Q&A With Lev Grossman From Time: Part 2
Today’s post is the second part of my Q&A with Lev Grossman, senior writer and book critic at Time Magazine. Lev was one of two critics who selected the Time 100 list. For a recap, check out part one.
On with the questions.
101 Books: Any books you discovered for the first time during the selection process?
Lev: There’s nothing on there that I’d never actually heard of. But it was the first time I’d had an actual occasion to read, for example, The Painted Bird. For some books it’s never the right time, until it is.
101 Books: Over the last few years, I’m sure you’ve received a lot of feedback on the list. What are some books you hear the most about—included or excluded?
Lev: J.K. Rowling. Amy Tan. Paul Auster. Frank Herbert. Actually I feel pretty bad about Dune. Maybe that’s my 101st book.
101 Books: Having written several novels yourself, with The Magician King released last week, which writers and/or books on the list have inspired your writing?
Lev: Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep is a master-class in voice and plotting. Mrs. Dalloway is a benchmark to shoot for and never reach, in every respect. The clarity of Orwell’s prose is beyond inspiring. The rich, contemporary psychological reality of The Corrections is a constant reminder of what is possible.
101 Books: I’ve read 23 of the 100 since I started this project. Any advice for me as I attempt to complete the entire list?
Lev: I am a great non-finisher of novels. I’m not a completist — it’s just a fact of the medium that not all novels are for all people. If I’m not understanding what’s great, or at least pleasurable or exciting, about a novel by halfway through, I say a silent prayer for forgiveness and put it down forever.
101 Books: Any other interesting facts about the selection process or the list in general?
Lev: I wanted the list to run from 1900 to 2000. I thought the 1923 start date was just silly — for one thing it makes it hard to compare our list to other comparable best-of-the-century lists. And the loss of Ulysses (1922) alone is just annoying. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much attention and debate have come out of the list. There’s a sticker on the cover of Watchmen now. There’s glory for you. That makes the whole thing worthwhile.
- I’ve got to admit, Lev’s comment about Mrs. Dalloway made me want to go crawl in a hole. I’m not a fan of the book, but maybe I just missed the boat on Virginia Woolfe. I totally agree with him about Orwell and The Corrections.
- I wish I could just “put a book down” if I’m not enjoying it. But, for me, to complete the entire list and feel that sense of accomplishment, I have to read every book, start to finish.
- I totally agree with him about the 1923 start date, which was selected because that’s the year Time Magazine started. It is silly. I think 1900-2000 would have made much more sense.
Thanks again to Lev Grossman for taking the time to answer these questions. Also, Check out Lev’s site and find out a little more about his brand-new novel, The Magician King, which is currently a top 100 book on Amazon.
To wrap this up, here’s a question: Lev says he feels bad about leaving Dune off the list. What are some books that you believe should’ve been on the Time list?