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The Great American Novel

This tournament is being run in the Guardian's book pages:

As a lover of 20C American novels, I am interested in this - and through the friend at work who brought it to my attention, am already reading Richard Brautigan, will be reading Raymond Carver, have discovered Jim Dodge though also not read him yet, and more.  Currently reading, by coincidence, Richard Ford's latest novel.  

Have not explored the tournament properly myself yet, but it looks like something to occupy myself with on a wet Saturday afternoon, as I expect tomorrow will bring!
Green Jay

I expected this to be very light in the numbers of women listed, given the rules, and given the usual idea of what the GAN should be, so the names listed are quite gratifying. But I am shocked that Carol Shields is not in there. I think she writes in greater depth and breadth  than Anne Tyler - though why am I pitting woman against woman, and not against the blokes? Or have I missed her name in there somewhere? Also Jane Smiley, an excellent writer who has taken on a whole range of topics including real estate and developers, horse racing, and academia, and the slave trade and Kansas pioneers in a historical novel.

Has Jonathan Franzen actually written 4 novels? I've read two, not including his latest. I loved the Corrections but his first one was not that great.

I thought Carol Shields was Canadian - but see she was American-born, so maybe she'd qualify.  I was surprised to see Anne Tyler in there, though I know she is very highly thought of by other writers - I like her books a lot, but she's not that great, to me.  I agree that Carol Shields is better - though neither of them are in the league of most of the men on the list.

but that's the great thing about lists - they get us arguing about who is missing and who is there who shouldn't be!

I would put Henry Miller on the list.

I agree about Jonathan Franzen - The Corrections is wonderful, but the other one of his I read - forget the title - was not so good, and I wouldn't put him among the greats.

As for women, I think Barbara Kingsolver is better than Anne Tyler - but again, perhaps not a truly great writer.

Flannery O'Connor, however, I would say *is* a great writer, even though I haven't read that much of her writing; and Eudora Welty, who Himadri and Castorboy have been admiring, is not on the list either.

I think the top 16 are very strong - but the second 16 are up for debate.

And although it's called the Great American Novel, it seems to be the Great American Novelist, since only authors who have at least four great novels can be included - that cuts out, for example, Salinger and Harper Lee.

Raymond Chandler?  Philip K. Dick?  

I don't know who Jim Harrison and William Maxwell are.

Joyce Carol Oates is also better than Anne Tyler.

I'd put Dick in my list. He is published by the Library of America now, which is an accolade, and deserved. William Maxwell is a superb author who doesn't seem to be as widely read in this country as he is in America. His early novel They Came Like Swallows and his late one So Long, See You Tomorrow (which won the National Book Award) are among the best books I've read in recent years. I'm glad to see John Cheever listed. The best thing about the Guardian list is it gives me some ideas of authors I ought to read.

I haven't seen the list yet, but both Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty were primarily short story writers rather than novelists, and that may explain their absence. Chandler I'd definitely put in there (mind you, I'd personally put in Hammett and Cain as well) and, although I'm not myself a science fiction fan, the absence of Philip K Dick does seem a bit contentious.

Would Ralph Ellison qualify? He has only written one novel, but it's a absolute cracker.

They have to have written four novels - and there is some confusion - the person who started it up added a rejoinder that it is a tournament for the Great American Novelist, rather than Novel, but because the title says different, the debate is all over the place!

There is also discussion about what constitutes a Great American Novel - whether it means any great novel by an American author, or a novel that expresses something about America...

So the whole thing is not very well thought out, and the rules seem a bit arbitrary, but it does give people the chance to argue about all sorts of things!  Such as whether Nabokov can be considered...

Welty wrote enough novels to qualify, three of which are classic titles to me though I haven't read any of them, and was a Pulitzer-winning novelist, but I realise that O'Connor didn't.  People are saying in the comments that there are not enough women on the list, but I think there are far more great male American 20C novelists than female - don't think there is much point in arguing with that!  People have brought up women's names, but not many of them really compete with the greatest of the men.  I do think Joyce Carol Oates deserves a place in the 32, though.
Green Jay

I just wrote a long answer and then the webpage expired - grrr!


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