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موضوع: All-Time 100 Novels

  1. #1
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    Feb 2010
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    All-Time 100 Novels


    How We Picked the List

    By Richard Lacayo
    Welcome to the massive, anguished, exalted undertaking that is the ALL TIME 100 books list. The parameters: English language novels published anywhere in the world since 1923, the year that TIME Magazine began, which, before you ask, means that Ulysses (1922) doesn't make the cut. In May, Time.com posted a similar list, of 100 movies picked by our film critics, Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel. This one is chosen by me, Richard Lacayo, and my colleague Lev Grossman, whom we sometimes cite as proof that you don't need to be named Richard to be hired as a critic at TIME, though apparently it helps. Just ask our theater critic, Richard Zoglin.
    For the books project, Grossman and I each began by drawing up inventories of our nominees. Once we traded notes, it turned out that more than 80 of our separately chosen titles matched. (Even some of the less well-known ones, like At-Swim Two Birds.) We decided then that we would more or less divide the remaining slots between us. That would allow each of us to include books that the other might not have chosen. Or might not even have read. (Ubik? What's an Ubik?) And that would extend the list into places where mere agreement wouldn't take it.
    Even so, there are many titles we couldn't fit here that we're still anguishing over. Djuna Barnes' Nightwood dropped in and out. Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point hovered for a while at the edges. There were writers we had to admit we love more for their short stories than their novels—Donald Barthelme, Annie Proulx, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty. We could agree that some of Gore Vidal's novels are an essential pleasure, but it's his non-fiction that's essential period. Then there was the intellectual massif of Norman Mailer, indisputably one of the great writers of our time, but his supreme achievements are his headlong reconfigurations of the whole idea of non-fiction, books like Armies of the Night and The Executioner's Song. Dawn Powell, Mordechai Richler, Thomas Wolfe, Peter Carey, J.F. Powers, Mary McCarthy, Edmund White, Larry McMurtry, Katherine Ann Porter, Amy Tan, John Dos Passos, Oscar Hijuelos—we looked over our bookcases and many more than 100 names laid down a claim. This means you, Stephen King.
    This project, which got underway in January, was not just a reading effort. It was a re-reading effort. It meant revisiting a lot of novels both of us had not looked into for some time. A few titles that seemed indispensable some years ago turned out on a second tasting to be, well, dispensable. More common was the experience I had with Saul Bellow's Herzog, about a man coming to terms with the disappointments of midlife by directing his questions everywhere. It was one of the first adult novels I attempted in late adolescence. It left its treadmarks on me even then, but this time his experienced heart spoke to me differently.
    There were also first time discoveries. Having heard for years that Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road was one of the great but underappreciated American novels, I searched it out. I have spent the months since then pressing it into the hands of anybody who will take it, including yours. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston's great story of a black woman surviving whatever God and man throws at her, was not part of the required reading list when I was in school. It is now part of my personal canon. Henry Green? Hadn't read Henry Green. Finally read Loving. Loved it.
    Lists like this one have two purposes. One is to instruct. The other of course is to enrage. We're bracing ourselves for the e-mails that start out: "You moron! You pathetic bourgeoise insect! How could you have left off...(insert title here)." We say Mrs. Dalloway. You say Mrs. Bridge. We say Naked Lunch. You say Breakfast at Tiffanys. Let's call the whole thing off? Just the opposite—bring it on. Sometimes judgment is best formed under fire. But please, no e-mails about Ulysses. Rules are rules

  2. #2
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    پاسخ : All-Time 100 Novels

    The Adventures of Augie March 1953
    Author: Saul Bellow

    Augie comes on stage with one of literature's most famous opening lines. "I am an American, Chicago born, and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted." It's the "Call me Ishmael" of mid-20th-century American fiction. (For the record, Bellow was born in Canada.) Or it would be if Ishmael had been more like Tom Jones with a philosophical disposition. With this teeming book Bellow returned a Dickensian richness to the American novel. As he makes his way to a full brimming consciousness of himself, Augie careens through numberless occupations and countless mentors and exemplars, all the while enchanting us with the slapdash American music of his voice.—R.L





















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    All the King's Men 1946
    Author: Robert Penn Warren

    More than just a classic political novel, Warren's tale of power and corruption in the Depression-era South is a sustained meditation on the unforeseen consequences of every human act, the vexing connectedness of all people and the possibility—it's not much of one—of goodness in a sinful world. Willie Stark, Warren's lightly disguised version of Huey Long, the onetime Louisiana strongman/governor, begins as a genuine tribune of the people and ends as a murderous populist demagogue. Jack Burden is his press agent, who carries out the boss's orders, first without objection, then in the face of his own increasingly troubled conscience. And the politics? For Warren, that's simply the arena most likely to prove that man is a fallen creature. Which it does.—R.L.



