Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Celebrating the Americans

With the Fourth of July being tomorrow, here is a list of a fewAmerican authors/works I have found notable. Some are expected, while others are a bit lesser known. As usual, the list is in no particular order.

1) The Great Gatsby - I would just say F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I haven't yet read any of his other books--I know I'll have to make the time to eventually since this book at least is amazing. The first time I read it, I didn't even care what it was about: the language is just stunning, while still remaining simple. Then you can move into themes, of hope, of loss, etc., and also of the American Dream (though, of course, there is no single interpretation of this book, which is one of the things that makes it so wonderful).

2) Little House on the Prairie - This series of books I find very valuable: they are almost like folk tales of pioneers. Some things in them are based purely on fact, some are adjusted, and some may simply be based on stories heard during that time. However the case is, these books set up a story both loving and somewhat sad of what these prairie days were like.

3) Edgar Allan Poe - Though not the most uplifting of artists, Poe was talented enough that British anthologies often try to steal him as one of their own. But, no, even a couple centuries ago Americans had talent, too.

4) Gone with the Wind - I know, I haven't yet finished the book (and of course I'm waiting until I do to watch the movie), but it's finely written and centers on one of the great American tragedies, the Civil War. It's considered by many a must-read for a reason.

5) The Wizard of Oz - I suppose I'm actually referring more to the movie than the book here. Going back to the idea of mythologies, this story has become something of an American mythology. There are so many references made to it, even by people who haven't seen the movie ten times. Its story and characters have entered the collective consciousness, and that is no small accomplishment.

6) Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - This is a very depressing book, but also a very good one that I think ought to be read more--it's completely a classic, in my view. It handles problems of identity, of fitting into a culture, of being accepted and not being accepted, of making one's way in the world. Specifically, its character is a black man struggling with his life and career around mid-20th century; but it is as much relevant to any human being who has lived or tried to live.

7) Hmmm, I can't quite think of a seventh, though I'll probably think of ten more in half hour's time. I suppose I could always list the Declaration of Independence, couldn't I?

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