Over at National Review, they’ve got a list of the top ten conservative novels written by Americans since 1950:
1. Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
2. Midcentury by John Dos Passos
3. Mr. Sammler’s Planet by Saul Bellow
4. The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton
5. The Thanatos Syndrome by Walker Percy
6. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
7. Shelley’s Heart by Charles McCarry
8. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
9. Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin
10. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
National Review has always had a yen for such user-voter lists of conservatives’ favorites, but isn’t there something a little sad about this one?
I mean Advise and Consent, The Time It Never Rained, and Shelley’s Heart are, at best, superior genre fiction, while Mr. Sammler’s Planet, The Thanatos Syndrome and Freddy and Fredericka are far from their authors’ best works. And what Marilynne Robinson is going to think of being called conservative, I can’t wait to hear, since, in her essays, she seems to invest a great deal of self-esteem in assuring her readers how liberal she is.
But, really, the main lesson taught by this list is how weak the list really is. And what’s the cause of that? Is it that the voters chose weak novels? Or that the list tracks the general weakness of the novel over the last sixty years? Or that conservatives have produced inferior fiction for decades?