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BS: Greatest American Books

Riginslinger 15 Jul 10 - 07:10 PM
Amos 15 Jul 10 - 02:12 PM
GUEST,Neil D 15 Jul 10 - 01:46 PM
Riginslinger 14 Jul 10 - 03:56 PM
ollaimh 14 Jul 10 - 03:52 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Jul 10 - 07:24 AM
kendall 14 Jul 10 - 05:43 AM
meself 13 Jul 10 - 11:10 PM
mousethief 13 Jul 10 - 10:44 PM
Lonesome EJ 13 Jul 10 - 10:37 PM
GUEST,Riginslinger 13 Jul 10 - 10:17 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Jul 10 - 05:14 PM
meself 13 Jul 10 - 02:12 PM
GUEST,HiLo 13 Jul 10 - 10:47 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 13 Jul 10 - 10:38 AM
GUEST,HiLo 13 Jul 10 - 08:01 AM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Jul 10 - 06:40 AM
meself 12 Jul 10 - 01:06 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 12 Jul 10 - 11:24 AM
GUEST,HiLo 12 Jul 10 - 11:00 AM
Art Thieme 11 Jul 10 - 01:09 PM
GUEST,kendall 11 Jul 10 - 02:41 AM
mousethief 10 Jul 10 - 10:30 PM
GUEST,Riginslinger 10 Jul 10 - 08:26 PM
kendall 10 Jul 10 - 07:54 PM
GUEST,Riginslinger 10 Jul 10 - 05:38 PM
kendall 10 Jul 10 - 04:52 PM
Amos 10 Jul 10 - 10:31 AM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Jul 10 - 05:55 PM
Riginslinger 09 Jul 10 - 05:28 PM
Tannywheeler 09 Jul 10 - 01:41 PM
DonMeixner 09 Jul 10 - 12:56 PM
Bettynh 09 Jul 10 - 09:43 AM
GUEST,Neil D 09 Jul 10 - 09:35 AM
the Folk Police 09 Jul 10 - 08:47 AM
dwditty 09 Jul 10 - 08:35 AM
GUEST,kendall 09 Jul 10 - 08:29 AM
RoyH (Burl) 09 Jul 10 - 08:00 AM
Deda 09 Jul 10 - 12:03 AM
Joe_F 08 Jul 10 - 10:09 PM
Riginslinger 08 Jul 10 - 04:34 PM
Midchuck 08 Jul 10 - 04:08 PM
Riginslinger 08 Jul 10 - 01:00 PM
meself 08 Jul 10 - 12:49 PM
Riginslinger 08 Jul 10 - 12:44 PM
Amos 08 Jul 10 - 12:43 PM
GUEST,Whistle Stop 08 Jul 10 - 12:38 PM
Riginslinger 08 Jul 10 - 10:11 AM
GUEST 08 Jul 10 - 09:46 AM
Amergin 08 Jul 10 - 01:56 AM
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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Riginslinger
Date: 15 Jul 10 - 07:10 PM

Yeah, but Italians are kind of weird that way, I mean, think of Dante.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Amos
Date: 15 Jul 10 - 02:12 PM

Grat. So, given the American propensity for shortening names, we would be the United States of Vespa?   Brrrmmmmmmmmmm....


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST,Neil D
Date: 15 Jul 10 - 01:46 PM

Henry James was an American by birth but British by choice. He moved to England at the age of 33 and remained there till his death 40 years later, eventually becoming a British subject.
   As to Kendall's assertion that "it all came about because an influential guy named Amerigo Vesputchi(sic) talked someone into naming the new world after him. He never even set foot here!" it's simply not true. When Martin Waldseemuller printed his world map in 1507 Vespucci's accounts of his voyages to the new world had recently been published and Waldseemuller might have called the lands America in his honor.* But there is no evidence that the two had ever met or corresponded in any way. At the time of his writings there were critics who accused Vespucci of trying to steal Columbus' thunder but Columbus himself never thought so. I copied this from Wikipedia: Columbus never thought Vespucci had tried to steal his laurels, and in 1505 he wrote his son, Diego, saying of Amerigo, "It has always been his wish to please me; he is a man of good will; fortune has been unkind to him as to others; his labors have not brought him the rewards he in justice should have." Vespucci's importance was that he was the first to recognize that the discoveries were in reality a new continent. Columbus still thought it was the East Indies and the Asian mainland.

