what's the "Great American Novel"?


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what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby gh » Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:18 pm

for this book reviewer, it's Uncle Tom's Cabin (he's reviewing a book on the book, not the original book).

<<Mightier Than the Sword

Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Battle for America

By David S. Reynolds>>



Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... z1RGv2mMNN
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Marlow » Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:20 pm

Gotta go with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is just as powerful today as the day it was published. When race (sic) stops being an issue in America, we can move on to something else like The Great Gatsby, the corruption of the American Dream.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby bad hammy » Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:46 pm

Interesting, my first thought was To Kill a Mockingbird. I see a pattern developing . . .
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Marlow » Tue Jul 05, 2011 5:15 pm

Just to be inflammatory, I submit that Uncle Tom's Cabin is not even a GOOD novel, much less a great one, much least THE great AmNov!! It is HIGHLY significant HISTORICALLY as it rallied many more people to abolitionism, but as a novel? Nope.

When I asked this question of the full Professors at the Naval Academy (civilian PhDs at a school with VERY high humanity standards also (despite its nickname as Boat Tech)) the most common answer was Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. :shock:
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Master Po » Tue Jul 05, 2011 6:26 pm

Have to agree w Marlow on this. (Wait, that sounds like I would rather not agree w Marlow, all other things being equal...didn't mean it that way. :) ) Not sure what the great American novel is, but the short list for me would definitely have to include Huck Finn at the top, and also Moby Dick. And after that, I don't know -- lots of possibilities, and lots of idiosyncratic personal favorites. And a footnote to Uncle Tom's Cabin for its historical momentousness -- which is important -- but doesn't get it on this list, imo.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby kuha » Tue Jul 05, 2011 7:01 pm

If one expectation of great art is that it transcend the "mere" realm of art to effect real social change, then Stowe's book is, indeed, of towering importance. But, no, most literary people do not quite fully buy that...

I thought David S. Reynolds' earlier book, "Beneath the American Renaissance," was brilliant.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Avante » Tue Jul 05, 2011 7:39 pm

Steinbeck's "The Grapes Of Wrath" would do it.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby gm » Tue Jul 05, 2011 8:48 pm

The Jungle
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Per Andersen » Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:12 pm

Certainly "Huck Finn" "Moby Dick" and "Gatsby"

Also Dos Passos" "USA Trilogy" and Stephen Crane's "The Red Badge of Courage"

One of Faulkner's. I ll go with "Light in August"
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Marlow » Wed Jul 06, 2011 8:54 am

Per Andersen wrote:One of Faulkner's. I ll go with "Light in August"

or As I Lay Dying. Hemingway's Sun Also Rises is a good choice too.

My personal favorite is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. American mental health care was never the same after it.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby kuha » Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:05 am

An astonishing, shaggy, baggy, brilliant book is James Agee's "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" (with photographs by Walker Evans). It's sort of 'faction'--mostly fact, but so subjective that it has elements of "normal" fiction...
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Daisy » Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:08 am

Marlow wrote:My personal favorite is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. American mental health care was never the same after it.

Along those lines, Catch 22 is up there too.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Conor Dary » Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:19 am

kuha wrote:An astonishing, shaggy, baggy, brilliant book is James Agee's "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" (with photographs by Walker Evans). It's sort of 'faction'--mostly fact, but so subjective that it has elements of "normal" fiction...


A great book.

As for Kesey's One Flew.... I preferred his Sometimes a Great Notion.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Marlow » Wed Jul 06, 2011 10:29 am

Daisy wrote:
Marlow wrote:My personal favorite is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. American mental health care was never the same after it.

Along those lines, Catch 22 is up there too.

Definitely. Like Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.

Another great one is the surprisingly poetic (James Dickey was a a very famous Southern poet) Deliverance!
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Cooter Brown » Wed Jul 06, 2011 12:49 pm

Blood Meridian.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby freddie » Wed Jul 06, 2011 3:34 pm

Portnoy's Complaint.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Bijan » Thu Jul 07, 2011 11:38 am

By era: "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
"The Great Gatsby"
"The Catcher In The Rye"
I believe Mailer penned "The Naked And The Dead" when he was about 25, and he's my hon. mention.
I'm not much f/ either Faulkner or Hemingway
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby lonewolf » Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:07 pm

This is one of those "Greatest" questions that can never be answered. What constitutes "great"? Must it be entertaining, suspenseful, suprising, insightful. revealing, construction, style, original, important (whatever that means) timely, captivating, historical, futuristic, inspiring, trendy, trend setting, deep, shallow, affecting civilization .. what????

