I have to agree with Edmond Caldwell:
Austerlitz and 2666 are good books brought to us in a way that sucks the oxygen out of the type of atmosphere in which good books might be much more broadly produced, understood, and enjoyed. . .To come up with Best Books lists in this environment is little more than an exercise in pecking the least maggoty bits from carrion.
But the listing and ranking game goes on – and on and on – as if all sectors of society were afflicted with a kind of mass obsessive-compulsive disorder or species of autism. . . .
Andrew Seal objects:
I am not convinced that [Caldwell's] attempt to move the conversation to a question of who owns the means of literary production does anything more than nudge us toward a severe reification of outsiderness, an anti-brand mandarinism. His approach, in fact, greatly simplifies the whole question of distinction (which he gets to later): it just makes that-which-cannot-be-corporatized into a new fetish object.
This might be a valid objection if the alternative to the kind of list-making employed at The Millions was simply to make another list from which books published by the mainstream corporate publishers were excluded. This would only reproduce wittingly what Millions-type lists do unwittingly, which is to assume that anything remotely useful can be accomplished by making lists and choosing up sides. In the real literary world in which live, the only honest course of action is to refuse to join in on list-making in the first place, which would at the least be an acknowledgement that we can't make such simplified judgments about current or recent work given the pre-chosen samples which mainstream publishing makes available.