The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

21 November 2005

Hundred best, my eye

Steph Mineart has read 41 of Time's 100 Best Novels, and she has some issues with the list:

When I read the list I was disappointed at what was missing and some of the crap they included. These people can't tell me they actually read Infinite Jest. I don't believe it. And what the hell is Are you there God, It's me Margaret doing on this list? If they needed to pick a teen novel, there are 30 better than that.

I tried to read Infinite Jest. Really, I did. Eventually I decided to perform an experiment: climb a ladder, drop Infinite Jest and Pynchon's V. into a tub, and decide which of them I would miss less when they hit the water.

Tie goes to the shorter title.

She also didn't like The French Lieutenant's Woman ("TOTAL SUCKAGE!") and Portnoy's Complaint ("SUCKED!"). (Me, I sort of liked Portnoy, but it's hardly a great novel, and it's a lousy after-dinner read.)

So we're not completely on the same page. Not a problem. This question, however, I can resolve:

I also wonder why they picked the year 1923 as the starting point. What's significant about that year?

One of the great moments of the 20th century, according to Time's reckoning: the first issue of Time (third of March, to be exact).

Posted at 6:17 AM to Almost Yogurt


Chaz, It's a flawed list. No question about it and your Judy Blume book is just one of many examples. How can anyone make a list of the 100 greatest novels and not include Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage? Like you, I found the omissions most striking.

Posted by: MikeSwi... at 9:59 AM on 21 November 2005

By the way, My comment about Of Human Bondage was a slap at TIME for choosing the birth of their magazine as a starting point. Maugham's classic was published in 1915. I noticed on the TIME site that they couldn't even quite decide what kind of list this was. At the top of the page, the header says, "ALL TIME 100 Novels." Yet, in the sub-heading it says, "TIME critics...pick the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present." There's a big difference between the two titles of their list. Agree?

Posted by: MikeSwi... at 10:14 AM on 21 November 2005

She's added the following as a comment to her post:

I'm making a list of the best novels written since 1968 — the year I was born. Because you know, anything before that is crap. It's really all about me anyway.

Makes as much sense as Time's timeframe.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:01 PM on 21 November 2005

I should come up with a better two word review than "total suckage" so I don't sound like a blonde airhead. But I'm too selfish to write a longer review of books I completely disliked, because they wasted too much of my time already.

I had plans to take on Infinite Jest (I actually own a copy) until my book group read DFW's "Broom of the System" and collectively despised it. So now if I start Infinite Jest and end up disliking it, I'll feel the need to hunt down DFW and beat him senseless just to even the score.

Posted by: Steph Mineart at 7:55 AM on 22 November 2005

You gave them the treatment you thought they deserved. Nothing wrong with that.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:05 AM on 22 November 2005

Does anyone actually get through Pynchon, or do we all read the first have of his books and pretend to have read the rest? Ugh..

I have read the first half of Vineland 3 times and I just don't care. I know I SHOULD care, but I don't. The transfiguration scene in the vegan pizzeria was pretty cool, though.

And Gravity's Rainbow - that's a tome. Couldn't get through it either.

Nothing wrong with Pynchon - I'm nost not compatible, and I suspect most people who spout Pynchon are poseurs like I am. ;-)

Posted by: Dan at 1:26 PM on 22 November 2005

I got through Gravity's Rainbow all right, though I felt rather bedraggled afterwards. I gave up on Vineland around page 90.

V. and The Crying of Lot 49 fared better with me, and I don't think it was just because they were shorter.

Posted by: CGHill at 1:42 PM on 22 November 2005