Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 2004

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Poll Results

OptionVotes
2666 by Roberto Bolano 11
The Line Of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst 7
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson 7
After Dark by Haruki Murakami 2
The Alegebraist by Iain M. Banks 2
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell 1
Jonathan Strange & Mr.Norrell Susanna Clarcke 1
Seeing by José Saramago 1
Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya 1
Night Train To Lisbon by Pascal Mercier 0
The Scortas' Sun by Laurent Gaudé 0
The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco 0
Before We Say Goodbye by Gabriella Ambrosio 0
The Master by Colm Toibin 0
Gaming Instinct by Juli Zeh 0
The Swarm by Frank Schatzing 0
A Time To Every Purpose Under Heaven by Karl Ove Knausgård 0
The Blood Split by Asa Larsson 0
The Tango Singer by Tomás Eloy Martinez 0
Russophone by Denis Gutsko 0
Ice Road by Gillian Slovo 0
Doppler by Erlend Loe 0
Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens by László Krasznahorkai 0
Dancing Arabs by Sayed Kashua 0
The Blind Sunflowers by Alberto Méndez 0
Gregorious by Bengst Ohlsson 0
Lenin's Kisses by Yan Lianke 0
The Coyote Kings Of The Space Age Bachelor Pad by Malcolm Azania 0
Snobs by Julian Fellowes 0
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth 0
The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates 0
The Confusion by Neal Stephenson 0
Camouflage by Joe Haldeman 0
All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki 0
The Year Of Our War by Steph Swainston 0
The Taqwacores by Michael Muhammad Knight 0
Snakes And Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara 0
The Maze by Panos Karnezis 0
Villages by John Updike 0
The White Earth by Andrew McGahan 0
Small Island by Andrea Levy 0
The Silent And The Damned by Robert Wilson 0
The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble 0
Magic Seeds by V.S. Naipaul 0
Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson 0
Iron Council by China Mièville 0
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett 0
The Finishing School by Muriel Spark 0
The Closed Circle by Jonathan Coe 0
Back To Life by Wendy Coakley-Thompson 0


Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 26 October 2021 13:58 (one month ago) link

I have a feeling I know which one's winning this one...

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 26 October 2021 13:59 (one month ago) link

Not sure what that Krasznahorkai is doing here, as it's a (very good) travel memoir and not a novel.

I'm gonna be strategic and throw a vote to Castellanos Moya. I can all but guarantee that anyone who enjoyed 2666 would enjoy Senselessness, while people who didn't have the patience for the former might appreciate the latter's conciseness.

Nature's promise vs. Simple truth (bernard snowy), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 14:27 (one month ago) link

I've only read "Plot Against America". I'm guessing "2666" is the ILB favorite? Though "Gilead" and "Line of Beauty" should also be contenders, if I'm not mistaken.

o. nate, Tuesday, 26 October 2021 14:38 (one month ago) link

Great year! I can't not vote 2666, which absolutely knocked me on my ass in a singular way. But Plot Against America and Cloud Atlas are both as good as books I voted for other years, and based on other books I've read by the authors and reputation, I'd guess Gilead and Jonathan Strange are great too.

Guayaquil (eephus!), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 15:22 (one month ago) link

I think The Plot Against America and the even better American Pastoral are the two really great late-period Roth books; fundamentally, his writing about fucking is not as interesting as his writing about America, even though he, personally, was clearly more interested in fucking. (Roth probably thought of The Human Stain as being about America but it is really more about fucking in the end)

Guayaquil (eephus!), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 15:24 (one month ago) link

I've carried on about Gilead and the others in that cycle on several WAYR, also 2666 on its own thread: impossible to make a real simworld choice, but in poll simworld, will go w former---hopefully they'll make a one-two punch at the top of this thing (no disrespect to the others, which I haven't read).

dow, Tuesday, 26 October 2021 15:29 (one month ago) link

I believe I've carried on about Gilead elsewhere too, I think I've read it three times, The Line of Beauty is wonderful but I've yet to re-read it. Jonathan Strange & Mr.Norrell is very good sui generis fantasy, Cloud Atlas is exactly as fun and inconsequential as the film, The Alegebraist is by Iain M. Banks.

