The best short story collection since Dubliners.

The best short story collection since Dubliners.

Interpreter of Maladies

  • Author:  Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Published:  1999
  • Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Company
  • Pages:  198
  • First Line:  “The notice informed them that it was a temporary matter: for five days their electricity would be cut off for one hour, beginning at eight P.M.”
  • Last Lines:  “I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first.  Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept.  As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.”
  • Acclaim:  Pulitzer Prize
  • Film Version:  none
  • First Read:  Summer 2000


Faulkner is the king of the list.  Does that really surprise you?

Faulkner is the king of the list. Does that really surprise you?

Before I put up the full Top 100 list (and do the post for #1), I am tossing up this bit of various trivia and statistics about the novels on my Top 100 list and on the 101-200 list.

Please note that none of the lists involving 101-200 have numbers attached because I didn’t rank them.

  • Longest Top 100 Novel:  In Search of Lost Time  (4651 pages)
  • Shortest Top 100 Novel:  Heart of Darkness  (96 pages)
  • Earliest Top 100 Novel:  Gulliver’s Travels  (1726)
  • Latest Top 100 Novel:  Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel  (2004)
  • Latest Top 200 Novel:  The Night Circus / The Tiger’s Wife  (2011) (more…)

The Modern Library’s most egregious oversight.


  • Rank:  #14
  • Author:  Toni Morrison  (b. 1931)
  • Published:  1987
  • Publisher:  Alfred Knopf
  • Pages:  275
  • First Line:  “124 was spiteful.”
  • Last Line:  “Beloved.”
  • ML Edition:  none
  • Film:  1998  (***)
  • Acclaim:  Pulitzer Prize; NY Times Best American Novel of the Past 25 Years; All-TIME List
  • First Read:  Spring, 1995 (more…)

A young Philip Roth in 1968 about to set everyone alight with Portnoy's Complaint.

“I write fiction and I’m told it’s autobiography, I write autobiography and I’m told it’s fiction, so since I’m so dim and they’re so smart, let them decide what it is or it isn’t.”  (Deception)

My 1st Edition Philip Roth collection.

Philip Roth has not won the Nobel Prize.  But it seems like he’s won everything else.  And if the Nobel Committee were to realize that there are countries outside of Europe (hell, outside of Sweden – nine Swedes have now won the Nobel Prize in Literature – I know it’s your country, but that’s ridiculous), they would look at Roth again.  He has written award winning books, award winning short stories, he has written on the art of writing and on his contemporaries.  He has helped to build the knowledge of European Literature in the United States, being the editor of Writers from the Other Europe Series from Penguin that brought, among others, Milan Kundera to the forefront in the States.  With John Updike and Saul Bellow now gone, he is the last of that breed, those writers who were obsessed with sex, obsessed with life, who gave us great novels that were cultural as well as literary milestones.

He is one of my favorites.  You might not want to shake his hand, or even know him.  But you should definitely read him.


the great punch thrown to Hitler's face on the cover of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000) by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

  • Author:  Michael Chabon
  • Rank:  #34
  • Published:  2000
  • Publisher:  Random House
  • Pages:  639
  • First Line:  “In later years, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier’s greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini.”
  • Last Line:  “When Rosa and Joe picked it up they saw that Sammy had taken a pen and, bearing down, crossed out the name of the never-more-than-theoretical family that was printed above the address, and in its place written, sealed in a neat black rectangle, knotted by the stout cord of an ampersand, the words KAVALIER & CLAY.”
  • Acclaim:  Pulitzer Prize; National Book Critics Circle Finalist; PEN/Faulkner Finalist
  • ML Edition:  none
  • Film:  in production hell
  • First Read:  Fall, 2000 (more…)

the mid-80's Penguin paperback version of Humboldt's Gift that I read for my Lit class my Junior Year and which I still have (with all attendant highlighting)

