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

Jim Harrison (1937-2016)

1. The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1872).
2. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847).
4. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
5. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
6. Independent People by Halldór Laxness (1934).
7. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936).
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
9. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934).
10. The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942).

 

Classic List

Craig Nova

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925).
2. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915).
3. Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford (1928).
4. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880).
6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869).
7. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (1927).
8. Jazz by Toni Morrison (1992).
9. The Plague by Albert Camus (1947).
10. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1860–61).

 

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