Monday, August 4, 2008

TIME Magazine's 100 Best Novels: Part One of Three

If you click here, you can read TIME Magazine's list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 onwards. There are plenty of merits to this list, in that it doesn't countdown, like the Modern Library's list. There are also plenty of questionable entires on both lists, however. So let's take a look at half of the list and see which I've read and which I want to read and what I think about the list.

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
Never read it.

All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
Never read it and always wanted to. I think I have a cheap paperback of it from a used bookstore somewhere.

American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Eh. Not interested it. I've read the other Roth novel on this list.

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
I certainly own a copy and have never read it and have always wanted to.

Animal Farm by George Orwell
Read it in high school, didn't much care for it or for Orwell.

Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara
Never heard of it.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Never read it, but I've certainly used the title in numerous jokes.

The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
Never heard of it.

At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien
Never read it but it sounds interesting, and I like metafiction.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
Saw the movie, own the book, never read it, will read it.

Beloved by Toni Morrison
Always wanted to, never read it.

The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
Never read it.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
I've certainly read this more than once, and Chandler is one of the authors I would do my graduate work on if I had the chance. It's nice to see Chandler being recognized at the same level as these other powerhouses.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Never read it.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
I don't think I would have put this novel on here; instead I would have chosen All The Pretty Horses, but I know that this novel is far more appreciated by the critical community. This is still an amazing read full of the same violence and mystical prose as usual. Highly recommended.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Never read it - always wanted to.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
Never read it.

Call It Sleep by Henry Roth
Never read it.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Never read it - always wanted to.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Yes, I read it in high school and loved it back then. Now? It's still a good novel, but it creaks in places.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
I read this in high school and I liked it. Sort of. The linguistics were interesting, but the characters were flat.

The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
Never read it.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Now here's where it gets interesting. I really love this novel, but one of the greatest - since 1923? There's no way I would have put this on the list and left out Lady Chatterly's Lover.

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Well we all know I haven't read it.

A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
This is sort of cheating, considering it's a sequence of twelve novels. I haven't read it but it's on my list to read. I got the "First Movement" in one volume and I'm excited to start.

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
Read it and loved it.

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Never heard of it.

A Death in the Family by James Agee
Never read it.

The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
Never read it.

Deliverance by James Dickey
Saw the movie, hated it and never desired reading the book.

Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone
Never read it.

Falconer by John Cheever
Never read it, but I have read some short stories by Cheever and I like him okay.

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
Now this is a damn good novel. I read this in two days, waiting in the hospital and I loved practically every page. Fowles has such an elegant and lilting style and the intricacies of the metafiction and the characters and the plot was so perfect. No other Fowles novel has come close to entertaining me and wowing me like this one did.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Never read it - always wanted to.

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Never read it.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Really? This is on here? I've never read it and have no desire to. The movie was good, but mostly as an artifact of Golden-era Hollywood, rather than as a narrative.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Here's a novel that I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read.

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
I put in an effort to read it but to no avail.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I didn't read this until my fourth year of university and until then, I had very little desire to read Fitzgerald. After reading this novel, I still have no desire to read his other works. I just can't get behind it. I appreciate the artistry, but am not entertained by him. I would still put this on the list, however.

Okay, so that's the first three groupings, so there's two more parts to this posting. Before I stop, I would just like to point out that Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is conspicuously absent from the list, and that's a heartbreak. Neither are there any D. H. Lawrence novels on the entire list. That's just wacky.

2 comments:

Dan Conley said...

No offense, but why blog about the top 100 novels when you clearly haven't read much?

I've read about 3/4 of the books on that list and was hoping for an intelligent discussion of the list's strengths and weaknesses. Instead I got a re-run of Bill Murray's SNL Oscar predictions from the 70s.

matthew. said...

The discussion of the list comes at the end, rather than the beginning.