Humboldt’s Gift

  • Author:  Saul Bellow  (1915  –  2005)
  • Rank:  #36
  • Published:  1975
  • Publisher:  Viking
  • Pages:  487
  • First Line:  “The book of ballads published by Von Humboldt Fleisher in the Thirties was an immediate hit.”
  • Last Lines:  ” ‘Search me,’ I said.  ‘I’m a city boy myself.  They must be crocuses.’ “
  • ML Edition:  none
  • Film:  none
  • Acclaim:  Pulitzer Prize; last novel before winning Nobel Prize
  • First Read:  September, 1994 (more…)

The posthumous Pulitzer winner: Confederacy of Dunces

Confederacy of Dunces

  • Author:  John Kennedy Toole  (1937  –  1969)
  • Rank:  #38
  • Published:  1980
  • Publisher:  Louisiana State University Press
  • Pages:  405
  • First Line:  “A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head.”
  • Last Line:  “Taking the pigtail in one of his paws, he pressed it warmly to his wet moustache.”
  • ML Edition:  none
  • Film:  long rumored, never made
  • Acclaim:  Pulitzer Prize
  • First Read:  August, 2000 (more…)

John Updike's Rabbit Tetralogy: Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit is Rich; Rabbit at Rest

The Rabbit Tetralogy (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit is Rich; Rabbit at Rest)

  • Author:  John Updike (1932 – 2009
  • Rank:  #75
  • Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
  • Published:  1960, 1971, 1981, 1990
  • Pages:  280, 353, 423, 466
  • First Line:  “Boys are playing basketball around a telephone pole with a backboard bolted to it.”
  • Last Lines:  “Rabbit thinks he should maybe say more, the kid looks wildly expectant, but enough.  Maybe.  Enough.”
  • ML Edition:  #357  (Rabbit, Run combined with The Poorhouse Fair – two dust jackets – 1965, 1969)
  • Acclaim:  2 Pulitzer Prizes, 2 National Books Critics Circle Awards, National Book Award, All-TIME Top 100 List, New York Times Best Work of Literature in the Past 25 Years (Runner-Up)
    • Note:  Updike remains one of three authors to win the Pulitzer for Fiction twice (the others being Booth Tarkington and William Faulkner) and his two wins were for the last two Rabbit books; Rabbit is Rich is the only book to ever win the Pulitzer, National Book Award (when it was still the American Book Award) and National Book Critics Circle Award; the last two Rabbit books are 2 of only 7 books to win both the Pulitzer and the National Book Critics Circle Awards; Rabbit is Rich is one of only 4 books to win both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award
  • Film:  Rabbit, Run – 1970 – nearly impossible to find
  • Read:  Fall, 1996 (more…)

The amazing reunion scene in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) between Myrna Loy and Frederic March

The 19th Academy Awards, for the film year 1946.  The nominations were announced on February 9, 1947 and the awards were held on March 13, 1947.

Best Picture:  The Best Years of Our Lives

  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Henry V
  • The Yearling
  • The Razor’s Edge

Most Surprising Omission:  Brief Encounter

Best Eligible Film Not Nominated:  Children of Paradise

Best Eligible English-Language Film Not Nominated:  The Big Sleep

Rank (out of 82) Among Best Picture Years:  #41


Poor F. Scott Fitzgerald never won a Pulitzer Prize. How distinguished can it really be?

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is the oldest and perhaps most distinguished literary award in the United States.  Faulkner, Hemingway and Steinbeck all won it, as did Morrison, Updike and Roth.  But how distinguished is it, really?  How many of these books are still studied?  How many of them are even still read?  How well do they stack up over time?

A quick comparison.  When the Modern Library did their list of the 100 Best English Language Novels of the 20th Century, only 7 of them had won the Pulitzer.  By contrast, 6 of them had won the National Book Award, which is 30 years younger.  None of those overlap, as only two post-1950 Pulitzer winners were on the list and neither won the NBA.  Only 5 Pulitzer winners have won the NBA.  Of course, the major book awards don’t like to copy each other – only twice has a Pulitzer winner also won the PEN/Faulkner award.  But the Pulitzer Prize is supposed to be the award, the one that truly lasts.  Well, now that I’m finally done reading the list of all the Pulitzers, I just wanted to a quick look back and see how well that list actually stands up to the test of time. (more…)