Formerly Gray Lady Has No Taste In Books

Heaven help us, the Gray Lady has published a list of 100 Notable Books of 2011. Color me skeptical of the premise, but Mercy! Look at the descriptions of the fiction and poetry books and try to stay awake. Alternatively, read them aloud and see if whoever's in the room with you can tell whether a book or a bottle of wine is being described. There are 5-6 on the list that sound like worthwhile reading -- or at least honestly told stories innocent of propaganda, but most sound like the same old pretentious, transgressive, cynical, nihilist crap that's been churned out for 50 years. Get a load of this:
  • "a liberating reminder that terror existed long before there was a war on it" (who said otherwise?)
  • "an allusive, Franzen-like first novel" (what?)
  • "a big, insightful novel about social and ethnic conflict in contemporary Los Angeles." (Is it the length of the tale that makes it insightful?).  
  • a "capacious, metaphysically inclined graphic novel" with "unsettling comic vision." (This merlot I'm sipping is capacious and has unsettling comic vision, too.)
  • "overturns clichéd expectations of immigrant idealism" (overturning clichéd expectations is the biggest cliché of them all)
  • "what can happen when the self’s rhythms and certainties are shaken." (someone shake the reviewer's certainties, please)
  • "Complex but fundamentally decent characters hurt one another and are hurt by forces greater than themselves, as a family sinks beneath the weight of a terrible secret." ("Complex" probably meaning "not actually decent")
  • "Beneath the shadowless Norman Rockwell contours of Baxter’s Midwest lurks a chilling starkness and sense of isolation" (ding ding ding! Bonus points for unnecessary dig at Norman Rockwell while condescending to the Midwest. Too bad you didn't work in "Ozzie & Harriet," though, for the Gold star.)
  • "Hilarious and extremely dirty." (Isn't that redundant?)
  • "A wry, world-weary and hyper-articulate werewolf, morally as well as physically ambiguous..." (Honestly, did he lose you at "werewolf"? Or at "world-weary"? )
  • "In this novelistic version of the biblical prophecy known as the Rapture, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims as well as Christians mysteriously disappear." (Much to the delight of the Times' Review of Books)
  • "Smith’s impressive range is on full display in her third poetry collection, in which she mourns her father, who worked on the Hubble Telescope." (OK, that's not nihilistic & pretentious so much as unintentionally hilarious.)
  • "socially realistic novel is split between two characters who react in opposite ways to their old affair." (Oo, a book about an affair. Naughty!)
  • "a refined eye for the outrageous" (just like me!)
  • "about a paroled sex offender, bravely tries to find humanity in people whom society often despises." (that damn "society"!)
  • "particularly astute on the uncertainties awaiting after graduation." (Life outside of academia is not worth living.)
  • "sardonic novel of a young Albanian immigrant in New Jersey sets Ameri­ca in high relief" (America criticized by someone with no attachment to her? Praised in the Times? Do tell!)
  • "a love story and a dystopian fantasy that raises questions of psychology and ethics." (No one has done dystopia.)
  • "stories of longing and disappointment"
  • "an unexpected bequest forces a man to re-evaluate his relationships" (movie of the week, anyone? Not the dread "re-evaluation of relationships" trope).
  • "an aspiring architect in 1980s Germany, wanders between his charming, frigid wife and plain but devoted mistress."
  • "The Bosnian hero of Prcic’s absorbing and unsettling first novel is shattered by war. "
  • "the most ambitious, and disturbing, of Kasischke’s eight books"
  • "acerbic and deeply sad narrative"
  • "relatives and scholars grappling with the legacy of a Rupert Brooke-like poet killed during World War I"
  • "darkly comic"
  • "Viscerally smoldering anger, the signature quality of Murray’s poetry, turns conventional pieties inside out. " (Honey, viscerally smoldering anger IS a conventional piety.)
  • "a group of friends, lovers, parents and children through the straight-edge music scene and the early days of the AIDS epidemic." (Strangely, this novel is not called "Rent.")
  • "A family’s Manhattan life comes apart when their 15-year-old forwards a sexually explicit video made for him, unsolicited, by a girl two years younger." (Bet that's uplifting)
  • "patterns of suspicion, superstition and everyday violence"
  • "splendidly devious novel"
Does no one want to just tell a story anymore? At any rate, the most predictable-sounding "literature" imaginable. I'm bored to tears by ironic distance and am looking for some warmth and heart.