I have a couple thousand books in my personal library, most of which I have read, including most of the books nominated. I either did or did not enjoy them but I don't recall any book that was a life influencer, changed my opinion or inspired me to do or not do anything, good or bad.. What does "great" mean?
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Marlow » Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:16 pm

lonewolf wrote:This is one of those "Greatest" questions that can never be answered. What constitutes "great"? Must it be entertaining, suspenseful, suprising, insightful. revealing, construction, style, original, important (whatever that means) timely, captivating, historical, futuristic, trendy, trend setting, deep, shallow, affecting civilization .. what????

I always ask my AP students what makes a masterpiece. Their most common answers are

a. has a still relevant timeless theme (which I define for them as "a truth about human nature", which might not actually be 'true' (think the theme in Mein Kampf), but it is to the author and s/he wants us to 'feel' it.
b. entertains us
c. enlightens us
d. moves us
e. teaches us
f. has characters that we want to emotionally invest ourselves in (we care what happens to them)

Funnily enough, 'writing style' is not all that important as Hemingway's was very spare, Faulkner's very obtuse, and Twain's often very simple (Huck Finn, purportedly written by a poorly educated 14-year-old 1840s frontier boy).

This goes on for 45 minutes, and it's always different.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby lonewolf » Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:34 pm

That seems like reasonable criteria and many books I have read fulfill all except "move me". Apparently, I am welded in place. :)
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Marlow » Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:46 pm

lonewolf wrote:Apparently, I am welded in place. :)

I was thinking more like like a barnacle . . . :wink:
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby lonewolf » Thu Jul 07, 2011 2:04 pm

Marlow wrote:
lonewolf wrote:Apparently, I am welded in place. :)

I was thinking more like like a barnacle . . . :wink:

Hmm?? I may well be the inspiration for the song "Barnacle Bill the Sailor", except I was a grunt and not a sailor...but the change may have been to protect the guilty.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Mighty Favog » Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:44 pm

My wife, who has a M.A. in creative writing yet is gainfully employed, nominates The Color Purple. She recognizes that it may not be the winner, but that it deserves to be in the conversation (and that it likely takes a woman to bring it up).
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Halfmiler2 » Thu Jul 14, 2011 6:47 am

Bijan wrote:By era: "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
"The Great Gatsby"
"The Catcher In The Rye"
I believe Mailer penned "The Naked And The Dead" when he was about 25, and he's my hon. mention.
I'm not much f/ either Faulkner or Hemingway


Add the Last of the Mohicans and The Scarlet Letter for the earlier era.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Flumpy » Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:27 pm

Mighty Favog wrote:My wife, who has a M.A. in creative writing yet is gainfully employed, nominates The Color Purple. She recognizes that it may not be the winner, but that it deserves to be in the conversation (and that it likely takes a woman to bring it up).


I was just about to say 'The Color Purple' that or 'To Kill A Mockingbird'.

I really must stop reading rubbish and start reading proper great books again.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby gh » Sat Jul 16, 2011 8:29 pm

lonewolf wrote:... I either did or did not enjoy them but I don't recall any book that was a life influencer, changed my opinion or inspired me to do or not do anything, good or bad.. What does "great" mean?


duh! "great" equals an English novel :-)
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Pego » Sun Jul 17, 2011 4:20 am

gh wrote:
lonewolf wrote:... I either did or did not enjoy them but I don't recall any book that was a life influencer, changed my opinion or inspired me to do or not do anything, good or bad.. What does "great" mean?


duh! "great" equals an English novel :-)


I learned that when my kids were in high school. There was no non-English literature whatsoever. No Hugo, Pushkin, Sienkiewicz, Goethe...
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Marlow » Sun Jul 17, 2011 7:19 am

Pego wrote: There was no non-English literature whatsoever. No Hugo, Pushkin, Sienkiewicz, Goethe...

