The Millions: best fiction of the new millennium

September 27, 2009 at 2:38 pm (books)

Here’s a link to the results of the poll conducted by The Millions.  And here  are a few comments on those results:

I somehow thought The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen was a pre-2000 novel. Otherwise I would, at the very least, have put it on my list of semi-finalists. I listened to this novel in my car, and I remember at least twice having to pull over because I was laughing so hard or, alternatively, just amazed or outraged…anyway, I loved it.

Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen

corrections

In a completely different vein, Franzen wrote this intensely moving essay about his father’s battle with Alzheimer’s. At this point in time, it’s a battle with uneven odds – the disease invariably wins, inflicting horrendous suffering on victim and family alike. It happened to us. The victims were my mother, the sufferer; we three  children; and most of all, my father, whom she deserted through no fault of her own when he most needed her. Dad died in 2000. My mother continued on, pointlessly, for another four years.

(Am I still angry about this? You bet I am.)

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As for the remaining selections made by the panel:

I listened to The Known World and found it absorbing but not consistently engaging. IMHO, Edward P. Jones’s true gifts are best displayed in the short story form, particularly in Lost in the City.  known lost

Edward P. Jones

Edward P. Jones

I have not read Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, but I found the stories in The Emigrants extremely compelling, the first story, “Dr. Henry Selwyn,” especially so. austerlitz sebald_emigrants

I wanted to include an Alice Munro title on my list. Either the collection the panel chose, or the one selected by the readers. I devour her stories; they are superb.

Alice Munro

Alice Munro

Generally speaking, I am a big fan of Ian McEwan’s writing. I liked Atonement, but not as much as several of his other titles, such as Saturday and Enduring Love.

Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson made both lists. Robinsons’ writing is, at times, quite  gorgeous, but I have to work to get through her books. Anyway, I liked Home better than Gilead.

As for Mortals by Norman Rush, I got about a third of the way through and had to throw in the towel. I loved Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, but I didn’t care for Never Let Me Go and didn’t finish it. My annoyance with that novel may be due to a personal animus toward works dealing with a dystopian future – or any kind of future, for that matter. I prefer fiction set in the present or the past.

I’ve heard of most of the remaining titles on the panel’s list but have not read them. (Pastoralia by George Saunders, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link, and American Genius, A Comedy by Lynne Tillman are completely new to me.)

I was glad to see Unaccustomed Earth on the Readers’ list of selections – and not just because it was the only title on my list of five to be mentioned in either place. In the comment section, Marie states: “I was so happy to see that Readers included Jhumpa Lahiri after a snubbing by the panel.” Here here. unaccustomed

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

Finally, I just have to ask: where is the crime fiction? No Reginald Hill, Kate Atkinson, Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, Donna Leon, Karin Fossum, Alexander McCall Smith? IMHO, they are among the finest writers at work today.

Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson

Donna Leon

Donna Leon

Reginald Hill

Reginald Hill

P.D. James and Ruth Rendell

P.D. James and Ruth Rendell

Karin Fossum

Karin Fossum

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith

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I can be opinionated, I know, but I think – I hope! – I can also be open-minded. So, in that spirit, recommendations are welcome.

3 Comments

  1. Kerrie said,

    I agree with you Roberta – where are the crime fiction writers?
    Perhaps none of the dozens of “distinguished” editors and writers who were asked to contribute to picking the top 20 were actually readers of crime fiction?

  2. Bethann said,

    Funny, I infinitely preferred The Known World to Lost in the City and I enjoyed Gilead much more than I enjoyed Home. However, I completely agree with you on Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri who are two of my absolute favourite short story authors!

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