Paris Review editor-in-chief Lorin Stein entered the Franzenfreude fracas early on, with a piece on the Atlantic ’s Web site arguing that Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult’s call for critics to “spend more time celebrating mass-market novels” was a kind of “fake populism” that “pretends to speak for women (as if women weren’t the overwhelming consumers of serious fiction, whether written by women or men).” Weiner responded by guffawing at Stein’s taste for “made-to-measure Lord Willys shirts,” charcuterie, and Calvados.
That’s the backdrop against which I read Stein’s recent post on the Paris Review ’s (gorgeous) new Web site, in which he responds to a reader who asks: ” Which books would you recommend to a smart, bored, somewhat alienated teenage girl trapped in the suburbs ?” Stein’s put together an appealing list-though, as a former smart (or so I thought!) suburban teenager, Against Interpretation seems like an eyebrow-raising choice for a 16-year-old, even one cast in the Daria mold. (For those who are counting along at home, Stein name-checks five male authors and three females-and he’s sort of sheepish about recommending Donna Tart’s The Secret History .)
What do you think of Stein’s choices-or his picks, in response to another reader’s question, for “philosophical fiction by women”? (OK, I’m finally ordering my copy of Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai , now that I’m convinced it’s not a novelization of that Tom Cruise movie .)
What would be on your list?