June 29, 2007
Though not entirely Pheonix-like in its comeback, elcid over at hb&t has a very good post about the AFI 100 movies list. I’m pretty much as shocked as he is at some of the movies that were included in the new list, almost to the point of writing a letter to the editor of the International Herald-Tribune (Given the slowness of transatlantic shipping, it seems advisable to send my complaint to the European version of the American paper of record. And speaking of The Times, today’s paper featured a rather troubling Britishism: “Perhaps a few of the people queuing on the street or online for this new device really do need a new cellphone or digital music player.” And speaking of today, did you know that today is both Camera day and National Ducks and Wetlands Day? I wonder how often these holidays collide, and whether or not flickr will see a surge of duck photos tomorrow. But I digress…). But with scarcely any time to write a decent bit of correspondence before the American Express closes, I’ll focus my frustrations on another list, the Modern Library’s 100 greatest English novels of the 20th century.
In general, the list is a pretty good survey of English literature, albeit a bit staid and outdated. The Jazz age is overrepresented and postmodernism underrepresented. In particular, Gravity’s Rainbow and Waiting for the Barbarians should be included while any number of books could easily be dropped. Other than that, my problem with the list is more autobiographical. I’ve easily read over half of the books on the list, but very few within the last 8 years–the time when I’ve been best equipped to understand them. If anything, my readings for many of the earlier books are probably completely invalid. As a lover of lists, I almost feel compelled to reread all the ones I read during the follies of my youth. Sadly, I fear it will be you, my dear readers, who suffer.
Totally unjustified reassessment of the day: Brideshead Revisited which has now jumped from my least favorite Evelyn Waugh to my most. Though not as funny as Scoop, Waugh’s subtlety of language is beautiful, and BR easily his most assured book.
One last note on the AFI: I cannot express my delight that “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is still on the list, and is in fact now ranked higher. I was worried this fine musical would fall away completely. Although the AFI voters make a lot of mistakes, this wasn’t one of them.