The NYTBR Best Book Votes: Why Roxana Robinson Chose The Hours

by Roxana Robinson | Jun-03-2006

As part of our efforts to uncover The Rest of The Best, we've been contacting the judges to ask what they voted for, and why. Here's Roxana Robinson:

"The request floored me at first. How can you choose the best book of the last six months, let alone the last twenty-five years? There are so many different things you want from a book, depending on your circumstances.

Happily, the Times gave us some time, so for awhile I waited, and simply let books present themselves in my mind. John Updike's Rabbit Quartet appeared at once, that beautiful elegaic passage through small-town America. I love those books, but I knew other people would too, and I liked the idea of a book that needed a champion. I also liked the idea of choosing a woman writer, because women are often left off literary lists. I thought of Shirley Hazzard's matchless Transit of Venus, unequalled for beauty of language and a perfectly unfolding narrative.

But the book that kept reappearing was The Hours, by Michael Cunningham.

Maybe twelve years ago I liked something else better; maybe there were books I'd forgotten or overlooked, but The Hours combines certain things necessary to me: exquisite language, profound compassion, and the luminous presence of a writer who is central to my thinking life. I keep a copy of The Hours wherever I write. It may not be the best book of the last 25 years -- who can say? -- but it's the one that remains closest to my writing life. It's the one that acts as a touchstone to the things that are important to me.

So that's the one I chose."

Roxana Robinson



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