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Thread: Which is the greatest Great American novel and why?

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Which is the greatest Great American novel and why?

    I have not read them all, but for me it would either be Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn. I think Huckleberry Finn edges it. It is like nothing else I have read, and it really came alive. It is very funny. The best bit for me is when the clever girl keeps catching out Huckleberry Finn in his lies. Nevertheless, it nearly loses first place with its last few chapters. Moby Dick is very long and slow, but it picks up steam towards the end. I loved the discussions Ahab had with individual crew members; I seem to remember with a Manxman in particular.
    Last edited by kev67; 04-16-2020 at 01:42 PM.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Phillip Roth wrote "The Great American Novel". It's quite good -- a comedy about a war-era baseball team, filled with misfits who find a "breakfast of champions" that turns them into great players (thus anticipating the steroid era). Roth does borrow (uncredited) from Lawrence Ritter's "The Glory of Their Times", which is even better.

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    The Great american novel is the hunt of the great white american novel.
    #foratemer

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    The Great american novel is the hunt of the great white american novel.
    The U.S has a long and shameful history of racism However, it is Brazil that imported more African slaves than any other nation, and Brazil that didn't abolish slavery until 1888.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    The Great american novel is the hunt of the great white american novel.
    JCamilo, this is certainly not the case as there is no exclusion for anyone claiming that Sutton Griggs' Imperium in Imperio is the greatest American novel. The "which is" in this threads title is surely not meant to request anything other than a subjective answer. I may say Melville, you may say James Baldwin. If either of us accused the other of racism because of our selection then that person is racist...unless one of us thought The Turner Diaries the best of course.

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    Are you two in a guiltry trip? In a thread which Moby Dcik, a book about the hunt for the great white whale, was mentioned already, the world white arised such passive-agressive defense from you both about racism. Calm down, I wasnt looking for the skeleton in your closets.
    #foratemer

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Are you two in a guiltry trip? In a thread which Moby Dcik, a book about the hunt for the great white whale, was mentioned already, the world white arised such passive-agressive defense from you both about racism. Calm down, I wasnt looking for the skeleton in your closets.
    Gee, I'm sorry JCamilo. However, there are two reasons why a post might be misinterpreted: it might be inaccurately read or it might be badly written.

    "Passive-aggressive"? In what way? When you insult your fellow posters (with such silly accusations as "passive-aggressive") it's reasonable for them to respond. (I've been accused of being "aggressive" before, with some accuracy. "Passive"? Never!)

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Are you two in a guiltry trip? In a thread which Moby Dcik, a book about the hunt for the great white whale, was mentioned already, the world white arised such passive-agressive defense from you both about racism. Calm down, I wasnt looking for the skeleton in your closets.
    Sheesh, dumb.

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    By the way, the pun about the hunt for the great white American novel (referring both to Moby Dick and to the notion that the G.A.N. must be the product of a white male) is used so often as to be more than slightly shopworn. If JCamilo (not being a native English speaker) was ignorant of the pun, he can hardly blame us for recognizing it. By assuming that he was familiar with this all too popular literary trope, we are paying him a (undeserved?) compliment.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Back to literature. Why schould Moby Dick be the only candidate for the greatest American novel? I confess that I myself have a difficulty in singling out one one novel? What about Huckleberry Finn;Light in August, The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner), The Golden Bowl (James), Invisible Man(Ellison), To Kill a Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter(Nathaniel Hathorne),The Good Earth (Pearl Buck) a very incomplete selection of my favorites. I think, the first discussion would be, if there is one American Novel that completely outdistances all others and what are these criteria of excellence?
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I know it is a hackneyed subject. When I see lists of great American novels, I usually find I have read about half of them. I have not particularly liked most of them. Slaughterhouse 5 was good but I don't like postmodern books. To Kill a Mocking bird was a bit childish. Fahrenheit 451 was nowhere near as good as 1984 or Brave New World. Grapes of Wrath was too miserable. Lolita was good until the last third. The Great Gatsby was entertaining enough. I just don't understand why it is rated so highly, which may be my deficiency. Catch 22 was good, I particularly liked the Milo Minderbender bits. The only books I was really impressed with were Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn. I have read plenty of other American books that I have enjoyed, but they tend not to appear on Great American Novel lists.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Why does there only have to be one? There is more than one contender of the Great British, French or Russian novel?

