Monday, August 15, 2005

Eudora Welty, Losing Battles

First off, let me admit that I didn't finish reading this one. I got about a third of the way through it and, tired of waiting for something to happen in the story, I moved on to other things.

The "story" (such as it is) is divided into 6 parts, and involves an extended Mississippi family that gathers to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Granny Vaughn. Along the way, we are treated to a series of typically screwy southerners a la Flannery O'Connor as each one tells story after story about the family and various members of the community, much of which is intended to be amusing. The problem that I had with the novel, however, was that these stories weren't enough: I was waiting for something to actually happen!

Now, I've read two other Welty novels -- Delta Wedding and The Opimist's Daughter -- both of which I thought were good. And while Losing Battles had its moments of intended hilarity, I just wasn't picking up on an actual narrative to make the time I was spending with this book worthwhile. After about 100 pages or so, I felt like I "got" the idea of what the author was trying to achieve and . . . well . . . was ready for more.

One aspect of the novel that I must admit liking, however, was the effect of reading all that southern dialogue over an extended period of time. Somehow, you get a sense of the poetry behind southern dialect, and its cadences remain with you long after you've finished reading for the day -- much like the effects of reading Milton or Joyce or Proust for several hours at a stretch. Welty's command of southern dialogue (and dialect) is admirable, which is likely why my friend Donna (who, incidentally, listened to this novel on audiotape) loved the novel!

From what I understand, the "story" kicks-in in Part Six. But you have to wade through those first five Parts to get to it.

I hope the "story" is worth it . . .

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Top 169 Novels

I'm between books at the moment . . .

Today on the Pynchon-L listserve, a lister posted the "Top 169 Novels" recommended by readers of Thomas Pynchon (it was discussed on the list some time ago). These titles are ranked according to how many people recommended the work, starting with the highest number of votes.

How many have you read?

1. Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
2. Ulysses, James Joyce
3. Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
4. The Recognitions, William Gaddis
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
6. Mason & Dixon, Thomas Pynchon
7. JR, William Gaddis
8. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami
9. The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann
10. Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
11. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
12. V., Thomas Pynchon
13. Molloy/Malone/Unnamable, Samuel Beckett
14. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne
15. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
16. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
17. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
18. Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner
19. The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
20. A la recherche du temps perdu, Marcel Proust
21. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
22. Neuromancer, William Gibson
23. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
24. Ada, Vladimir Nabokov
25. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
26. Vineland, Thomas Pynchon
27. Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco
28. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
29. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
30. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
31. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
32. Chimera, John Barth
33. Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey
34. You Bright and Risen Angels, William T. Vollmann
35. Death of Virgil, Hermann Broch
36. Independent People, Halldor Laxness
37. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
38. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
39. If On a Winter's Night a Traveller, Italo Calvino
40. Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
41. Too Loud a Solitude, Bohumil Hrabel
42. A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick
43. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
44. Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry
45. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
46. The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass
47. Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin
48. The Castle, Franz Kafka
49. The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil
50. Candide, Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire
51. Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
52. Auto-da-Fe, Elias Canetti
53. Roadside Picnic, Arkadi and Boris Strugatsky
54. The Red and the Black, Stendhal
55. Count Zero, William Gibson
56. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
57. Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
58. Watt, Samual Beckett
59. Two Girls, Fat and Thin, Mary Gaitskill
60. The Sot-Weed Factor, John Barth
61. Nog, Rudolph Wurlitzer
62. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
63. A Book of Common Prayer, Joan Didion
64. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
65. Omon Ra, Victor Pelevin
66. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Philip K. Dick
67. Fathers and Sons, Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev
68. Hall of Mirrors, Robert Stone
69. Farewell, My Lovely, Raymond Chandler
70. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
71. U.S.A., John Dos Passos
72. Ragtime, E. L. Doctorow
73. Journey to the West, Anthony Yu
74. Ubik, Philip K. Dick
75. The Bridge Trilogy, William Gibson
76. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
77. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Thomas Wolfe
78. Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges
79. Light in August, William Faulkner
80. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein
81. The Man with the Golden Arm, Nelson Algren
82. The Night (Alone), Richard Meltzer
83. The Rabbit stories, John Updike
84. A Hero of Our Time, Mikhail Lermontov
85. House of Sleeping Beauties, Yasunari Kawabata
86. Underworld, Don DeLillo
87. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
88. The Counterlife, Philip Roth
89. The Story of the Treasure Seekers, Edith Nesbit
90. Always Coming Home, Ursula LeGuin
91. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
92. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky
93. Dune, Frank Herbert
94. Dreams of Leaving, Rupert Thompson
95. World's End, T.C. Boyle
96. Wittgenstein's Mistress, David Markson
97. Memories of the Ford Administration, John Updike
98. Carpenter's Gothic, William Gaddis
99. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazney
100. The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell
101. Life of Pi, Yann Martel
102. Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, Richard Powers
103. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
104. The Cairo Trilogy, Naguib Mahfouz
105. The Man Who Was Thursday, G. K. Chesterton
106. Vurt, Jeff Noon
107. The Glass Bead Game, Herman Hesse
108. Don Quixote, Miguel Cervantes
109. Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford
110. Enderby, The Poet, Anthony Burgess
111. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
112. Libra, Don DeLillo
113. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
114. Harlot's Ghost, Norman Mailer
115. Wise Blood (& the complete stories), Flannery O'Connor
116. The Border Trilogy, Cormac McCarthy
117. Warlock, Oakley Hall
118. The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson
119. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy
120. Giles Goat-Boy, John Barth
121. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
122. Beautifull Losers, Leonard Cohen
123. After The Banquet, Yukio Mishima
124. Beloved, Toni Morrison
125. Death On The Installment Plan, Louis Ferdinand-Celine
126. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brian
127. White Jazz, James Ellroy
128. The Trial, Franz Kafka
129. Frank's World, George Mangles
130. Metamorphosis (& Complete Works), Franz Kafka
131. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
132. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
133. Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino
134. Call It Sleep, Henry Roth
135. Quo Vadis, Henryk Sienkiewicz
136. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
137. What a Carve Up, Jonathan Coe
138. Revolutions Trilogy, John Banville
139. Geek Love, Katherine Dunn
140. Disgrace, J.M. Coatzee
141. Weave World, Clive Barker
142. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
143. The War at the End of the World, Vargas Llosa
144. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
145. The Gold Bug Variations, Richard Powers
146. The Goodbye Look, Ross MacDonald
147. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
148. The Confidence Man, Herman Melville
149. Cat's Eye, Margaret Atwood
150. A Month of Sundays, John Updike
151. Messiah of Stockholm, Cynthia Ozick
152. Valis Trilogy, Philip K. Dick
153. Locus Solus, Raymond Roussel
154. Time Enough For Love, Robert Heinlein
155. A Frolic of His Own, William Gaddis
156. As Above, So Below, Rudy Rucker
157. Women and Men: a novel, Joseph McElroy
158. A House for Mr. Biswas, V.P. Naipaul
159. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
160. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
161. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
162. Life: A User's Manual, Georges Perec
163. Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut
164. Waiting for the End of The World, Madison Smartt Bell
165. The Story of the Vivian Girls (etc.), Henry Darger
166. White Noise, Don Delillo
167. Dog Soldiers, Robert Stone
168. Lampiere's Dictionary, Lawrence Norfolk
169. Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges