Dick Meyer at NPR has decided to come up with his list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century. “I am not a learned or prolific reader of novels,” he writes. “My taste is probably medium-brow, male and parochial in many ways. Tough. It’s my list.”
Apparently, it is, because it’s certainly not my list. While I wouldn’t call it parochial, I would say that a lot of the books are the kind that were assigned to be read in school, which indicates a kind of incurious reader to me.
She takes issue with the fact that there are only 7 women on the list, and for good reason: if it’s got the title 100 Years, 100 Novels, One List, it should not be so limited. The title should make it clear that it’s not an NPR list but a personal one. He does say so in his article, but frankly, that’s not enough.
The comments after Kellogg’s article make for entertaining reading. One reader accuses her of being snarky, and Dick Meyer’s response, “Well, it’s fine if you find it important to get cranky because I didn’t have a proper ratio of women on my list to suit you; many peope who left comments had the same complaint,” is funny. You find it important to get cranky? What, she read the article and decided, “I haven’t been cranky today. I think I’ll pick on Dick Meyer”? He emphasizes her point by mentioning that other people told him the same thing!
To be fair, it’s impossible to compile a list of 100 books spanning 100 years. No one’s going to fully agree with you, which is actually delightful. It means we haven’t read all there is to be read.
I do wish Meyer had put a brief blurb by each choice so we could see why he loved it. For example, why O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods rather than The Things They Carried, or If I Die in a Combat Zone?