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as in....most incisive representations of an age and/or cultural mindset...etc etc, blah blah.
On The Road
the great gatsby, revolutionary road, on the road, the adventures of augie march
The Shining/The Stand
The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit
Damn, I love book threads.
Particularly as you have just read it.
...but I think Psycho perhaps highlights the banality of decadence during that period slightly more so
Also, do you mean just the US or the whole continent?
The Sun Also Rises
To Kill A Mockingbird
The Road (srsly)
As I Lay Dying
that say more about the europhile obsessions of a tiny segment of affluent Americans rather than than the mood of the nation as a whole
On The Road was (and still is) a novel that people can't avoid. It kicked off a lot of other stuff that reverberates to this day. The rest of that 'movement' (and it's always been a pretty unsatisfactory label) were so disparate and contrary in aims and interests that it's only their friendships that bind them. Ginsberg was more obsessed with the Far East, transcendentalism, traditions of poetry from around the world, and with radical American politics. Kerouac was constantly trying to reconcile the freedom he felt in the American Dream with his Catholic and European roots which held him back like a parachute. Burroughs was a a semi-sci-fi maniac who saw everything upside down, and was intensely interested in the American condition. Their 'europhile obsessions' were far less than those of the Lost Generation writers.
on the road reads like an increasingly dull and lethargic diary of a self obsessed bum
but sci-fi owes its (belated) literary maturity in the late 70s/early 80s to him
The lost generation didn't seem to have any pretensions over what they represented though..and Steinbeck I think is THE great American author..
I guess it was Ginsberg et al that fetishised the 'feminine' /'european'/oriental over 'rugged Americanism'
1. Dreadful characterisation - Dean is the only character in it and he's just a bit of a cunt, inne?
2. Revolves both naively an anachronistically around '50s jive talk
3. Has been bettered as a travelogue repeatedly.
Not that I think it's actively bad, but I think it's one of those books that has accumulated such cultural cache that people think they're clever just because they've read it. It's just the 1950s version of The Beach.
But that's the version I read and really enjoyed it.
i'm sure there are some though
because it's less than a decade old, was written by an Englishman who lives in the US and you'd probably find it (incorrectly imo) in the fantasy section of a book shop, but American Gods is by far and away the best study of the American 'melting pot' of religion and, more broadly belief, that I've ever read.
That or, umm, Of Mice and Men? Yeah, that'll do...
Didn't enjoy it all and gave up half way through. I say that as a big fan of the 'Sandman' comics.
He could wipe his arse on a notepad and I'd still read it! American Gods does take 150 or so pages to get into though. Definitely worth the initial struggle in my opinion.
is it very long though? i'm fed up with very long books atm. also, would you say it's more like robinson crusoe or treasure island?
The Man With the Golden Arm
It was the first American novel that was seen as being as great a work of literature as anything by a European, and the first candidate for 'The Great American Novel'. It's also been somewhat of a massive shadow over every other attempt at one since. Huckleberry Finn is similarly important. Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass is also incredibly important, though that is poetry rather than prose.
Otherwise, novels which, for better or worse, have been culturally significant:
- The Call Of The Wild
- Look Homeward, Angel
- The Great Gatsby
- For Whom The Bell Tolls (though I actually prefer Fiesta...)
- As I Lay Dying
- On The Road
- Gravity's Rainbow
- The Catcher In The Rye
Atlas Shrugged and Battlefield Earth are also pretty important, though they're more regrettable...
I forgot The Grapes of Wrath.
something by HP Lovecraft.
you disappoint me
His stories, like Poe's, are worth a read but this is about novels, is it not?
but it's mehedor!
was hardly a typical american.
Lovecraft is a certified badass for sure though, he's fucking bananas man.
At its best, a pithy, amusing insight into the lifestyles of one of 'rasslin's greatest enigmas, as 'the great one's idiosyncracies are scorchingly surveyed in a black comedy white-hot with indignation. Once again, The Rock displays his exceptional power at conveying intense physical sensation while subtly exploring emotional and psychological complexities. The setting affords superb scope for The Rock's gripping narrative skills, empathy with a wide range of rasslin superstars, unillusioned realism and ironic comedy, while balefully indicative of his increasingly disturbed state.