    Great implies a wide range of society or historical or cultural background, which would rule out Jane Austen who may be a perfect novelist, but notoriously limited in her social range.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    By the way, the pun about the hunt for the great white American novel (referring both to Moby Dick and to the notion that the G.A.N. must be the product of a white male) is used so often as to be more than slightly shopworn. If JCamilo (not being a native English speaker) was ignorant of the pun, he can hardly blame us for recognizing it. By assuming that he was familiar with this all too popular literary trope, we are paying him a (undeserved?) compliment.
    Oh, please. Neither passive or agressive are offensive words and I am fully aware of the "white dead men" kinds of attack. The fact I was aware of the pun or not is irrelevant to both of you reaction that went up in full with attacks on Brazil or claims that I was calling anyone a racist, both of of it false, since I was also pointing ot Moby Dick (which is, in the end, a white man hunt for the white whale) and also a book about a pointless mania that is more than a century old and not talking about any poster here. Anyone know the GAN is ghost hunting obsession born out of the american need to have a "national book"big enough to claim a literary tradition akim to European peers. It is more a political power trip than a literary.

    Obviously, the list of novels listed here so far are most write by white man. Danik is not racist to propose a majority of novels write by white man, nor he should do otherwise (as he listed usual suspects), and I doubt he would be offended by this notion.

    Anyways, Danik, in a sense, the Great American Novel hunt is for the Dom Quixote, the Divine Comedy, Iliad or Lusiadas of USA (or more promptly, the Aeneid), so it had to be only one. Moby Dick easily stands out as impact/literary quality (Melville's style inovations, the fact he seems to have stolen characters from Shakespeare dead body and placed them on Pequod, the dialogue, the symbolism richness, the control of the narrative rythim to build tension, the dialogue with other works are all better motives than Twain charming, witty, dynamics of Huck Finn or Hawthorne allegorical works), but also about thematic (Pequod being somehow a museum of individuals that easily can represent some sort of nation). That is not to say you had to read only one, Obviously, the only work that was written with the actual desire to be "THE AMERICAN" novel, is not a novel at all, but Walt Whitman Song of Myself. However, on the XIX century, Poe had already told masses werent reading long poems, so it couldnt do.
    #foratemer

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    "Obviously, the list of novels listed here so far are most write by white man. Danik is not racist to propose a majority of novels write by white man, nor he should do otherwise (as he listed usual suspects), and I doubt he would be offended by this notion."

    Camilo, my main aim was to recover and broaden the discussion. My selection above is, as I stated, very personal, there are many American novels I havenīt read at all, like the much commented Catch 22 and others donīt belong to my favorites. Among these you probably noticed "Invisible Man" by the black author Ralph Ellison. Unfortunatelly I havenīt read anything yet by Tony Morrison, I only just got her novel "The bluest eye".

    I see you point, Camilo.I think Moby Dick is a great and representative novel, but I canīt say if it is the greatest American novel of all times or not. I am not sure if Moby Dick is as outstanding as the Quixote or Joyceīs Ulisses. I agree about the universality of Whitman, but if we talk about American fiction, Poe is probably much more representative than Meville but he didnīt write novels.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    A glance at the Modern Library list of 100 greatest English language novels reveals that neither "Moby Dick" nor "Huckleberry Finn" make the list. (I just figured it out "Modern" means 20th century.
    http://www.modernlibrary.com/top-100/100-best-novels/

    Among the candidates that ARE listed: #2 "The Great Gatsby" -- although it's not my favorite, it does qualify as exposing the American Character (if there is such a thing).

    #6 The Sound and the Fury -- I haven't read it -- I tried, once, and got 60 or 70 pages in before I gave up.

    #7 Catch 22 -- Huh? It's a fine comic novel, but it ain't the "GAN".

    #10 The Grapes of Wrath -- It might be a bit dated.

    That rounds out the top 10, if we eliminate "Lolita" which was written in the U.S.

    None of these novels, I think, rivals Moby Dick or Huck for the Title. Moby is perhaps more innovative, more literary, and insightful than Huck. However, it's not as American. The Pequod sales International Waters; Huck's raft floats through the dead center of America on the Mighty Mississippi. So the greater artistic depth of the one is balanced by the other's "Americanism". When we talk about the Great American Novel, we mean a novel written by an American, but we also refer to a novel that somehow captures or expresses the character of the country and its inhabitants. (By the way, based on JCamilo's post, I think "Don Quixote" would qualify as expressing the Spanish character (of 1600), and "The Aeneid" was written to express the Roman character ("Sing we of arms and the man...."), etc.

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