Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Contributor
LitWit20
Posts: 14
Registered: ‎11-02-2006
0 Kudos

The Great American Novel

Since this group is dedicated solely to the reading of American classics, I was wondering what everyone on here considered the great American novel? It's a phrase that is thrown around so much and it can be something different to each person. I think the major three are Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, and The Old Man and the Sea. What are your picks and what do you think makes the great american novel?
New User
love2read
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎11-07-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

I would agree with one of your selections, Cather in The Rye. I think that it captures, at least for me, the many elements of the American and human experiences. It's the story of the coming of age of a young man, sure, but also on so many levels, the coming of age of a nation. A new nation that has culture and refinement, but not like Old World Paris or Rome. It is a crude nation, rough around the edges, much like our hero in the novel. You wouldn't exactly see the same swears or "common/everyday" language in let's say, 16th Century British Literature. The Great American Novel, in my opinion, breaks the rules of convention and moves ahead into new territory...much like the story of our nation.
Correspondent
willowy
Posts: 148
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

I think, like you said, the great American novel and can mean or be something to different to different people. Maybe thats why its so hard to say this or that book is that great American novel. A novel can capture a feeling or specific moment in America's time and then 20 years later something else comes out they may capture the new feeling or specific moment. This was what Wikipedia had to say:



'The "Great American Novel" is the concept of a novel that perfectly represents the spirit of life in the United States at the time of its publication. It is presumed to be written by an American author who is knowledgeable about the state, culture, and perspective of the common American citizen.'


I think its hard to pinpoint and say what it is exactly, but to me The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick, and To Kill A Mockingbird. I also agree what the suggestion of Old Man and the Sea, you don't hear that one thrown around so much but it really is a perfect little book.
-----------Willowy----------
Frequent Contributor
fanuzzir
Posts: 1,014
Registered: ‎10-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

I'll nominate Toni Morrison's Beloved.
Scribe
Laurel
Posts: 5,747
Registered: ‎10-29-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.
No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea,
though many there be who have tried it.

- Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 104.
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
Contributor
RobertHennemuth
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎10-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

I think you really have to divide this question into eras. It's pretty difficult to argue for Moby Dick or An American Tragedy over Fitzgerald /Hemingway or modern day writers like Updike / Irving. But for me, the great American novel is one that captures some essence of the American cultural experience OR American intellectual body of thought. In the 1800's, I would clearly include Melville's Moby Dick, Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, Dreiser's American Tragedy. In the 1900's, my picks would include Tender is The Night (though more people might argue for The Great Gadsby), The Sun Also Rises, Catcher In The Rye, and On The Road. And to be controversial, I would have to propose A Prayer For Owen Meaney and Sometimes A Great Notion.
Frequent Contributor
fanuzzir
Posts: 1,014
Registered: ‎10-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel



willowy wrote:
I think, like you said, the great American novel and can mean or be something to different to different people. Maybe thats why its so hard to say this or that book is that great American novel. A novel can capture a feeling or specific moment in America's time and then 20 years later something else comes out they may capture the new feeling or specific moment. This was what Wikipedia had to say:



'The "Great American Novel" is the concept of a novel that perfectly represents the spirit of life in the United States at the time of its publication. It is presumed to be written by an American author who is knowledgeable about the state, culture, and perspective of the common American citizen.'


I think its hard to pinpoint and say what it is exactly, but to me The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick, and To Kill A Mockingbird. I also agree what the suggestion of Old Man and the Sea, you don't hear that one thrown around so much but it really is a perfect little book.


So the great American novel is able to distill something about the "common citizen." I think I agree. Then can something be both common and great?
BN Editor
LitEditor
Posts: 291
Registered: ‎09-24-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel


RobertHennemuth wrote:
I think you really have to divide this question into eras. It's pretty difficult to argue for Moby Dick or An American Tragedy over Fitzgerald /Hemingway or modern day writers like Updike / Irving. But for me, the great American novel is one that captures some essence of the American cultural experience OR American intellectual body of thought. In the 1800's, I would clearly include Melville's Moby Dick, Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, Dreiser's American Tragedy. In the 1900's, my picks would include Tender is The Night (though more people might argue for The Great Gadsby), The Sun Also Rises, Catcher In The Rye, and On The Road. And to be controversial, I would have to propose A Prayer For Owen Meaney and Sometimes A Great Notion.


