Classics Club Round-Up 3 – American

When I joined the Classics Club back in June 2016, I created a list of 90 books which I planned to read and review during the next five years. I divided the original list into five sections: American, English, Scottish, Crime and Science Fiction. So rather than trying to summarise the whole thing in one post, I’ve decided to give each section a post to itself as I complete it. Here’s the third…

THE AMERICAN SECTION

Oh, how I struggled with the Americans! When they’re good they’re very, very good, but when they’re bad, they’re horrid! Misogyny, racism, narcissism, sex-obsession, introspection taken to tedious extremes, dreadful writing and way too much religion! Also, brilliant examinations of war, masculinity, politics and corruption, with sublime writing, intellectual depth and emotional truth. I abandoned, replaced, hated, derided, loved and lavished praise on them. In the end, the excellent ones have become some of my favourite books, and some of the dire ones gave me so much fun mocking them that I grew quite fond of them after all!

Starting with the bad and working up towards the good then – the quotes are from my reviews or notes:

ABANDONED AND REPLACED

Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathaniel West – It’s so long since I abandoned this I can’t remember why, and my note on it is somewhat succinct – “Dire!”

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck – “Plotless, pointless, endless description and shallow unrealistic characterisation with more than a whiff of misogyny.”

Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper – “Ugh, this is awful! It should be subtitled ‘The Joys of Killing’.”

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe – Removed from list due to me developing “issues” with how early Americans treat their black characters – see below!

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair – Removed because on reflection I thought it sounded horrid.

THE HORRID ONES

Horrid is, of course, a subjective term. (Except in the case of Last Exit to Brooklyn, which is both subjectively and objectively horrid…)

Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald – “Fitzgerald’s self-obsessed narcissism is only part of the problem. The other part is his opinion of women…”

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – “… slaves and their descendants being depicted as devoted domestic pets seems to be a theme that runs through a great deal of American fiction…”

(Am I alone in wishing Mammy had kept tightening till Scarlett croaked?)

Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin – “If I wanted to be preached at I’d go to church, but not one full of religious maniacs at the extreme end of the spectrum . . .”

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr. – “. . . why would I want to spend time with moronic, foul-mouthed losers? Who cares if they all kill each other? Not me.”

Rabbit, Run by John Updike – “. . . an early example of the whiny, me-me-me, self-obsessed, sex-obsessed, narcissistic bilge that too often passes for literature in these end times for Western culture. With added misogyny…”

THE BAD ONES

Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain – “I’d have thought quality writing would have been an essential criterion for a book to acquire [classic] status. But apparently not.”

East of Eden by John Steinbeck – “The spell-it-out-in-case-you-miss-it religious symbolism laid on with a trowel. The women who are all victims or whores or both. The casual racism. And the misery. The misery. Oh, woe is me, the misery!”

Moby-Dick: Or the White Whale by Herman Melville – “. . . Melville clearly couldn’t decide whether he was trying to write a novel or an encyclopedia of whales. I would suggest that the bullet point list really plays no part in fiction . . .” [I did have fun pastiching poor Moby, though…]

(The film, on the other hand, is wonderful.)

THE MIDDLING ONES

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger – “It made me laugh – well, sorta smile, at least – several times and even made a tear spring to my eye… once. But mostly it bored me.”

THE GOOD ONES

The American by Henry James – “This was more enjoyable than I expected a James novel to be, concentrating on the contrast between the brash money-driven society of the New World and the snobbish exclusivity of the Old, with neither showing in a particularly good light.”

My Ántonia by Willa Cather – “The vastness of the landscape, the strength and courage of the pioneers, the rapid development of towns and social order are all portrayed brilliantly, leaving a lasting impression on the reader’s mind . . .”

Passing by Nella Larsen – “none of the characters is defined entirely by race – the questions that absorb them most have little overtly to do with colour. In a way, that makes the incidents of racism feel all the more brutal and shocking when they do happen.”

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – “. . . it is beautifully written and intensely readable, and while it may not have factual truth, it feels as if, with regards to the personalities of the murderers, it may have achieved some kind of emotional truth . . .”

THE GREAT ONES

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers – “. . . a profound and moving study of the ultimate aloneness and loneliness of people in a crowd, and of the universal human desire to find connection with another.”

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – “It is of course a sympathetic depiction of the black characters, but one that jars a little now. There is no challenging of the innate superiority of whiteness here – merely an encouragement to treat ‘good’ black people better.”

(And another wonderful film…)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – “The writing is wonderfully versatile, ranging from the profanity and sexual crudeness and humour of the men’s language, to profound insights into this small microcosm of the insane world we all live in . . .”

In the Heat of the Night by John Ball – “. . . it paints an entirely believable picture of being a black man in a town that’s run by the whites for the whites at a time when segregation and racism were still entirely acceptable.”

