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October 19, 2007

The Hundred Best Books, Ranked By Random House's Board, As Well As Some Readers

Update: This is old, even for me. It's a 1998 list.

Good Lord, I am a douche.

...

Ehhh... my kneejerk reaction is to doubt the board really even slogged their way through either of the two James Joyce novels they put in the top three, let alone particularly liked them, and then champion the wisdom of the unpretentious masses over such turgid abortions.

But then I look at the reader's list. And, um, whatever.

PS, Sons and Lovers and Women In Love by DH Lawrence sucked. At least that was my conclusion in high school, and I have no desire to revisit it now.

Unless I'm missing something, Moby Dick is not on the list, nor anything by Mark Twain, nor anything by Dickens. Changing tastes? It's by the Modern Library but I don't note a qualifier like "Best Novels of the Last Century" or anything.

PPS, Slaughterhouse-Five is a Young Adult sci-fi book which continues to garner far more respect and praise than it warrants because we all read it in eighth grade and were blown away to be reading a book with the word "fuck" in it as well as sex with a pornstar named Montana Wildhack. The book is an easy-reader special, which I have no problems with, but it's also the most fulsome effort at Nazi apologism and Soviet propaganda this side of, I don't know, how about David Irving, the Holocaust denier whose actual bullshit figures and "facts" on the Dresden bombings were used by Vonnegut as "real history" (and, in fact, I believe a character in the novel is actually reading David Irving's now-thoroughly-discredited Nazi apologia in a hospital scene).

It's a childish book, which doesn't make it bad, but it is childish, and could easily have been the subject of a copyright infringement suit for ripping off Catch 22 (infinitely better, and not so much Nazi apologism or Soviet propaganda) so shamelessly, right down to the "unstuck in time" conceit.

So, fuck Kurt Vonnegut, and, while I'm sure many of you have fond memories of this book, bear in mind you read it as children. It's a piece of crap, as is all of his fiction.

Thanks to 5 Cats.

Cite: Oliver Kamm writes about the Vonnegut-Irving lie.

Vonnegut’s philosophy and history are simplistic. Dresden was hellish � but there were not 135,000 deaths. The true figure was probably no more than a fifth of that. Vonnegut’s number came directly from the now discredited work of the Holocaust denier David Irving. (In Slaughterhouse-Five, Irving is cited by name, and a long passage, by a retired air marshal, from the foreword to Irving’s book The Destruction of Dresden is reproduced.) To a PoW digging up cadavers, accurate numbers will ever after seem pedantic. But the issue is important to historical truth and also to the ideas that Vonnegut dramatised.

Dresden, whose beauty Vonnegut likened to Oz, became a sacrificial myth in a litany of Western crimes, unrelated to its industrial and political importance to the Nazis. In arguing in 2003 that “people are lying all the time as to what a murderous nation we are”, Vonnegut cited Nagasaki as “the most racist, nastiest act by this country, after human slavery”. Yet, as an outstanding new book, Hiroshima in History, demonstrates, contemporary Japanese government records and memoirs confirm that the dropping of both A-bombs, Nagasaki as well as Hiroshima, was crucial to Japan’s decision to surrender.

Vonnegut, of course, never apologized for the citation of the Holocaust denier's made-up figures and claims, even after he was made quite aware that they were lies put forward by a Nazi apologist.

And so it goes, as he says.

Whatever one thinks about his politics, hey, try reading Catch 22. You will experience a profound feeling of deja vu as you read a fractured-timeline story of WWII cynicism and gallows humor -- even the titles are similar. Of course, it wasn't deja vu at all; it was just a hack wannabe sci-fi writer ripping off a critically acclaimed book that had been written shortly before.


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posted by Ace at 05:04 PM

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