*There is an alternate theory that the Americas were not named for Amerigo Vespucci at all, but rather a Welshman named Richard Amerike or Ameryk who sponsored John Cabot's voyages and owned his flagship. This theory has it that the Bristol sailors had started calling it Amerike's land, latinized as America, and that Waldseemuller had heard this term and mistakenly assumed it referred to Amerigo Vespucci. The strength of this claim is that it would have been common to name new lands after the rich sponsor of an expedition and it would not have been customary to name discoveries after someones first name, Amerigo. If the mapmaker had wanted to honor Vespucci he'd have called the lands Vespuccia. I mean we don't have our nations capital in the District of Christopher or my state capital in Christopher, Ohio. I don't say I buy this theory outright but it is an interesting alternative.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Riginslinger
Date: 14 Jul 10 - 03:56 PM

"No one's mentioned Henry James, I think. But maybe he doesn't count as American."


             I don't know, he's made the scene in every American Literature class I've ever taken.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: ollaimh
Date: 14 Jul 10 - 03:52 PM

leaves of grass by walt whitman

would modern poetry even exist without walts brilliancy and art?


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Jul 10 - 07:24 AM

"New World" was a better name than either. With the people living there being known as "New Worlders".

Newfoundland had the right idea there.
..............................

No one's mentioned Henry James, I think. But maybe he doesn't count as American.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: kendall
Date: 14 Jul 10 - 05:43 AM

And it all came about because an influential guy named Amerigo Vesputchi talked someone into naming the new world after him. He never even set foot here!
I've always thought it should have been named Colombo, or Ericsonia


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: meself
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 11:10 PM

As far as I know, Central America is part of North America. However, if Central Americans do not wish to be called North Americans, I'm quite happy to refer to them exclusively as 'Central Americans'.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: mousethief
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 10:44 PM

This involves no confusion, since there is no country in Europe, Africa or Asia were the name of a continent is used preferentially for its own inhabitant. America is the only continent where that has happened.

"America" is not a continent. The continents in the western hemisphere are North America and South America. There is no continent called "America." The continents considered together are referred to as "the Americas".

Does Central America count as a continent?

It is not separate from Mexico (which is universally considered to be in North America) by anything other than an imaginary line (national borders). It is a political entity. If Mexico had at some time in the past absorbed all the countries we now call "Central America", and extended down to what is now the border between Ecuador and Panama, the term "Central America" wouldn't exist at all.

In contrast, the boundary between European Russia and Asian Russia (aka Siberia) is the Ural Mountains, which form an actual physical boundary: therefore it is not a political boundary but a physical one. But it's not water so it's questionable whether the two are separate continents; hence the (relatively new) term, "Eurasia".


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 10:37 PM

Moby Dick
Huckleberry Finn
the Great Gatsby
A Confederacy of Dunces
Forrest Gump
On the Road/Big Sur(flip sides of the Beat dream/nightmare)
Look Homeward, Angel
An American Tragedy
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Catch 22
The Grapes of Wrath


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST,Riginslinger
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 10:17 PM

It should. The geographers won't see it that way, but the anthropologists very well might.

             By the way, does anyone know of a source to get "One Hundred Years of Solitude" on tape or CD? I know it's important, but I'm finding it very hard to read.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 05:14 PM

Does Central America count as a continent?


