Thursday, February 10, 2011

Are These Really Classics?



So I'm making my post today from Wall-to-Wall Books’ post about this list of “New Classics” over at Entertainment Weekly‘s website (I don't know when the list was made because I can't find it, maybe in 2008?). I find it especially funny since they’re listed as being from 1983-2008 and so these would really be the classics of my lifetime…apparently.

Now, no offense to Entertainment Weekly, but this is not the website or magazine I go to when I’m fiending for book reviews/knowledge/tips/anything book related really (okay maybe that is a shot at Entertainment Weekly but the only books I’ve seen highlighted recently on there are Bristol Palin’s memoirs and the Twilight series).

Anyway, I’ve only read 11 books on this list of 100 “New Classics” but even still I can’t say that out of those 11 all of them should be on there. I thought The Daily Show’s book America was laugh-out-loud hilarious, but would I ever deem to label it a classic? Um, I don’t think so. Sorry Jon Stewart. I still love you! And while The Road is the only Cormac McCarthy novel I’ve read so far (and I did find it incredible) I’m surprised that’s the one that was picked of his works since I’ve heard so many people like other books of his better. In fact, of the ones I’ve read I can only really say there are two I fully agree with: The Handmaid’s Tale and Beloved. I fully see those being classics in 100 years. I want to say The Poisonwood Bible as well but I’m not quite done with it yet so I’m refraining. The Corrections? Yuck!

So here’s the list (along with the date of publication). I’ve bolded the ones I’ve read.


1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)

4. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)

17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)

35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World’s Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)

49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)

51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)

74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)

83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)

95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)

97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators’ Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)


So what do you all think of this lovely list of “New Classics?” Are there any glaring omissions? Any huge question marks looming in your mind? What did they get completely and utterly wrong?

4 comments:

Christie said...

I've not read as many of these books as you have, and don't plan to read any more, but I can imagine that writers like Morrison, Atwood, and Byatt will be remembered 100 years from now, while most will suffer the fate of obscurity, only to be remembered in the sense of, "Oh, look how irritating! Hoity-toity postmodernist rubbish from 2010!" Hopefully.

Good thing I'll be dead by the time -- if it ever comes -- when The Da Vinci Code is considered a classic.

llevinso said...

I don't think The DaVinci Code will ever be considered a classic. I thought it was a really good read, I'll admit. Not classic literature by any stretch though. Fun stuff sure. Though I think his best book was the first in the series: Angels and Demons. This seems like mostly a pop-culture list, which doesn't surprise me coming from EW.com.

Kathmeista said...

Some of those I agree with but some of them (Da Vinci Code) make me go WHAAAAT?! I think you're right, it's more of a most popular reads in the last few years list than a list that will seriously be considered classics in years to come. Interesting post :)

umseti said...

Wow. I could write a novel just about that stupid list, but relax, I won't ( though if I did, it would probably make the next "new classics" list as a deconstructionist post-modern masterpiece... ). The trouble with any list of this nature is that it will be biased, subjective, even ethnocentric. What sells here doesn't necessarily qualify as a hit in France, or the U.K, or Morocco, etc.
All that aside, I've read many of these books, and some really are new classics. Some are most certainly not, no matter how you slice it. Personally, I find both Eggers and Foster Wallace to be hugely overrated, but Eggers to me is the more accessible of the two. I think it's funny they've included DeLillo's "Underworld", but not Puzo's, "The Godfather". And to choose "On Writing" as the book to represent Stephen King is almost a slap across the face for him. I mean, the guy stands alongside Poe as the best American horror writer of all time.
Well, before I DO wind up writing that novel, I will say this: of the books on this list you have not read, DO read these three: "Possession", by Byatt, "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt, and "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell. I recommend all three of these to my friends constantly. Trust me on this one. You'll wonder what the hell you ever saw in "The DaVinci Code".