At once powerfully direct and engrossingly intricate, this is a masterpiece of rewarding complexity.
and then when he got hurt from barging people over too much
the gentle but inevitable drive towards tragedy, together with the tranquillity of the language in which it is expressed, never fails to give me a deep sense of joy and pain
we are forced to go through the torment of his early years whilst all the time knowing of the levels greatness that he will later attain....it's a deft handling of narrative balance that really allows the trumphant denoument to 'bodyslam', if you will, at full imapct
Particularly the bathetic re-telling of the Rock's first sexual encounter. Masterfully regailing the gracious reader, truly placing one in the Rock's boots as his 13 year old member triumphantly penetrates the folded skin of his rotund lover atop a car bonnet, in a lyrical verse dripping with emotional resonance and metaphorical grandeur.
a collegue, after reading that passage, remarked to me that this might possibly have been the first recorded usage of the 'rock bottom', such would have been the mighty and muscular effort in positioning his lissom lover on the bonnet, or canvas, as it where. indeed, he was absolutely correct and in being so, further raises two pertinet issues. one, the constant intertwining of narrative strands by the fusion of symbols from both johnsons pre and post wrestling existences. and also it of course raises the issue of subconscious, latent, possibly supressed sexual yearning present in all of professional wrestling. a pivotal scence indeed.
would you like to take this 'bit' to the stage?
i think we could definitly make next years edinburgh festival
we may cause a pretention overload tho!
by Upton Sinclair. Was so shocking it lead Teddy Roosevelt to reform certain laws after reading it. That's a pretty affecting read.
The Grapes of Wrath to a lesser extent.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - written in the decade or so prior to the civil rights movement
I'm going with Beloved by Toni Morrison.
but he's not widely read I guess
they just dont get the same level of readership. Devil in a blue dress is good. Not read anything else of his.
by the New York Times.
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Angels & Demons
'The Plot Against America' - Philip Roth
or American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Probably my favourite book ever.
I think it's probably mine, too.
Much better than the film of the same name. As good as the band of the same name.
uhh, probably anything by saul bellow.
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter
Of Mice & Men
anyone that disagrees is a rapist.
by annie dillard
The Road-Cormac McCarthy
House Of Leaves-Mark Z. Danielewski
Franny And Zooey-J.D. Salinger
American Psycho-Bret Easton Ellis
It's praises aren't sung near enough.
by far the most 'important' US book of the last 100 years is surely Gone With The Wind, as it both explains the origins of the extreme rightwing American mindset, and also is its own object lesson, insofar as it's wildly, wildly racist but still accepted as a cultural classic (for reasons not entirely baffling), a fact that'll teach you more about the state of contemporary America than reading The Bostonians.
Further obvious omissions stressing this is just a thread of stuff people like:
1. NO WILLIAM FAULKNER???
2. NO HENRY JAMES???
3. NO THOMAS PYNCHON??? (arguably he has more to say about the decay of old Europe than the rise of new America, but something like V does a magnificent job of contrasting them both)
I say this with the snooty venom of a man with an English literature MA and nothing to do with it. But seriously, As I Lay Dying a less important book than Catch 22? No, no, no.
hard for someone to wax lyrical about summit they aint read though......i think this thread just reflects what people have read, as oppossed to what people have liked.....if everyone is holding back a gone with the wind over a one flew over the cuckoos nest, then fair enough.
but yeah....i supposse objectivity hasn't really been at the fore of the replies
And I don't care what some dusty old professor would tell me is the "most important literature." Maybe I'll get around to Henry James and Gone With The Wind, and maybe I won't. Depends if it catches my interest. The books that are important to me are the ones that made me FEEL something (Franny And Zooey) or look the truth dead in the face (Naked Lunch).
And I doubt many people have actually read it, barring those who did when it first came out, and then some of the generation after that. It says next to nothing about contemporary America.
They're usually wrong.
Important, to me, means important to me. I would never try to decide what's important for everybody. I'll leave that up to those with English Literature MA's and nothing better to do with them.
Have an extra special super nice day.
You're supposed to mention books that has been culturally important, not just books you like. The literary snob is right. Pynchon rules.
As for anyone being "right" in this situation, I doubt it. I can't see any way of determining the importance of literature for everyone, you can only define a work of literature's importance for yourself. That's probably why this thread drifted from it's original purpose.
but then again I've studied literary history so saying you were right would be the same as admitting I have been wasting my time.
But if you compare David Foster Wallace end Dave Eggers for example it's obvious that they've got some of the same concerns, they use some of the same techniques, DFW was first and Dave Eggers has admitted to being inspired by DFW. For me it's quite clear that DFW has been more important, DE would probably agree.
