C-L s Mitchell, Welty scholar

Best American novels of the 20th Century

The spiked crown of New York's Statue of LibertyAnother Great American: the Statue of Liberty. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

I read and digested your comments. I agonised and I performed sweeping U-turns across the American canon. I have re-jigged the novelists to produce a final list that still does not include David Foster Wallace, Marilynne Robinson, Harper Lee or anyone short of the four novel minimum. For shame, but this single elimination tournament demands a novelist must have four possible "greats" to bring to the party. It is a wide sieve through which many notable writers have fallen, but there it is: I'm looking for an American, writing within the last 100 years who went back to the well again and again and continued to find it wet with novelistic inspiration.

The "four book rule" had a lot of you incensed and AggieH caught the whiff of corruption; a conspiracy to hold back Robinson and "fix it for Capote"...

The case for the greatness for each of [Robinson's] three novels, and for their collective greatness as a body of work, was dismissed unheard solely because of an arbitrary rule that you broke yourself solely to fix it for Capote. (The GANs. Sponsored by Barclays?)

The "Capote non-fiction" scandal was too much to bear, so Truman has been eliminated, dragging with him Norman Mailer, kicking and screaming. In Cold Blood and Executioner's Song are fabulous reads but, good as they are, they cannot be called novels. They are, instead, beautifully written accounts of real events. Of course, many writers use real events from their lives to produce a novel but, as Richard Yates said of his writing, "the emotions of fiction are autobiographical but the facts never are."

And talking of Yates, I'm afraid he's gone too. I ejected him with a heavy heart - Revolutionary Road is a breathtaking book - but I felt that he was better regarded for his short stories than his novels. The same goes for John Cheever. Thanks to Mewto55555 and JoeCarlson, I have installed Sinclair Lewis and Vladimir Nabokov in their place;

Source: www.theguardian.com
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