(Poitier, Steiger, and a wonderful bluesy score by Quincy Jones – fabulous film!)

The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw – “. . . the thing I will remember most from the book is Shaw’s depiction of anti-Semitism, horrible enough when it’s coming from the Nazis, but so much worse when it’s perpetrated by the very people who are supposed to be on the right side.”

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren – “It’s a marvellously American story . . . But of course the themes resonate for those of us who live in other democracies, since all share the same fundamental weakness – that those who stand for office are as fallible and flawed as everyone else.”

THE BEST ONE

(This was an almost impossible and ultimately somewhat arbitrary choice – either The Young Lions or All the King’s Men could stand just as proudly on the winner’s podium.)

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – “One of the things I most appreciated about the book was Hemingway’s refusal to make one side all bad and the other all good. Here motives and affiliations are murky and, as in most forms of guerrilla warfare, somewhat tribal in that most participants are following strong local leaders rather than fighting for deeply held convictions of their own.”

(Haven’t watched the film – I really must!)

Dying was nothing and he had no picture of it nor fear of it in his mind. But living was a field of grain blowing in the wind on the side of a hill. Living was a hawk in the sky. Living was an earthen jar of water in the dust of the threshing with the grain flailed out and the chaff blowing. Living was a horse between your legs and a carbine under one leg and a hill and a valley and a stream with trees along it and the far side of the valley and the hills beyond.

* * * * *

So I may have been waging a love/hate battle with American fiction over the last six years, but I enjoyed the fight and both America and I emerged victorious! A country that has produced the sublime writing of a Hemingway can surely be forgiven for Moby-Dick. 😉

Thanks for your company on my journey!

71 thoughts on “Classics Club Round-Up 3 – American

  1. This roundup made me snort several times. Your descriptions of the abandoned, horrid, and bad are priceless! I read Passing because of your recommendation. I don’t think it would have been on my radar, otherwise. I’m going to have to find my copy of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. It’s been a long time since I’ve read it.

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    • Haha, it’s so nice when you know the author is long dead, so you can be as rude as you like without the danger of hurting anyone’s feelings! 😉 There are lots of them I’m glad to have read, though, even if only to get them off my list…

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  2. Great round-up! I’ve read very few of your good or great ones – only To Kill A Mockingbird and For Whom the Bell Tolls, I think – but Passing sitting on my table waiting for me to get to it, so I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. And I am planning to read The Young Lions as well, though I’m somewhat intimidated both by its size and by the dark subject matter.

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    • Thank you! More than any other section the Americans evoked really strong reactions from me, for good or ill – hardly any fell into the middling category. And while there were fewer women, they certainly fared better overall! The Young Lions is long but, being more modern, it doesn’t use that very dense vocabulary and style that makes some older classics such hard work to get through. I found I was able to read quite big chunks at a time so got through it relatively quickly – and it really is worth it!

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    • Thank you! It took me a bit to get into For Whom the Bell Tolls – he makes some initially strange stylistic choices. But once I got tuned in to it, I thought it worked really well, and I love his intelligence and portrayals of masculinity!

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  3. What a terrific round-up! You’ve brought back happy memories of laughing, snorting or shaking my head in sympathy while reading these posts. I’m surprised Moby Dick made it onto the bad list, thought it would have been worse.

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  4. Brilliant! And that quote from Hemingway is enough to make me want to rush to my groaning shelves and pull everything off until I find my copy. I know I have it, I know it. But where? And why does it still remain unread? 😲

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    • Thank you! 😀 Hemingway is one of those authors that I can understand why some people hate – but somehow his style works for me, and I do like his examination of masculinity! Hope it works for you too… if you find it! 😉

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  5. This is a fantastic round-up, FictionFan! And how different books from the same country can be. I have to agree with a lot of your commentary, too. As I look at your list, I can’t help thinking how many books are on the ‘classics – must read’ list, but really don’t deserve to be there. I wonder how some of them become classics… At any rate, thanks for sharing the journey!

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    • The Americans definitely divided me far more than any of the other categories – I hated the ones I hated and loved the ones I loved far more than usual, and very few were just OK reads! I guess because America is relatively young still, a lot of its classics are from a more modern period than British or European classics, so it’ll be interesting to see if they keep that status as they age. I can’t imagine some of them still being read as anything other than curiosities in the long-term. But the good ones are so very good… 😀

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  6. I’m an American who also has a love/hate relationship with American literature. So I appreciate your honest assessment of the books you read. I have read some but not others. (Some of the ones you read I saw as movie adaptations only.) Of the ones on the list, I would also pick To Kill a Mockingbird as the best, having read it years ago. I had to read The Great Gatsby in high school, and even saw the old movie with Robert Redford. I remember being very bored of the narrator–Nick. So since Fitzgerald did not win me as a fan, I would not have cracked open Tender Is the Night. Of Mice and Men did me in as far as Steinbeck is concerned, so I would not have read Cannery Row.