namaste darkness my old friend (ledge), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 15:42 (one month ago) link

I've only read the Roth and Hollinghurst books. Both excellent.

adam t. (abanana), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 15:59 (one month ago) link

The Line Of Beauty. A book whose greatness is obvious throughout

imago, Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:16 (one month ago) link

(I will finish 2666 one day)

imago, Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:17 (one month ago) link

(what I've managed so far is brilliant)

imago, Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:18 (one month ago) link

I'll go for Gilead I think. I've convinced myself I can't (won't) read 500 page novels anymore so I don't know when I'm going to get to Bolano.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:19 (one month ago) link

It actually stung a bit to have to choose Bolaño over Hollinghurst for this one. A close call.

tangent x (tangenttangent), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:25 (one month ago) link

The Line Of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

often makes you wonder if it was worth writing any new sentences in english after its publication

STOCK FIST-PUMPER BRAD (BradNelson), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:30 (one month ago) link

The Line Of Beauty , alas. I reread it in 2018 terrified I'd overrated it.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:38 (one month ago) link

The Plot Against America has aged well. Gilead tainted only slightly by the superiority of the sequel. The Finishing School is startling for revealing how Spark showed no waning of her powers.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:40 (one month ago) link

I’ve read two of these, and went with the one written by an author I quickly soured on that was made into a film.

Legalize Suburban Benches (Raymond Cummings), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:45 (one month ago) link

Oh fuck I just realized that I’ve read three of them

If I’d been more observant I’d have seen “Seeing” and voted for it

Legalize Suburban Benches (Raymond Cummings), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:46 (one month ago) link

I haven’t reread it in a while, but purchased a used copy recently.

Blindness got made into a movie and seemed to be the one most readers went mad for but it was … I don’t know, it left me cold.

Seeing was more of a slow burn delayed slap in the face, those last few pages stay with me and come to mind surprisingly often.

Legalize Suburban Benches (Raymond Cummings), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:56 (one month ago) link

My actual vote was for Cloud Atlas, which was gimmicky and icky and the far future section narration creeps me the hell out just to think about, but ….

There are moments that hit very, very emotionally for me, particularly when the heroes of one section are scared for or inspired by characters in other sections.

I’ve tried to read other books by the author and just couldn’t get into those, though.

Legalize Suburban Benches (Raymond Cummings), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:59 (one month ago) link

I’ve posted too much in this thread, but one more: this seems to have been the era when I started engaging with contemporary fiction, in part because people were paying me to review books (see “After Dark,” which I adore and would’ve voted for it the other two weren’t on the list). Up til then most of my time was spent reading magazines and newspapers.

Legalize Suburban Benches (Raymond Cummings), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 17:04 (one month ago) link

2666

The fourth and fifth sections of this book are as good as anything I've read, especially the depiction of the desolate Eastern Front. Feels like you are standing over a bomb that just went off and you are somehow still alive.

Hannibal Lecture (PBKR), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 17:27 (one month ago) link

2666. Almost nothing ever published prepares you for part four of this book and I doubt I will get quite that feeling again from a book.

Read Senselessness and it's too much like a copy of Thomas Bernhard to me.

Otherwise interested in Lianke and his whole project.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 26 October 2021 21:06 (one month ago) link

2666 was a difficult book for me to read because it is so bleak in so many ways, but it is a true masterpiece and, as I remember it, its artifice never descends into falsity.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 22:29 (one month ago) link

The noir elements of Part 3 and Part 4 (the investigator) are terrifying. Such dark paranoia.

Hannibal Lecture (PBKR), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 23:48 (one month ago) link

I love 2666 too. I can imagine the burden of writing those crime reports.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 23:56 (one month ago) link

I worked at a first-hand bookshop for the only time for most of 2004. My only recollection is selling a lot of the Da Vinci Code (which was still only available in hardback), Small Island, Lemony Snicket and Ian Rankin books. ZZ Packer's book had a lovely paperback cover that we kept shelved, but no one bought. I remember Rose Tremain's new book came in, and the bookstore owner looked at me and said "I can guarantee that not a single person will buy this book."

