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Top Ten books of famous authors
January 20, 2012 3:42 PM   Subscribe


 
Geez, CS Monitor, pageviews much?
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:50 PM on January 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah, when did CS Monitor's layout turn to crap?

Interesting that DFW's has King's The Stand on his list, and at #2.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:51 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


their print-screens triggered some kind of auto-print.

sorry.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:52 PM on January 20, 2012


That one of Stephen King's favorites is McTeague, well, that explains a lot.
posted by chavenet at 3:53 PM on January 20, 2012


I love that so many of DFW's favorites are "non-literary" works. makes me feel better about my recent reading habits.
posted by rtimmel at 3:56 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wallace's list is a bad joke.
posted by otio at 4:03 PM on January 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


A less irritating version.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 4:05 PM on January 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Randall Flagg does kind of seem like a dry run for Judge Holden, doesn't he?
posted by infinitewindow at 4:06 PM on January 20, 2012


@chavenet

i actually kind of liked mcteague, is that cool

it was bleakly interesting and it inspired "Greed"
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:08 PM on January 20, 2012


Those may or may not be DFW's 10 favorite books, but he sure didn't write those blurbs about them. Which, you know, really his description about why they were his favorites is the only thing I'd give 10 separate pageviews for.
posted by penduluum at 4:11 PM on January 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure that Wallace is just taking the piss.
posted by Flashman at 4:12 PM on January 20, 2012


Yeah, maybe. Other sources (those class notes, the memoir of tha journalist who road-tripped with him) imply that he did read a lot of mass-market fiction, and appreciate it.

But still. Tom Clancy? Alligator? I don't know.
posted by penduluum at 4:19 PM on January 20, 2012


I'll take Wallace's favourites over Kidd's favourites any old day of the week.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:23 PM on January 20, 2012


That said, I can't even remember how many times I've tried to read The Stand and given up out of being annoyed and bored.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:23 PM on January 20, 2012


Yeah, those are some strange picks from Wallace. I actually just read The Sum of All Fears and it is pretty good if you are the type of person who fixates on stats and procedure. I really can't imagine Fear Of Flying being in anyone's top ten.

Those are even a wierd mix even to pick out of thin air. I think he happened to glance at a stack of paperbacks someone was throwing out and just read them off.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:27 PM on January 20, 2012


Of course, these are mostly exercises in impression management: Stephen King wants you to know that really, he is part of the American literary tradition, really! and David Foster Wallace wants you to know that really, he's not into snobbish nonsense like "the American literary tradition," he's just a regular dude, really!

That said, The Stand is just about the best example I know of the kind of book it is, and is a credit to both King and DFW.
posted by escabeche at 4:32 PM on January 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


One can thoroughly enjoy crappy books. Favorites does not necessarily imply great, or even good.

Glad they mentioned that DFW contributed his list of favorite books "prior to his death".
posted by plastic_animals at 4:33 PM on January 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


So what's the least surprising #1 on the whole list of top 10s? Ethan Canin picking Cheever's collected stories has to be a contender.
posted by escabeche at 4:33 PM on January 20, 2012


Really? Fear of Flying is what ruins it. He should have gone with Joy Luck Club.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:33 PM on January 20, 2012




Point taken , I am just going to have to get over his pick of Fear of Flying. I don't even know any women who have read it.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:38 PM on January 20, 2012


George Saunders lists On The Road. That's... problematic.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:49 PM on January 20, 2012


DFW's list almost seems crafted to convey the sort of populist, "aw schucks, I may be a genius but I'm just a normal midwestern guy" image that he was known to cultivate at times. But I can totally understand the inclusion of Red Dragon: one summer I read the first three of the Hannibal Lecter novels, and it's all downhill after Red Dragon. What threw me off was the inclusion of a second Thomas Harris book on the list.
posted by mediated self at 4:50 PM on January 20, 2012


I'm a little confused as to why CS Monitor tells me that DFW wrote three novels. Two and a half, maybe.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:54 PM on January 20, 2012


Stephen King wants you to know that really, he is part of the American literary tradition, really!

Or that he was an English teacher before he sold Carrie, alternatively.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:07 PM on January 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


DFW didn't seem like the kind of guy who'd submit a joke list.
posted by joshjs at 5:31 PM on January 20, 2012


Wallace's list is a bad joke.
posted by otio at 12:03 AM on January 21


Like his writing, which is a series of bad shaggy dog stories.

Oh, come on. You know I have to kick his damned corpse every time he gets mentioned. Fair and balanced!
posted by Decani at 5:55 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


That said, I can't even remember how many times I've tried to read The Stand and given up out of being annoyed and bored.

I started to sharpen my stick when I read this, but the same applies to me and Infinite Jest.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:10 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Point taken , I am just going to have to get over his pick of Fear of Flying. I don't even know any women who have read it.

I am a woman and I have read Fear of Flying.

Of course, I was like thirteen years old when I read it, but I was technically, biologically a woman at the time.
posted by padraigin at 6:12 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


What? No Jacqueline Susann on DFW's list? Dave, I am disappoint.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:13 PM on January 20, 2012


Those kind of books on DFW's list I always call 'airport fiction'.
posted by bquarters at 6:17 PM on January 20, 2012


Wallace's list is a bad joke.

Nah, he was just more fun at parties than you.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:27 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, maybe he was on to something. I'd like to change my answer from Blood Meridian to one of those vampire books.

Of course, I was like thirteen years old when I read it

I read it when I was 18 or so. I was just baffled why she ditched her husband for a man with such terrible hygiene. How naive I was, I always thought women liked men who took showers.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:40 PM on January 20, 2012


(possible spoilers?)




