A Bad Case of Listeria (Or Merry Listmas)

on Tuesday, December 7, 2010
And they're off!

Never mind that there is still an entire month left of the year, but with the recent publication of The New York Times 100 Notable Books (50 fiction, 50 non-fiction) Listmania season is officially upon us. Pretty soon our literary presses will be filled with the self-validating pontifications of the book snob elite, deigning which works were worthy of the trees they gave cause to die. It is always an interesting exercise, trying to make sense of who put what where and why. Mutual backscratching is often the go as is inter-list one-upsmanship. And then, of course, there is the great game of trying to nominate the most obscure book possible just to get extra snob cred. I wonder how many high end listers had to cross off this year's National Book Award fiction winner, Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, when it won. It must have really hurt, having their sure-fire wanky choice stolen away by so prestigious an institution as the National Book Foundation. Mock them all as I might, I am not unknown to compile lists or, for that matter, succumb to the temptation of throwing on a couple of little known (usually Eastern European) titles. This year I get to double up, with a "Best Of 2010" blog post sometime near the end of this month, and a Year in Review in The Australian Jewish News. Thankfully, I keep a record of every book I read so I will be able to sift through the pile and pluck out some worthy nominees. Suffice to say, neither Twilight nor Eat Pray Love will be making a showing.

As for the NYT list, the usual suspects were there, along with a few nice surprises and a couple of what-the-f*%$s. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen came in at the top, with Selected Stories by William Trevor, The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie, A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (never heard of it, score one for obscurity cred) and Room by Emma Donoghue rounding out the prestigious Top 5. And yes, you heard me right. Room by Emma "Counting Down Til I'm On Oprah" Donoghue. Cue my loud, bellowing WHAT THE F*%$! Talk about the most horribly overrated book of the year. How on earth could the good folk at the NYT fall for such smoke-and-mirrors pedestrian claptrap? Sure, it was a good idea for a short story but, when stretched out to full length novel, this homage to Hans Fritzl/Natascha Kampush was just cheesy and predictable. Not that my opinion counts, but there were any number of books in the fiction half of the Top 100 that should have received the kudos before Donoghue. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell... any of the other 46 I haven't just mentioned, really.

Anyway, having resigned myself to not receiving my letter from the Queen, I shall now sit back and await the onslaught of lists. And maybe get off my lazy bum and compile my own. Behold, the winner is... Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.........


Luke Redgen said...

Eat Pray Love isn't a 2010 book, but I see what you're getting at.

Critics all ate Room up. I thought it was pretty lame.

I'm really looking forward to your top list. How long a list are you going to compile?

The Bookworm said...

Hey Luke! Yeah, I divided my lists into books published in 2010 and books I read in 2010. I'm structuring my best of the same as last year, with categories. So a Top 5, then 5 honourable mentions, plus most overrated books and books I wished I had bothered to read. Needless to say Room makes one of the lists. Thanks for reading! Cheers, B

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