05 July 2007

The Great ________ Novel?

Wow, this is a good one for the weekly Booking Through Thursday question:

What with yesterday being the Fourth of July and all, I’m feeling a little patriotic, and so have a simple question:What, in your opinion, is the (mythical) Great American Novel? At least to date. A “classic,” or a current one–either would be fine. Mark Twain? J.D. Salinger? F. Scott Fitzgerald? Stephen King? Laura Ingalls Wilder?

It doesn’t have to be your favorite book, mind you. “Citizen Kane” may be the “best” film, and I concede its merits, but it’s not my favorite. You don’t have to love something to know that it’s good.

Now, I know that not all of you are American–but you can play, too! What I want from you is to know what you consider to the best novel of YOUR country. It might be someone the rest of us haven’t heard of and, frankly, I think we’d all like to get some new authors to read.

When I read this, my first thought was, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. And as I continued to think about it during the day, I came up with lots of other books that I think are "great," but stuck with my original thought, if I had to choose just one.

I remember that I saw the movie when I was a kid, before I had read the book, and as a result, really wanted to read the book. When I asked my mother if the book was anything like the movie, she said that it was one of the few that were loyal to the original work. (She was quite the critic ... about everything ...)

Then of course I read the book, and it has always stayed with me. I think it is incredibly evocative of time and place. I like the fact that Atticus Finch talks to his children in a straightforward, non-condescending way; he expects them to be thinking, reasoning people. He also doesn't make everything sugar-coated, so that they aren't growing up with an unrealistic idea of the world around them. He is someone who is trying his best to live his beliefs and principles, and wants his children to grow up to do the same thing. And all the time, his children are watching him, listening, and learning. While, of course, trying to figure out what is the truth about Boo Radley - they are kids after all!

I think that To Kill a Mockingbird was one of the first books that really made me want to be like the main character. I am, unfortunately, not even close to Atticus Finch. But he'll always be there to remind me of the importance of my actions and beliefs.

Finally, I also like the idea that Harper Lee wrote this book, and then no others. And why should she? She proved that she was a writer, and from what I can tell, all these years later, no one has to be reminded of who she is.


Marianne Arkins said...

I felt the same way!

1morechapter said...

I chose TKAM as well.

Anonymous said...

Greetings from a fellow Philly-area knitter! :)

What a great response to BTT. Did you know that Atticus Finch topped the AFI's list of all-time film heroes? (Yes, I know they're talking about the film, not the book, but the principled character is the same in both.)

Sue V said...

I nominate Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter." It may not be the "best," but it may say something (what?) about Americans.

Anonymous said...

Though novels have never been my primary reading choice, I cannot imagine one being any better than "To Kill a Mockingbird." In every way that anyone could feel was important.

teabird said...

I loved the way Atticus talked with his children, too. Children are like grownups, yes? If you have any hope of being understood, talk straight.

the wicked witch of the east said...

wow, this is a tough one...did i ever tell you that of most literature, that american was my least favorite??
nor have i, even until this very day, ready any of mark twain's work...but that's a tale for another time...you know, to kill a mocking bird is probably the great american novel...it is one of a few novels that really captures the american essence...the only other two novels that i can think of that do that as well is the great gatsby and catcher in the rye

mary said...

hum, that's interesting as I didn't think of TKAM. I thought immediately of John Steinbeck and then of course, The Grapes of Wrath.

Though I've never lived in the South, I consider Faulkner a great American novelist also. His (long) short story The Bear is one of my favorites. But long as it is, it's not a novel.

I always like to ask other readers what is the book that got you reading as a child and introduced you to the world of books? Mine was Old Yeller - big surprise there.

Maureen said...

To Kill a Mockingbird is required reading for gr 10 English up here. It's always very interesting listening to the students' thoughts about the book. I agree with you, it is a great novel.

My votes for
-Canadian novel - The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
-Norwegian novel - Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Carol said...

One of my faves too. And yes, Atticus is is a dream of a dad.

Anonymous said...

Good choice!

Dang, I completely forgot about BTT.