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: meself
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 02:12 PM

Perhaps we are being divided by a common language again. In North America, an "American" is unequivocally a citizen of the U.S. - except, possibly, in some specialized discourse such as that of archeology. A resident of the continent of North America is otherwise a "North American". A resident of the continent of South America is a "South American". The notion that there should be one term to distinguish the residents of both continents from the rest of humanity would seem bizarre to most North and South Americans, I think it safe to say.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST,HiLo
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 10:47 AM

How about the House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.. a wonderful book.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 10:38 AM

How about The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier? Anything by Cormier is worth a look I'd say.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST,HiLo
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 08:01 AM

Knowing what I know of Margaret Atwood, I am certain that she would object very much to being referred to as an American, as would most people who are Canadian, or Mexican for that matter. I think that it is generally accepted, in North America, that "American" refers to citzens of the US. No matter how convoluted the logic Margaret Atwood cannot possibly be called anything but a Canadian author.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 06:40 AM

I am sure that Margaret Atwood would have no problems about describing herself as an American in the same sense that people in Europe describe themselves as Europeans, people in Africa call themselves Africans, and people in Asia use the term Asians - which of course is a perfectly valid sense.

This involves no confusion, since there is no country in Europe, Africa or Asia were the name of a continent is used preferentially for its own inhabitant. America is the only continent where that has happened.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: meself
Date: 12 Jul 10 - 01:06 PM

There was a side-issue re: Margaret Atwood, which did not concern the novel in question but whether or not she, along with the other citizens of Canada and Central America, could by some peculiar definition be rightly and sensibly called "American". (The answer being, ONLY according to a peculiar and idiosyncratic definition.)

(Btw, Margaret Atwood in her day was an "outspoken" Canadian nationalist, and no doubt would have been insistent that she is not American by any definition. Haven't heard much from her on such matters in the past twenty years or so.)


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Jul 10 - 11:24 AM

"Margaret Atwood is indeed Canadian."

Sure.
And the OP also specified novels *about* the US (of America) including fantasy. But I think most posters have forgotten that.

Atwood's novel is a dystopian vision of a near future, set somewhere in what once was the USA - in particular we imagine it must be somewhere in the bible belt. It fits the OP's request for: "books that get to the heart of the American dream, the American nightmare, the soul of the people and the essence of the country. ... I'm interested in anything ... From the wild west to the wildest flights of fantasy, the light and the dark, within and without,"

Wiki:
"The Handmaid's Tale is set in the near future in the Republic of Gilead, a country formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States of America. It was founded by a racist, male chauvinist, nativist, theocratic-organized military coup as an ideologically-driven response to the pervasive ecological, physical and social degradation of the country. Beginning with a staged terrorist attack (blamed on Muslim terrorists) that kills the President, a movement calling itself the "Sons of Jacob" launched a revolution under the pretext of restoring order, ousting Congress, suspending the U.S. Constitution. Given electronic banking they were quickly able to freeze the assets of all women and other "undesirables" in the country, stripping their rights away. The new theocratic military dictatorship, styled "The Republic of Gilead", moved quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical, compulsorily-Christian regime of Old Testament-inspired social and religious orthodoxy among its newly-created social classes."

I think that fits the remit quite well.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST,HiLo
Date: 12 Jul 10 - 11:00 AM

Margaret Atwood is indeed Canadian. I believe that Canadians, mexicans and central Americans do not refer to themselves as American, nor should they. They refer to themselves by nationality not by continent of Residence. Am I correct? I think that when we say American in this context we mean people of the Us.
Perhaps we need a thread on Great Canadian books, I believe there are many and people are not as aware of them as they should be. However, as a guest I believe that I am not permitted to start such a thread..it would be interesting. I do very much enjoy these threads as they give me lots of new authrors to explore..thanks all.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Art Thieme
Date: 11 Jul 10 - 01:09 PM

Most everything by Cormac McCarthy


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST,kendall
Date: 11 Jul 10 - 02:41 AM

It is indeed Ring. She gave me an autographed copy of the book, and commented on the lovely "Elijah Tilley" I did.It is a treasured bit of the past.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: mousethief
Date: 10 Jul 10 - 10:30 PM

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST,Riginslinger
Date: 10 Jul 10 - 08:26 PM

That's pretty impressive comany, Kendall.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: kendall
Date: 10 Jul 10 - 07:54 PM

I've read about 8 of his books but they all have that same theme; lawyers. I'm now into Patrick O'Brian.