Infinite Jest is, in part, both near-future SF and an espionage thriller. David Foster Wallace does a very good job with the science-fiction world-building, and would have done a pretty good job with the video cartridge conspiracy plot had he bothered to finish it. He couldn't have done either if he didn't understand "trashy" "genre" fiction.

on an unrelated note, Ursula K. LeGuin's Changing Planes is the best airport book you can buy.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:49 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


DFW read a whole bunch - and likely catered the books listed here to the original audience it was intended for.

For example, here is another DFW list that might fit people's conceptions of his work a little more closely:

“Omensetters Luck” by William H. Gass (1966)

“Steps” by Jerzy Kosinski (1968)

“Angels” by Denis Johnson (1983)
“Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West” by Cormac McCarthy (1985)
“Wittgenstein’s Mistress” by David Markson (1988)

which was DFW's idea of Five direly underappreciated U.S. novels >1960 and can be found here at Salon with his actual thought on each.

My fav of the group: Wittgenstein's Mistress. It is much better than any short summary, but that isn't much to work with, so it's a meditation on solitude and madness - the author David Markson passed away in 2010. That he is so completely unknown is a great tragedy.
posted by zenon at 6:54 PM on January 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


DFW's list hurt my eponysterical feelings.
posted by drpynchon at 7:02 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


DFW's list is presumably aspirational at some level -- lightning-speed procedurals were somewhat outside his wheelhouse, and it's nice to think/know he boned up on the stuff he couldn't do in his sleep.

I believe King, similarly, when he names Great Novels on his top-10 list. He's never thought of himself as 'just a thriller writer,' as stories like The Shining, 'The Body,' and the Dark Tower series demonstrate -- he wants to be something bigger and more dear. Good on him.
posted by waxbanks at 7:14 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I started to sharpen my stick

On the first couple of pages we've got Hap, Dev and Stu, like some mad cereal mascots, and it's talking about petrol stations and oh god
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:15 PM on January 20, 2012


I can't even remember how many times I've tried to read The Stand and given up out of being annoyed and bored. --- I bet the number is less than the number of times I've tried to read Infinite Jest and given up for the same reasons.
posted by crunchland at 7:23 PM on January 20, 2012


Your favorite author's ten favorite books suck.

Anyway, it's fun to speculate about the motives behind DFW's list. Of the ones I've read, I would say Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs are good pulp, The Sum of All Fears could be a joke, and the rest, while all enjoyable in some way, are ultimately flawed in proportion to their ambition: The Screwtape Letters most of all, followed by Stranger In a Strange Land and The Stand. Which pretty much matches my current opinion of DFW: fun to read, but ultimately flawed in proportion to his ambition.
posted by mubba at 7:31 PM on January 20, 2012


baby can you dig your man
posted by kbanas at 7:37 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's DFW's syllabus from his "Literary Analysis: Prose Fiction" class. Note that King, Thomas Harris, and Jackie Collins are on the list. And he expected his students to read every book twice before coming to class.
posted by one_bean at 7:46 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you couldn't finish The Stand you should check out the extended edition. It has an extra 200 pages of Trashcan Man lighting shit on fire.

Between the two of them Infinite Jest is a quicker read.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:16 PM on January 20, 2012


i like mcteague for the jolly dentist, drinking a pitcher of beer and playing the harmonium in picturebook san francisco part. not so much for the falling into destitution and beating his wife to death part.
posted by camdan at 11:30 PM on January 20, 2012


drpynchon: DFW's list hurt my eponysterical feelings.

Yeah, but it's not like he doesn't show that he's a fan of Pynchon. There are bits in IJ where he's basically waving a giant flag labelled 'THIS IS A THOMAS PYNCHON REFERENCE EVERYBODY'. (Which could sorta explain the general logic behind his list: it's easy to put DFW in the context of other "literary" writers - it wouldn't surprise anyone to learn that he liked Pynchon, Borges, DeLillo, maybe Gaddis (few others mentioned here, scroll down; but it would maybe surprise people to hear he likes the books listed here).

Decani: if you're ever away from Metafilter, please feel free to arrange a pair with me, in case a DFW thread comes up ;-)
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:50 AM on January 21, 2012


If you couldn't finish The Stand you should check out the extended edition. It has an extra 200 pages of Trashcan Man lighting shit on fire.

And what's really cool is, those 200 pages were actually cut not from King's original version of The Stand, but from Infinite Jest.
posted by escabeche at 5:45 AM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, the King list has made me go and download the Raj Quartet from Amazon, so thanks for that Stephen King. Oh, and thanks for Salem's Lot as well, that was a lot of fun.
posted by Summer at 6:47 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


It has an extra 200 pages of Trashcan Man lighting shit on fire.

Not to mention that rockabilly kid. Was he a serial killer or a Werewolf? The memory is hazy.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:22 AM on January 21, 2012


What is fascinating here is that in a thread where both Stephen King and David Foster Wallace are being discussed, only David Foster Wallace has been called a poor writer.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:45 AM on January 21, 2012


[DFW] would have done a pretty good job with the video cartridge conspiracy plot had he bothered to finish it.

The same could be said about the book in general.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 9:27 AM on January 21, 2012


You ain't no nice guy!
posted by Crabby Appleton at 5:09 PM on January 21, 2012


I love both Stephen King and DFW, and I love that DFW is a fan of The Stand. I thought it was interesting that King's list is entirely male authors (and Wallace's only slightly better on that front).
posted by naoko at 4:45 PM on January 22, 2012


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