on an issue like this. Vive l’ elite!
The ones in italics are those I have read. The ones in bold are the ones I think should be removed. Either because I have read them and think they are crap, or because I don’t think the writer is worth inclusion in any list of greats: D.H. Lawrence, who is execrable, Dreiser, who is just exceptionally boring, and Hemingway, who is too full of Hetero Posturing to be truly great. I also loathe Anthony Powell as a person (I hate that kind of English aristocratic snobbery, and Powell was very rude about Auden, an immeasurably better artist and human being). Apart from these, I have not removed anything I have not yet read, to give the benefit of the doubt to the Board.


1. ULYSSES by James Joyce
2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce

4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
7. CATCH-22
8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck

11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
13. 1984 by George Orwell
14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves

15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
21. HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow
22. APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA by John O'Hara
23. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
29. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell
30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
36. ALL THE KING'S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding

42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence

50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller

51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
52. PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
57. PARADE'S END by Ford Madox Ford
58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
61. DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP by Willa Cather
62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
63. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever
64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad

68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell
71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
76. THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark
77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling
79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
80. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
81. THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH by Saul Bellow

82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow

87. THE OLD WIVES' TALE by Arnold Bennett
88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
89. LOVING by Henry Green
90. MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy
93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch

96. SOPHIE'S CHOICE by William Styron
97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
98. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain
99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington

This gives me 11 books to replace. Here is my (preliminary, tentative) list of inclusions.

1. MYRA BRECKINRIDGE/MYRON by Gore Vidal
2. NARRATIVES OF EMPIRE(Series) by Gore Vidal
3. CARPENTER'S GOTHIC by William Gaddis
4. THE RECOGNITIONS by William Gaddis
5. GRAVITY'S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon
6. A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES by John Kennedy Toole
7. A SUITABLE BOY by Vikram Seth
8. A FINE BALANCE by Rohinton Mistry
9. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALICE B. TOKLAS by Gertrude Stein
10. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
11. THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK by Doris Lessing

3 comments:

Rory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rory said...

Just to play devil's advocate, I would actually put 'Atlas Shrugged' on there, or 'The Fountainhead'. My motto is: even if you don't like them, or if you disagree with what she says, in the end, you can't deny that it was well written and worth reading.

I mean, I disagree with Victor Hugo's idea that a man can be passionate and try to save his soul, but is constantly hunted by tragedy, but that doesn't mean I dismiss the quality of 'Les Miserables' or 'Ninety-Three'.

Murr said...

Usually, the devil needs no advocate as he holds all the winning cards anyway...
It's a good point, about disagreeing with an idea, but still appreciating the quality of the way something is written. The only problem is that Rand's (and even more Hubbard's) books are simply not well written, and therefore not worth reading. They are imo pure junk.