Critic’s Choice, Lila, by Marilynne Robinson

For this year’s critic’s choice at the Star Tribune, I chose Marilynne Robinson’s “Lila”. What struck me (and struck me again when my editor at the Star Trib forwarded a complaint that no one on her list had named “Orfeo”) was how many good books of how many interesting sorts were published this year.  My friend and colleague’s book “Song of the Shank,” featured at the top of “Kirkus Review’s” best-of list, brought this home to me, as the book, by Jeffery Allen, was on the coveted front page of the NYTBR and hadn’t shown up, as far as I knew, on any of the other lists of bests or award nominees (which is just wrong).  Nor had David Grand’s “Mount Terminus” or Rene Steinke’s “Friendswood” (an O Magazine favorite) or Tom Kennedy’s “Beneath the Neon Egg”, all well reviewed.  And great books like Jenny Offill’s “Department of Speculation” and Henderson Smith’s “Fourth of July Creek” never made overlapping lists.  It is, it seems, a good year to acknowledge that “best,” in literary terms, is a slippery concept, often confused, without acknowledgment, with “favorite.”
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