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Rising to the challenge--Great American Novels

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  • Rising to the challenge--Great American Novels

    In a recent thread it ws opined that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was the greatest American novel. I disagreed with that opinion and was challenged to provide one better.

    At the time, I said that while Huck was great, it was not the greatest. I have culled my memory and provide herein a list of the 30 novels that I think could be considered at the "greatest" American novel.

    Most critics and acamedicians concur that Gatsby is "THE" greatest American novel. Can't change that, but either from your own list or my list, nominate your own "favorite" or favorites for the honor--recognizing that it is all pretty subjective. I do have one prohibition, nothing by Phillip Roth qualifies.

    The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (top of the list critically and academically-The American Novel).

    Look Homeward Angel, Thomas Wolfe (and his editor Max Perkins)

    On the Road, Jack Kerouac

    Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

    From Here To Eternity, James Jones and Some Came running as its sequel

    A Farewell To Arms, Ernest Hemingway

    The World According To Garp, John Irving—Cider House Rules wasn’t shabby

    Kingsblood Royal, Sinclair Lewis

    Atlas shrugged, Ayn Rand

    The Catcher In The Rye, J. D. Salinger

    The Sound and The Fury, William Faulkner

    Brill Among The Ruins, Vance Bourjaily

    Dandelion Wine, Bradbury, Ray.

    Go Tell It On the Mountain, Baldwin, James.

    The Big Sleep, Chandler, Raymond.

    The Invisible Man, Ellison, Ralph.

    One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey

    Boys and Girls Together & Temple of Gold, William Goldman

    I, The Jury, Mickey Spillane

    The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan

    Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, Samuel Clemons

    The Winds of War, Herman Wouk

    An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser – a tough read, but worth it.

    Hearts In Atlantis, Stephen King—finally, he finds his literate voice.

    The Naked and The Dead, Norman Mailer

    Young Lonigan, James T. Farrell (in fact the trilogy is worthy)

    Penrod, Booth Tarkington

    Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

    Lad, A Dog, Albert Payson Terhune (Treve and Bob, son of Lad-rank in there too)

  • #2
    In a recent thread it ws opined that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was the greatest American novel. I disagreed with that opinion and was challenged to provide one better.

    At the time, I said that while Huck was great, it was not the greatest. I have culled my memory and provide herein a list of the 30 novels that I think could be considered at the "greatest" American novel.

    Most critics and acamedicians concur that Gatsby is "THE" greatest American novel. Can't change that, but either from your own list or my list, nominate your own "favorite" or favorites for the honor--recognizing that it is all pretty subjective. I do have one prohibition, nothing by Phillip Roth qualifies.

    The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (top of the list critically and academically-The American Novel).

    Look Homeward Angel, Thomas Wolfe (and his editor Max Perkins)

    On the Road, Jack Kerouac

    Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

    From Here To Eternity, James Jones and Some Came running as its sequel

    A Farewell To Arms, Ernest Hemingway

    The World According To Garp, John Irving—Cider House Rules wasn’t shabby

    Kingsblood Royal, Sinclair Lewis

    Atlas shrugged, Ayn Rand

    The Catcher In The Rye, J. D. Salinger

    The Sound and The Fury, William Faulkner

    Brill Among The Ruins, Vance Bourjaily

    Dandelion Wine, Bradbury, Ray.

    Go Tell It On the Mountain, Baldwin, James.

    The Big Sleep, Chandler, Raymond.

    The Invisible Man, Ellison, Ralph.

    One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey

    Boys and Girls Together & Temple of Gold, William Goldman

    I, The Jury, Mickey Spillane

    The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan

    Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, Samuel Clemons

    The Winds of War, Herman Wouk

    An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser – a tough read, but worth it.

    Hearts In Atlantis, Stephen King—finally, he finds his literate voice.

    The Naked and The Dead, Norman Mailer

    Young Lonigan, James T. Farrell (in fact the trilogy is worthy)

    Penrod, Booth Tarkington

    Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

    Lad, A Dog, Albert Payson Terhune (Treve and Bob, son of Lad-rank in there too)

    Comment


    • #3
      An interesting list. Doesn't suffer from the usual highbrow "literary fiction" (or, if you prefer, "li-fi") bias, which is to overvalue writing style and undervalue plot and imagination.

