Joyce, Kennedy books on century's top 100 list

Associated Press, with staff report

NEW YORK -- James Joyce's "Ulysses'' has been voted the best English-language novel published this century, and local author William Kennedy was also named to a list of the top 100 novels selected by a jury of scholars and writers.

Kennedy, whose cycle of novels are set in Albany, was one of just a handful of contemporary American writers still publishing novels who made the list. His book "Ironweed'' ranked 92nd.

The list was drawn up by the editorial board of the Modern Library, a division of Random House that has been publishing classic literature since 1917, Random House spokesman Tom Perry said today.

"Ulysses,'' which recounts a single day in the lives of a group of Dubliners, was followed by F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby,'' a story of romance and decadence among Long Island socialites.

In third place was another novel by Joyce, "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,'' an autobiographical account of a young man's intellectual awakening; followed by Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita,'' a tale of a man's doomed lust for an ingenue; and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World,'' a satirical novel of a civilization where people are made to order.

"It's an occasion for a small celebration,'' Kennedy said Monday afternoon by telephone from his Averill Park home. Kennedy was listed at No. 92 for "Ironweed,'' his novel about a transcendent Albany bum named Francis Phelan that won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1984 and other literary awards.

Kennedy had no clue the Modern Library list was coming out and, after being alerted to Monday's story in The New York Times by his daughter, bought a copy of the paper and handicapped the picks himself. "It's going to be a controversial list,'' Kennedy said. "Influential writers like Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor didn't make it, just to name two. And then to include people like James M. Cain ("The Postman Always Rings Twice'') and Dashiel Hammett ("The Maltese Falcon'') seems strange. They're good stories in their genre, but I'd take issue in calling them great works of literature.''

Kennedy said two of his favorite writers and biggest literary influences, James Joyce and William Faulkner, were "rightfully high up on the list.''

"We tried to pick books that were of great merit and proven over time,'' said Cerf, chairman of the Modern Library editorial board. He is the son of Bennett Cerf, who bought the Modern Library and founded Random House.

Those voting were Daniel J. Boorstin, A.S. Byatt, Christopher Cerf, Shelby Foote, Vartan Gregorian, Edmund Morris, John Richardson, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., William Styron and Gore Vidal.

Cerf said today that board members were selected "for their particular expertise, for their willingness to help us, and their friendliness to the cause.'' They were invited to come up with their own list of 100 favorite titles from which the final list was drawn.

The titles were selected without regard to publisher, he said.

In retrospect, Cerf said, he wished other authors had been included, such as Doris Lessing and Toni Morrison. Only eight women authors are represented on the list. Byatt, an English novelist, was the only woman on the judging panel.

"It's very arbitrary, but we're getting exactly the results we had hoped for. The idea was to get people reading books that they're going to love. One thing good about this list is how many really readable books are on there,'' said Cerf.

Cerf said the Modern Library board also will be expanded and next year will release a list of the 100 best nonfiction books since 1900.

The 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, as drawn up by the editorial board of the Modern Library:

