5.13.2006

All you had to do was ask, Sam!



Dear Miss Snark,

What is the best novel of the last 25 years?

Best regards,
Sam@NYT.c'mon


Glad you asked.

It's Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee.
Runner up: Fight Club, Chuck Pahlaniuk

Closely followed by everything by Pete Fromm, Craig Lesley, Alan Furst, Pete Dexter, and Raymond Carver.

29 comments:

simchi said...

raymond carver. yum.

Manic Mom said...

What about the best in the last five years?

mc said...

Miss Snark,

Surely you're aware that Raymond Carver never wrote a novel.......

S. W. Vaughn said...

I second the notion on Fight Club. Brilliant stuff. Now to get my hands on Native Speaker...

Ah, how the TBR pile grows.

Anonymous said...

I'm probably opening a can of worms here, but why is it that women's writing hardly ever registers a blip on lists of the best books, awards, etc? Unless it's an award that's specifically for women writers.

Dhewco said...

I hate to disagree with Miss Snark...but my favs are different.

Little Boy Blue, by Ed Bunker or

Regulators by King (or is it Bachman?)

I read the first when I was but a boy, and I still remember feeling chilled by the protagonists experiences with what must have been unchecked add/hd...leading to juvie, attempted murder and other such things.

Powerful book...of course, I realize it is from 80, a little out of time for the question..but it's been re-released by St Martin recently, so I think it still counts.

David

Anonymous said...

Um, anony...the best fiction of the past 25 years was written by a woman. Look it up. At least as voted on by the NYT. "Beloved", Toni Morrison.

So not only a woman but a (ahem) minority.

duncan said...

the only problem here is, Raymond Carver didn't write any novels. He wrote some of the best stories there are in English, and lots of poems, but no novels.

kitty said...

AMiss Snark, are you going to enter Killer Yapp?

Miss Snark said...

I keep forgetting he didn't write a novel. I love his work so much I think it's absolute instinct to spit out his name when anyone asks "Best?".

domynoe said...

I am soooooooooo not a Carver fan. My faves? Anything from Patricia McKillip. I'm enjoying my current read Wicked by Gregory Maguire.

Unfortunately, my work schedule is eating up my reading schedule and I haven't read as much as I would like so far. :(

Anonymous said...

Beg to differ! best work by Toni Morrison was not Beloved but Song of Solomon, which I think I've read 11 times. I read it about every two years and see more each time. I think with Beloved she was looking so directly at a painful issue--like staring into the sun--that the writing sometimes felt overdone.
Fight Club is brilliant and would have been even more brilliant if he had not tried to tie up the ends so neatly.
Native Speaker...oh yes.
What about John Henry Days? (Colson Whitehead)
Miss Snark, what are your top ten?

Miss Snark said...

oh my dog, how did I fail to mention Colson Whitehead?? The Intuitionist is my fave. Others excellent, but that one just rocks.

Jon Letham of course, too.

But, my test is can I read something years after I first read it and STILL love it....these two guys are too recently published for that test.

Brady Westwater said...

Fight Club?? Are you serious? Of course as a real fighter, I found the prose of poseur Pahlaniuk... pretty pitiful. So maybe I am prejudiced because of that.

As for my favorite... way too many to winnow down.

blaironaleash said...

Oh come on, why does it have to be last 25? I hate any 'best of' that doesn't allow me to name 'The Dud Avocado' by Elaine Dundy.

Craig Clevenger?

Anonymous said...

Anon #2, I was not aware that the NYT had voted Beloved best fiction of last 25 years. And I did not say that no women made the lists, only that there were so few that they 'barely registered a blip'. I'm looking at the numbers here.

That aside, people's personal faves are, I realize, highly individualized.

As for Beloved, I've read other Morrison books that I liked better. Beloved is not one of my faves; I hated the ending with a passion.

bonniers said...

They did include Raymond Carver, for a short story collection. It was best American fiction, not just novel. And they were carefully literary -- no Anne Rice or Stephen King.

Yes, Tony Morrison won, but Philip Roth took up six slots, Don DeLillo three, and Cormac McCarthy two. The only other woman on the list was Marilynne Robinson, for Housekeeping. Apparently we got multiples of misogyny, violence, predatory sex, and other such so there wouldn't be room for Anne Tyler, Joyce Carol Oates, Anita Shreve, Amy Tan, Ahab's Wife, Fried Green Tomatoes, etc. Can't have girl cooties on a serious literary list.

For the record, the others are:

John Updike (Rabbit series, almost a cheat because the collected volume came out during the 25 years but most of the individual volumes didn't)

John Kennedy Toole
Mark Helprin
Tom O'Brien
Dennis Johnson
Norman Rush
Richard Ford
Edward P. Jones

Why yes, I am feeling pissy about this. How could you tell?

Anonymous said...

I {heart} Bonniers.

