Featured List

Jonathan Franzen

At a time when the phrase “literary event” is a quaint anachronism (see Vargas Llosa’s Notes on the Death of Culture), a new novel from Jonathan Franzen may be as close as book lovers can come these days to tweezing a piece of the nation’s attention.

 

And it looks like he has delivered the goods again, at least according to the literary giant slayer ... 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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Jonathan Franzen

At a time when the phrase “literary event” is a quaint anachronism (see Vargas Llosa’s Notes on the Death of Culture), a new novel from Jonathan Franzen may be as close as book lovers can come these days to tweezing a piece of the nation’s attention.

 

Siri Hustvedt

Just two weeks after Amanda Filipacchi placed The Blazing World atop her list, we are proud to welcome its author, Siri Hustvedt (hoost-ved) to Top Ten Land.

 

Amanda Filipacchi

She debuted with a funny and altogether winning novel that includes an 11 year-old girl’s seduction of a 29 year-old man (Nude Men, 1993). She followed that with the darkly humorous, tale of a young woman who is transformed from drama school dropout to Oscar winner with a little help from a man who imprisons her in his cloud-filled home Vapor (1999).

Irvine Welsh

Sure, we could drop some giddy adjectival s-bombs and f-bombs (but never c-bombs) to express our delight. Instead we’ll just say aye, aye, min to our 166th member of Top Ten Land, Irvine Welsh.

 

Stephen King

Stephen King is in the news for at least two reasons this week. First, a prison break in upstate New York seems almost an homage to his terrific novel, The Shawshank Redemption, with a twist – in real life, the bad guys really are bad.

Christopher Bollen

   We are delighted to welcome the American writer Christopher Bollen as the 165th member of Top Ten land while he is basking in the glow of the warm reviews he is receiving for his second novel, Orient.

Tom LeClair

I was Lincoln’s Billy. Billy club when Lincoln refused to knock heads in Springfield. Billy goat when he needed a battering ram to reach Washington. Billy boy when he required a charming Billy to scare up money for his campaigns.

 

Kate Atkinson

This week’s New York Times Book Review offers a Top Ten two-fer as Tom Perrotta reviews Kate Akinson’s new novel, A God in Ruins. (Although our contributors gather often for spirits at the Top Ten Country Club and share days at sea on the Top Ten Yacht (the S.S. Doorstopper), Kate and Tom have never done so together, so there is no conflict of interest.)

Pages

New List

Siri Hustvedt

1.Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847).
2. Paradise Lost by John Milton (1667).
3. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72).
4. Either/Or: A Fragment of Life by Søren Kierkegaard (1843).
5. Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817).
6. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (1864–65).
7. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927).
8. Stories of Franz Kafka (1883–1924).
9. The Golden Bowl by Henry James (1904).
10. Sorry, but I resist. This one could be Cervantes, Dostoyevsky, O’Connor, Proust, Tolstoy, Wharton, Dante, Bachman, or an eccentric choice, chosen because it is a book so spectacularly ignored, that brilliant small novel by Djuna Barnes, Nightwood.

 

Classic List

Paul Auster

 

1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605, 1615).
2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869).
3. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866).
5. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
6. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
7. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850).
8. The Castle by Franz Kafka (1926).
9. Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, a trilogy by Samuel Beckett (1951–54).
10. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (1759–67).

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