Thursday, July 05, 2012

Lovin' American Authors and Belated 4th!

Yo! How was the 4th of July for everyone? It was low-key at my house. The fam came over to my place for lunch (pulled pork sammiches, tater salad, baked beans, cheesy artichoke spinach dip, red velvet cake, cholesterol medication), Greyson and I played outside in the afternoon, and then we slept through (most of) the fireworks. Except the ones that woke me up at 12:30am. I've never jumped out of bed so fast in my life!


So yesterday I stumbled upon an unlikely post idea. I just didn't have time to post it yesterday when it would've been most applicable! I was hanging out on my couch, Facebooking on my phone, when I ran across the following question from the good people at Kobo:
Happy Fourth of July from the Kobo team! Who is your favorite American author? Don't forget to share some titles!
Loaded question!!! As I started typing out some of my faves and typing and typing, I had a realization. But first, here was my answer:
Willa Cather (The Professor's House), Fitzgerald (Gatsby), Henry Roth (Call It Sleep), Auster (The New York Trilogy), Hustvedt (The Blindfold), Oates (Beasts), Thane Rosenbaum (The Golems of Gotham), Flannery O'Connor (anything!)
And the realization is this: a good chunk of these books were required reading in one of my grad school classes, and if they weren't required reading, they were influenced by a specific prof, a specific group of peers, and were consumed during that particular part of my life (25-26 years old). 

I never realized a whole cross-section of my all-time favorite books were so tightly linked together! As I was thinking back, my conception of and favorites from British literature were highly influenced by my high school classes and my early undergrad years. But those grad school years, that's when my love of American lit really kicked in like crazy. I really began to have a clear understanding of various movements in American lit and realize what some of America's authors have meant to the world. 


As I've gotten older, I've also discovered a sense of America-guilt? Somehow there seems to be an attitude of "you're from America, read something new-to-you." And I do. And I appreciate that approach, but I also really dig writing from my own country. Whether it's old or new, Puritan or Postmodern, I jones for American lit. Unabashedly. Maybe because I've studied it so much? I know the history and the history enriches it? Dunno. Bottom line: loooove it. 


So I think I've decided in the last few minutes (munching on a bbq sandwich) to highlight some of my fave American authors here. I'm not setting a specific schedule, but they'll be popping up from time to time as I feel motivated. I'm not interested in talking about their biographies (though those are interesting) as much as I'm interested in recapping some of my favorite books and stories that they've written and the why and the ways they affected me at that particular point in my life. They span some pretty varied genres and approaches, time periods and aesthetics. And I might even re-read some of them (Cather is definitely due). 


And of course, my question for you:


Who are some of your favorite American authors and which works are your faves?

28 comments:

  1. I can't. Believe. You like Auster. Not sure if we can still be friends. ;)

    But as for American literature, I'm right there with you. I absolutely love it. I love teaching it, reading it, talking about it.

    I particularly enjoy American short fiction: Andre Dubus, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, Flannery O'Connor, ole Ernie. These are just so AMERICAN to me.

    As for the longer stuff, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is just about one of my favorite novels, as is East of Eden by Steinbeck. Both are different in many ways, but they each epitomize America to me.

    Ooh, I could go on for days. Glad you guys had a good 4th, minus the fireworks waking you.

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    1. NO! You don't like Auster??!!! Best of the American postmodern winners! lol

      Hustvedt is his wife, so you might not like her either.

      Loooove most of the short story writers you mentioned here, especially O'Connor. Serious love.

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  2. Belated happy 4th of July!

    I am woefully undereducated in American lit. I am trying to rectify it but it's a slow process - Cather is my favourite so far.

    Thinking about it, if you asked me my favourite English authors, they would be all the ones I read for my English Lit A-Level. Maybe it's a common experience?

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    1. Thanks, Sam!

      It is a slow process. I hope I can intrigue you a bit by gushing about my own fave authors. :D

      And maybe it's an age thing. I know I was susceptible to literary obsessions and a great opening of the mind at that age. hehe

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  3. Oooo classic authors are always good - I love Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Poe, I totally enjoyed Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans. I need to try more Melville -- I loved Bartleby the Scrivner and the beginning of Moby Dick - though I never finished it. I loved Steinbeck's East of Eden and want to read more. Then there's To Kill a Mockingbird. Classic.

    You know I've never read Auster or O'conner. Need to.

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    1. Yay for classics! I've never read Cooper (I don't think, unless I skipped it). I'm also woefully under-read when it comes to Melville. I think I ditched that day. lol

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  4. I love this idea! I struggle with reading American authors because I love the Brits so much, so I will be glad to read more about American literature from someone who appreciates it.
    I do like Willa Cather. She is wonderful. And I also like Wharton.

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    1. Anbolyn, thanks!!! The Brits are rather attractive, but I think I consumed so much of them in those early college days, I was ready to latch onto the radicalism and sense of resistance I felt in American lit.

      Cather is awesome. I love Wharton's short stories...especially "Roman Fever."

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  5. Alcott, Morrison, Twain, Poe, Irving,Bradstreet, Dickinson...I can't begin to name a favorite since I am an American lit. freak. Most of my lit classes were American lit focused, and my favorite was an American Women Writers class :):) I'm probably more of a colonial American lit fan than most :)

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    1. We had some really impressive Americanists in my program of study as an undergrad and a grad, so I sort of gravitated to those classes in addition to my focus on children's/adolescent. I am not a huge colonial fan, though I've become well-versed after teaching it online several times. "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is always a fave to teach. hehe

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  6. Um, I've somehow never read Cather...and that makes me ashamed :(

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    1. No shame!!!! I've read and loved O Pioneers!, My Antonia, and The Professor's House. They're just such easy, stripped down, lovely reading. Lots going on but very "smooth" reading.

