Monday, May 29, 2006

We may need to check their Alliance membership 

PowerLine is running a poll for greatest American novels, and had this to say about Atlas Shrugged.
I want to say this gently, because I know I'm addressing some of our staunchest allies and most loyal readers. And I'm sure that the dozen or more emails we've already gotten are only the tip of the Ayn Rand-sized iceberg. But, to put it gently--Atlas Shrugged may or may not be great political philosophy, but it isn't great literature. It just isn't. Sorry!
This is a bad decision for the same reason removing Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath is a bad decision. Politics are only part of this. The decision of what went on John's list seems to be "no message novels", but in their own ways Huckleberry Finn and Invisible Man are message novels. I go back and forth on whether Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead is my favorite, but that means nothing in terms of the rankings. It's hard to figure which Rabbit you include, or which Bellow (I'd've chosen Herzog or Mr. Sammler's Planet instead, but I can live with Augie March.) All of which argues more for including Rand on the list. The case for Atlas Shrugged is quite simple -- name another novel that has launched as much discussion about things as fundamental as how the world works. I don't know how Joshua thinks it's not literature -- by what definition? Because English professors don't assign it? Why do you suppose that is?

Mrs. S expresses shock and dismay that Main Street would not make this list. I would have said the same for Slaughterhouse Five. They are fine books, but something has to be 22 and 23, and I suspect they go there.

But frankly even Rand isn't the most egregious of all. How does Red Badge of Courage miss this list? I think most of Crane's work was great, and in describing America the Bowery needs some mention too, but the greatest novel set in the Civil War is missed? And while I'm not as big a fan of the book as many, The Scarlet Letter should at least be explained for why it is not chosen. (Corrected: It wasn't on the RSS feed I read, but it was the first listed on the article. Sorry about that, and thanks to Bob Arthur for the correction. Damned pain pills!)