The New York Times Book Review has published its 100 Best Book of 2009. As usual, I don’t find the idea of this list very appealing; give me a top 10 and I’ll pay attention, but a top 100 will have way too much room for conventionality and business as usual. What’s notable about this list, though, is captured in the following tweet:
That’s pretty pathetic, and Orthofer elaborates on this point here. What the hell? Is this the New York Times American Book Review, or the New York Times Book Review? Because, I know some readers are interested in American literature, but I hope most of us are just plain interested in literature. Two out of a hundred?
Partly to protest this, but really because I’m in the middle of a busy Thanksgiving family weekend and am feeling lazy, I’m only going to comment on a single piece in this weekend’s Book Review. Ken Auletta’s naysaying business book Googled gets treated by Nicholson Baker, still my favorite writer even though I didn’t love his last book, and even I can’t be so lazy as to skip a Nicholson Baker piece. Baker is fonder of Google than Auletta, and provides his usual flourishes in telling us why:
Because, let me tell you, I remember the old days, the antegoogluvian era. It was O.K. — it wasn’t horrible by any means. There were cordless telephones, and people wore comfortable sweaters. There was AltaVista, and Ask Jeeves, and HotBot, and Excite, and Infoseek, and Northern Light — with its deep results and its elegant floating schooner logo — and if you wanted to drag through several oceans at once, there was MetaCrawler. But the haul was haphazard, and it came in slow. You chewed your peanut-butter cracker, waiting for the screen to fill.
As always, Baker dares to be imperfect — for instance, I’m offended on behalf of my severely peanut-allergic son that Baker would pick a peanut-butter cracker, of all things, to represent a universal edible, when a Fig Newton or Ritz cracker would have worked just as well. But that paragraph is followed by this remarkable image:
Then Google arrived in 1998, sponged clean, impossibly fast. Google was like a sunlit white Formica countertop with a single vine-ripened tomato on it.
Yes, yes, yes. The rest of this weekend’s Book Review is a bunch of other articles about a bunch of other books. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.