“This was a big storm … “

This evening I was chatting by phone with a priest friend about, inter alia, American novels.  Of course the great American novel came up.  Hemingway came up, of course, in that context.  Though we did not ultimately settle on a final choice, we at least dismissed Huckberry Finn and others in favor of For Whom The Bell Tolls because, inter alia again, it has more epic themes.  Our discussions will continue.

However, as we considered aspects of For Whom The Bell Tolls, I recalled a quote about lack of control and a storm which I looked up. It was about snow, but… hey:

“This was a big storm and he might as well enjoy it. It was ruining everything, but you might as well enjoy it.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. gregorio66 says:

    Father, with all due respect, I would say that Moby Dick is the great American novel, if there is such a thing.

  2. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    I know that people often consider As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner among [among….] the great American Novels, especially since they typify life in the rural South, some of the more stereotypical ‘american’ parts of the country.

    I just can’t ever find his stream of consciousness style enjoyable. As someone raised in the south, and who finds its ways far better than that of the northeast or midwest, I love his depictions of rural Mississippi, and the droves of biblical and Shakespearean references, but I never cared for the carousel of narrators…

    [But do they deal with larger issues? A grand scale?]

  3. gregorio66 says: Moby Dick is the great American novel

    Make your case!

  4. Legisperitus says:

    Too bad Hemingway’s protagonist was fighting for the wrong side…

  5. Ellen says:

    Greatest American novel? I had one professor who was adamant that it was Portrait of a Lady. I find reading Henry James rather like trying to read gray print on a beige page in a fog.

  6. The Masked Chicken says:

    Must the novel be mainstream? Mysteries and Science Fiction often contain large issues on a grand (very grand) scale. What great American novel will ever use time travel or space travel? One can only think that there is a difference between the Great American novel and the Greatest American novel. That one has probably not been written, yet. That said, I know of some State of the Union addresses that would certainly qualify in the fiction category.

    The Chicken

  7. PostCatholic says:

    I’m not sure there can be one “Great American Novel” inasmuch as the “great themes” change in their importance over the decades. Huck Finn is so often mentioned as the first because it deals with perennial American issues (racism, coming of age, identity, anomie), was scathing in its mockery of the antebellum Southern society, and because it was among the first American novels to be written in American vernacular.

    I think other good candidates are Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Nabokov’s Lolita, and Morrison’s Beloved. All of them capture the prevailing American zeitgeist and touch on the big recurring American theme of alienation.

  8. jenniphd says:

    Not to be too low brow, but I think Ender’s Game is the greatest American novel. It has so many big ideas running through it from how we create family to what is a just war. I love Card’s narrative flow, and the way he uses archetypes among the adults and children without being heavy handed.

    Not for nothin’, but it also got a bunch of my adolescent boys to read when I taught high school.

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