David Foster Wallace

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Infinite Jest, Top Ten Contributor Tom Bissel has written a sharp appraisal in the New York Times Book Review. It proposes four theories as to why David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece “still feels so transcendentally, electrically alive. … 

“Theory 1: As a novel about an “entertainment” weaponized to enslave and destroy all who look upon it, Infinite Jest is the first great Internet novel. …

 “Theory 2: Infinite Jest is a genuinely groundbreaking novel of language. Not even the masters of the high/low rhetorical register go higher more panoramically or lower more exuberantly than Wallace — not Joyce, not Bellow, not Amis. …

“Theory 3: Infinite Jest is a peerlessly gripping novel of character. …

“Theory 4: Infinite Jest is unquestionably the novel of its generation.”

And enjoy David’s list – imagine my thrill when it came in the mail and my surprise when I read the picks which might have seemed in jest except that he was known to praise many of these works. Instead, he made me think about what it means to succeed on one’s own terms.

David Foster Wallace’s Top Ten List

1. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis (1942).
2. The Stand by Stephen King (1978).
3. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris (1981).
4. The Thin Red Line by James Jones (1962).
5. Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (1973).
6. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988).
7. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (1961).
8. Fuzz by Ed McBain (1968).
9. Alligator by Shelley Katz (1977).
10. The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy (1991). 

New List

Joyce Carol Oates

1. The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1872).
2. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847).
4. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
5. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
6. Independent People by Halldór Laxness (1934).
7. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936).
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
9. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934).
10. The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942).

 

Classic List

Charles Palliser

 

1. Adolphe by Benjamin Constant (1816).
2. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien (1939).
3. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824).
4. Anton Reiser by Karl Philipp Moritz (1785-90).
5. The Golovlyev Family by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin (1876).
6. The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton (1947).
7. The Tale of Genji by Shikibu Murasaki (c. 1001–1010 c.e.).
8. The Dukays by Lajos Zilahy. (1949)
9. Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane (1896).
10. The Maias by Eca de Queiroz (1888).

 

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