Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Question of the Weekend: Is There Such A Thing as The Great American Novel...

and if there is one, which is it?

Is it To Kill A Mockingbird, Huck Finn, Invisible Man or Beloved for exploring race relations and the fallout from slavery, which is the ultimate American crime and eternal blot on our history?

The House of Mirth or The Great Gatsby for revealing the insider/outsider dynamic and the downside to American obsession with class mobility?

The Scarlet Letter or the Age of Innocence for plumbing the depths of Puritan prudery?

The Grapes of Wrath? The Sound and the Fury? My Antonia? Moby Dick?

If I had to vote I'd probably pick Beloved, Gatsby and the Scarlet Letter because I think they hit at three essential American themes and they're fairly accessible despite their genius, but I can totally see arguments for any of the above, plus a host of others. What do you think?

And which great American novels do you want to read, or which couldn't you care less about?

[Note: moved up from Friday]
Happy holiday.


  1. I vote House of Mirth, Scarlet Letter, and Beloved. My solo vote would go to House of Mirth... I know it doesn't hit on slavery at all, but it is such a perfection of a novel, to my mind, and it crystallizes the insider/outsider theme you mention so well, and has a great deal to say about the status of women in US society (STILL), that I think it stands up in this contest remarkably well.

  2. I had always leaned towards Huck Finn when forced to choose. Lately I'm thinking of The Scarlet Letter more, mostly for personal interest. One phrase you use ("they're fairly accessible despite their genius") intrigues me. If the Great American Novel really exists, must it have that accessibility? Perhaps the Great American Novel is so great, and so endowed with genius, that we haven't even figured it out? Rhetorical food for thought.