I'd like to add "Country of the Pointed Firs" by Sara Orne Jewett. Willa Catha said that is one of the best books ever written.

That's the one I helped to narrate for public radio with Julie Harris. Odetta did the theme music.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST,Riginslinger
Date: 10 Jul 10 - 05:38 PM

I've read a few of them. I liked "A Time to Kill."


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: kendall
Date: 10 Jul 10 - 04:52 PM

Ring, I like John Grisham books too.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Amos
Date: 10 Jul 10 - 10:31 AM

Just finished Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna. One of the really great books of our time.

Highly recommended. Well-crafted, sensitive, full of beauty, depth and interesting characters and plot. She's a master of the craft.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 05:55 PM

There's maybe another one coming along soon. I see that Mark Twain's autobiography is due to be published soon. He apparently said it couldn't be published until he was 100 years dead.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Riginslinger
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 05:28 PM

It seems to me like most of the folks who like John Grisham books are women--am I wrong about that?


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Tannywheeler
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 01:41 PM

God, I love to read. Lots of this stuff already. But thanks for some of the previously unknown suggestions. BTW, I enjoy Grisham for quick entertainment, but watch out for "The Innocent Man". I can't finish it. Nonfic. true story; every cuppla pages I want to throw it across the room. Such is against God's Law. Books are holy--MUST be treated with respect--but the horrors chronicled in this 1 compel fury. Try "The Painted House". Good read. Different trajectory than his other novels.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: DonMeixner
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 12:56 PM

Miracle At Philadelphia    Catherine Drinker Porter

To Kill a Mocking Bird

The Yearling

The Three Harbors   F. Van Wyck Mason

It Can't Happen Here

Band of Brothers Stephen Ambrose

The Voyage of Discovery

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Heinlein

The Adventures of a Wandering Man Louis L'Amour

Don


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Bettynh
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 09:43 AM

All fiction? I read a lot of non-fiction:

Aldo Leopold - A Sand County Almanac

Edward Abbey - Desert Solitaire (and others)

John McPhee - Rising from the Plains (and many others)

Bernd Heinrich - The Trees in my Forest (and others)

john Muir - assorted short pieces

Henry David Thoreau - The Maine Woods, Cape Cod, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Sue Hubbell - A Country Year

As for fiction, anything by Annie Proulx or John Steinbeck.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST,Neil D
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 09:35 AM

"Huckleberry Finn" is the obvious first choice and speaking of Mark Twain, the first volume of his autobiography is due out in November. He had dictated his life story during the his last years but the mandated that it not be published until 100 years after his death in 1910.
    I only saw one mention of Capote's "In Cold Blood", the prototype of modern crime writing.
    "Lolita" was written by a Russian emigree but Nabokov always referred to it as his American novel.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: the Folk Police
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 08:47 AM

A fourth vote for the marvellous "A Confederacy of Dunces".

Carson McCullers - "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter"

The Collected Short Stories of Flannery O'Connor

More recently:

Harry Crews - "The Gospel Singer" and "Feast of Snakes"

Madison Smartt Bell - "Soldier's Joy"

Virtually anything by T.C. Boyle, but start with "World's End"

Chris Offutt: "The Same River Twice"


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: dwditty
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 08:35 AM

Slaughterhouse Five - Vonnegut


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST,kendall
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 08:29 AM

Moby Dick hard to read? Really?

