Friday, October 21, 2005

Time's Best

Manuel Ramos

Time Magazine listed it's choices for the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present. As with many such lists, it had some obvious picks and some real surprises. How can anyone argue with books like All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, one of my favorite novels of all-time, or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, or Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky? Surprises that clicked with me include The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, and Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett, although we could quibble about whether these are Chandler's or Hammett's best.

But, and this isn't a surprise, I guess, no Latino books on the list. No Anaya, Cisneros, Hijuelos, Allende, Véa, Alvarez, Rivera, etc. Not one. Please correct me if I am wrong.

However, let's not dwell on the negative.

Time also listed the all-time graphic novels. I'm partial to graphic novels - always wanted to write one, enjoy reading them, even did an interview with Brian Azzarello, writer of the 100 Bullets graphic novels (among many others) for an upcoming issue of Crime Spree magazine. According to Time, a graphic novel "is a vague moniker that gets applied to any extended form of comics, including non-fiction and short story collections." This is a much more exclusive list than the best novels, only ten titles are "all-time" according to Time. And guess what? Chicanos made the list. Here's the quote from Time:

"Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories by Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books; 2003)
A kind of über graphic novel that collects a series of smaller graphic novels all situated in a small town 'somewhere south of the U.S. border,' this giant tome by a seminal comic artist will likely be the author's magnum opus. Part of the creative team behind the deeply influential Love and Rockets comic book series (along with his equally talented brother Jaime) Gilbert has created a pan-American epic that spans multiple generations of a family run almost exclusively by women. Hernandez' Palomar combines the look of Archie comics with Faulkner's richness of character and place into the melodramatic sweep of a sexy soap opera to create one of the most remarkable works of any narrative art."

Way to go, bro.



msedano said...

no, let's dwell on the negative.

what if Time magaziine is correct, that chicanas chicanos have not produced a book that fits anyone's list of the top 100?

it's an opportunity--i'd say responsibility--of the critic to assess the failure of this culture to produce a worthy title. and if defeat doesn't taste so good, then critics must rise to the occasion and show the contrary.

criticism--ideally--starts from a notion of perfection and holds it against a work at hand to identify where the work matches, approaches, or falls short of that sense of the perfect. and here comes that old bugaboo, in what sense is literature "chicano" that disqualifies it for inclusion in some critic's top 100?

criticism ought not be a procrustean bed, but i wonder if top 100 lists are?

daniel olivas said...

perhaps a letter to time magazine from la bloga is in order?

Anonymous said...

how about a couple of chicanos get into the time's people who created the list, and insist they have more chicano writers on the top 100. otherwise we can try the old way of convincing people with a certain view in literture.

Anonymous said...

This is something that I see all the time when critics come out with Book Lists. Latino writers are woefully under-represented, or like in this case, non-existent. I think a letter from La Bloga would be great.

Barrio Marlon Brando said...

that's right, let's dwell on this negative ... Time's editorial board should hear about it's weaknesses and missed opportunities ...