      Wish you'd posted it a few days earlier, though. I saw Hearts in Atlantis" at ye local cheap book shoppe, and passed it up. On your recomendation I decided to buy it, but no longer there when I returned.

      I'll quibble with some choices, though.
      • I don't recall Penrod at all, but remember The Magnificent Ambersons quite well. I would pick that for a Tarkington.
      • I like the choice of The Big Sleep. While there are plenty of "hard-boiled detective novels" about - even Roger Rabbit is one - inventing the genre is quite a different feat than following the steps of the master. And even your ordinary detective novel isn't easy. The Prisoner of Azkaban is a better mystery than most of the little Agatha Christie I've read.
      • I would boot Ayn Rand, on two grounds. First, a fifty-page speech is an unforgivable failure of craftsmanship. Second, her vision is neither broad nor deep: she views all of life as economics, and her economics are simplistic and selfish. Greatness is incompatible with meanness of soul.
      • If Rand is there to provide a really, really fat book, perhaps go with Moby Dick instead.
      • I'd be inclined to add The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells.
      • And Death Comes for the Archbishopby Willa Cather, even though she's out of style.[/list]
        My own bias would be to add some science fiction. Perhaps
        • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which is Heinlein's best, or
        • Steel Beach or The Golden Globe by John Varley.[/list]
          - Caipora

      Comment


      • #4
        Ambersons is usually the pick of the literati, but, I heartily recommend Penrod. I reread it every so often, and laugh like an utter fool even though I know what's coming.

        The others, well we all have favorites, biases and personal preferences

        Hearts in Atlantis is the novel I wish I had written.

        We've proven one thing though, at least two of us are literate.

        Comment


        • #5
          When I was younger I read Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott and thought it was a good read, although not American. I would have to agree though, the Great Gadsby is a good book.

          BTW USMC1 just because you can read doesn't mean that you're literate. Heard that somewhere and thought of it from your last comment.

          Jr.

          Comment


          • #6
            The quintisential American novel is James Fenimore Cooper's tale of frontier life along the Ohio river and Catskills country of the mid-18th century, The Last of the Mohicans.

            All succeeding novels written by American authors have followed Cooper's outline to write their novels.

            As to Fizgerald's Gatsby 'gag me with a spoon' is an appropriate phrase.

            R. A. Salvatore is one of todays best American writers but writing in the SciFi/Fantasy genre, more Fantasy than SciFi, not many have read his trilogies of which they're several.

            To make a novel worth the read it has to capture the imagination and hold it and make you believe it is real enough to be possible. Right now that is being done by the writers in the Fantasy genre where they can and do create complete realities that while are made up could be real. Check out Salvatore, Brooks, et al, for a good read.

            While the Geatest American novel most likely hasn't been written yet, for all we know it could the the next census when it is printed in book form, read all you can get your hands on and heads into it will make you into the most feared creature on the planet...a learned man.

            Comment


            • #7
              The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay. Michael Chabon.

              Comment


              • #8
                quote:
                Originally posted by Caipora:
              • I would boot Ayn Rand...


              • No Ayn Rand for you, huh? Her self-invented philosophy of "objectivism" was pretty heavy-handed for my taste, plus she projected her own inferiority complex about physical appearance on her characters. A fatal flaw for someone championing fierce self-determination.

                I would add Slaugterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. And it should be made required reading, especially in these times.



                UW

                Comment


                • #9
                  I remember reading Slaughterhouse Five in my teens and must have seen the movie 4 to 5 times.

                  I remember the train cattle truck and him seeing his own death again and again. I found that disturbing.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    quote:
                    The quintisential American novel is James Fenimore Cooper's tale of frontier life along the Ohio river and Catskills country of the mid-18th century, The Last of the Mohicans.
                    Mark Twain on The Literary Sins of James Fenimore Cooper:
                    http://users.telerama.com/~joseph/cooper/cooper.html
                    quote:
                    Right now that is being done by the writers in the Fantasy genre
                    At present I think nothing in fantasy quite compares to Terry Pratchett.
                    - Caipora

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ooops, I omitted one from my list.

                      A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

                      The whole series my all-time favorite sci-fi.

                      Slaughterhouse Five should have been on my original list.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I like John Jakes works myself and those by Herman Wouk.

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