The Book Marketing Society is trying to find the book that best defines the 20th century. The BMS, of course, does this purely out of the goodness of their collective heart. They have absolutely no interest in publicizing overpraised books. Which is why such century-defining books as Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch and Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary are the list. I know that when I ponder a book that best represents the escalation of technology, the horrors of Hitler and Stalin, McCarthyism, mass production, the influence of Freud and feminism, and too many 20th century ideologies and innovations here to list, a trivial memoir about soccer and a novel about a frumpy thirtysomething who can’t find Mr. Right are the first books that come to mind.
So this is the new way. When promoting literacy, boast about how fast your program is instead of the ability of people to understand it. You may as well describe how fast you ate your breakfast, instead of how tasty it was.
The book that best defines the 20th Century for me is unquestionably Anthony Burgess’ ‘Earthly Powers’–not a popular choice, no doubt, but a book that has the right scope and humour–but little navel gazing and no 30-something angst.
Speaking as a big Burgess fan, good answer, Andrew. Good answer. 🙂
“[A] book that best represents the escalation of technology, the horrors of Hitler and Stalin, McCarthyism, mass production, the influence of Freud and feminism, and too many 20th century ideologies and innovations here to list.”
You couldn’t be talking about any one book other than Gravity’s Rainbow. Mind you, I don’t think one book can get the whole job done, but this one comes closest.