Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tar Heel writers name best American fiction

In response to the New York Times Book Review survey, J. Peder Zane of the Raleigh News & Observer asked Tar Heel writers to name their choice for best work of American fiction from the past 25 years:

Write what you know, aspiring authors are told. The same might be said about what we read. These selections suggest that the world depicted by the Southern writers -- dominated by rural landscapes, twangy speech patterns, traditional value systems, a palpable sense of history and absence of great wealth -- resonate most strongly with North Carolina writers.

Blood Meridian, the Cormac McCarthy novel that was a runner-up in the New York Times survey , took top honors. Casting votes in its favor were Clyde Edgerton, Bland Simpson, Ron Rash, Betty Adcock and Al Maginnes.

Toni Morrison's Beloved, which easily topped the previous list, received a single vote in the North Carolina survey. Haven Kimmel, who selected it, calls it "the single most moral novel ever written, while remaining a work of unsurpassed beauty."

There are lots of interesting goodies in the list of best novels. Marianne Gingher, head of the creative writing department at UNC, selected Ana Veciana-Suarez' The Chin Kiss King. This was the only novel on the list that I'd never even heard of. I'm fortunate that the library has it since it's out-of-print.

John Irving, who admitted to voting for himself in the previous competition, here has Tony Abbott singling out A Prayer for Owen Meaney. Gail Godwin is partial to Saul Bellow's More Die of Heartbreak. Sarah Dessen calls Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist "the perfect novel."

Kaye Gibbons missed or ignored the part about selecting an American novel, naming Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White instead. That's Gibbons for you. Sharyn McCrumb took care to note that her top novelist, Neil Gaiman, while born in Great Britain, now lives in Minnesota.

Also of interest on the N&O site, Zane's long list of upcoming releases.


  1. Nice to see Neil Gaiman getting a mention. I think he is a wonderful storyteller.

  2. Interesting and eclectic list.


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