Best American Novel of the Last Quarter Century

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What Is the Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years? - New York Times

The list is above.

And here's the essay.

I'm ambivalent about such lists and honestly don't know what to make of some of the works appearing on it. I've tried hard to read and appreciate anything by Don deLillo, and unfortunately, it seems beyond me. So too with Blood Meridian and both Sabbath's Theater and American Pastoral. I may try them again, but the first venture wasn't fruitful.

I can state without ambivalence that of the books I have read on the list, I have not enjoyed any of them. I may have admired them, liked them, or appreciated them; however, frankly I don't think the Rabbit books are Updike's strongest work. I do hold out hope for Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping which I bought at the same time as Gilead but have not yet read.

What do you all think was the best work of serious fiction in the last twenty-five years? Name a title and give a reason. I'd love to have some suggestions as to what to take up after my Muriel Spark streak fades.

Let me start the ball rolling by suggesting that the Tom More duet Love in the Ruins and The Thanatos Syndrome would certainly hover near the top of my list--and not necessarily for all the reasons that might normally accompany this judgment coming from a Catholic. Rather, Percy managed the apotheosis of the Southern Gothic remaining completely true to the very roots of the tradition, while still making relevant comment to the world at large on any number of issues. I include both in the same way that Updike's four novels are included as one. They are part and parcel, completing and complementing one another. I think I like Love in the Ruins better than The Thanatos Syndrome, but I do know that the book group I read it with hated it with a passion. That was my first indication that what was present was powerful. Anyway, there's one suggestion to get the ball rolling. I'd love to hear from others.

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I was in a bookstore this weekend looking for something by Sparks, but all they had was "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie." If you have any other recommendations for works by her, I'd appreciate it.

Dear Bill,

Of the things I have read thus far, I would definitely recommend Memento Mori and The Girls of Slender Means. The others I have read have been uniformly quite good except for Aiding and Abetting, which I think suffers from its subject matter. However, for traditional novel form, I would suggest first and foremost The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie followed by the two listed above.

I haven't gotten through everything yet; however, A Far Cry from Kensington has a lot of promise at this point as well.

So, a ranking:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie almost tied with
The Girls of Independent Means
Memento Mori
The Finishing School
Not to Disturb
The Abbess of Crewe
Aiding and Abetting

Hope this helped some. Believe it or not all of the ones I have listed are available through Orange County Public Library and largely reside at the downtown branch once I've returned them, which will be shortly for Girls of Slender Means and The Abbess of Crewe



Thanks. You went above and beyond the call of duty.

Dear Bill,

Thank you, but a real pleasure is always beyond the call of duty. (Whether it rises above or falls below would depend upon the nature of the pleasure, I suppose.)



"Confederacy of Dunces" (1980) should be on any short list of top works of fiction of the last 25 (well, really, 26) years. As a displaced New Orleanian, the book stirs memories of what I love and hate most about the Crescent City--both its charm and stubborn provincialism. Also, the book is a paradox--how can a novel that is so funny also be so very sad? My favorite character is Santa Battaglia, a middle aged lady who has no life, so she enjoys rearranging the lives of others--the ultimate "officious intermeddler". Ignatius Reilly, the uber-eccentric protagonist, is charmless, but charismatic--another of the books's paradoxes.

What do you all think was the best work of serious fiction in the last twenty-five years?

The Da Vinci Code?


Dear Mr. Lugari,

All I can say is that it's a good thing I decided to fire the bouncer last week, or you'd be out of here faster than Tom Hanks could figure out which way is up--okay, so you'd have a month or so.




The best books are all by Catholic authors
Vipers Tangle
In this House of Brede
The Silver Chalice
Brideshead Revisited
The End of the Affair



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 23, 2006 11:54 AM.

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