Monday, March 08, 2010

Five best: novels of ideas

Rebecca Goldstein's new book is 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction. For the Wall Street Journal she named a five best list of novels of ideas.

One book on the list:
by George Eliot

George Eliot turned her hand to writing "Middlemarch" only months after completing her translation of Spinoza's "Ethica," and the novel is imprinted with many of Spinoza's ideas, as well as by Eliot's robust wrangling with them. The main plotline follows the passionate knowledge-seeker Dorothea Brooke, who blunders her way toward moral clarity, on the way making an unfortunate marriage to a dry pedant, Edward Casaubon. "We are all of us born in moral stupidity, taking the world as an udder to feed our supreme selves," Eliot writes. "Dorothea had early begun to emerge from that stupidity." A great ethicist as well as a supreme novelist, Eliot unobtrusively operates the intricate machinery of reflections about self-interest and morality, determinism and freedom, that move her interlacing stories along.
Read about another book on Goldstein's list.

Middlemarch also made John Mullan's lists of ten of the best marital rows, ten of the best examples of unrequited love, ten of the best funerals in literature, and ten of the best deathbed scenes in literature, as well as Tina Brown's five best list of books on reputation. It is one of Elizabeth Kostova favorite books. While it is one of Miss Manners' favorite novels, John Banville and Nick Hornby have not read it.

--Marshal Zeringue