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Thread: Ten Greatest American Novels or Novellas

  1. #16
    Sailing the Void crusoe's Avatar
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    Junkie - Burroughs
    Naked Lunch - Burroughs
    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S.
    A Walk on the Wild Side - Nelson Algren
    Post Office - Bukowski
    The Grapes of Wrath - Steinbeck
    The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket - Poe
    The Fan Man - William Kotzwinkle
    Stranger in a strange Land - Heinlein
    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Dick

    ...forget the rest.
    Buy the Ticket, take the Ride...

  2. #17
    Lost in the Fog PabloQ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jassy Melson View Post
    I guess everyone has their own list, and they all seem to differ in some respect. I wonder if there are two Americans who have the same list?
    There's always that theory that room full of chimps with typewriters will eventually produce Hamlet, but not likely.
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  3. #18
    I just want to read. chrisvia's Avatar
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    I've tried and tried, but I can only get my top picks down to ~20 novels. If I'm absolutely pressed to make a decision, here goes:

    1. Moby-Dick - There's really no getting around this one. This is lumped right in there with the works that put American on the literary world map. It offers so much and has been repeated and repeated (e.g. Blood Meridian). The only sad part is that the novel steals the light from Melville's other novels (Typee, Pierre) and his poems, especially the Civil War poems.

    2. Lolita - Not only a savory experience of Nabokov's highly stylized prose, this book also contains one of the most enthralling elements in literature: a character's struggle to suppress a passion s/he is not supposed to have! This book also boasts one of my favorite opening paragraphs of all time.

    3. O! Pioneers - You don't see this one much on top or great American novel lists, but it should be. This is a look at pieces of our country's history that is often overlooked for authors focusing on parts east of the Mississippi.

    4. Look Homeward, Angel - I read the first half of this tedious novel twice, with several, years between. Then, on day, I picked it up and became fascinated, engrossed in this masterpiece. Wolfe told everyone he had a great novel in him, set out to prove it, and left behind a treasure of southern literature. It is rich, rich, rich with detail and beauty.

    5. Absalom, Absalom! - The Sound and the Fury is truly a remarkably written novel, but for a list of top American works I want to choose something that really represents a piece of American history, culture, etc. And I feel like Absalom is the right choice here, despite all of Faulkner's works centering around the Old South and the New North. Plus, like Sound it still showcases Faulkner's interesting narrative.

    6. The Grapes of Wrath - It's all about the human element! In times of struggle it's family and human relationships that matter. I was already sold on the novel before finishing it; but the ending completely sealed the deal. What a touching trope to end on!

    7. On the Road - The book that put Kerouac on the map, despite having attempting to gain fame by copying Thomas Wolfe's style in his first novel. Though this one doesn't come as close to showcases Kerouac's signature free association and bebop, jazz linguistics, the mystique behind its construction (the drug-addled days of non-stop composition on a single roll of teletype paper) and its jarring depiction of a cultural milieu make it a must of American literature.

    8. Slaughterhouse-Five - Probably the best anti-war novel out there. Vonnegut's razor-sharp satire is as absurd as it is saddening. If you haven't read this gem, procure a copy immediately.

    9. Gravity's Rainbow - I knew I wanted Pynchon in the list, but I struggled to choose between GR and Mason & Dixon. This one appears, interestingly enough, in the same spot (9) as the OP. And the novel is more than just the panoply of research topics and encyclopaedic masturbation that most take it for. There is some serious thoughts on reality and civilization here.

    10. Infinite Jest - Did I really pick a book published in 1998? Yes, I did! And I stand by it. I'll skip all the commentary about the aesthetics of the book and the brain of its author. This work represents the collective anxiety of a world that we are all a part of. Wallace is able to turn into writing what so many feel on a daily basis.

    So, there it is. I'm not happy about it. It's missing way too much; and my sentiments could change tomorrow. But let it be.
    Last edited by chrisvia; 09-12-2012 at 03:10 PM. Reason: Changed '<' to '[' and '>' to ']'
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  4. #19
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PabloQ View Post
    I'd drop James. He only qualifies as an American in that he was born here. Beyond that his novels aren't that American and, at times not that great.
    I think James qualifies as an American. The novels I've read of his all have that theme of Old World Europe corrupting Young America. I'd love to include Nabokov but isn't the inclusion of him a bit iffy, considering that he wasn't American born and bred?

