Thursday, 16 July 2015

Canada's Best Novelist

Whatever we do when we finish with Richard Rohmer, let’s not read the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century (as chosen by readers).  L. Ron Hubbard has three books in the top ten, and Ayn Rand has four. Robert Heinlein has six books on the list, and sure, he’s one of the few science fiction writers who could write in rudimentary English, but six books seems like a lot. You get the strong sense of a ballot box stuffed by lonely fascists and single-author fanatics. Nevil Shute has three books on the list, which is nice for Nevil Shute and tough titties for Graham Greene, who has none.

But at least I’ve heard of those guys. The best novels of the 20th century that I really, really don’t want to read are:

#35: MOONHEART by Charles de Lint
#41: SOMEPLACE TO BE FLYING by Charles de Lint
#44: YARROW by Charles de Lint
#47: MEMORY AND DREAM by Charles de Lint
#50: TRADER by Charles de Lint
#58: GREENMANTLE by Charles de Lint
#60: THE LITTLE COUNTRY by Charles de Lint
#95: MULENGRO by Charles de Lint

Have we been wasting our time with Rohmer? Is the best Canadian novelist of the 20th Century Charles de Lint?

(Brian, since there's a 50/50 chance that you know the guy, let me say I don't, and I'm slagging him for no good reason except I hate fantasy and I wish I'd written eight of the best novels in 100 years.)


  1. Not to worry, I don't know de Lint, though we do share a mutual acquaintance. I'm told he's a really nice guy. I bet he is, but like you I hate fantasy. And isn't Greenmantle by John Buchan?

    The list reminds me of that old online poll by The Beaver - Canadian History, please - which proclaimed Pierre Trudeau the Worst Canadian. The Blogging Tories and Free Dominion have spoken. Don't go calling them lonely fascists, they just think Adrian Arcand was misunderstood. Allan Legere, too.

    What other Canadian novels are on the list?

    40. Fifth Business - Robertson Davies

    Not as good as de Lint's Moonheart, but still a pleasant surprise.

    53. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

    Her worst novel until Oryx and Crake. A surprise only in that it ranks below Davies.

    99. The Cunning Man - Robertson Davies

    His last novel. Better than The Manticore, World of Wonders and the entire Cornish Trilogy, apparently. Who knew? Not me. I haven't read it. Don't think I know anyone who has.

    No, Rohmer is the man. I'm betting fans of Atlas Shrugged would agree. Retaliation would be their favourite novel.

  2. It's a funny thing though, that you'd expect the readers' list to be The Da Vinci Code and Eat, Pray, Love, but it's not about popular fiction vs. classy literature at all; it's about books that snobs think people should read vs. books that weirdo snobs think ordinary people should read. The readers' list is just like the critics and academics' list, only by autodidact jerks without portfolio. The non-fiction readers' list is pure spree killer.

  3. If you were going to cram your favorite writer -- or yourself -- on a list with the greatest novels of the 20th century, wouldn't you choose one book? Not eight? It must have been a child, right?

    1. Or his fan club.

      From the author's website: "Modern Library's Top 100 Books of the 20th Century poll, conducted by Random House and voted on by readers, put eight of de Lint's books among the top 100."

      I wouldn't have mentioned the actual number; it only draws suspicion. I also would've made sure to get the title of the list right.

  4. Either or I forgot or never knew, but the fact Charles de Lint is Canadian is news to me. I don't actually know much about him, but I suppose, like all fantasy authors, his fan base is rabid and can mobilize in times of a "best of" vote.

    I do have one question: why do fantasy writers write by the pound? Is there a secret rule where every book has to be part of a series, be over 600 pages long, and be the author's 37th novel in the last 10 years?

    If there is a secret rule, it's probably enforced by a secret society. And that society was run by a great wizard, until he disappeared mysteriously. And the fate of that secret society lies with an innocent boy, who is about to find out he is the chosen one.

    Let's do a blog where every book/movie/TV show in history whose plot revolves around a chosen one.

    See you in 50 years when we've reach "B".

  5. I'd never heard of the guy before two days ago, when I learned he'd written 8% of the best novels between 1900 and 1999.

    Why do fantasy writers write so much? I don't know. Why do fantasy readers read so much?

    I have such an allergy to wizards, fairies and mystical realms, that I can't even judge the stuff. I can't read past the first nonsense word with a ' in the middle.

    It feels like such a waste of time. (He says, a man who's watched every episode of The Silent Service.) I avoided Game of Thrones for years before someone promised me it wasn't really very much about dragons; now I like it just fine. But I still think, on my death bed, I'll wish I'd learned more about the War of the Roses and less about the Iron Bank.

    I just can't read fast enough to enjoy garbage. I'm too guilty and dumb.