by Judith Evans Thomas
In the June 4 edition of New York Magazine, the editors of the "Culture Pages" have taken a bold stand. Imagine, they say, that the "American Idol" contest model could pick the next best novelist. Consider also the books that are true gems, but have gone unnoticed. After that, let the instructors of New York's top creative writing departments pick a favorite student and see if he or she has the "it" factor to come out on top in a writing contest.
I say Hoorahhhh .
If you are looking for a reading list for the summer and fall here 'tis. And if you get perverse pleasure out of watching creative writers squirm under the spotlight of being made famous before having published anything....you'll love this. Better yet, if you wonder which of our current novelists will be remembered fifty years from now, the top writing teachers have voted. I'm embarrassed to say, I didn't know half of them.
Starting with the future Hemmingways and Updikes (reported by Lori Fradkin on pgs 59-69), have you read Helena Maria Viramontes, Zadie Smith, Andre Aciman, Amitav Ghosh, J.M. Coetzee, Chris Ware, Colson Whitehead, Gary Lutz, or W.G. Sebals? I haven't but I will. The two authors listed that I have read and love are Ian McEwan and Jhumpa Lahiri.
On to the "Best Novels You've Never Read" as reported by Katie Charles on pages 56-58. Ms. Charles interviewed sixty-one book critics and asked them to pick their favorite under-rated books of the last ten years. The critics' choices ranged from Craig Seligman of Bloomberg News's pick, "Suzy Zeus gets Organized" by Maggie Robbins, to The Wall Street Journal critic Jeffrey Trachtenberg's choice, "The Road Home" by Jim Harrison. And the winner, with the most votes, was David Markson for his two books, "The Last Novel" and "Vanishing Point". I have not read either one.
At this point I am sure there is moss growing where my brain used to be. Either that or I have corn growing between my toes and am in desperate need of a pedicure. Where are the writers I love to read? Is the literary establishment anti-genre?
What do you think?