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by Deborah Eisenberg
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With a billion swirling atoms of possibility and just that one fixed coordinate, a story takes shape as van den Berg brings the unexpected into brilliant focus.
We can’t blame earnest authors for trying. It just wasn’t long enough ago yet.
With four books heading to the Hall of Fame, that means we have four new books landing on the list, ranging from hard-boiled Scandinavian thrillers to historical fiction in 18th century Japan to a 12-year-old literary biography with a twist.
Tinkers debuts and The Corrections graduates. Plus, a controversial new number one.
"People do talk about things, of course. They don't just talk about nail polish. You can go for days thinking all anybody cares about anymore is square footage, and then have three extraordinary conversations in the grocery store."
Franzen stays on top. Sebald to the Hall of Fame. Tolstoy debuts.
It's probably its hospitality to debate that makes the "Best Of" list so popular in the first place. One can agree - yes! great list! - or dissent - Where is x? Why no y? - or inveigh against list-making itself, but in any case, the list holds up a mirror to one's own preoccupations. As with any mirror, it is fearsomely hard to look away.
Life is impossible; it can't possibly continue; and then it does.
We take a break from our countdown to salute this year's literary "Genius grant" winners.