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Tom Wolfe, RIP

We have lost a giant – one of the very best reporters and writers in American history.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Tom Wolfe, the best-selling alchemist of fiction and nonfiction who wrote “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” “The Right Stuff” and countless other novels and works of journalism, died of pneumonia in a New York hospital yesterday. He was 88 years old.

I first met Mr. Wolfe through “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” Then I read everything else. Being in his company was pure pleasure, and inspiring. Try ... read more ...

The Book: The Top Ten

    A Fan's Notes

    A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley (1968). A cross between Charles Bukowski and John Kennedy Toole, this harrowing, hilarious autobiographical novel portrays a raw and likable barstool dreamer. He is a slovenly, all-American misfit headed for the psychiatric institution, who fills his head with all-American fantasies of fame, wealth, and beautiful women.

    A Far Cry from Kensington

    A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark (1988). Like all of Spark’s work, this novel is hard to define. Metaphysical farce? Literary mystery? At bottom it is a dark, elegant, hilarious tale centered on the zaftig widow Mrs. Hawkins. She spends her days and evenings giving advice to her eccentric rooming house mates and her coworkers in book publishing.

    A Farewell to Arms

    A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (1929). Based on Hemingway’s experiences during World War I, this romantic tragedy recounts the story of Frederic Henry, an American volunteer in the Italian ambulance corps who meets and eventually falls in love with a maternal yet alluring English nurse, Catherine Barkley.

    A Handful of Dust

    A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh (1934). Leading lives of empty desperation, Waugh’s characters kill the days of their lives with petty concerns, silly parties, and unfulfilling affairs. A withering satire of England’s declining aristocracy, the novel showcases Waugh’s caustic eye and comic wit.

    A Harlot High and Low

    A Harlot High and Low by Honoré de Balzac (1847). Balzac claimed a crime lay behind every great fortune. Here his master criminal from Père Goriot, Vautrin, tests that hypothesis by orchestrating the rise of the poet, dandy, and social parasite Lucien de Rubempré. Vautrin is in love with him. So is Esther, a reformed prostitute.

    A Heart So White

    A Heart So White by Javier Marías (1994). Juan knows only this about his shady, twice-widowed father: before marrying Juan’s mother, he had wed her older sister, who committed suicide shortly after the ceremony.

    A House for Mr. Biswas

    A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul (1961). An Indian man living in Trinidad, Mr. Biswas is a tenant in some houses and an unfavored relative in others. All he wants is a home of his own. His adult son narrates this story of his monumental search for a home and all that implies.

    A Legacy

    A Legacy by Sybille Bedford (1956).

    Appreciation of Sybille Bedford’s A Legacy by David Leavitt

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare (1595). The summit of Shakespeare’s early romantic comedies, this play explores the troubled course of love leading to the marriages of King Theseus of Athens and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, and two young aristocratic Athenian couples.

    A Passage to India

    A Passage to India by E. M. Forster (1924). A handful of English people searching for the “real” India get far more than they bargained for—up to and including a terrifying transcendental experience in a very dark cave.

    Pages

    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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