The New York Times Book Review published their survey results for the best American fiction of the past 25 years last week. If you didn't see it, it was based on the votes of a pretty distinguished panel of critics and writers, but as all lists invite lots of second-guessing and pooh-poohing, this is one is no different. The entire list was heavily dominated by Philip Roth, who had the most books on the list, although it was Toni Morrison's Beloved that came in as the number one work of fiction. Among the Runners-Up were Roth, Updike's Rabbit novels (Everyman compilation), and McCarthy's Blood Meridian.
Well, I certainly admired Beloved, and I'm a big McCarthy fan, so nothing to quibble with there. However, if I were picking, I would give it to Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, a gorgeous novel about horrible things. I think it 's the last book that really amazed me, and that I find myself still thinking about on a regular basis. Dealing with the Vietnam experience is such a central issue in the American psyche, and I don't know that anyone has done it as well as O'Brien.
Don Delillo is well-represented on the list--and someone I've been meaning to read for awhile. Anyway, there's lots of food for thought.