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Friday, 23 November 2007


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Vance Maverick

Perhaps this is a naive way to think about the last point you raise....but it seems to me that there are some literary virtues that, while not ultimately the most interesting or rewarding, are perfectly real, and in fact form part of the value of some of the best books.

For example, it's fun to read about deeds and people that would be impressive or exciting in real life. We wouldn't think much of a book that had nothing to recommend it but this simple romantic appeal; but I think most would agree that it contributes to the pleasure and value of, say, War and Peace.

Similarly, it's fun to read about other people and places. One doesn't want this to be the only virtue of a book; but isn't that part of what one gets from the Iliad?

In other words, the problem with these blurbs is that they damn with faint praise. (The excerpts from the Diaz that I've read in the New Yorker are pretty dull, so maybe it's not unfair.)


To be fair, it's hard to do _Oscar Wao_ in 24 words: "An urbane young Dominican-American and his tough ex-girlfriend tell overlapping stories of their native land's decades of dictatorship and her fat, doomed, geeky brother," for example, covers the basic subject matter but not the distinctive style and genretic innovation.

Vance Maverick

So maybe they should use more words. Just a thought.


The short blurbs may be an artifact created by an editor -- do "100 Books" in 1000 words!

I actually really like these lists, better in some ways than the big literary awards. Those awards always seem questionable -- especially since the novels that make the shortlist are always so various.

A nice long list like this can be really helpful in reminding you about the things you might want to read out of what was published this year. There's little point in attempting to decide which of the 50 novels or 50 nonfiction books listed is "the best."

Vance Maverick

The blurbs could be fixed by dropping them entirely -- instead linking the titles to the full reviews. Now of course that would be far too webby, and the Times' reviews have problems in themselves, but it would serve Amardeep's purpose just as well -- better I think, since the synoptic view would be more compact.


Whatever niche the Times hopes he'll fill, Junot Diaz is objectively awesome.

ben wolfson

I'm only a fan because it reminds of a number of books I'd planned to read

I just wanted to point this out.


There's nothing wrong with that sentence (grammatically, that is), the problem is the wonky conditional: "I had planned to read a number of books, and I'm a fan of the list that reminds me of those books."


ben wolfson

"Remind" is normally transitive.

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