And also, everyone's relationship to it is different. The reason I just listed books I like is because of the words "you say" in the thread title. I also totally agree with what you said about influence (DE vs. DFW), but trying to choose what's "more important" between As I Lay Dying and Catch 22 is absurd, there's no comparing them. Since I happen to be American, I also think a foreigner trying to tell me about how much Gone With The Wind tells you about the "state of contemperary America" is super silly. And that whole post was just curmudgeonly, so I had to respond in an appropriately hippie dippie fashion.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Amazingly great, funny and sad novel about the ennui and anhedonia of post-millenial America.
Also everything by Pynchon. Paranoia and dread and drugs and sex.
when I pressed reply in this thread the button. Oh well.
Hopefully this list gives a decent selection and a balanced view of old stuff and new stuff which has been highly influential.
Huckleberry Finn (undoubtedly above all else)
The Great Gatsby
Uncle Tom's Cabin
On The Road
The Scarlet Letter
Gone With The Wind
The Sound And The Fury (maybe? I'm hard pressed to name Faulkner's most 'important' work)
To Kill A Mockingbird
In Cold Blood
The Last of the Mohicans
The Color Purple
And then prolly a Henry James novel, but I don't know him well enough to say which (that's it you count him as an American...)
I've missed Hemingway, and I'm gonna nominate A Farewell To Arms for that, William S. Burroughs, Steinbeck, there should prolly be a Toni Morrisson.
<3 The great American Novel.
totally deserving of the hype, the relentless self criticism and self awareness really captures life today
by Maya Angelou is also mazin.
very smug woman
by Flannery O'Connor.
Maybe something by Vonnegut but I've only read one, so you decide.
haunts you for days afterwards.
McCarthy is not creating a static environment for extremely well defined characters, he's placing two people that could be anyone, with a relationship that everyone has (parent/child), in a world where everything has gone wrong, and no one has all the answers (sound familiar?). Because the relationship between the protagonists (and not the protagonists themselves) is what's important, the reader is thrown directly into their heads, experiencing the troubling, visceral world of this beautifully rendered novel. But I guess you missed all that.
As far as labling anything a classic, I don't think I qualify. Specifically because I only care about what interests me, not what can be defined as classic by some dusty ass bullshit criteria invented by some dead white male.
I think in the context of the novel, apathy is more appropriate than sadness or regret. Again, in this novel McCarthy is using language to attempt an almost absolute simulation of first person experience, as opposed to making the reader an observing third party. In the harsh reality of the novel, the father only offers a false protection, a sort of emotional salve for the boy, in judging this new world given back to nature by the standards and rules of human civilization. A way of finding order and meaning on old terms in a new world. In a way, his death is symbolic of the death of the child's emotions, in a world where there is no room for that, only the will to survive. I'm probably not explaining this very well, but that's what I got from the novel. I'd suggest giving it another shot, approaching it from a different perspective. But hey, if you don't like it, you don't like it. I do appreciate your explanation of your use of the word "classic," your admission of subjectivity though. All this shit is subjective no matter how much some might want to say otherwise.
it's an intensely vivid imagination of the end of the world and the point of life when it is stripped of everything.
Manhattan Transfer- John Dos Passos (the city)
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- Carson McCullers (the country)
East of Eden- Steinbeck (Origins/ family/ identity)
Breakfast of Champions- Vonnegut (commercialism)
Underworld- Don Delillo (pretty much everything)
Regardless of what us limeys think, Walden had a huge effect on the american psyche. Good book too.
As an American, I'll back you up. Great book, changed my life.
Gut wrenching satire of the struggle of a freak to fit in to the straight world and make an honest living. It addresses being a freak in New Orleans who doesn't even fit in with the other freaks, a very important American cultural condition.
What I found it to be was an epically sad masterpiece. It bounced around in my head for days after I finished it. I was blown away by the care and detail given to every character; the only 2D character was Mrs Levy
Ans Ignatius... what a fantastic creation!
deserves a mention.
is so obviously the most important American novel it's barely debateable.
After that I'm not much fussed with the so-called classics. I'd recommend reading Mortal Fear by Greg Illes. You'll read it straight through guaranteed.
On the Road
am currently reading "Netherland" which I am incredibly excited by so that maybe involved too.
looking at this it appears to work in decades but I have nothing for the 70's.
An account (or rather a fictionalised version) of the murky politics of 50s and 60s including JFKs assassination should figure in a long list.
to not see White Noise by Don Delillo in there. Tremendous book.
general in his labyrinth
where the air is clear
but the original poster did clarify that he meant US novels. That said Pedro Paramo is amazing. So is 'The Plain is Burning' (? didn't read it on english). Juan Rulfo FTW.
Also Autumn of the Patriarch.
And I concur with The Road
I'd add Generation X into the mix
fuck 1hundred, fuck love.