    From the TIME Archive:

    In all his writing, even at its slickest, there is a sense of doom and blood on the moon that Warren has gradually shifted into religious terms
















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    American Pastoral 1997
    Author: Philip Roth

    To decipher the late 1960's through the story of Swede Levov, whose life is cast into the fires of those years, Roth calls again upon the saturnine side of his disposition. It answers to the purpose as never before. Good-looking, prosperous Swede, who has inherited his father's glove factory in Newark, N.J., and married a former beauty queen, is not stupid, merely fulfilled. Is it this that gives him insufficient means to comprehend the Newark riots of 1967 or the transformation of his beloved daughter into a venomous teenage radical, a child capable of cold-blooded terrorism? Roth's own means are more than sufficient. A writer who is unafraid to linger in the minds of furious men, he leads us fearlessly through this man's grief, bewilderment and rage.—R.L.



    From the TIME Archive:

    You will search the shelf of contemporary fiction long and hard to find a parental nightmare projected with the emotional force and verbal energy that Roth brings












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    An American Tragedy 1925
    Author: Theodore Dreise

    Clyde Griffiths is a young man with ambitions. He's in love with a rich girl, but it's a poor girl he has gotten pregnant, Roberta Alden, who works with him at his uncle's factory. One day he takes Roberta canoeing on a lake with the intention of killing her. From there his fate is sealed. But by then Dreiser has made plain that Clyde's fate was long before sealed by a brutal and cynical society. The usual criticism of Dreiser is that, line for line, he's the weakest of the great American novelists. And it's true that he takes a pipe fitter's approach to writing, joining workmanlike sentences one to the other. But by the end he will have built them into a powerful network, and something vital will be flowing through them.—R.L





















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    Animal Farm 1946
    Author: George Orwell

    No writer has ever been more naked in his contempt for power, or more ruthless in his critique of those who abuse it, than the Englishman born Eric Blair, better known to the world as George Orwell. In Animal Farm he restages the hypocrisies of the Russian Revolution with the principal figures played by, of all things, farm animals. By presenting atrocities in the terms of a fairy tale, he makes them fresh, restoring to readers numbed by the 20th century's parade of disasters a sense of shock and outrage. Paradoxically, by turning Trotsky and Lenin and their followers into pigs and horses and chickens, he reveals them as all too human.—L.G.



    From the TIME Archive:

    Britons chuckling at Animal Farm are calling its author the most brilliant political satirist since Swift


















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    Appointment in Samarra 1934
    Author: John O'Hara

    O'Hara did for fictional Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, what Faulkner did for Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi: surveyed its social life and drew its psychic outlines. But he did it in utterly worldly terms, without Faulkner's taste for mythic inference or the basso profundo of his prose. Julian English is a man who squanders what fate gave him. He lives on the right side of the tracks, with a country club membership and a wife who loves him. His decline and fall, over the course of just 72 hours around Christmas, is a matter of too much spending, too much liquor and a couple of reckless gestures. (Now Julian, don't throw that drink in the well-connected Irishman's face. Don't make that pass at the gangster's mistress.) That his calamity is petty and preventable only makes it more powerful. In Faulkner the tragedies all seem to be taking place on Olympus, even when they're happening among the lowlifes. In O'Hara they could be happening to you.—R.L.



    From the TIME Archive:

    O'Hara writes with swift realism, wisely avoids sentimentality
















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    Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret 1970
    Author: Judy Blume

    You could almost hear the collective generational sigh of relief in 1970 when Blume published this groundbreaking, taboo-trampling young adult novel: finally, a book that talks frankly about ****** without being prim or prurient, and about religion without scolding or condescending. A few months shy of her 12th birthday, Margaret Simon is starting school in a new town and asking God some serious questions. Like, when is she going to get her period? What bra should she buy? And if her mom is Jewish and her dad is Christian, is she supposed to join the Y or the Jewish Community Center? Blume turned millions of pre-teens into readers. She did it by asking the right questions—and avoiding pat, easy answers.—L.G





