I confess no small amount of dismay when I saw Miss Snark's list of "the best" and not one of my favorites nor a woman's name appeared at all. Then I remembered that of my favorites, none have been published more recently than 1970. Even with my limited math skills, I'm pretty sure that was more than 25 years ago.

They just don't write 'em like they used to.

Props to Miss Snark for being honest and devoid of ulterior feminist motives. If only I could be so fair!

Scribe said...

I was blown away by these modern masterpieces, in order:

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Shantaram by David Gregory Roberts
Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates
Wicked by Gregory Maguire

If you haven't read these yet, boy are you really missing out. Get thee to Borders...

Benny said...

Interesting- less than 30 percent of those who actually responded to Tanenhaus's were women.

I'm not really one to read into these things because I think the whole list is skewed and yet another pointless exercise in the NYTBR's crusade to prove its period of relevancy has not long passed. However, choosing Beloved was totally token. It only got something like 15 votes out of 120-something, anyway.

I don't think it's necessarily a bad that that cooties are kept off the serious literary list. Just as agents and editors differentiate between genre and literary fiction when makes sales and editing, a reviewer would also approach Great American Literature with the appropriate standards in mind. That doesn't mean that these books are the most popular or well-loved, or even the most relevant... but, like I said, it IS the NYTBR. Heh. -Anne Tyler was a voter. She could have voted for herself... ;-)

S. W. Vaughn said...

Now, now, Brady. :-) Fight Club wasn't about the fights. It was more of a social commentary on the dangers of capitalism, and the rewards of throwing off the shackles of "keeping up with the Joneses" and...



SPOILER WARNING for those who haven't read Fight Club....



...creating imaginary friends. :-)

I might be just a touch over-analytical here, but IMHO I don't think Palanhiuk's sole intent was to get as much gore and violence in as possible. Though it was certainly a nice bonus. :-)

Anonymous said...

brady westwater, if you are a real fighter, i REALLY would like to know what dark or violent literature stands out for you. i'm not asking lightly. i'm of the flannery o'connor school--interested in violence in literature as transformative, as a vehicle of grace.

angels, by denis johnson, and also the short story Emergency
optimists, the short story by richard ford
robert stone...cormac mccarthy... and definitely song of solomon by morrison (that was my post on song vs. beloved)

thanks!

Dan Leo said...

I like Miss Snark's "But, my test is can I read something years after I first read it and STILL love it...." But here's a Snarkful challenge: how about Great Classics that you never ever in a thousand years want to read again? I'll start off: Moby-(goddam) Dick.

HawkOwl said...

No Great Mischief by Allistair McLeod. I misspell his first name every time but that was THE best novel. Ever.

Runner up: White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Not even close to the other one, but still pretty good.

Benny said...

Never read again: The Old Man and the Sea.

Even this Hemingwayophile has her limits.

Anonymous said...

How come nobody mentioned William Gaddis? Truly great in himself and his influences. I guess everyone here is into easy reading.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I LOVE the Dud Avocado. I need to look for a copy for my daughter.

When she was still in high school, my kid had to read The Great Gatsby about the time one of her friends was having some sort of depressing crisis in her home life (I'd like to knock some parents' heads together) and the combination just about did her in. She came to me with tears in her eyes and said, "I need... I need something..." I said, "What about Pride and Prejudice?" Oh, that was it, she found it and started re-reading it, and the sun came out. Since then she has read and appreciated other Fitzgerald fiction, but she can't stand Gatsby. Can't stand to mention it.

bonniers said...

I don't think it's necessarily a bad that that cooties are kept off the serious literary list. Just as agents and editors differentiate between genre and literary fiction when makes sales and editing, a reviewer would also approach Great American Literature with the appropriate standards in mind.

I think you misunderstood what "girl cooties" means. It's the reaction of grade-school boys who think they've been contaminated by being around girls.

Too many so-called men never outgrow it. They tend to think that because Anita Shreve writes about family relationships instead of about insane dudes beating up on each other, that means she's not as good a writer as Pahlaniuk.

Supposedly grown women are not immune from this phenomenon either. You don't want to be ghettoized with "women's fiction," so you start to denigrate work that isn't about the themes men consider important.

Brady Westwater said...

As for the request for the 'dark and violent' prose about fighting - that is not the point of fighting.

For those of us who approach it as a sport - it is almost spiritual experience. And I am not talking about the whole Eastern martial arts thing. For the ten years I fought in bars and other places for money - 95% of the time any fight ended with a handshake and a shared drink.

And as I now write about those years, what stands out is the humor and the pure joy of the experience.

Agreed, Fight Club has nothing to do with fighting. My problem with the book is that it debased what used to be an essential part of the male experience.

Ironically, though, since CP wrote the book - he has taken up grappling and he has now come to love the sport of fighting and appears to have at last begun to understand the joys of the experience.