George Saunders is Da Man!

First he was invited to submit a Top Ten list, then he became just second American to win the Man Booker Prize. 

Coincidence?

Perhaps. In any event we offer an All American high-five, true-dat, chuch yo, way to go, to Mr. George Saunders.

“The form and style of this utterly original novel reveals a witty, intelligent, and deeply moving narrative,” said Baroness Lola Young, the chairman of the judging panel. His prize-winning novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, she noted, “is both rooted in, and plays with history, and explores the meaning and experience of empathy.” 

As Sophie Gilbert writes in the Atlantic: “The book is a dazzling and experimental ghost story set in 1862. Told in fragments of real and invented historical accounts, interspersed with script-like scenes of dialogue and first-person stories, it explores the death of Willie Lincoln, President Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son, who died of typhoid fever during the second year of the Civil War. Saunders, a Tibetan Buddhist, imagines Willie’s experiences in the “bardo,” a Buddhist plane between the worlds of the living and the dead where Willie communes with other deceased souls, and where he watches his father visit his entombed body. …

Saunders was the bookmakers’ favorite to win the award, but the victory by an American writer immediately after Paul Beatty claimed the prize for his novel The Sellout is controversial. Prior to 2014, the Man Booker was eligible only to writers from the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland. The decision to allow American writers to enter has been lamented by authors including A.S. Byatt and Julian Barnes, who argue that the award’s main purpose was giving exposure to writers who were little-known in the broader American literary market. “The Americans have got enough prizes of their own,” Barnes told the Radio Times last year. Ron Charles, the fiction editor for The Washington Post, has also argued against the inclusion of Americans. “For any serious reader of fiction in this country,” Charles wrote in September, “the Americanization of the Booker Prize is a lost opportunity to learn about great books that haven’t already been widely heralded.”

To which we can only respond: Try harder, pal.

George Saunders’s Top Ten List

This was harder than I thought it would be.  Because I found myself pondering the notion of Greatness: What good is it?  Why even have such a concept?  In the end I answered myself: We need a concept of greatness so we can know in what direction we should morally aspire.  A book answers this question most eloquently, it seems to me, in its voice; that is, in its attitude towards the mayhem it observes.  A book can be like the voice of God, telling us what to think of ourselves.  These are, for me, the books that do this most valuably:

1. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842)
2. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869)
4. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (1759–67)
5. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1600)
6. The stories of Isaac Babel (1894–1940)
7. The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904)
8. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
9. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (1953)
10. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)


 


 

 

New List

Francine Prose

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
2. The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (1839). (See below.)
3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
4. The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).
5. The stories of John Cheever (1912–82).
6. The stories of Mavis Gallant (1922– ).
7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
8. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72).
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).

 

Classic List

Amy Bloom

 

1. The Deptford trilogy by Robertson Davies (1983).
2.Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817).
3. His Dark Materialsby Philip Pullman (1995–2000).
4.The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (1995).
5.The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2003).
6. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro (1978).
7. The Plot Against Americaby Philip Roth.
8. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998).
9. Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier (1951).
10. Larry’s Party by Carol Shields (1997).

 

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