Greatest Novel?

May 12, 2006

Greatest Novel in the Past 25 Years?
Not to take anything away from Toni Morrison's Beloved, but how does one select it as the greatest novel in the past 25 years? How do you select any novel for that matter. Undaunted by the task, New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus came up with the answer: Beloved. Why? A.O.Scott explains in his essay. The Times also lists those books mentioned but which did not make the final cut. The selection has raised a controversy as well as the usual sarcasm, such as how did Beloved win if Ophra was not one of the individuals asked by Tanenhaus to make a selection. For example, News & Observer book review J. Peder Zane makes a point that 75 percent of the judges live within 75 miles of New York City. The blog Galleycat started complaining on Wednesday. Here's today's comment. But the controversy and the difficulty the judges had, which Scott explains, indicates what I have believed for a while—American fiction is going through one of its greatest periods.

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