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Thread: 20th Century American novels - ideas please

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    A*O
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    Default 20th Century American novels - ideas please

    My book club has decided to make 2008 our Great American Novel year. We've been doing way too much European angst, introspective and bleak in 2007.

    I've nominated The Great Gatsby because (blush) I haven't read it yet and many people regard it as the greatest American novel. I would also like to suggest Truman Capote's In Cold Blood which, although not a novel, will provoke some very passionate debate about crime and punishment.
    So, I'd welcome some other ideas please. The criteria are pretty broad but it must be American, in print, interesting, stimulating and suitable for a group of 12 smart and educated ladies aged 20 -80 who are all pretty broadminded but gratuitous sex and violence won't go down too well. So NO Jackie Collins please LOL
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    Elite Member Sojiita's Avatar
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    Steinbeck "The Grapes of Wrath"

    Any Faulkner(catches 'The South" so well..and that place is always interesting in novels).

    Theodore Dreiser "An American Tragedy"

    Henry Miller 'Tropic of Cancer"

    Jack Kerouac "On The Road"

    Harper Lee "To Kill a Mockingbird"

    Sherwood Anderson "Winesburg, Ohio"

    just a few that come to mind.
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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    To Kill a Mockingbird-just a total treat.
    Gone With the Wind-Margaret Mitchell
    Confederacy of Dunces-John Kennedy Toole-You would LOVE it A*O!!
    Last edited by McJag; December 13th, 2007 at 06:48 AM.
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    Elite Member Sojiita's Avatar
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    ^^ The 'old' South(pre 1960's) is such a good setting for so many novels.
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    The Ladies did To Kill A Mockingbird a while back before I joined the group but I agree it's a great book. I thought about Grapes Of Wrath but I've already read it so I'd like to pick something I should have read but haven't - hence The Great Gatsby. I'm pretty sketchy about Hemmingway too to be honest so which of his novels do you reckon is the best? I know it's very subjective but I'd appreciate input from Americans who probably have a deeper understanding of what makes The Great American Novel than a clueless Pom/Aussie! For my own enjoyment I will try Confederacy of Dunces and maybe An American Tragedy and I will come after you if I hate them LOL.

    I'd really like to get the GR Book Club up and running properly again. I think one book per month is probably a bit too ambitious (every 2 months?) and I think we'd need to have a 'signed up' group of members who can vote on the chosen book choice rather than have people drifting in and out. Unfortunately you need to be somewhat organised or nothing ever happens. I'm up for it - any other takers?
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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sojiita View Post
    ^^ The 'old' South(pre 1960's) is such a good setting for so many novels.
    Have you read "Conferderacy of Dunces" Soj? It is a huge book with some of the funniest dialogue ever! You would love it,too! I mean you just laugh till you cry.
    A*O-William Faulkner also-he is a bit hard to get into, but terrific
    I like the book club idea! Sign me up.
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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    i agree with 'the great gatsby' but would also suggest 'tender is the night', which is my favourite fitzgerald book and maybe less people have read it while i guess pretty much everyone has read 'gatsby'.

    kerouac, 'on the road'

    thomas pynchon, 'the crying of lot 49' or 'v'

    if you want something a little more contemporary, i suggest 'the corrections', by jonathan franzen. it's basically the story of a family but it is so perceptive and honest that it gave me chills.

    also the wonderful 'what i loved', by siri hustvedt (wife of paul auster and a fabulous writer herself)

    speaking of paul auster, his new york trilogy, as well as 'moon palace', 'music of chance', 'leviathan' are all amazing books as well.

    hmm i'll think of more and post later.
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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    I'd say anything by Capote is great, even In Cold Blood, which is technically the first docu-novel. I'd also recommend anything by Philip Roth, particularly Portney's Complaint, My Life as a Man, Zuckerman Bound, I Married a Communist, American Pastoral...anything, really.

    To Kill a Mockingbird is truly great, perhaps the best of the century. I love Great Gatsby but think The Beautiful and Damned is more interesting in a way. Damn, so many books!
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    Thanks for the suggestions. Generally speaking I tend to read non-fiction for pleasure so any ideas are welcome. It's one of the reasons I enjoy my book club because it 'forces' me to read fiction I wouldn't bother with otherwise. Some of the choices are not to my taste (each member chooses a book for the following month) and if we really hate a particular book we don't have to read it but that doesn't happen very often.
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    Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - it's one of my faves

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    I never cared for Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck-I like Of Mice and Men better. Sula is very good by Toni Morrison. I know they are not novels but The Crucible and Our Town are good representations of America at a certain time and place. I used to love Gatsby but the older I get the less it appeals to me. Tender is the Night is better. Old Man and the Sea. Faulkner is my favorite. Sound and the Fury is a very hard read but worth it. Light in August might be better.

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    Thanks again! I did Of Mice And Men and The Crucible at high school (and didn't enjoy either to be honest) but it might be worth revisiting them as an adult. I recently re-read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and found I had a totally different take on the whole thing now I'm able to see it from a mature and less romantic/impressionable perspective.
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    I'll toss in McTeague by Frank Norris ... wonderful and unexpectedly entertaining.

    and I concur regarding anything by Faulkner ... Absalom Absalom and Light in August are amazing.

    hmmm. how about some obscure Twain, "The Mysterious Stranger" is fun and Morrison's Sula is good as well.

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    Elite Member Laurent's Avatar
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    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

    The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth both by Edith Wharton

    Sophie's Choice by William Styron

    Beloved by Toni Morrison

    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
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    Elite Member Sojiita's Avatar
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    Have you made a choice yet A*O ?? (Faulkner!!) Is there going to be a revived book club on here as well?

    also Myra Breckinridge: (Gore Vidal)

    Ragtime: (E. L. Doctorow)
    Last edited by Sojiita; December 17th, 2007 at 11:20 AM.
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