“It’s a damn good list”

Well, we earned a passing grade. Professor David Allan White’s critique of our list of great American novels is up at Radioblogger. Professor White largely approves of our list, though he finds that we should have added two books and subtracted another. And John will be pleased to note that Professor White only grudgingly approves of our inclusion of Henry James on the list.

Professor White finds that we erred in omitting The Moviegoer by Walker Percy and Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole — two books that were on the original list that I emailed to John for consideration but forgot about when we sat down to deliberate with Paul over the weekend. I’m not saying the dog ate my homework. Professor White, please believe me. You can ask John.

Although The Moviegoer is most famous as a novel of existential dread and religious yearning, I reread it in connection with Hurricane Katrina because of its setting in New Orleans. The first section takes place in the course of a single day — on Mardi Gras — and by itself is a phantasmagoric narrative masterpiece.

The author of Confederacy of Dunces is John Kennedy Toole. The book coincidentally saw the light of day — over ten years after the author committed suicide — through the efforts of the author’s mother and of Walker Percy. Like Percy’s The Moviegoer, it is a novel of New Orleans. It is also a comic masterpiece.

As to the novels that we remembered to include on our final list of candidates over at Power Line News for designation as the Great American Novel, Professor White says: “It’s a damn good list.” And yet: “There are a couple of egregious exceptions.”

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt and Professor White.

JOHN adds: The omission of Confederacy of Dunces and Moviegoer may have something to do with the fact that I haven’t read either one. Professor White thinks the poll is a “slam dunk” for Moby-Dick:

[Melville] created the one American book of such magnitude, it stands with Homer and Virgil and Dante and Shakespeare.

I’m pleased to see Moby-Dick doing well in our poll; our email traffic suggests that it isn’t as widely read as it once was.

UPDATE: Bill Bennett weighs in:

Sure Moviegoer is fine, but it’s not Percy’s best, it’s Percy-lite….how about Love in the Ruins, Lancelot, and Last Gentleman.


Books to read from Power Line