Hemmingway was never one of my favorites. Someone said of him, He has never used a word that would prompt one to go to a dictionary.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 08:00 AM

A book that taught me much about America before I actually went there is 'Travels With Charley', by Steinbeck. Many transatlantic visits later have confirmed to me just what a true book it is. I too wave the flag for 'Grapes of Wrath', a great book, film, and song - Woody's 'Tom Joad'. I can also recommend 'American Diner' by R.J.S. Gutman and Elliott Kaufman, a history of my kind of Americana. Let's not forget the incomparable work of Studs Terkel. Ogden Nash rings my bells too. Burl.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Deda
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 12:03 AM

I recently read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Very American, and quite extraordinary -- not sure if it's a best, but it's very good.

I second All the King's Men (incredible portrait of ambition and corruption); Huckleberry Finn; Grapes of Wrath; Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass (just finished it recently, amazing book!). I agree that Ayn Rand didn't write good novels, she wrote propaganda wrapped in a plot. I also agree that Moby Dick is too hard to read to be truly great; simplicity is underrated.

Poetry has to include Emily Dickinson, in addition to ee cummings -- I think between the two of them they transformed poetry forever.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Joe_F
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 10:09 PM

U.S.A. (trilogy by John Dos Passos)
A Death in the Family by James Agee (get the recent, uncut version)
Captains Courageous (an American book, tho Kipling was not an American author)
The Ninth Wave by Eugene Burdick
The Revolt of Mamie Stover by William Bradford Huie
Syndic by C. M. Kornbluth

I second Art Thieme's nomination of Earth Abides.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Riginslinger
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 04:34 PM

Actually, I think the drug that did him in was Christianity. A lot of folks have trouble withdrawing from that one.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Midchuck
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 04:08 PM

Sadly, Kesey's later stuff didn't live up to the level of Notion and Coo Coo's Nest. I'm not sure why, but my theory is that once a writer thinks he/she has discovered the "answer," there's not point in seeking it any longer.

I think it's reasonable to assume that drugs had something to do with it. Not provable or disprovable - but reasonable to assume.

I agree that Sometimes a Great Notion is one of the best.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Riginslinger
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 01:00 PM

That's close enough!


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: meself
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 12:49 PM

Point of clarification: I am a Canadian, as is Margaret Atwood. I am not an American, and neither is she.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Riginslinger
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 12:44 PM

Well, Whistle Stop, the subject matter is quite different. I think the comparison is made on the quality of the prose style. Personally, I love Faulkner, and I think Kesey is the only one to come close to him.
            Sadly, Kesey's later stuff didn't live up to the level of Notion and Coo Coo's Nest. I'm not sure why, but my theory is that once a writer thinks he/she has discovered the "answer," there's not point in seeking it any longer.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Amos
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 12:43 PM

Several American Greats:

The Sun Also Rises
The Old Man and the Sea
The Great Gatsby
The Cave
All the King's Men

Almost anything R.P. Warren wrote, and the same for Mark Twain.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST,Whistle Stop
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 12:38 PM

Sorry, that "guest" two posts up was me.

I'm afraid I've never read any Faulkner, Riginslinger, so the comparison is lost on me.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Riginslinger
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 10:11 AM

Yes, Guest, "Sometimes a Great Notion" is being compared to "Absolom, Absolom" by some literary critics.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 09:46 AM

Lots of good suggestions in this thread. I'd second the various mentions of Ken Kesey's two novels, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes A Great Notion. If Kesey weren't already remembered primarily as the leader of the Merry Pranksters, he'd be remembered as a great American novelist. Both novels celebrate individual freedom and rebellion against overbearing institutions, which is a quintessentially American theme.

Even if it was intended primarily as a poke in the eye to his liberal friends, Doug's listing of Karl Rove's book blows my mind.


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Subject: RE: BS: Greatest American Books
From: Amergin
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 01:56 AM

Penthouse Letters....


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