With the dawning of the new year, thoughts again turn to round-number anniversaries of memorable novels. Let’s do this chronologically, shall we?
Daniel Defoe (pictured above) had quite a 1722 — exactly three centuries ago. Fresh off the success of 1719’s Robinson Crusoe, Defoe came out in 1722 with both Moll Flanders (which I’ve read) and A Journal of the Plague Year (which I haven’t yet). Among the reasons protagonist Moll Flanders is fascinating is that she’s a resourceful, law-breaking, “low-born” woman — certainly an unusual lead character for literature of that time.
Jumping to 1822 — 200 years ago — there’s The Pirate by Sir Walter Scott. I’ve read quite a few Scott novels, but not that one. The Pirate got mixed reviews, making it less well-received than some of the author’s other historical-fiction works such as Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, and Old Mortality.
Many more novels were churned out in 1872 than in 1822, and perhaps the most famous were Jules Verne’s entertaining Around the World in Eighty Days and Lewis Carroll’s whimsical Through the Looking-Glass — the sequel to his classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. That 150-years-ago time also saw the publication of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Demons (also known as The Devils and The Possessed), widely considered one of his better novels.
Among 1922’s highlights a century ago was Babbitt, the conformity-satirizing novel that was part of an incredible 1920s run for Sinclair Lewis along with Main Street, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry, and Dodsworth. Also published in 1922 was Willa Cather’s World War I-themed One of Ours — not among her best novels (like My Antonia) but quite good. A couple of 1922 books I’ve yet to read are Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha and James Joyce’s Ulysses — the latter of which I’ll get to in 2222 or thereabouts. 🙂
Fifty years ago, aka 1972, saw the publication of such novels as Richard Adams’ rabbit-populated Watership Down and Margaret Atwood’s talented-woman-artist-populated Surfacing — both great reads in their different ways.
Finally, 25 years ago was quite a memorable time for fiction. J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular wizard-world series and Lee Child’s riveting Jack Reacher thrillers got started with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone* and Killing Floor, respectively. Among 1997’s other notable releases were Arundhati Roy’s stunning debut novel The God of Small Things, Charles Frazier’s compelling Civil War saga Cold Mountain, Don DeLillo’s wide-ranging Underworld, and Anita Diamant’s feminist-take-on-a-biblical-character The Red Tent. All very worth the time. (*Renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when published in the United States in 1998.)
Any comments about the books I mentioned? Other novels you’d like to name with round-number anniversaries this year?
One more thing: This blog’s 2021 statistics are pictured below. Thank you, everyone, for reading my weekly posts and for your MANY terrific comments!
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — about COVID, congressional redistricting, and more — is here.