Monday, 17 October 2005

As a change from offering excellent advice to would-be writers in her own inimitable style, Miss Snark the Literary Agent has flagged up Time Magazine's list of the 100 best books to have been published since Time began.

Given the recent piece by Peter Preston in theguardian in which he notes P D James' and Ian Rankine's statement that crime novels get short changed when it comes to literary prizes, I am pleased to see that crime, and indeed SF, both get a fair crack in the Time list.

That said, the crime novels tend to the hard-boiled end of the spectrum, with both Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep and Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest being 15-minute eggs at a minimum. There is no room for Dorothy L. Sayers, for instance.

Similarly the SF (apart from older classics like 1984 and Slaughterhouse 5) goes for the cyberpunk of William Gibson's Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash, and ignores the more optimistic vision of Ursula K. Le Guin, or the brilliant prose of Samuel R. Delaney.

There is virtually no historical fiction on the Time list, apart from I Clavdivs and Gone With The Wind, and there is nothing (unless you include that last title) that really counts as Romance. These deficiencies could, of course, have been mended by the inclusion of one or two books by Georgette Heyer.

I have already read 40 of the books on the list, which is not much more than an average of one per year since I learned to read. I might well be persuaded by this to read one or two more.

5 comments:

Nell Dixon said...

I've read three, I've read reviews for many others but they aren't the kind of story I read for pleasure in most instances. Some I've tried to read but didn't enjoy.

Kate Allan said...

I've read ten of those books, and two of those (To Kill A Mockingbird & Lord of the Flies) were because I had to at school. You are right to point out that the list is flawed. Where is Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca for a start?

mandy said...

Where, too, are The Lady Soldier and Darcy's Diary? Surely they deserved to come in the top 50, at least?
Ignoring these sad deficiencies, I was interested to see Wide Sargasso Sea in the top 100. I've never read this book but must get round to it.
I was pleased to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe there.

pam said...

I thought this was a list of books by strictly American authors which would account for the gaping holes some correspondents mentioned.

Cannot match Stephen's 40 read. My score was 21 - one better than Miss Snark's.

Stephen said...

Well unless C S Lewis, George Orwell, Henry Green and both of the Amis twins, to name but five, were all clandestinely of the American persuasion, then I think that nationality is not an issue for this list, although language is - all the books were written in English.