I am a glutton for a good list but I like my lists complete. In The Observer, Robert McCrum has been giving us one a week, which is a really unsatisfactory way of doing it. When you limit yourself to 100 (or any other arbitrary figure) you have to play juggling games, putting this one in and leaving this one out. However, by showing only one a week, it has been difficult to get a sense of what is in and what is out. Yes, we could refer back to past editions of the paper but, as no running count was kept, it is was awkward and, anyway, who could be bothered? It is not as though we have been short of such lists. However, we have finally reached No 100 and, finally we have the complete list. For what it is worth, I think it is a not very good list. The early ones are more or less predictable, though I am not sure that Emma is Austen’s masterpiece nor David Copperfield Dickens’ masterpiece. I am not going to go through his complete list – you can do that and will probably have different ideas from mine but, frankly, Lolly Willowes, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Babbit, Tropic of Cancer, The Big Sleep, Wodehouse. I don’t think so. BTW, I have read eighty-four of them but I shall not say which ones I have not read.
Rachel Cooke has condemned his choices, primarily because of the lack of women writers but her proposals are, I feel, worse than McCrum’s – Mollie Panter-Downes’s One Fine Day, Nancy Mitford!! Obooki has also thrown in a few of his own quirky suggestions. Marie Corelli? Aaargh! I won’t add my suggestions but you can see some of them on my website. Ballard, Butts, Byatt, Cather, Ellison, Gaddis, Gerhardie, Pynchon, Zadie Smith, Welty and Henry Williamson are some of the obvious omissions. Weak effort, McCrum, weak effort.