Wow. No trouble picking out the “which one doesn’t belong” on your big novel syllabus.

To take one example off the top of my head, Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun (considered, rightly, as one novel, it’s about the same length as the rest and certainly encyclopedic) is, I’d conservatively estimate, infinitely more intellectually rewarding and better-written than the anomaly.

If the “current U.S. culture” angle doesn’t work for you w/r/t the Wolfe book (which I think it does), there’s always JR. Stephenson is of a more obvious sociological interest, but you could get the same effect from reading Slashdot for a few weeks.

Imagine taking a course on espionage fiction in which you read A Coffin for Dimitrios; Our Man in Havana; Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy; and then Patriot Games. But that’s unfair to Clancy. And the students will certainly appreciate something mindless after the first three.

I’m envious of the course, of course.