Robert, would you put Invisible Man on that list? It's one I've always argued for in that context.

See the latest news about book clubs in the Book Clubs Blog.
Frequent Contributor
donyskiw
Posts: 578
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

Lots of things are common and great. Like sex, ice cream, pizza (OK, only if it's good pizza).

Denise
New User
Danielle7
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎10-30-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

I also agree with that in defining the American classic the era needs to be considered, plus reading is so much like art, isn't it? What one might consider a classic may not be to another one and all because of any number of reasons but I would think the individuals own life experiences and exposure to books being a very real aspect. I've started reading The Jungle (Upton Sinclair) and believe this should be considered a classic. Moby Dyck, Last of the Mohicans, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fitsgerald (agree with you one that choice),just about all of Steinbeck - there are so many. And what about Hunter S Thompson? His works haven't been around as long as some, yet he was very bold and outgoing which in some ways I think personifies what America was built on. I don't know - I'm clearly open to any feedback. And by the way, I appreciated the advice on Civil Disobedience - it was an appropriate time with election season going on, definitely gave me pause to go "hmmmm....."
Contributor
RobertHennemuth
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎10-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

Maybe, though I read that when I was young and it just didn't seem to have the staying power that "greatness" suggests. Although the Modern Library's list of the top 100 English language novels has been hotly debated and discounted by many (and is not about great American novels), Invisible Man didn't make that list either. But that list might help others to define what is a great novel but not great American novel, because, for example, Catch 22 is high on the list, but I wouldn't argue for that one.
Frequent Contributor
fanuzzir
Posts: 1,014
Registered: ‎10-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

How could I have forgotten pizza?
Frequent Contributor
fanuzzir
Posts: 1,014
Registered: ‎10-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

I'll vote for Invisible Man, just because it recapitulates so much of black culture and history--Moby Dick does that with other traditions of adventure and religion, as does Huckleberry Finn. Great Gatsby, on the other hand, so defines its times in a way that makes perfect sense for modern America--without originality, style and angst.
Frequent Contributor
donyskiw
Posts: 578
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

[ Edited ]
Yeah, really, what's wrong with you?

After I wrote that post, I called a colleague and told him I wanted to go to lunch that day somewhere that served pizza!

Denise

Message Edited by donyskiw on 11-10-200608:35 AM

Frequent Contributor
fanuzzir
Posts: 1,014
Registered: ‎10-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

Henry James never had pizza, although he spent lots of time in Italy. He was emphatically convinced that the U. S. could never produce a great novel. Of course, we all disagree, I think, though I do think that the Great American Novel has to represent what is common and homely about the United States. There's alot to choose from there . . . But then there's Gatsby, so Robert Redford, clean and pressed. How doe she fit in?
Frequent Contributor
Sensorymoments
Posts: 169
Registered: ‎10-25-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

So the great American novel is able to distill something about the "common citizen." I think I agree. Then can something be both common and great?





Perhaps than I would suggest that The Great Gatsby is a great american novel, and one of the few american novel classics I have ever read-sadly.
Owy

*Taking everyday, one book at a time*
New User
elf67
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎11-14-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

I would agree with "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "The Great Gatsby," and others chosen here; I'd probably go with "The Sun Also Rises"" over "The Old Man and the Sea" if I had to pick a Hemingway novel.

But I'm not sure how I would define what makes a novel "A Great American Novel." Does it have to comment overtly on the state of America in its time? Does have to be set in America? Does it have to be explicitly socially conscious, like "The Grapes of Wrath"? Or can it be implicitly socially conscious, like "Huckleberry Finn"? Maybe just any masterpiece of a novel writeen by an American is enough; that seems like a high enough hurdle.
Frequent Contributor
fanuzzir
Posts: 1,014
Registered: ‎10-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

Who do you think the common American is there? Nick? Tom? or Jay Gatz?
Frequent Contributor
fanuzzir
Posts: 1,014
Registered: ‎10-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

Now you've thrown the hats of Gertrude Stein, Henry James, James Baldwin, all of whom wrote offshore.
Contributor
RobertHennemuth
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎10-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Great American Novel

And Nabokov, right? Lolita is an astounding piece of writing, but I hadn't thrown that on the pile for the same reason.
Users Online
Currently online: 25 members 234 guests
Please welcome our newest community members: