Best fiction of the millennium

Over at The Millions, they’re revealing the fiction they feel is the best of the millennium so far.

What they’ve come up with:
20 Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
19 American Genius, A Comedy by Lynne Tillman
18 Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
17 The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
16 Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
15 Varieties of Disturbance by Lydia Davis
14 Atonement by Ian McEwan
13 Mortals by Norman Rush
12 Twilight of the Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg
11 The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
10 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
9 Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro
8 Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
7 Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
6 The Road by Cormac McCarthy
5 Pastoralia by George Saunders
4 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
3 Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
2 The Known World by Edward P. Jones
1 The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

I’ve only read four things from this decade (variety of reasons), and only really liked one (sorry, Wallace fans, Oblivion is not my favorite…a few pieces are outstanding, but overall I didn’t get attached to many of the stories, and my favorite chapter within is from the early 90s.) I’m beginning to think I need to go back to Modernism where I belong. But I will reenter this decade with the new Margaret Atwood, then venture one by one down this list from The Millions.

Here’s the problem. I’ve read The Corrections. Liked it. For a lot of reasons was compelled by it. Didn’t love it. But that’s the best this millennium has to offer? Uh-oh. 2666 is on my stack, and I’ll willingly tackle it this month (okay, next month, and only if I finish my conference paper which is woefully behind). But I want to hear from you about whether I should tackle this list out of order or not at all or…

What do you think of them? The books, I mean. Anything missing? Anything on this list rock your world?

[Update, years later: from this list I’ve finished 2666 and Cloud Atlas. The former is impressive and not my cup of tea. The latter rocked my world and I will read it again soon. Awesome book.]

Books I love, that nobody seems to read.

After our extravaganza about classics we loathe, the erudite blogosphere and I have undertaken another endeavor.

Books we love that nobody seems to know about or read:

(This is harder than I thought it would be, since all my books are in a POD storage facility, waiting for us to either buy or rent, hinging on the daily fluctuations of the market, interest rates, and my hair-trigger vascillations. That said, if I know these are true loves from memory, isn’t that more authentic? Let’s pretend so.)

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Walker Evans and James Agee. Oh, my. Gorgeous photos. Compelling journalism.

Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zola Neale Hurston. Dear, me, that woman can write down to a person’s bones. Passion, love, poverty, power, and above all, the indefatigable soul of fatigued women. Damn.

Silences. Tillie Olsen. Can’t do it justice with words. Which is the point, as its goal is to textualize the silent periods of authors’ lives.

Collected Works. Grace Paley. Choose your favorites.

One Hundred Years of Solitude. Gabriel Marquez Garcia. Maybe people are reading this and I don’t know. I did not find Love in the Time of Cholera enjoyable. Everyone who has ever read One Hundred Years, though, was touched to the core, by its magical realism and epic grasp on the human heart. Is this already on everyone’s list? Please go read it. The Nobel Prize announcement insisted that, in his writing, he creates: “a cosmos in which the human heart and the combined forces of history, time and again, burst the bounds of chaos – killing and procreation.” Who wouldn’t read all of his books after that?

Nightwood. Djuna Barnes. Some of the most compelling scenes I’ve ever read. Some of the most sadly endearing characters I’ve ever met. Some of the most confusing passages I’ve ever pushed through. Really, really brilliant work.

Wings. Shinsuke Tanaka. Gorgeously spun tale of joy and intolerance, difference, and love. As with all good stories, we have to fudge the ending a bit with our toddler, but it’s easy to change the story’s climax just a little to make sure everything turns out even more okay.

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth. Chris Ware. A poignant, gorgeous, thought provoking graphic novel. Especially tender about relationships of fathers and sons. The year I read it I gave it to everyone I knew for Chrismakkah.

Princess Bride. William Goldman. The cult following of the movie would imply a large fanbase for the book, which is (predictably, both for the track record of “the book was better” and for Goldman’s MASTERY of narration) ten thousand and three times better than the film.

Tender Buttons. Gertrude Stein. penelope said it first, but I second it. This is the work worth reading. There is molto there there.

Absolom, Absolom. William Faulkner. For some reason it’s neither read nor assigned as often as it should be. It’s the most compelling, for me, of his work because the female characters are the most poignantly drawn. As I Lay Dying is good, but not good enough to re-read a third time. The Sound and The Fury is remarkable, but harder reading. Light in August is brilliant and compelling but I can’t take the violence right now.

Poetical Dictionary. Lohren Green. Philosopher and History of Philosophy guy makes language visual and poetical. Very compelling intellectually.

An American Tragedy. Theodore Dreiser. I wrote my undergrad honors thesis on Sister Carrie, and I loved that book. And for a historical perspective on American industrialization and women, it still reigns supreme. But something about An American Tragedy just really floats my boat. No pun intended. Oh, dear, I should edit that out. No pun intended at all. Gross.

Not a Box. Antoinette Portis. Yes, it’s a children’s book, but it’s absolutely inspiring.

Infinite Jest. David Foster Wallace. Detailed and stream of consciousness and meticulous and hilarious and disturbing and prescient and nakedly raw. Delicious. Also Brief interviews with Hideous Men. Not so much The Girl with Curious Hair, only bits of which did I enjoy. Still working on Oblivion. I had taken a Wallace break to raise a child and write my own fiction, but now I’m tearfully relishing his every word. My God, I ache knowing that we’ll never get more.

The Yellow Wallpaper. Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I keep a copy in every room, and in my glove compartment. (Okay, not really, but I’m considering it this week.)

I couldn’t include many of my favorites here because most people have read them and still read them, which disqualifies them by definition. But I feel the need to show some lovin’ to some of the greatest books ever written: Catch-22, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Joy Luck Club, Lord of the Flies, Green Eggs and Ham, The Color Purple, Their Eyes Were Watching God, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Grapes of Wrath.