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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A novel list

Posted by: Jambo / 12:32 PM

Have you figured out that I like lists? Well I do. But what I really like are discussions, or even arguments if they are relatively civil. And I think ultimately that is why I like lists. Since no one ever agrees on just what should or should not be on any particular list they tend to start discussions. The one I have come across today is from Time Magazine and lists a couple guys' picks for the 100 best Novels (in English) since 1923, the year Time started publishing. I'm a little embarrassed to say that, not counting stuff I had to read in high school, that I have only read 20 of them. Tho one of them I do have signed by the author so I think that should count double. A few others, like the Sound and the Fury and to the Lighthouse have been sitting on my shelf for years while I try to come up with the mental energy to atempt them. There will no doubt be quite a few objections to the list, many of which I might agree with. I am happy to see Lord of the Rings on the list but I am also sympathetic to the arguments against including it in these sorts of counts. And the list does nothing to settle a long running debate I have with my friend JJ since both The Great Gatsby and the Grapes of Wrath are here.

And I must also mention one very pleasant surprise, the inclusion of the graphic novel The Watchmen. It's nice to see something from that medium get its due and there is no better choice in my mind. (Maus is the more famous member of the genera but it is non-fiction.) I read the series when it was originally put out as 12 single comics and was stunned. I have seen no comic since that compares. It was a triumph of non-linear storytelling with repeated themes and symbolism, married to a remarkable visual style. My favorite chapter graphically was Fearful Symmetry which loses a little of its cleverness when wedged into graphic novel form. If you open the original comic to the center, i.e. the staples, you will see that the panel layout on the left hand page is a mirror image of the right. Going one page forward and back repeats the style throughout so that eventually you see that the very first page mirrors the very last, each being nine panel layouts. To complete the effect the first page starts with a close up at street level that "pulls back" thru the page until the 9th panel is an overhead shot from the top of a building looking down while the last page starts with a far away shot that gradually zooms in for a close up in the final panel. It wasn't until subsequent readings that I noticed all the mirrored panels also included the same characters as well. The story is packed with the sort of things, both in the text and in the graphics, that reward close attention and repeated readings. If you have never "lowered" yourself to read a comic book do yourself a favor and check out The Watchmen.


Only 12 for me.

By Anonymous theealrepublican, at 1:12 PM  

I've only read 18, but any list that includes Richard Ford contains a grave error. I read Independence Day and was quite bored throughout. And, also. The Lord of the Rings isn't a novel at all, which is quite troubling.

By Blogger Hammer, at 1:23 PM  

Just the kind of discussion to get me out of a Wednesday afternoon funk. I think 20 is a respectable number--I mean it is almost a quarter: better than most people in the country, I am sure. Nice to see Herzog, Lolita, Blood Meridian and Tropic of Cancer on there--these are near the top of my personal list. Also like the Philip K Dick listing; but haven't read Ubik yet. One problem: where is Lady Chatterly's Lover from DH Lawrence? While this might not be his best book, it certainly is more deserving than many of these. Also, have any of you tried reading Infinite Jest by Wallace? Impenetrable, if you ask me.

By Anonymous Monostereo, at 1:28 PM  

Amy Tan, anyone? Oh yeah, this list was written by two men.

By Anonymous Mrs. Hammer, at 2:04 PM  

26 and one sixth (the one sixth being my two, so far, unsuccessful attempts at Infinite Jest. I will conquer it one of these days).

Hammer, you didn't read The Sportswriter. You can't judge The Sportswriter on Independence Day. It is not allowed.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:55 PM  

I think I just did. It would be unfair to judge Catch-22 by Something Happened or even the sequel ... whatever that was called. Still, I'm comfortable having read one Ford novel and not reading anything else.

By Blogger Hammer, at 3:04 PM  

I am completely unfamiliar with Richard Ford but if Hammer hates him and Lilbby Mae doesn't I can't help but think I should check him out. So which of the other books should I be reading?

By Blogger Jambo, at 3:22 PM  

Snowcrash from Stephenson is a pretty interesting Sci Fi book--a little like the Matrix, but written years before those movies. I also recommend Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Owen Wilson's character in Royal Tennenbaums is loosely-based on McCarthy; and that violent Western art on Eli Cash's walls has to be inspired from Blood Meridian. It is a violent book, but gripping and very well written.

By Anonymous Monostereo, at 3:38 PM  

I think I've read 15 or so, and saw movie versions of some. I'm surprised that The Color Purple isn't there... the book is excellent. Also, I have a question about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe... that was the first of the seven, right? If you go to a bookstore now to get the collection, The Magician's Nephew is the first and it's second. When did that happen?

By Anonymous Mrs. Ba Ha Ha, at 3:42 PM  

Cormac McCarthy is one of those authors I have known for years I should be reading but have never gotten around to. You're just trying to push me over the edge with the Royal Tennenbaums angle, aren't you?

By Blogger Jambo, at 4:01 PM  

Good to see some sci-fi has gotten out of the ghetto and onto a list like this. An even greater surprise to see the Watchmen. I about fell over when I saw that listed. Oh, and I got an even 20.

By Anonymous Jerjo of Adderall, at 9:38 PM  

Re: Narnia novels

They re-ordered them in Narnia time a while back (though they can't be strictly chronological, since some take place within the span of others). About the third time through them when I was a kid, that's the order I read them. I hadn't read them as an adult until a couple of years ago, and they still hold up.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was not my favorite of the seven, but I understand why they picked it.

I might also pick Fowles's Daniel Martin above The French Lieutenant's Woman, which is an undeniably great novel, but I found the metafiction aspects to be a little distracting.

I was happy to see Chandler's The Big Sleep on the list. I eagerly clicked on the "read the original review" link to find a single sentence.

By Blogger Joseph, at 9:38 AM  

Joseph, what about All the King's Men? I knew a guy in high school who thought that it was, get this, actually about Huey Long! Can you believe it? Now of course we know that Robert Penn Warren was actually covering a Dylan tune.

By Blogger Jambo, at 11:00 AM  

I read Warren's At Heaven's Gate. I was pretty pissed, because it had nothing to do with comets AT ALL.

By Blogger Hammer, at 11:05 AM  

I knew a guy in high school...

I remember that guy. What a doofus. Saw him reading How to Read a Book once.

All The King's Men was actually about Huey Lewis.

By Blogger Joseph, at 4:31 PM  

I just read that they're remaking All The King's Men with Jude Law as Jack Burden and Sean Penn as Willie Stark. Damn! James Gandolfini as Tiny, too.

By Blogger Joseph, at 4:36 PM  

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