Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Books of the year: fiction

The Week tabulated the "best book" end-of-year choices of critics for The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, The Denver Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, New York, The New York Times, the Denver Rocky Mountain News, Salon.com, Time, The Village Voice, and The Washington Post.

Number One on the list:
by Roberto Bolaño
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30)

“Reviewing Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 is like reviewing the ocean,” said Adam Mansbach in The Boston Globe. Split into five loosely connected parts that range in tone from “romantic farce” to the literary equivalent of a black hole, this is a novel of “devastating power” written by an artist as cannily indirect as “the great post-bop jazz drummers.” Bolaño, who died at age 50 in 2003, set most of the action in a Mexican border town. But it’s not until a chilling catalogue of unsolved rape and crime unfolds in the long fourth section that readers can see that he’s been circling an evil so grand in scale that it seems to challenge any belief in life’s meaning. The lingering question this new masterpiece raises, said the editors of Salon.com, is whether humanity’s worst acts are “redeemed or ameliorated to the slightest degree by our most sublime achievements.”
A caveat: People shouldn’t use the term “masterpiece,” said The New Yorker, for a novel that doesn’t cohere.

Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue