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Influence, Part II

Previously, on Planned Obsolescence: the book list, not as designator of “quality” or “greatness,” but rather of “influence,” which one intrepid reader understood to be the fluidity with which a book’s central concept made itself available to cocktail party chatter.

Now, another list, this one voted upon by “around 100 of the world’s top authors,” in an attempt to determine the “most meaningful book of all time.” The winner: Don Quixote.

I return to the question of the list today because the Chronicle of Higher Education (sorry, subscription required) reported the same story this week, but described the list as that of “the 100 most influential works of fiction.” So I started thinking that perhaps this list might help me understand this business of literary influence a bit better than I presently do. Are “influence” and “meaningfulness” related? Or is the entire list-making hoo-ha (which frankly I thought we’d seen the end of for a while) up to some other goal?

While I ponder, a few observations:

  1. Europeans are more influential than Americans, 2 to 1.

  2. Men similarly out-influence women, almost 8 to 1.

  3. While the Boston Public Library was not apparently particularly influenced by Invisible Man, around 100 of the world’s top authors were.

  4. Morrison, yes. Pynchon, no.

  5. I’ve read an embarrassing 41 of 100.

A final thought: who drew up the list of around 100 of the world’s top authors, who then drew up the list of the 100 most meaningful/influential books? Could it be argued that the creator(s) of that list are in fact the most influential of all?


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