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Brad Watson, R.I.P.

We are saddened to hear that Brad Watson died last month from cardiac failure. He was 64. The Mississippi native published two story collections, Last Days of the Dog-Men (1996, Sue Kauffman Award for First Fiction) and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives: Stories (2010, PEN/Faulkner Award finalist), and two novels, The Heaven of Mercury ... read more ...

The Book: The Top Ten

    What is a classic book?

    By J. Peder Zane

    Italo Calvino defined it is as a work that “has never finished saying what it has to say.” Ezra Pound said it possesses “a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness." And the 19th century French literary critic Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve declared that “[it] has discovered some moral and not equivocal truth, or revealed some eternal passion in that heart where all seemed known and discovered.”

    At first glance, these definitions of classic/great books seem on the mark. Under their umbrella of excellence we can fit undisputed works of genius from “The Iliad” and “The Divine Comedy” to “Pride & Prejudice,” “Anna Karenina” and “Invisible Man.”

    Unfortunately, they rest on a fallacy – that any and every book that exhibits these qualities will be considered a classic.  Read more ...

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    Brad Watson, R.I.P.

    We are saddened to hear that Brad Watson died last month from cardiac failure. He was 64.

    Sue Miller

    We have a story idea for our newest Top Ten contributor, Sue Miller: Imagine a forty-something writer who, after years devoted to rearing a family, finishes her first book and wakes up one morning to find this review in the New York Times:

    Scott Turow

     Writing his first legal thriller, Presumed Innocence (1986), Scott Turow was pleased to come up with the perfect name for his smart and sophisticated defense attorney: Alejandro “Sandy” Stern.

     

    Lionel Shriver

    Lionel Shriver is one of America’s most topical – and fearless – writers. Like Don DeLillo, she exposes the hidden forces and emperor’s clothes myths that shape our society; though where he often works from a 30,000 foot perch, focused on broad, abstract ideas, Shriver gets down and dirty with the beliefs that drive the daily behavior of ordinary people.

    Maxine Hong Kingston

    Our newest Top Ten list comes from one of America’s most celebrated writers, Maxine Hong Kingston, who has used Chinese-American experiences to depict the human condition through several works of nonfiction and one novel.

    The Top Ten Books by African-American Authors

    After our distinguished contributors – 168 and counting – submit their lists of the greatest works of fiction of all-time, the Top Ten team uses the vast resources at our disposal (usually a pencil and paper) to crunch the data. Awarding 10 points to a first place book and so on down the line to one point for a tenth place pick, we compile “scores” for each book to create All-Time lists.

    Percival Everett

    It is one of the most profound, and entertaining, questions we can ask: what if? The idea of taking that untaken road – which ya can’t cause ya didn’t - allows us to wrestle and play with the paradoxical polarities and of fate and free (that manage, somehow, to curve round and meet in the middle.

    Rereading Knut Hamsun

    By J. Peder Zane

    When it comes to books, my only question is: What's next?

    So much lurking greatness, so little time. So many gaps — "The Man Without Qualities," "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," "Eloise." So much guilt.

    Georges Simenon

    By J. Peder Zane (2005)

    The New York Review of Books is more than a leading journal of ideas. It is also a literary miracle worker. Since 1999 it has brought dead books back to life through its Classic series.

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    New List

    David Mitchell

    1. The Duel by Anton Chekhov (1891).
    2.1984by George Orwell (1948).
    3.Heart of Darknessby Joseph Conrad (1899).
    4.Sense and Sensibilityby Jane Austen (1811).
    5.The Master and Margaritaby Mikhail Bulgakov (1966).
    6.As I Lay Dyingby William Faulkner (1930).
    7.Tom Jonesby Henry Fielding (1749).
    8.Labyrinthsby Jorge Luis Borges (1964).
    9.W, or The Memory of Childhoodby Georges Perec (1975).
    10.The Makioka Sistersby Junichiro Tanizaki (1943–48).
    Wild Card:Lolly Willowesby Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926).



     

    Classic List

    Top Ten African-American Works

    1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952). 
    2. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987). 
    3. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977). 
    4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937). 
    5. Native Son by Richard Wright (1945). 
    6. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959). 
    7. Another Country by James Baldwin (1962). 
    8. Cane by Jean Toomer (1923). 
    9. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid (1990). 
    10. Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown (1965). 

     





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