I don’t envy the task that David Madden has before him: The California State University, Sacramento English professor is spending the rest of the year finishing the Encyclopedia of 20th Century American Fiction, which is set to be published in 2010. Not only are there going to be plenty of ingrates who’ll get similar info cheap and easy, he has to limit the book’s contents to about 200 authors. He bemoans his fate a little in the Sacramento Bee:
Who goes in? Who gets left out? “When you make selections, you are also deleting somebody,” Madden said. For example, Tom Disch won’t make it, even though his New York Times obituary this month quoted the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts as saying his work was “important” and “Swiftian.”… [But] he included authors like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. They’re writers sometimes put in the pulp genre but who were hugely influential. Lesser-knowns like Paul West and Thomas Berger, author of “Little Big Man,” made it, too.