    It really depends on whether we're going for ten great novels that happen to have been written by an American or ten great novels that say something about America.

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    Still think "Ethan Frome" should be on any such list, even if it is not popular with high school students. Although Ibsen paved the way in "Rosmersholm", the ending is so tragic. Ethan is so worthy of pity.

  6. #21
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    The Man with the golden Arm - Algren
    Last Exit Brooklyn - Shelby
    Buy the Ticket, take the Ride...

  7. #22
    Registered User wordeater's Avatar
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    Asventures of Tom Sawyer

    1. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
    2. The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
    3. The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton
    4. Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchel
    5. Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
    6. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
    7. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neal Hurston
    8. Native Son - Richard Wright
    9. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
    10. East of Eden - John Steinbeck
    11. A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway
    12. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
    13. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
    14. From Here to Eternity - James Jones
    15. The Maltese Falcon - Dashiel Hammett
    16. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
    17. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
    18. The Godfather - Mario Puzo
    19. The Postman Always Rings Twice - James M. Cain
    20. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

    Yes, the greatest American novel was written by a born Russian.

    P.S. Why is this post called "Asventures of Tom Sawyer"? I can't remember typing that.
    Last edited by wordeater; 09-30-2012 at 08:40 AM.

  8. #23
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    I would like to add 1. An American Tragedy
    2. The Open Boat
    3.The Call of the Wild
    4. Sister Carrie

  9. #24
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    1.Moby Dick
    2.The Great Gatsby
    3.For Whom the Bell Tolls
    4.The Scarlet Letter
    5.The Grapes of Wrath
    6.The Call of the Wild
    7.Catch-22
    8.Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas
    9.On the Road
    10.The Catcher in the Rye
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
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  10. #25
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Moby Dick
    Lonesome Dove (the whole series)
    Breakfast at Tiffany's
    We Need to Talk About Kevin
    True Grit
    The Left Hand of Darkness
    Catch 22 (just the Milo Minderbender bits)
    Farewell My Lovely (as representative of the series)
    The Amateur Marriage
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (although I preferred the film)

    I have not included books that bored or annoyed me or I thought were overrated. I would have included Homicide if it wasn't true crime.
    Last edited by kev67; 03-16-2018 at 09:15 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

  11. #26
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    1 The Adventures of Huckberry Finn--Twain
    2 Moby Dick--Melville
    3 The Great Gatsby--Fitzgerald
    4 Sound & the Fury--Faulkner
    5 The Scarlet Letter--Hawthorne
    6 Herzog--Bellow
    7 A Farewell to Arms--Hemingway
    8 Ironweed--Kennedy
    9 Grapes of Wrath--Steinbeck
    10 Look Homeward Angel--Wolfe
    11 The Awakening--Chopin
    12 Letters From the Earth--Twain
    13 Miss Lonelyhearts-West
    14 Johnny Got His Gun--Trumbo
    15 The Old Man and the Sea--Hemingway
    16 The Call of the Wild--London
    17 Humboldt's Gift--Bellow
    18 Main Street--Lewis
    19 Seize the Day--Bellow
    20 Ragtime-Doctorow

  12. #27
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    My ten favorite American novels (there’s of course so much more than 10 masterpices od American literature)

    Moby Dick - Herman Melville
    Benito Cereno - Herman Melville
    The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
    The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Absalom, Absalom! - William Faulkner
    Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
    The Road - Cormac McCarthy
    As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
    The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
    Suttree - Cormac McCarthy
    Wise Blood - Flannery O’Connor

  13. #28
    A User, but Registered! tonywalt's Avatar
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    The Catcher in the Rye - jd salinger
    Lolita - Nabokov
    Underworld - don delillo
    Rabbit is Rich - john updike
    Rabbit at Rest - john updike
    Rabbit Redux john updike
    Slaughterhouse Five - kurt vonnegut
    Confederacy of Dunces - john kennedy toole
    Bark - Lorrie Moore
    white album - joan didion
    9 Stories - jd salinger

  14. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by chrisvia View Post
    I've tried and tried, but I can only get my top picks down to ~20 novels. If I'm absolutely pressed to make a decision, here goes:

    1. Moby-Dick - There's really no getting around this one. This is lumped right in there with the works that put American on the literary world map. It offers so much and has been repeated and repeated (e.g. Blood Meridian). The only sad part is that the novel steals the light from Melville's other novels (Typee, Pierre) and his poems, especially the Civil War poems.

