The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

the best american novel

Is apparently Morrison's BELOVED, at least according to the NEW YORK TIMES. Smart money was on this Barbaro-like heavy favorite (and Morrison's horse didn't break its leg out of the gate) and it paid off. But a few observations:

DeLillo's UNDERWORLD isn't that great. Reading it, I felt like DeLillo was saying "I need to write a Don DeLillo book, but a really long and self-important one. WHITE NOISE and THE NAMES were too short; LIBRA was an adapted screenplay, not an original story." Sometimes the short books are better, like Meghan O'Rourke says in Slate. I love the big encyclopedic work (ULYSSES, V., JR, even INFINITE JEST) but I think they're interesting because they're often flawed. UNDERWORLD didn't feel flawed; it felt forced.

Look, I like Philip Roth as much as most. And I think he's going to be regarded as one of the greats (Nadine Gordimer seemed to suggest that in her review of EVERYMAN). But seriously: 6 of 25? And who really thinks that THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA is one of his best? OPERATION SHYLOCK, yes. AMERICAN PASTORAL, yeah.

I'm glad someone recognized that McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN is his best. But I don't think THE BORDER TRILOGY books compare. They're poorly plotted; their strength is language and atmosphere, but beyond that they are a little thin.


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