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    The Assistant 1957
    Author: Bernard Malamud
    [left]
    Malamud was a writer who always had one eye fixed on the eternal and one on the here and now. The eternal was the realm of moral quandaries. The here and now was usually a world of struggling 20th-century Jews. It was his genius to show the two constantly intersecting. In this book, his masterpiece, Morris Bober is a woebegone neighborhood grocer whose modest store is failing and whose luck actually takes a turn for the worse when he is held up by masked hoodlums. Or is it worse? When a stranger appears and offers to work without pay, "for the experience", it doesn't take long for the reader to realize that the stranger is one of the men who robbed Bober. But just what are his motives in returning? He seems to be seeking to atone, but he soon begins quietly robbing the till, while also falling in love with Bober's daughter, theft of a different kind. From this intricate material Malamud builds a devastating meditation upon suffering, penance and forgiveness, and the ways in which the weight of the world can be lifted, just a little, by determined acts of grace.— R.L.



    From the TIME Archive:

    Though Malamud's people have a bad time of it, they are never just helpless victims of life

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  4. #3
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    117

    پاسخ : All-Time 100 Novels

    At Swim-Two-Birds 1938
    Author: Flann O'Brien[/left]

    O'Brien—in real life Irishman Brian O'Nolan—would have been disappointed if anybody could come up with a coherent summary of this brilliant, beer-soaked miniature masterpiece. One of the best-kept secrets of 20th-century literature, At Swim-Two-Birds is ostensibly a novel about a lazy, impoverished college student who's writing a novel ("One beginning and one ending for a book is a thing I did not agree with," he opines), but his characters won't stay put, and they get mixed up with all kinds of local Dublin types and figures out of Gaelic myth—it's like Ulysses played out in a comic mode, on a more human scale. Dylan Thomas said of it, "This is just the book to give your sister if she's a loud, dirty, boozy girl." Even better to keep it for yourself.—L.G





















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    Atonement 2002
    Author: Ian McEwan

    A magnificent deception. Briony Tallis, the intricate English girl at the center of Atonement, is a budding writer. At the age of 13 she believes that through her powers of invention and language, "an unruly world could be made just so." In a complicated way, she turns out to be right, but only after she turns out to be catastrophically wrong. In the first half of the book, she passionately misunderstands a series of events she witnesses on a summer day in 1935, which leads her to formulate a lie that ruins the lives of her older sister Cecilia and Cecilia's lover Robbie. So much for the virtues of the imagination. But McEwan is crafty. Even as he shows us the deadly force of storytelling, he demonstrates its beguilements on every page. Then he leads us to a surprise ending in which the power of fiction, which has been used to undo lives, is used again to make heartbroken amends.—R.L.



    From the TIME Archive:

    It's McEwan's subtle game to show fiction working its worst kind of curse, then leading us unawares to give it our blessing












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    Beloved 1987
    Author: Toni Morrison

    Sethe is an escaped slave in post-Civil War Ohio. Her body is scarred from the atrocities of her white owners, but it's her memories that really torture her: she killed her 2-year-old daughter, Beloved, so the child would never know the sufferings of a life of servitude. But in Morrison's novels the present is never safe from the past, and Beloved returns as an angry, hungry ghost. Sethe must come to terms with her, exorcise her, if she ever wants to move forward and find peace. Rich with historical, political and above all personal resonances, written in prose that melts and runs with the heat of the emotion it carries, Beloved is a deeply American, urgently important novel that searches for that final balance between grief, anger and acceptance.—L.G.



    From the TIME Archive:

    Beloved is full of vivid images, freshly rendered














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    The Berlin Stories 1946
    Author: Christopher Isherwood

    "I am a camera with its shutter open." There is something unmistakably 20th Century about this, the opening line to Goodbye to Berlin. In their coolness and clarity and melancholy detachment these words express more about a moment in time than most entire novels do. Berlin Stories is not quite a novel; it's actually two short ones stuck together, The Last of Mr. Norris and Goodbye to Berlin. But they form one coherent snapshot of a lost world, the antic, cosmopolitan Berlin of the 1930's, where jolly expatriates dance faster and faster, as if that would save them from the creeping rise of Nazism. One of Isherwood's greatest characters, the racy, doomed Sally Bowles, took center stage in the book's musical adaptation, Cabaret, but the theatrical version can't match the power and richness of the original.—L.G.



