Author Topic: What is the greatest American novel?  (Read 3140 times)

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Offline Alberich

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What is the greatest American novel?
« on: June 04, 2017, 08:46:01 AM »
I know that there are several examples of "The Great American Novel" (Moby-Dick, Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Gone with the Wind, for ex.) but there are several others and several more or less completely hidden gems. What, in your opinion, is the greatest of them all American novels?

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Offline PerfectWagnerite

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2017, 08:59:36 AM »
This one is easy: The Grapes of Wrath.

Offline Crudblud

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2017, 09:59:29 AM »
For me, it's Mason & Dixon.

Offline ritter

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2017, 10:19:00 AM »
Don't know if it's the "greatest", but Manhattan Transfer certainly is a great American novel
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Offline Spineur

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2017, 10:29:05 AM »
This one is easy: The Grapes of Wrath.
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Drasko

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2017, 10:31:59 AM »
Wise Blood or As I Lay Dying.

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2017, 11:03:46 AM »
My four authorial candidates:

Barth The Sot-Weed Factor
Nabokov Lolita
Pynchon Gravity's Rainbow or V. or Mason & Dixon or The Crying of Lot 49
Stephenson Cryptonomicon


Sarge
« Last Edit: June 04, 2017, 11:20:36 AM by Sergeant Rock »
the phone rings and somebody says,
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Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Offline GioCar

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2017, 12:01:04 PM »
My only candidate:

Infinite Jest

Offline BasilValentine

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2017, 01:26:55 PM »
I don't do greatest. In case you can't tell from my screen name ;), William Gaddis's The Recognitions is a favorite. It's had me coming back for the last two decades. It yields its deeper mysteries only on rereading. Cormac McCarthy's Suttree is another of my favorites.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2017, 01:33:22 PM by BasilValentine »

Offline Jeffrey Smith

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2017, 01:31:44 PM »
Candidates
Last of the Mohicans
House of the Seven Gables
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Huckleberry Finn
The Ambassadors
The Virginian
Great Gatsby
Intruder in the Dust
Grapes of Wrath

Criteria being novels by American writers which focus on a significant aspect of experience which is distinctly American. (That latter phrase is why I don't include anything by Hemingway, or  most of Faulkner, or Melville.  They wrote novels which are incontesably great, but more universal in their focus.)

More recent writers are just too recent for me to properly judge. Plus many of them I have never read.  So I will put forward only one tentative candidate: The World According to Garp.

There is no single Great American Novel, of course. Just as there is no Great British/French/German/Spanish/Russian/..... Novel.

Offline Ken B

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2017, 05:14:37 PM »
My four authorial candidates:

Barth The Sot-Weed Factor
Nabokov Lolita

Sarge

Good to see these get votes! Great American comic novels. But you forgot Catch-22, the greatest of them all.

One little known candidate I want to mention is Horn of Africa by Caputo. Maybe not the greatest, but worth anyone's time.

The Old Man and The Sea deserves some consideration.

I guess my vote would Grapes-22.


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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2017, 04:12:32 AM »
Barth The Sot-Weed Factor

Really chuffed that you think so well of this, too.  And I only learnt of it via a quotation heading a chapter in a T. Coraghessan Boyle novel!

Thread Duty

And, you know:  maybe The Sot-Weed Factor is the Great American Novel . . . .
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2017, 04:14:07 AM »
Nabokov Lolita

Why, you'll propose Stravinsky's Symphony in C as the Great American Symphony, next!  8) 0:)
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2017, 05:23:37 AM »
Why, you'll propose Stravinsky's Symphony in C as the Great American Symphony, next!  8) 0:)

Nah, it's the Great French Symphony  ;D

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2017, 05:25:10 AM »
Good to see these get votes! Great American comic novels. But you forgot Catch-22, the greatest of them all.

Arrrggghhh! How could I have forgotten Catch-22? That was my bible during my army career  8)

Another great American comic novel, worthy of consideration, is A Confederacy of Dunces

Sarge
« Last Edit: June 05, 2017, 05:27:24 AM by Sergeant Rock »
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Offline Ken B

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2017, 05:47:46 AM »
Man. A slow fat one, waist high.

Arrrggghhh! How could I have forgotten Catch-22?

... A Confederacy of Dunces

Give a man a fire and he is warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he is warm for life.

Offline BasilValentine

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2017, 05:58:15 AM »
Good to see these get votes! Great American comic novels. But you forgot Catch-22, the greatest of them all.

Great but kind of dated and aimed at an easy target. Two of the greatest recent comic novels are by William Gaddis. JR crucifies the American education system and short-sighted corporate greed while addressing the dilemma of the arts in modern America. His last novel, A Frolic of His Own, is a brilliant send-up of American litigiousness. Most everyone in the novel is involved in multiple lawsuits and many of the most hilarious parts are legal briefs and judicial opinions.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2017, 06:11:43 AM by BasilValentine »

Offline bwv 1080

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2017, 06:13:22 AM »
Huck Finn, there is no debate.

20th century worthwhile mentions are
John Dos Passos - USA Trilogy (forget Scott & Hemingway, this was the greatest writer of the first half of the century)
Nabokov - Lolita
McCarthy - Blood Meridian

21st cent
Vollmann - Dying Grass
Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #18 on: June 05, 2017, 06:24:41 AM »
Nah, it's the Great French Symphony  ;D

Sarge

Bien sûr!
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: What is the greatest American novel?
« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2017, 06:25:41 AM »
Another great American comic novel, worthy of consideration, is A Confederacy of Dunces

Sarge

High time I re-read that ’un.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

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