Monday, May 22, 2006

It was a very good 25 years. . .

Slate weighs in on the NYT Book Review's list of the best works of fiction of the past 25 years: "Beloved, really?" and "The neglected short novels." (titles mine)

I've been a bit interested to read that Beloved was the presumptive favorite from the beginning. A. O. Scott, in his essay describing the process of creating this list, cites judes who provided "explanations of why [they] were not voting for Beloved, the expected winner." Stephen Metcalf, one of the judges, echoes in his article on Slate the assertion that "from the moment the solicitously hand-typed letter from the Times Book Review arrived in the mail, Beloved was the presumptive winner."

I'm a bit surprised that it felt like such a foregone conclusion. Sure, Morrison is the most recent American Nobel winner, and Beloved is generally considered her masterpiece. (We won't consider the mediocre Oprah film version--Morrison can't be held responsible for that.) All the same, is Morrison really so far and away above Roth? Scott seems to think that the lack of a difinitive Roth omnibus cost him in the survey, since votes for his work were split between so many of his titles.

In all fairness, I've never read Roth, and Beloved is pretty damn good. My favorite works tend to be from the first half of the 20th Century anyway. Hemingway, Faulkner, Joyce and Forster.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Tangentially relevant, I love A.O. Scott's movie reviews. Even when I disagree with him, I value his insight.

If you haven't yet seen his take on The DaVinci Code, it makes for an entertaining read.