22 November 2007

Books of the year 2007

If you are a critic, an author or (ideally) a celebrity, ((The Meatloaf theorem applies here to me, obviously.)) you might find yourself, as the calendar year slouches towards extinguishment, asked to nominate your “Books of the Year” in one of the literary newspaper sections or magazines. Such lists are celebrated for their logrolling, in which contributors nominate books by their friends, or authors with whom they share a publisher or an agent. By sheer chance, this does not apply to my contribution to this year’s list in the New Statesman:

Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke (Picador) was an epic of drenched sensuality and absurdly chewable dialogue, as though Don DeLillo and Joseph Heller had collaborated on a Vietnam war novel. DeLillo’s own Falling Man (Picador), the first 9/11 novel that will endure, crafted a dialogue between shattering thunder and shattered silence.

J M Coetzee’s mesmerising Diary of a Bad Year (Harvill Secker) was considered by some not to be a novel at all, as though there existed some bureaucratic checklist of novelistic virtues that Coetzee failed to satisfy; its drama consisted in the author’s characteristic ice being implacably heated to melting point.

This was also the happy year in which I discovered Lee Child, the British author of US-set thrillers with shiny covers that can be found at airports. His technical command of sentence rhythm and paragraph structure puts an alarming number of his literary compatriots to shame.

  • For what it’s worth, I wholeheartedly agree with your choice of Lee Child.

    I read “Killing Floor” during one sleepless night with pounding heart – a physiological effect I hadn’t experienced previously from any thriller.