    From the TIME Archive:

    This portrait of an old rapscallion is satire too cold to be amusing; it is written with the analytic distaste of one who watches without pity the dwindling of a pathologically older generation










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    The Big Sleep 1939
    Author: Raymond Chandler

    "I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be." This sentence, from the first paragraph of The Big Sleep, marks the last time you can be fully confident that you know what's going on. The first novel by Raymond Chandler, who at the time was a 51-year-old former oil company executive, is a mosaic of shadows, a dark tracery of forking paths. Along them wanders Philip Marlowe, a cynical, perfectly hard-boiled private investigator hired by an old millionaire to find the husband of his beautiful, bitchy wildcat daughter. Marlowe is tough and determined, and he does his best to be a good guy, but there are no true heroes in Chandler's sun-baked, godforsaken Los Angeles, and every plot turn reveals how truly twisted the human heart is.—L.G.



    From the TIME Archive:

    Detective Marlowe is plunged into a mess of murderers, thugs and psychopaths












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    The Blind Assassin 2000
    Author: Margaret Atwood

    Frosty, reserved Iris and her hot-blooded sister Laura grow up wealthy and privileged in a chilly Canadian town. But when the family fortune falters in the Depression, Iris is married off to a cruel industrialist, and Laura drives her car off a bridge, leaving behind a pulpy science fiction novel (presented in parallel to the primary plot) that seems to contain a coded, masked guide to the secrets that ruled her life and brought about her early death. Told in the brittle, acerbic voice of the elderly Iris, who is left behind to decode Laura's legacy, The Blind Assassin is a tour-de-force of nested narratives, subtle reveals and buried memories.—L.G..



    From the TIME Archive:

    Iris Chase is a brilliant addition to Atwood's roster of fascinating fictional narrators. Not only is her story sinuously complex, but she is entertaining company
















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    Blood Meridian 1986
    Author: Cormac McCarthy

    "The floor of the playa lay smooth and unbroken by any track and the mountains in their blue islands stood footless in the void like floating temples." McCarthy's prose has the character of the landscape it describes: Harsh and pure, as if it had been sculpted by wind and sand, like a naturally occurring phenomenon. In Blood Meridian McCarthy uses it to spin a yarn of gothic violence: In the 1840's a young boy joins a band of cutthroats who hunt Indians on the border between Texas and Mexico, under the leadership of an amoral, albino arch-monster known as the Judge. Rarely has literature presented spectacles of violence more extreme or less gratuitous. Blood Meridian summons up shadows of Dante and Melville, and demands of every reader that they reexamine why and how they cling to morality in a fallen world.—L.G



















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    Brideshead Revisited 1946
    Author: Evelyn Waugh

    Once and only once in his career the bitter, urbane, howlingly funny satirist Evelyn Waugh screwed up all his nerve and his talent and produced a genuine literary masterpiece. Though it's saddled with a faded doily of a title, Brideshead Revisited is actually a wildly entertaining, swooningly funny-sad story about an impressionable young man, Charles Ryder, who goes to Oxford in the 1930's and falls in love with a family: the wealthy, eccentric, aristocratic Flytes, owners of a grand old country house called Brideshead. In the first half of the book the exquisite, hilariously fey Sebastian Flyte, who is Charles's classmate, teaches the young man about beauty, booze and witty conversation. In the second half every one grows up and everything goes spectacularly to smash. Told in flashbacks from the dark days of WWII, Brideshead is aglimmer with the guttering-candle glow of an elegant age that was already passing away.—L.G.



    From the TIME Archive:

    To many U.S. readers this book will be their first exposure to one of the wittiest, most corrosively mocking and violently serious minds now writing English prose












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    The Bridge of San Luis Rey 1927
    Author: Thornton Wilder

    Whatever happened to Wilder? He was a lion in his day, prized—Pulitzer-prized, as this book was—a star of stage and page. Today, notwithstanding the occasional production of Our Town or The Skin of Our Teeth, he's ever in danger of falling out of fashion. He seems too courtly, too composed. For proof of how powerful those qualities can be, there's this book. In 1714, "the finest bridge in all Peru" collapses and five people plunge to their deaths. Brother Juniper, a Franciscan missionary, decides to track down their individual stories to prove that even what seem to be random misfortunes are consistent with God's plan. That his discoveries turn out to be more complex will come as no surprise. What may surprise are the beguilements of Wilder's teasing, ironic, beautifully written tale, unlike anything else in American fiction.— R.L.



    From the TIME Archive:

    The delicacies of Author Wilder's prose cannot be intimated in so rude a summary of the material of his book

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