My favorite CLASSIC novel is by that Polack dude, Józef Korzeniowski, aka Joseph Conrad:
Heart of Darkness
To think he wrote it in a foreign language (to him) that he didn't learn till his 20s always blows my mind.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby tandfman » Sun Jul 17, 2011 11:32 am

Marlow wrote:My favorite CLASSIC novel is by that Polack dude, Józef Korzeniowski, aka Joseph Conrad:
Heart of Darkness

Gee, Marlow, we never would have guessed that. :)
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Marlow » Sun Jul 17, 2011 11:34 am

tandfman wrote:
Marlow wrote:My favorite CLASSIC novel is by that Polack dude, Józef Korzeniowski, aka Joseph Conrad:
Heart of Darkness

Gee, Marlow, we never would have guessed that. :)

Yeah, I guess that was pretty obvious . . . :P
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Loggins » Sat Jul 23, 2011 5:40 am

For me its any one of John Steinbeck's books. He puts the finger on the old america we all love. I also have a sweet spot for Graham Greene with his man in havana and all. Thats cockblocking good stuff!

Im from over seas so take that as you like.

*Edit* I almost forgot Truman Capotes In Cold Blood. Its so good it couldnt be better. Also as a picture of 80s america i would mention American Psycho. Excellent.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby lonewolf » Sat Jul 23, 2011 10:15 pm

Loggins wrote:*Edit* I almost forgot Truman Capotes In Cold Blood. .

Scuse an old man if I have mentioned this before. No glory to me but this reminds me that I was drilling an oil well about a mile from the Clutter farmhouse when the murders occured.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby TrakFan » Sun Jul 24, 2011 7:19 am

For me, one of the greats is definitely ZNH's Their Eyes Were Watching God.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Marlow » Sun Jul 24, 2011 7:35 am

TrakFan wrote:For me, one of the greats is definitely ZNH's Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Already on my juniors' syllabus for the Spring! :D
Fall - Scarlet Letter & Huck Finn
Spring - Great Gatsby, Death of a Salesman, & TEWWG
along with all the short stories, poems, essays, etc. of AmLit.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby TrakFan » Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:21 pm

Marlow wrote:Already on my juniors' syllabus for the Spring! :D
Fall - Scarlet Letter & Huck Finn
Spring - Great Gatsby, Death of a Salesman, & TEWWG
along with all the short stories, poems, essays, etc. of AmLit.


Very fortunate students. I had to graduate and discover such books and authors on my own after HS, icluding Baldwin & Morrison...actually, while in the military. Gotta love those Air Force book clubs :wink:

I think many TOE would be surprised at the interest MOST students have in literature. They simply have to diversify their offerings.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Pego » Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:49 pm

What's wrong with people discovering literature on their own? There is only so much TOE's can assign. By the time I graduated from high school, assigned books were a small fraction of all the books I had read.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby kuha » Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:15 pm

Pego wrote:What's wrong with people discovering literature on their own? There is only so much TOE's can assign. By the time I graduated from high school, assigned books were a small fraction of all the books I had read.


Nothing wrong with that at all. In my mind, THE central goal of HS is to give students the impetus to be lifelong readers & learners. Assigning books is just part of that process--to get them (hopefully) used to reading and excited about the opportunities that are right at hand.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby Marlow » Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:55 pm

kuha wrote:
Pego wrote:What's wrong with people discovering literature on their own? There is only so much TOE's can assign. By the time I graduated from high school, assigned books were a small fraction of all the books I had read.

Nothing wrong with that at all. In my mind, THE central goal of HS is to give students the impetus to be lifelong readers & learners. Assigning books is just part of that process--to get them (hopefully) used to reading and excited about the opportunities that are right at hand.

Zackly x 2. :D
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby muckin 4on » Sun Jul 24, 2011 2:35 pm

lonewolf wrote:
Loggins wrote:*Edit* I almost forgot Truman Capotes In Cold Blood. .

Scuse an old man if I have mentioned this before. No glory to me but this reminds me that I was drilling an oil well about a mile from the Clutter farmhouse when the murders occured.

Run Forrest, run.
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Re: what's the "Great American Novel"?

Postby TrakFan » Sun Jul 24, 2011 2:38 pm

Pego wrote:What's wrong with people discovering literature on their own?


We can't lament the state of the American education system (current thread in this forum), and then leave it to chance for some to discover literature on their own; especially when books in the home/public library use is virtually non-existent for a number of students.
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