1. "Ulysses,'' James Joyce

2. "The Great Gatsby,'' F. Scott Fitzgerald

3. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,'' James Joyce

4. "Lolita,'' Vladimir Nabokov

5. "Brave New World,'' Aldous Huxley

6. "The Sound and the Fury,'' William Faulkner

7. "Catch-22,'' Joseph Heller

8. "Darkness at Noon,'' Arthur Koestler

9. "Sons and Lovers,'' D.H. Lawrence

10. "The Grapes of Wrath,'' John Steinbeck

11. "Under the Volcano,'' Malcolm Lowry

12. "The Way of All Flesh,'' Samuel Butler

13. "1984,'' George Orwell

14. "I, Claudius,'' Robert Graves

15. "To the Lighthouse,'' Virginia Woolf

16. "An American Tragedy,'' Theodore Dreiser

17. "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,'' Carson McCullers

18. "Slaughterhouse Five,'' Kurt Vonnegut

19. "Invisible Man,'' Ralph Ellison

20. "Native Son,'' Richard Wright

21. "Henderson the Rain King,'' Saul Bellow

22. "Appointment in Samarra,'' John O'Hara

23. "U.S.A.'' (trilogy), John Dos Passos

24. "Winesburg, Ohio,'' Sherwood Anderson

25. "A Passage to India,'' E.M. Forster

26. "The Wings of the Dove,'' Henry James

27. "The Ambassadors,'' Henry James

28. "Tender Is the Night,'' F. Scott Fitzgerald

29. "The Studs Lonigan Trilogy,'' James T. Farrell

30. "The Good Soldier,'' Ford Maddox Ford

31. "Animal Farm,'' George Orwell

32. "The Golden Bowl,'' Henry James

33. "Sister Carrie,'' Theodore Dreiser

34. "A Handful of Dust,'' Evelyn Waugh

35. "As I Lay Dying,'' William Faulkner

36. "All the King's Men,'' Robert Penn Warren

37. "The Bridge of San Luis Rey,'' Thornton Wilder

38. "Howards End,'' E.M. Forster

39. "Go Tell It on the Mountain,'' James Baldwin

40. "The Heart of the Matter,'' Graham Greene

41. "Lord of the Flies,'' William Golding

42. "Deliverance,'' James Dickey

43. "A Dance to the Music of Time'' (series), Anthony Powell

44. "Point Counter Point,'' Aldous Huxley

45. "The Sun Also Rises,'' Ernest Hemingway

46. "The Secret Agent,'' Joseph Conrad

47. "Nostromo,'' Joseph Conrad

48. "The Rainbow,'' D.H. Lawrence

49. "Women in Love,'' D.H. Lawrence

50. "Tropic of Cancer,'' Henry Miller

51. "The Naked and the Dead,'' Norman Mailer

52. "Portnoy's Complaint,'' Philip Roth

53. "Pale Fire,'' Vladimir Nabokov

54. "Light in August,'' William Faulkner

55. "On the Road,'' Jack Kerouac

56. "The Maltese Falcon,'' Dashiell Hammett

57. "Parade's End,'' Ford Maddox Ford

58. "The Age of Innocence,'' Edith Wharton

59. "Zuleika Dobson,'' Max Beerbohm

60. "The Moviegoer,'' Walker Percy

61. "Death Comes to the Archbishop,'' Willa Cather

62. "From Here to Eternity,'' James Jones

63. "The Wapshot Chronicles,'' John Cheever

64. "The Catcher in the Rye,'' J.D. Salinger

65. "A Clockwork Orange,'' Anthony Burgess

66. "Of Human Bondage,'' W. Somerset Maugham

67. "Heart of Darkness,'' Joseph Conrad

68. "Main Street,'' Sinclair Lewis

69. "The House of Mirth,'' Edith Wharton

70. "The Alexandria Quartet,'' Lawrence Durrell

71. "A High Wind in Jamaica,'' Richard Hughes

72. "A House for Ms. Biswas,'' V.S. Naipaul

73. "The Day of the Locust,'' Nathaniel West

74. "A Farewell to Arms,'' Ernest Hemingway

75. "Scoop,'' Evelyn Waugh

76. "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,'' Muriel Spark

77. "Finnegans Wake,'' James Joyce

78. "Kim,'' Rudyard Kipling

79. "A Room With a View,'' E.M. Forster

80. "Brideshead Revisited,'' Evelyn Waugh

81. "The Adventures of Augie March,'' Saul Bellow

82. "Angle of Repose,'' Wallace Stegner

83. "A Bend in the River,'' V.S. Naipaul

84. "The Death of the Heart,'' Elizabeth Bowen

85. "Lord Jim,'' Joseph Conrad

86. "Ragtime,'' E.L. Doctorow

87. "The Old Wives' Tale,'' Arnold Bennett

88. "The Call of the Wild,'' Jack London

89. "Loving,'' Henry Green

90. "Midnight's Children,'' Salman Rushdie

91. "Tobacco Road,'' Erskine Caldwell

92. "Ironweed,'' William Kennedy

93. "The Magus,'' John Fowles

94. "Wide Sargasso Sea,'' Jean Rhys

95. "Under the Net,'' Iris Murdoch

96. "Sophie's Choice,'' William Styron

97. "The Sheltering Sky,'' Paul Bowles

98. "The Postman Always Rings Twice,'' James M. Cain

99. "The Ginger Man,'' J.P. Donleavy

100. "The Magnificent Ambersons,'' Booth Tarkington

First published on Tuesday, July 21, 1998


Copyright 1998, Capital Newspapers Division
of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.

William Kennedy Biography