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  7. Hemingway!! "A Moveable Feast" makes me swoon.

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    1. Jen, I love it, too. I hated Hemingway for years, but after I watched City of Angels (bleck!) I had a mad urge to try A Moveable Feast. I'm also in love with all of the Roaring 20s Modernist authors. :)

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  8. Great idea, Andi! There's Anne Bradstreet, Langston Hughes, Raymond Carver, Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, Melane Rae Thon, Emily Dickinson, and definitely Steinbeck.

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    1. Thanks, Vasilly! I love many of the authors you've listed here. I haven't read Diaz yet or Melane Rae Thon. Love love Dickinson, Bradstreet, Hughes, Morrison, though. Carver is a little shady in my memory though I have read some of his stuff.

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  9. Oh man, I love Fitzgerald, and Cather and of course Steinbeck, but I need to read more of their work to really have a good grasp. I love modern American authors as well, and have a list a mile long! This is going to be a great feature, and I can't wait to see what you will be doing with it. It sounds very exciting to me!

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    1. Zibilee, there's more I need to read of all these folks. Selected works from their impressive bodies of work gave me an outline of what to expect from different movements, but I could certainly stand to read more. Especially Fitzgerald -- I've never gotten through another of his after Gatsby. It so thoroughly engrossed me!

      Glad you're looking forward to this feature!

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  10. Very interesting! When I think of "quintessential American authors" and their corresponding works, Fitzgerald and Hemingway both immediately come to mind. The Great Gatsby was and is my favorite book of all time (HOW EXCITED AM I FOR THE NEW MOVIE OMG), but I'd have to lump Philip Roth in there, too . . . American Pastoral pretty much brought me to my knees. And I think that's considered a pretty awesome chunk of a modern American classic, too.

    You know, it's funny . . . as you mentioned about your grad school classes, so much of my most influential American reading (and otherwise) was consumed during my days as an undergrad English student. I studied modern American works, British classics and Shakespeare (of course!) pretty steadily, and I can still recall details of that time without hesitation. I took a whole class on Roth, actually, and read six or seven of his novels within a few months. Definitely changed my reading outlook.

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    1. Meg, I had Roth in mind when I wrote this as well. The particular prof who comes to mind when I talk about this period in my life was a Roth expert (seriously awesome scholar), and I read The Human Stain because of him. I've read others of Roth's books but it was his "memoir" (always hard to discern the truth with Roth), Patrimony, that really affected me the most. Awesome, awesome book.

      Will definitely be reading more of his. Thinking I've only read the three: Patrimony, Human Stain, and I read The Dying Animal.

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  11. Oh, man - where to even begin? I love southern American literature - Faulkner (As I Lay Daying), Welty (The Optimist's Daughter), O'Connor (EVERYTHING), and the list could go on and on.

    I also adore Poe, Cather, Wharton (this woman - the love is fierce), and Fitzgerald (The Beautiful and the Damned).

    And then there's Ray Bradbury - oh my, his stories make me giddy and feel like a child again.

    Great questions, Andi!

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  12. Well that's a tough question. I haven't really read more than one book by any American author...at least the big guns. And I was a history major, so I didn't take a lot of lit classes in college (I need a do-over). I've liked Steinbeck and Hemingway and Harper Lee (can she count if she only wrote 1 book??). I was going to say Atwood, but well...Canadian! Dammit.

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  13. Oh I love, love, love Hawthorne, particularly The Scarlet Letter and Twice Told Tales. I also like Henry James, and both of these for reasons like yours: Because of a particular time in my life and a couple of courses in graduate school and one or two professors.
    My other favorite American writer, less high-brow, more popular culture, is Elmore Leonard. I have been a fan of the books for a long time but have recently been watching reruns of Justified and love the language, the characters, the quirky twists. Also could easily fall for Oliphant who plays U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens.

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  14. Joseph Heller and John Steinbeck off the top of my mind.
    And Mark Twain!
    Loved your question, It really made me think, as I generally read more European authors than Americans. But those three are my all time favorite writers, irrespective of nationality.
    You have a lovely blog! following you now!
    Please do visit my book blog, and if you like it, please follow!

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  15. I know what you mean about favorites seeming to come from a certain time of life. I would have to put Fitzgerald (Gatsby), Steinbeck (East of Eden), and Stephen King (numerous), Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) on my short list.

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  16. Edith Wharton - The House of Mirth, particularly. Of course Fitzgerald and Harper Lee. Thomas Woolf is long winded, but I still enjoy his angst ridden southern sensibility.

    I’ve not really read Willa Cather, and I need to rectify that. I happen to have a brand new copy of My Antonia over here on my bookstack.

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  17. I had to think for a bit, since most of my fave American authors are currently living. But then I remembered Gene Stratton-Porter! Love her books. I've read Freckles, The Girl of the Limberlost, and The Keeper of the Bees. Keeper of the Bees is my fave.

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  18. Hemingway and Poe stories are must reads, which is good since most Americans must read them at some point of their schooling. I do like the few Roth books I've read (okay, I despised Portnoy's Complaint in college but other than that) so he might be a good choice.

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