David Foster Wallace

    To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Infinite Jest, Top Ten Contributor Tom Bissel has written a sharp appraisal in the New York Times Book Review. It proposes four theories as to why David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece “still feels so transcendentally, electrically alive. … 

    “Theory 1: As a novel about an “entertainment” weaponized to enslave and destroy all who look upon it, Infinite Jest is the first great Internet novel. …

     “Theory 2: Infinite Jest is a genuinely groundbreaking novel of language. Not even the masters of the high/low rhetorical register go higher more panoramically or lower more exuberantly than Wallace — not Joyce, not Bellow, not Amis. …

    “Theory 3: Infinite Jest is a peerlessly gripping novel of character. …

    “Theory 4: Infinite Jest is unquestionably the novel of its generation.”

    And enjoy David’s list – imagine my thrill when it came in the mail and my surprise when I read the picks which might have seemed in jest except that he was known to praise many of these works. Instead, he made me think about what it means to succeed on one’s own terms.

    David Foster Wallace’s Top Ten List

    1. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis (1942).
    2. The Stand by Stephen King (1978).
    3. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris (1981).
    4. The Thin Red Line by James Jones (1962).
    5. Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (1973).
    6. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988).
    7. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (1961).
    8. Fuzz by Ed McBain (1968).
    9. Alligator by Shelley Katz (1977).
    10. The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy (1991). 

    New List

    Maxine Hong Kingston

    1. Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer (1968).
    2. Begin Again by Grace Paley (2000)
    3. Duty of Delight by Dorothy Day (2008)
    4. Every War Has Two Losers by William Stafford (2003)
    5. Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Nguyen (2016).
    6. Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh (1992)
    7. A Primer for Forgetting by Lewis Hyde (2019)
    8. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    9. Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace, edited by Maxine Hong Kingston
    10. War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges (2002)



     

    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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