Radio stations in my youth were always running phone-ins to find the greatest pop songs of all time – that is, of the last few decades. The top song, as I recall, was always the same: ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Likewise, polls of the greatest novels have their inevitable winners. Ask the public, and it’s The Lord of the Rings. Ask writers or critics, and it’s Ulysses or Proust. In 1998, Modern Library offered its 100 best English-language novels of the twentieth century. The list, determined by the editorial board, of course made Joyce No. 1. For me, one cheering inclusion was the book that scraped in at No. 100: The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington. I had thought this splendid novel almost entirely forgotten, other than as source material for the brilliant but troubled 1942 Orson Welles film of the same name.