Saturday, April 2, 2011

The best books of 2010?

While browsing the net the other day I’ve run into the New York Time’s list of the best books of 2010.
Going though it I found out that foreign literature, or rather any kind of foreign writing, doesn’t play such an important role in the literary circles of the Big Apple. All the authors featured were born or at least raised in the west. Asia seems to be a far and away land with nothing to offer; Africa, well, is Africa; Europe? Who gives a shit about the old continent, anyway? Oceania? Is that a spa or something?
I guess we Europeans are a little luckier when it comes to reading foreign literature. We just love the Japs; we do well with the Arabs; we adore the Africans, who every now and then find their way into our bookshops; and, well, the French, the Scandinavians, the Italians, the Spanish and the Germans, and even the South Americans are not bad either. Can any of them hit it big in the U.S.? I have my doubts. With the exceptions of Stieg Larsson and a few heavy weights from Britain, the rest of them are more or less doomed. Now you will say: the Americans did give The National Books Critics Award to Roberto Bolaño for his masterpiece 2666. Well, I will say that that’s just not enough.
     Let us now take a look at the list:


1.    Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Will I read this one? I just don’t know yet. I didn’t like The Corrections, but maybe the Greek translation is to blame for that.

2.    The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie. Well, I don’t think this will ever find its way to my far distant land, so there’s nothing I can really say about it.

3.    Room by Emma Donoghue. This comes highly recommended by the British press, so I should give it a try.

4.    Selected Stories by William Trevor. No hesitations here. The moment I get it I will read it. A master storyteller.

5.    A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I’ve just read a great review about this one in The Guardian; and in The Guardian, most of the times, I trust.


Truth be told, biographies and poetry apart, I don’t read many nonfiction books, so I’ll just give you the titles and authors of the “5 best” on the list, with just a nasty comment about one of them:

1.    Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans.

2.    Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff.

3.    The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

4.    Fishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) With Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes by Stephen Sondheim. I got tired just by reading the title.

5.    The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson.

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