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99 Novels (1984)

von Anthony Burgess

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2651280,265 (3.92)56
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reviews of best novels from 1939-1983
  ritaer | Jun 2, 2020 |
Right from the outset, I should admit to how much I like 99 Novels and acknowledge the impact that it has had on my development as a reader. I first came across this intriguing collection of essays as I was leaving graduate school, which roughly coincided with the book’s publication. My conceit at the time was that I was rather well read—particularly for someone coming out of a business school—so when I saw the title, I assumed that I must have already read at least half of the selections. Actually, I had only read six! Further, I had not even heard of some of the authors included on the list, which just covers novels written in English over a fairly short period of time (1939-1984). Needless to say, I took this sad lack of exposure as a personal challenge to raise my fiction reading game. By serving as guide for my literary choices over the ensuing years, this volume has helped me do just that.

While Burgess himself enjoyed success as a novelist (A Clockwork Orange, for instance), he was also known to be a prolific and insightful critic. As he makes it clear in the introduction, his intention here was to produce a list of books that affected him on a personal level, rather than one that reflected the consensus opinion of his peers. So, it includes the work of many writers you would expect (Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, Doris Lessing, Thomas Pynchon, Muriel Spark, Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner) but also several that might come as a surprise (Erica Jong, Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, Raymond Chandler). In each case, Burgess provides a cogent one- or two-page essay explaining his reasoning for including them in the set. I found these summaries to be especially useful when they involved a novel from a writer who was new to me at that point, as was the case with Robertson Davies, Russell Hoban, and Mary McCarthy. I have not agreed with every selection included in 99 Novels, but the hits far outweigh the misses. On balance, it has exposed me to a much richer world than the one I knew before. ( )
  browner56 | Aug 1, 2018 |
I'm going out on a limb here... This is the most useful guide you'll find to reading material in the English-speaking world in the period from the outbreak of WW2 to the year of Orwell's dystopia. He may have had his faults as a novelist but as a critic Burgess was discerning and omniscient. I've even got two copies - one in England and one in Brittany! ( )
1 abstimmen PZR | Jul 28, 2018 |
What I like most about Mr. Burgess's collection of reviews is its eclectic nature. The choices for the 99 best novels since 1939 range from Henry Green's Party-Going to Robertson Davies The Rebel Angels. In fact, those are the first and last entries. In between, cheek-to-cheek you will find William Faulkner and Ian Fleming. Herman Wouk's Caine Mutiny is listed, rarely a pick of the literati, but a long time favorite of mine. Then there are books I have never heard of, Lanark by Alasdar Gray? There are favorites here, Powell's Dance to the Music of Time (all if it!). Mystifying choices, Erica Jong. I especially like that there are books I have never met before. I love being introduced to new friends. The reviews themselves are wryly unapologetic, candid, and intriguing. On John Barth, as loathed a modernist as one could pick, one often cited for a self indulgence as close to onanism as writing can be (though I for the most part (the parenthesis are for you, JB) love him) Burgess notes, "Whatever you might think of him, you cannot ignore John Barth." Of Giles Goat-Boy, a high school favorite of mine, Burgess says, "the taking of it seriously entails the taking of it unseriously." Exactly! He has almost sold me on books I would have left to myself pointedly avoided. Perhaps I might give Fleming a try after all. I didn't just say that did I? ( )
1 abstimmen lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
What I like most about Mr. Burgess's collection of reviews is its eclectic nature. The choices for the 99 best novels since 1939 range from Henry Green's Party-Going to Robertson Davies The Rebel Angels. In fact, those are the first and last entries. In between, cheek-to-cheek you will find William Faulkner and Ian Fleming. Herman Wouk's Caine Mutiny is listed, rarely a pick of the literati, but a long time favorite of mine. Then there are books I have never heard of, Lanark by Alasdar Gray? There are favorites here, Powell's Dance to the Music of Time (all if it!). Mystifying choices, Erica Jong. I especially like that there are books I have never met before. I love being introduced to new friends. The reviews themselves are wryly unapologetic, candid, and intriguing. On John Barth, as loathed a modernist as one could pick, one often cited for a self indulgence as close to onanism as writing can be (though I for the most part (the parenthesis are for you, JB) love him) Burgess notes, "Whatever you might think of him, you cannot ignore John Barth." Of Giles Goat-Boy, a high school favorite of mine, Burgess says, "the taking of it seriously entails the taking of it unseriously." Exactly! He has almost sold me on books I would have left to myself pointedly avoided. Perhaps I might give Fleming a try after all. I didn't just say that did I? ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
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1984 has arrived, but Orwell's glum prophesy has not been fulfilled.
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