Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Sunday, November 09, 2003
The most awaited literary tally in North America has arrived: Crescat Sententia's 100 Novels I haven't commented on the Guardian's "Big 100" list, because... well, because it was one of those very standard books-you-should-read-to-be-considered-educated-goddammit lists. Very little on it was in any way surprising; all of the Big Dead European Novelists were covered once, as well as all of the Granddaddies of Modern Literature. But the CS list... this is not a list for Allan Bloom. It's rather like what I would have expected Allan Bloom's undergraduate students to have replied in an anonymous poll. It's very Chicago--Crime and Punishment, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Umberto Eco... the only books it's missing are Contact and maybe a 20th century dystopia or two.

But Harry Potter as No. 3? Everyone knows that the "His Dark Materials" series by Phillip Pullman is far superior. And why is the "Dirk Gently" series ranked higher than the Hitchhiker's Trilogy? And while I applaud the decision to put The Moon as a Harsh Mistress higher than The Fountainhead on the list, thus establishing Heinlein's work as the far superior libertarian-themed novel, why did The Fountainhead have to appear at all? The relationship between Roark and Dominique is creepily fascinating, and it's certainly an important work in terms of its political philosophy, but it's not great literature and it isn't even good propaganda--whereas The Moon is a Harsh Mistress made me sympathetic to ideas about minimalist government by showing libertarianism with a human face*, The Fountainhead's "individualist" hero is an emotional cripple. Do you really want to live in a neighborhood composed of these guys?

*Doesn't mean I want to get rid of 95% of the government, though. I'm not sure our nation as a whole has enough of the "frontier spirit" that seems required. Maybe once our hole-filled public education system is fixed... wait, straying off topic.

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