Update: TIME Top 100 All-Time Novels (6/100 read)
It’s been 18 days, and I’m through 6 of the Time’s 100 best novels, only one of which I’d read before. It has been a somewhat disappointing exercise. I expected to be awed and inspired by the beautiful writing, to experience art that I admire and want to emulate. (Which doesn’t mean that I think I CAN emulate any of these books, just that I want to like them enough to WANT to emulate them. If that makes any sense.) So far, that’s only been the case in 2 of the 6 books. I have dutifully written up my reviews on Goodreads, and you can read them if you like by clicking on the book cover on the right side of my blog posts. I plan on reading up on how to write book reviews. It’s not something engineers covered much in school.
I have (re) discovered that I like good plots, some action and to-the-point writing (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Big Sleep.)
While I like funny books, I don’t like to feel like I’m being hit over the head with inane dialogue and the author’s ironic, satirical observations, however much I may often agree with them (White Noise).
I’ve also been reminded that when I stray from my mystery/thriller genre, books can bore me. Death in the Family was a beautifully written story, almost poetic, one that painted vivid pictures of small town life, much like the one I raised my children in, but after awhile, the descriptions — of people, places and feelings — made my eyes start to glaze over.
And, even a solid plot can’t outweigh tedious, slow writing (White Teeth). Of course, Zadie Smith is considered to be one of today’s greatest young authors, so who am I to say her style is tedious?
On the other hand, clever writing can balance out a somewhat rambling plot. I loved the way Vonnegut used the same phrases throughout the book in very different circumstances, I wasn’t entirely thrilled with Slaughterhouse 5 while I was reading it, but some of the repeated phrasing makes me want to go back over it again to see what I may have missed.
(A confession: I also started Rabbit Run, by John Updike, but after getting about 10% through it, I decided it was just too depressing, and switched to something I’d hoped would be more upbeat. As it turns out, White Noise wasn’t depressing, but it certainly wasn’t enjoyable either.)
So, to summarize, my take on these 6 of Time’s top 100 is:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis 5/5 (Yes, I’ve rated a children’s book as the best so far. And, in my opinion, at least 3 of the other 6 books in this series could also be on this list!)
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler 4/5
Death in the Family by James Agee 3/5
Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut 3/5
White Teeth by Zadie Smith 2/5
White Noise by Don DeLillo 1/5
And now, I’m going to give the Times’ List a little break. I have a date with Adam Dagliesh (P.D. James’ poet/detective) and The Lighthouse.