Friday, October 2, 2009

Edmond Caldwell on Book Lists

From Contra James Wood
Recently a literary blog or site or whatever calling itself The Millions posted for the edification and entertainment of its readers a list of “The Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far).” The judging-process was set up along American Idol lines – a panel of literary Simon Cowells and Paula Abduls coupled with a poll of the faceless audience, culled from Facebook.

The resulting lists generated the type of discussion that you would expect: expressions of pleasure over the presence of favorite titles along with much quibbling about who was left off – behavior which, essentially, reproduces the work of the list itself, “playing along” even where the participant has differences over this or that selection.

Therefore I was happy when at least one litblog commentator, Andrew Seal, sounded like he was going to go beyond mere participation in the spectacle. As he wrote in a September 25 post:

“The inclusions and placements of the list are not really worth quibbling about, and itemizing the good books that were left off is about as easy as falling off a log. I'm not really interested in specifics, because there's a much bigger issue which the list raises—”

Ah, I thought, now we’re getting somewhere! He continues:

“—if ordered lists like this must exist, to whom should we be listening to fill them?”

Oh. A critique of the make-up of the celebrity-judges panel, in Andrew’s view too heavily skewed to young and US-based creative writers, with not enough critics, editors, and academics, so that perhaps the panel was too narrow or not expert enough. He may or may not be right on that score, but we haven’t gotten to any “much bigger issues” yet if we’ve just moved from quibbling about the selection of books to quibbling about the selection of judges. That’s playing the same game at one remove, when what we need to do to get to “bigger issues” is to examine the game itself.

Read the rest here List Lust, or, The Banalities (Updated!)

Comments and discussion on Blographia Literaria

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