13 May 2006

That's when I fell for (vroom vroom)--Leader of the Stacks

Well, we know that you are simply dying to know BEST works of American Fiction from the last quarter century--and, are you ready for the toppermost of the poppermost (drum roll from a monkey wearing a shriner's cap...)--it's Toni Morrions's Beloved.

Or, so say "a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, and other literary sages" solicted by The New York Times Book Review editor, Sam Tanenhaus. My letter, sent no doubt by carrier pigeon, must have been intercepted by someone who photographed my Toyota Corolla driving around Chicago, thus proving, tail feathers stuffed in the exhaust, that I am far from "prominent."

Danger be damned! I'll offer my opinion now.

Ok, Toni Morrison is a great writer; I met someone who claimed to be her personal assistant recently, and he had nothing but warm fuzzies for her (although, he, a poet, seemed unable to parley his work with Morrison into an academic job). And, I dig much of her work, Song of Solomon particularly, which I teach once every two years or so.

Of course, I teach it as a great novel, but also in terms of the "Oprah effect" (no explanation required--and it terms of multicultural tokenism on the college syllabus. Quick quiz Johnny Junior: name prominent African American women novelists of the last 1/4 century.

Uh...ummm...Toni Morrison?

One of the four runner-ups for the NYT is Don DeLillo's Underworld. This is nowhere near DeLillo's finest novel; it may be his longest, and it might mention baseball the most, and it may skew toward the experimental, but... Now, DeLillo is definitely a great writer, and White Noise is really a fantastic gem (also a notable on the list).

Philip Roth hit multiple times (6 of 27 books!), with The Human Stain as a book receiving "multiple votes" (American Pastoral is a runner up). Please--if this (also not his best work) is one of the greatest of the last 1/4 century, we are in as much trouble as Coleman Silk passing for whitey. Big trouble.

...with a capital 'T'

and that rhymes with 'P'

and you know what that stands for, kiddies!

So, a call to other "prominent" critics and writers, and assorted raconteurs whose invitations never made it throught the chatter. Care to proffer an alterna-list? Best American novels of the last 25 years?

Who's willing to take on the Times?