The Balloting So Far

We continue to receive lots of critiques of our list of 21 best American novels. Christopher Cornell writes:

I cannot BELIEVE you have omitted John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces–winner of the Pulitzer prize for fiction back when that meant something, funnier and more important than just about everything on your list, especially the vastly overrated Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

Historian John Steele Gordon writes:

Uncle Tom’s Cabin may be the most historically important novel in American history, but it is hardly in the top twenty for its literary qualities. For that matter, it’s not in the top ten thousand. Were it not for its importance as a catalyst of anti-slavery opinion at the time (it was a titanic best-seller) it would have been utterly forgotten well over a century ago.My candidate to replace it: The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk. It’s so compulsively readable that many people think it can’t possibly be great. But it is…

Steve St. Clair writes:

The Grapes of Wrath?? No socialist realism for us, thank you!”

So, one of the criteria is “does not offend our ideological sensibilities.”


No, one of the criteria is “can’t be written in a ham-handed prose style, with cardboard characters,” which, combined with a dose of leftism, is what I mean by “socialist realism.” And, GoW fans, no need to write again! I admit that characterization is a bit hyperbolic. One “artocrat” writes:

Without a doubt Raymond Chandler is the definitive novelist of the American Century. To leave him off your list is like (R) Dennis Hassert claming special privilage for Congress, wake up and smell the gunpowder.

Um, note that our list includes “Chandler, The Long Goodbye.” And, finally, Tom Kelly refers to this post:

I’d take most of the beers listed over any of the novels. But some of the rankings are suspect. Anchor Steam is way too low. Pacifico rated higher than Negra Modelo? Give me a break. Did you know that “Pacifico” is the Spanish word for “Miller”?

So far, around 1,600 votes have been cast. The leaders are no surprise: Huckleberry Finn, followed by To Kill A Mockingbird. But I’m pleased to see that My Antonia is drawing quite a bit of support, and I take Henry James’ dismal showing to be another sign of our readers’ good judgment–although Scott assures me that it’s only the later James that is unreadable, and that Portrait of a Lady is quite wonderful.

You can vote at Power Line News every 24 hours, so if you’ve already cast a ballot, don’t hesitate to return and vote again.

SCOTT adds: Steven Den Beste writes: “Maybe Grapes of Wrath should go on the beer list. For some people it’s about as intoxicating.”


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