In case you missed Part I of our quick glimpses of the decade’s most noteworthy fiction, you can check it out here.
White Teeth — Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith’s first novel came out in the first month of the Aughts, and seemed to be an important, symbolic moment for literature at large. For one, it led critic James Wood to coin the term “hysterical realism,” a catch-all term for the kind of “big novel” Smith and many other young writers of this decade were writing. While the term was used pejoratively, it is an important indicator of the ambition of certain modern novelists. Smith’s novel traces two families through the entire second half of the century, covering World War II and the 1990s. The scope is an important theme, highlighting the grasp past events have on our modern lives, whether we like it or not.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius — Dave Eggers
The novelistic memoir that propelled Eggers to full-on Voice of the Generation stature, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius does its best to live up to its name. Eggers manages to be meta without being condescending and to be funny without sacrificing poignancy. In crafting a deeply personal story that resonates universally, Eggers proved—for the first time—that he is a fascinating and compelling storyteller of the highest order.