Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Great Books

A conversation over dinner prompted me to think about "great books"--you know, the life-changing books. The ones that not only concern important ideas, but give meaningful expression to them. The ones that prompt the reader to engage the ideas in their own way, forming a dialectic with text and author. The ones with a great story, and masterful prose.

Anyway, my dinner companion said that such books aren't really written anymore these days. Coetzee, McEwan, Roth, McCarthy--good writers, all, but not "great" in any sense. And no, this is not a rehash of the Bloom article I referred to a week ago. Bloom's standards for greatness are not what we were talking about. We were talking about truly moving literature that made you really pause and think and look at the world differently. Do the contemporary authors compare to Dostoevsky? To Kafka? To James?

Well, do they? Can you recommend any contemporary contenders for the Great Books Canon?