Chuck_Tatum, Wednesday, 27 October 2021 14:13 (one month ago) link

Oh and Carol Shields. A LOT of Carol Shields. It was a bookstore for old people in Toronto, so QED.

Chuck_Tatum, Wednesday, 27 October 2021 14:43 (one month ago) link

Hey I remember liking Carol Shields!

Of these... Johnathan Strange is here somewhere and I must have read it but don't have a clear memory of it. I am pretty sure I got through the Updike but didn't find anything noteworthy in it.

that of a giant Slor (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 27 October 2021 14:47 (one month ago) link

I think I'm the only person on ILB who just despises Marilynne Robinson.

Line of Beauty over 2666, if only because the story felt closer to mine own.

I'm a sovereign jizz citizen (the table is the table), Wednesday, 27 October 2021 20:53 (one month ago) link

Jonathan Strange is one of those magicke olde England books that I can't stand. e.g. Harry Potter

adam t. (abanana), Wednesday, 27 October 2021 21:27 (one month ago) link

I think I'm the only person on ILB who just despises Marilynne Robinson.

I neither love Marilynne Robinson nor despise her. I looked back at my ILB comments after reading Housekeeping and found:

Mainly it speaks about absence and transcience in a strange otherworldy tone that I've never seen matched elsewhere. I can't say I always agreed with the many ex cathedra statements about how the world works, but the book carries such conviction and consistency of view that it is hard to get mad about the perfect, unblemished certainty of these pronouncements.

fwiw, I found Gilead to be just dreary and colorless and didn't finish it.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Wednesday, 27 October 2021 21:48 (one month ago) link

It probably won't get a vote, but The Finishing School is easily the best of Sparks's final half dozen novels. She's in top form.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Wednesday, 27 October 2021 22:07 (one month ago) link

table, I mentioned Robinson's essays a couple weeks ago: she's an austere, often beautiful essayist. Her natural form, I think.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 27 October 2021 22:10 (one month ago) link

really liked piranesi, struggled with jonathan strange and quit. it did at least seem memorable in how much i wanted to quit it

mookieproof, Wednesday, 27 October 2021 22:19 (one month ago) link

ZZ Packer's book had a lovely paperback cover that we kept shelved, but no one bought. I would have! To give to a friend: the hardback edition is one of my favorite short story collections ever, and has a good cover---what does the paperback look like?
What essays did you read by her, Alfred? I only know the Gilead series (no prob w the first one's xtian poetic prairie reveries, and I'm a stone cold Southern Gothic atheist, or close to it).

dow, Wednesday, 27 October 2021 23:22 (one month ago) link

i voted for Gilead. as some of you may know, i am a former Christian and sometimes get a little angry about it. Gilead's characters remind me of what I saw in it in the first place

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 27 October 2021 23:28 (one month ago) link

Yeah, and also an improvement on what I saw in it! Not being the most sensitive candidate.

dow, Wednesday, 27 October 2021 23:44 (one month ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Thursday, 28 October 2021 00:01 (one month ago) link

I am one of those awful fundamentalist atheists and I have less than zero interest in Robinson's Calvinist project but thought Gilead was a wonderful demonstration of the comfort and efficacy of prayer - obviously not as a way of having a deity fix things for you, but as a way of meditating on difficult questions.

namaste darkness my old friend (ledge), Thursday, 28 October 2021 08:02 (one month ago) link

I love 2666 too. I can imagine the burden of writing those crime reports.

― So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, October 26, 2021 11:56 PM (two days ago)


This is also very much the explicit theme of Senselessness (different crimes though -- protag is a writer who has been hired to edit a dossier of eyewitness testimony re: Salvadorean Civil War crimes) which is why I recommended it to Bolaño fans.

Nature's promise vs. Simple truth (bernard snowy), Thursday, 28 October 2021 13:58 (one month ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Friday, 29 October 2021 00:01 (one month ago) link

Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Novels of 2005

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 29 October 2021 14:12 (one month ago) link


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