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Who's the Greatest of Them All?  Jenny Baker
 Oct 09, 2000 12:29 PDT 
Family Life Newsletter

by Jenny Baker (jen-@get.topica.com)

A couple of years back, the Modern Library division of Random House
Publishers issued a list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century.
Perhaps as they intended, this list offered readers limitless potential
for argument: Were these the best books? According to whom? Chosen based
on what criteria? Which books had they overlooked? Which were included,
but shouldn't have been? And the disputes raged on and on.

One indisputable fact about the list is that, out of 100 books, only
eight were written by women (and two of those by Edith Wharton, so seven
women in all). Hard to believe that, in a century which finally saw
women achieve equal footing with men, there were only seven women
writers worthy of inclusion on this Best of... list. So who wasn't
mentioned? Toni Morrison, Mary McCarthy, Doris Lessing, Zora Neala
Hurston, Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Harper Lee, and Ayn Rand, to name
just a few.

It's true these authors were overlooked by the Modern Library, but they
are all represented in a different list - Feminista.com's 100 Great 20th
Century Works of Fiction by Women. Aha! Another list, and further cause
for argument, debate, and good-natured disagreement among readers

The main debate, of course, is to determine which of the lists is
better. I think both of them have so many great books, it's impossible
to decide. Therefore, the easiest thing to do is to combine the two,
call the result the 192 Best Novels of the 20th Century Written by Both
Women and Men, and read them all! That, fellow readers, is enough great
books to keep us all busy well into this new century, or at least until
the next set of lists comes out!

Here's the Modern Library's list:

Here's Feminista's list: http://www.feminista.com/v2n3/100.html

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