Home » novels » what’s missing is missing and what isn’t . . . (100 top novels – 6)

what’s missing is missing and what isn’t . . . (100 top novels – 6)


I am at a loss to describe The Uncomfortable Dead: (what’s missing is missing). Take three parts political consciousness, two parts detective novel, two parts Zapatista struggle, and one part Mexico City—put it all together with some slick writing and you might have something like it. But probably not. The book reminded me of Felisberto Hernandez’s Lands of Memory, which also confounded all of my expectations, albeit in a very different way; nothing I’ve ever read prepared me for this particular mix of styles and genres.

The Uncomfortable Dead is “a novel by four hands,” with alternating chapters written by Subcommandante Marcos and Paco Ignacio Taibo II. The Marcos chapters have a wonderful proliferation of characters, many of whom speak at least briefly from their own subjectivity. Marcos writes with a deceptive simplicity, a sort of self-aware country bumpkinness that never veers into condescension or the tritely cute. Instead, his characters feel real: they know they are not cosmopolitan and they know they don’t understand many things; they strive to negotiate a world that acts as though they are ignorant, to know and understand new things without losing their roots.

Taibo writes a more literary style. His main character is a one-eyed, limping, Mexico City private detective, working out of an office that also houses a plumber, an upholsterer, and an “Engineer Whatever.” These chapters have a sunny and world-weary flavor; they are full of enigmatic phone message from dead people, dogs that look with knowing eyes, and warm cokes.

You might worry that a novel constructed in this way would be disconnected and choppy. However, the two stories flow together into one and apart into two in a very naturally way, touching and separating, connecting and disconnecting, like old lovers who know just where and when to touch—and when not to. The Uncomfortable Dead is a post-modern masterpiece.


100 top novels – 6

New addition: The Uncomfortable Dead: (what’s missing is missing) (#46)

1 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
2 Beloved – Toni Morrison
3 To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf
4 Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
5 Molloy – Samuel Beckett
6 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
7 Underworld – Don DeLillo
8 Middle Passage – Charles Johnson
9 White Noise – Don DeLillo
10 Middlemarch – George Eliot

11 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
12 Suttree – Cormac McCarthy
13 Housekeeping – Marilyn Robinson
14 Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
15 The Brother’s Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
16 The Plague – Albert Camus
17 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
18 Darkness at Noon – Arthur Koestler
19 The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
20 The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

21 Native Son – Richard Wright
22 All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
23 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
24 On the Road – Jack Kerouac
25 The Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
26 Ceremony – Leslie Marmon Silko
27 Wolf – Jim Harrison
28 Narcissus and Goldmund – Herman Hesse
29 The Master and Marguerita – Michael Bulgakov
30 Blindness – Jose Saramago

31 A House for Mr. Biswas – V. S. Naipaul
32 Written on the Body – Jeanette Winterson
33 The Glass Bead Game (Magister Ludi)- Herman Hesse
34 The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
35 Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
36 The Bone People – Keri Hulme
37 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
38 The Tin Drum – Gunter Grass
39 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
40 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Alexander Solzhenitzen

41 Gravity’s Rainbow – Thomas Pynchon
42 Motherless Brooklyn – Jonathan Lethem
43 1984 – George Orwell
44 The Fortress of Solitude – Jonathan Lethem
45 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
46 The Uncomfortable Dead: (what’s missing is missing) – Paco Ignacio Taibo II & Subcommandante Marcos
47 Mao II – Don DeLillo
48 Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger
49 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
50 The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

51 Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
52 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
53 As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
54 The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane
55 A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
56 Neuromancer – William Gibson
57 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Earnest Hemingway
58 Generation X – Douglass Copeland
59 Brave New World – Aldus Huxley
60 The Chosen – Chaim Potok

61 Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
62 Fall on Your Knees – Ann-Marie MacDonald
63 The Dog of the South – Charles Portis
64 All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy
65 Dr. Zhivago – Boris Pasternak
66 The Crying of Lot 49 – Thomas Pynchon
67 Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
68 Gorky Park – Martin Cruz Smith
69 White Teeth – Zadie Smith
70 The Stone Canal – Ken MacLeod

71 Schizmatrix – Bruce Sterling
72 The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. LeGuin
73 The Loved One – Evelyn Waugh
74 The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
75 The Fall – Albert Camus
76 Vineland – Thomas Pynchon
77 Straight Man – Richard Russo
78 A Small Death in Lisbon – Robert Wilson
79 Disgrace – J. M. Coetzee
80 Kindred – Octavia Butler

81 The Street – Ann Petry
82 The Feast of Love – Charles Baxter
83 Fear of Flying – Erica Jong
84 Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
85 The Old Man and the Sea – Earnest Hemingway
86 The Star Fraction – Ken MacLeod
87 He, She, and It – Marge Piercy
88 The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin
89 The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx
90 The Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler


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