    2. Lolita - Not only a savory experience of Nabokov's highly stylized prose, this book also contains one of the most enthralling elements in literature: a character's struggle to suppress a passion s/he is not supposed to have! This book also boasts one of my favorite opening paragraphs of all time.

    3. O! Pioneers - You don't see this one much on top or great American novel lists, but it should be. This is a look at pieces of our country's history that is often overlooked for authors focusing on parts east of the Mississippi.

    4. Look Homeward, Angel - I read the first half of this tedious novel twice, with several, years between. Then, on day, I picked it up and became fascinated, engrossed in this masterpiece. Wolfe told everyone he had a great novel in him, set out to prove it, and left behind a treasure of southern literature. It is rich, rich, rich with detail and beauty.

    5. Absalom, Absalom! - The Sound and the Fury is truly a remarkably written novel, but for a list of top American works I want to choose something that really represents a piece of American history, culture, etc. And I feel like Absalom is the right choice here, despite all of Faulkner's works centering around the Old South and the New North. Plus, like Sound it still showcases Faulkner's interesting narrative.

    6. The Grapes of Wrath - It's all about the human element! In times of struggle it's family and human relationships that matter. I was already sold on the novel before finishing it; but the ending completely sealed the deal. What a touching trope to end on!

    7. On the Road - The book that put Kerouac on the map, despite having attempting to gain fame by copying Thomas Wolfe's style in his first novel. Though this one doesn't come as close to showcases Kerouac's signature free association and bebop, jazz linguistics, the mystique behind its construction (the drug-addled days of non-stop composition on a single roll of teletype paper) and its jarring depiction of a cultural milieu make it a must of American literature.

    8. Slaughterhouse-Five - Probably the best anti-war novel out there. Vonnegut's razor-sharp satire is as absurd as it is saddening. If you haven't read this gem, procure a copy immediately.

    9. Gravity's Rainbow - I knew I wanted Pynchon in the list, but I struggled to choose between GR and Mason & Dixon. This one appears, interestingly enough, in the same spot (9) as the OP. And the novel is more than just the panoply of research topics and encyclopaedic masturbation that most take it for. There is some serious thoughts on reality and civilization here.

    10. Infinite Jest - Did I really pick a book published in 1998? Yes, I did! And I stand by it. I'll skip all the commentary about the aesthetics of the book and the brain of its author. This work represents the collective anxiety of a world that we are all a part of. Wallace is able to turn into writing what so many feel on a daily basis.

    So, there it is. I'm not happy about it. It's missing way too much; and my sentiments could change tomorrow. But let it be.
    ROAR! the doc has read every one of those books sans GR. he read mason & dixon and found it to be simply exquisite. loved look homeward angel on the first read. oh pioneers! the doc was out to eat with his daughter and grandson a couple of months ago and there was another lady with her daughter. the talk came around to names and she said her daughter's name was willa. the first thought for the doc was willa cather and so that's what came out of his mouth. those two words-and mom said that's who she was named for. big bonus points for the doc in his daughter's eyes for knowing the writer. infinite jest is well worth the read. have your dictionary near you though. ROAR!

  15. #30
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Now I am reading Huckleberry Finn, I can see it will have to go in the top ten. I am not sure which to drop, but probably The Amateur Marriage. It was a good book though. I have not read any of Anne Tyler's other books, so I do not know it was even her best. I was struggling to decide on a ninth and tenth in my original list.

    Afterthought: I wonder if Last of the Mohicans should go on the list. I am not sure I got to the end of that book, although I remember enjoying the beginning. I enjoyed the Daniel Day Lewis film.
    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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