A reader writes with further observations on the Observer 100:
I’m no expert on the contents but I would note the language barrier protecting this list: Of the 100 “greatest novels of all time,” I believe that 15 were not written in English. There are but two in Russian–meaning that On the Road, which did make the list, is “greater” than all the other output of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and the rest. Note also that there is apparently only one Spanish author as good as Kerouac (Cervantes), and none who’s ever written in any Asian language. Point would be not that anyone should attempt a list of “the world’s greatest,” since that would be nearly impossible for a number of reasons. Rather, couldn’t the editors of the Observer have come up with a slightly less grandiose header for their efforts?
Indeed. The Observer has now published reader reaction, including some comments from readers of note. They have also added the 50 books shaken in their faces must huffily by irate readers. This may be more interesting than the original list.
Meanwhile, Roger L. Simon’s list of his 20 greatest movies–er, make that 23–is more satisfying. It sure is easy to tell the difference between a list compiled by committee and one put together by a single, discerning organizing intelligence. I also like the way his commenters goaded him into adding Jean Vigo’s madly exuberant Zero for Conduct, which in an ideal world would be a hell of a lot easier to see. Maybe one of Chicago’s many fine art movie houses could be persuaded to show it sometime soon.