Lo and Behold! A “99 Best Modern Novels” List circa 1984, from NYTBR

(Self, what is with you and all these lists?  Patience, dear blog readers.  Self is still getting back her sea legs after these hectic holiday doings.  Besides which, she is a little down in the dumps with son’s recent departure for the fabulous SLO, hence her resorting to the NYTBR archives!  Self promises, she’ll be right as rain in a jiffy!)

In 1984, esteemed A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess listed for NYTBR the books he considered “the 99 Best” Modern Novels.  Why this number instead of a round 100 is a mystery.  Or maybe the NYTBR editors requested 100 but Burgess wanted to be idiosyncratic.  Anyhoo, self peruses the Burgess list and decides, just for fun, to post only the books written by women.  And here are novels and authors who made it in to Burgess’ select 99 (listed in order of publication, earliest to latest):

  1. The Heat of the Day, Elizabeth Bowen
  2. Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor
  3. The Groves of Academe, Mary McCarthy
  4. The Bell, Iris Murdoch
  5. The Balkan Trilogy, Olivia Manning
  6. The Mighty and Their Fall, Ivy Compton-Burnett
  7. An Error of Judgement, Pamela Hansford-Johnson
  8. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  9. The Girls of Slender Means, Muriel Spark
  10. The Mandelbaum Gate, Muriel Spark
  11. The Late Bourgeois World, Nadine Gordimer
  12. How to Save Your Own Life, Erica Jong

—  the hell???  Only 12 books by women made it to the Fabulous 99!  And, naturally, the list leaves out all the women who were published after 1984 —  that is, all of those who were published in the last 25 years.

Why couldn’t someone have asked a woman what her list of “Best Modern Novels” was —  even if just to balance the Burgess, that is!

Of the above-named books, self has only read two:  Wise Blood and The Golden Notebook.  And she very shamefacedly admits to never having heard of Olivia Manning and Pamela Hansford-Johnson before.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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