Tuesday, June 24, 2008

EW's 100 "Best Reads"

Entertainment Weekly has a list of the 100 best books of the past 25 years. Ross Douthat vents here. Like him, we're not happy that a Harry Potter comes in at #2. We're also amazed that of the four comic books on the list, two are in the top 15. A couple would be fine...and we really enjoyed The Watchmen when we read it in junior high, which is when you should read comic books (sorry, we're not calling them graphic novels). But let's not get carried away. It says a lot about the state of "things" that the list includes so many works written for adolescents, yet no poetry collections and (again, by our unofficial tally) only four collections of short stories (Munro, Moore, Danticat, and Carver.)

1 comment:

Joe Hemmerling said...

I'll personally vouch for half of the comic book entries (Side note: "Graphic Novel" is a legitimate term, but it's often misapplied by people who are embarrassed to admit that they read comic books. A graphic novel is any comic book that acts as a stand-alone work of previously unpublished material. Following this definition, "Maus" and "Persepolis" would be graphic novels, but "Watchmen" and "Sandman" would not.) I've said on more than one occasion that "Sandman" and "Watchmen" belong among the greatest literary works of the past quarter century. I haven't read "Maus," but I've been told it's similarly excellent.

"Watchmen" works, not just as a fantastic, genre-bending adventure story, but also as a loving deconstruction of the super hero mythos in American culture. Moore juggles a lot of philosophical perspectives, namely the plight of man navigating the space between determinism (represented by Doctor Manhattan) and nihilism (represented by Rorschach), and touching on a lot of really fascinating stuff along the way.

"Sandman" is absolutely unparalleled in terms of bredth and scope. It's an Aristotelian tragedy told in more than seventy-five parts over nearly ten years. Gaiman incorporates his incredible knowledge of mythology, history, and literature into a breath-taking epic that is alternately thrilling, frightening, and touching. Start with "Preludes and Nocturns" and keep reading; each book gets better and better.

I would also argue that "The Dark Knight Returns" and possibly "Batman: The Killing Joke" belong on the list as well.

Comic books and graphic novels are a medium just like any other; they have certain advantages and limitations and they have their own way of conveying a story and information. I think to write off the entire genre would be the equivalent to saying "Film is a waste of time," or "Books are for nerds."

In terms of the list as a whole... pretty random. I loved "The Road," but is that really the best book of the past twenty-five years? The lack of poetry is a colossal oversight, especially since they seemed to be bending over backwards to be as inclusive of different genres as possible. Not only does "Harry Potter" not belong in the number two slot on that list (if it belongs on the list at all), they picked the worst book in the whole series. And "The Da Vinci Code?" Really?