The Great American Novel


(Jennifer D.) #1

Today being July 4th, it seems like a good time to visit this old chestnut of a topic!

If you had to name a GAN, which book(s) would you choose?

Do you like the idea of a Great American Novel, or do you think it isn't a helpful idea?

This subject gets bandied about every so often (Literary Hub weighed in earlier this year), and I am always interested in what people have to say on the subject.

image via LitHub, as linked above

(Myles ) #2

This is one of those concepts that the more I think about it, the harder it is to define. I immediately think of Steinbeck or Mark Twain, or for something more contemporary about Toni Morrison or Jane Smiley...I tend to think of a novel about open spaces, family roots, and addressing what being an American is...somehow. This is tough question!

If I must pick only one, I have to give a boost to Glenway Wescott's The Grandmothers, which is my favorite family chronicle, but seldom read and, hard to get into a bookstore these days since its now only available through a university press.

(Penny / Literary Hoarders ) #3

That sounds like a great read! I'll see if it's around here anywhere!

(Jennifer D.) #4

Same -- and it is a tough question to consider. Please don't feel limited to one answer, Myles!

(Janine Tabor) #5

This is what I always think of when the concept comes up.

(Myles ) #6

Thank you

I'm not familiar enough with world literature, but is there a debate in other countries about the Great Brazilian Novel or the Great Chinese Novel for instance?

(Jennifer D.) #7

I remember the Guardian did a bit on this idea in Britain quite a while ago.

Here in Canada the subject comes up from time to time, though I don't believe with the intensity it does State-side. And, if my memory is working, the question centres more on what makes a novel Canadian, versus identifying a single novel as THE great Canadian novel. There are regional discussions here too, given how varied the landscapes and populations. Canada, historically, has emphasized the 'mosaic' over the 'melting pot', so I wonder if that makes our conversations on the idea of a great Canadian novel different?

I do get curious about other countries too, and wonder if these debates cary on globally too!