Friday, July 15, 2011
Ten Best Novels
The ones who wrote in ways I can't.
BESTS ARE A TRICKY GAME. Now Brizoni intends to talk about death. Before he does, I want to talk about life. Therefore: the ten best novels of the twentieth century. I won't say much about them. Just a line or two. The rest would be up to you. My criteria are simple. The book gets you, and you want to read whole passages out loud, because the words are so determined to be said.
Tender Is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Maybe the most moving novel ever written. Speaking the words of the text makes you despair of ever saying anything half as beautiful.
The Sun Also Rises. Ernest Hemingway.
Yes, it should have started with Chapter 3, but it's still the best writer's textbook I know. Oddly, you're seeing writing done to perfection and being drawn in, but only as far as the writer's willing to let you. The buffer between him writing and you reading is the whole point.
The Waves, Virginia Woolf.
She didn't need any of us to read it. It was enough that she wrote it. But without the affectations of Joyce, she made stream of consciousness a scoop of shimmering water, not a literary and philological final exam.
The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford
Hemingway minimalism without the "look at me writing" factor. Brilliantly subdued and ultimately devastating.
The Tin Drum, Gunther Grasse
Pure explosion of genius. Can't tell you how many times I've read the chapter called "Faith, Hope, and Love" out loud to myself. Even in translation, it's a wonder.
Decline and Fall, Evelyn Waugh.
The absolute apex of satire. Funny, vicious, and true. Follow the life and death of Lord Tangent, son of Lady Circumference, and report back that you are a good person because you didn't laugh.
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner.
Someone finally played around with point of view. In many ways his most accessible work. And, yes, he was a genius.
The Trial, Franz Kafka.
Who else has written one novel that got copied a thousand times by lesser lights who all got great reviews in The New York Times? Nobody. I understand he was actually a cheerful and charming soul. Figures,
Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry.
If confession is the soul of twentieth century fiction, nothing can ever surpass this book. He confessed, and converted, countless readers to his own fatal illness. That's talent.
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Courage to write what is forbidden. A literary talent? In this case, yes.
1984, George Orwell.
To introduce ideas into fiction, in the twentieth century? No! Yes! If only it were more world-shaking than it has proven to be.
If you think I'm trying to buy more time for Brizoni and starting a fight as some kind of distraction, you're wrong. Well, not really. Actually, I'm just showing off. Which is my way.
CP knows about westerns. I know about novels. Let's fight.