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    • I love Gatsby but really felt that Fitzgerald was a complete misogynistic pig in Tender is the Night, and it’s put me off reading anything else by him. Steinbeck – well, I sort of loved The Grapes of Wrath with some fairly big reservations, but I’ve hated everything else I’ve tried, so he’s off my list permanently now! Mockingbird is still great, but I do feel it’s dating a bit more than some of the others – I can see why some younger people object to it, though I don’t agree with them. But it’s been fun – even the bad ones gave me an opportunity for ranting reviews, so that’s a bonus! 😉

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    • I’ve hated Melville ever since I was forced to study Billy Budd at University – poor old Moby never stood a chance of a fair hearing from me! And Steinbeck – well, I sorta loved The Grapes of Wrath with some fairly big reservations, so I was surprised at how much I grew to hate him over the course of this challenge! Glad you’re another Hemingway fan – he really seems to be divisive! But I love his examinations of masculinity… 😀

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      • I just think Hemingway is such a brilliantly concise writer. There’s a lot about him that I wouldn’t stand for from a modern day man or writer but he’s very much a product of his time and I think he’s kind of a tragic figure in many ways.

        It’s been some years since I read Moby Dick and I do remember thinking it delved far too deeply into whale facts but that when it was good it was really beautiful.

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        • Unlike some of the mid-20th century male Americans, I feel Hemingway tried to have positive women in his books – he just wasn’t too good at them – though Pilar in For Whom the Bell Tolls is great. But he sure can create wonderful unforgettable images!

          Haha, I feel Moby is an early example of why authors need editors! But I do agree that there are good passages in there, which meant in the end that it was by no means the worst of the American classics. Damned with faint praise! 😂

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            • In his writing, Hemingway and his characters seem to truly love their women, at least to the best of their broken abilities. Moveable Feast gave me a lot of sympathy for him because he seemed like such a sad man.

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            • Yes, I think that makes all the difference. Steinbeck’s men treat the women so badly, and he always gives me the impression he feels that’s fine by him. I haven’t read Moveable Feast – in fact, I’ve still only read a few of Hemingway’s books, three, I think. But I’m looking forward to gradually working through them all…

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            • I’ve read almost everything by Hemingway, including a collection of letters with his editors, so I feel like I know him! My absolute favourite is The Sun Also Rises which is really about how broken down that generation was by the war. It’s hard not to be sympathetic when he’s really quite a vulnerable writer which, I think, was fairly unique for a man of his time.

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            • The Sun Also Rises is the first one I read, expecting to hate it! But despite the awful female character, I loved his exploration of masculinity especially, as you say, in light of the after-effects of their wartime experiences. But it was the bull-fighting that turned me into a fan – I wouldn’t have thought it possible for anyone to make me read about that and enjoy it, but the way he showed the rituals… well, I still hate the idea, but I understand and appreciate it so much more.

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            • Have you read his book on bull-fighting, Death in the Afternoon? I would never have expected to enjoy it but I really did. Like you say, he really shows the pageantry and story of it. I’d never want to witness it in person but he made it fascinating to read about.

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            • No, but I must! I remember being totally against fox-hunting over here and then I saw a documentary going into its history and all the traditions surrounding it, and while it didn’t make me pro-hunting it certainly made me see why so many people are. I wish there was some way of keeping the traditions without the cruelty.

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            • There is a fox hunt locally every year that, since we don’t have foxes around here, I assume is done with dogs chasing something artificial. I’ve never attended but it seems to be a cruelty-free way of enjoying the tradition.

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            • Yes, they’ve been doing that here too since hunting foxes was banned, but apparently quite often it turns into a fox-hunt halfway through by “accident” – the hounds get the blame for going off on a fox’s scent. So even the drag hunts attract protests since a lot of people believe they’re just a cover for illegal fox-hunting.

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            • Oh, I see how that could turn into a problem. I wonder if the local one has a similar issue, even without foxes around. You set a lot of dogs loose to chase something and they’re bound to end up chasing some living animals too, I guess.

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  7. I loved reading your thoughts on these books, even if I don’t agree on everything (I think the writing is pretty awful in both One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter :), and if Americans (well, first the British in America, actually) treated their slaves as devoted domestic pets and this reflected in literature, the same can be said about the British upper class that treated their servants, drowning in poverty, as such and this was also reflected in certain literature. But, again, don’t get me wrong – I love your post and honest reactions. This year I am going to read My Antonia and I already know I am going to love it at a lot (as I did other Willa Cather’s books!).Other American authors I read and enjoyed included Edith Wharton, John Williams and Richard Yates (Revolutionary Road).

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    • Oh, I do agree about us Brits and the servant class, not to mention the way British authors portrayed working class characters as kind of comedy characters! It isn’t that I think Americans are more racist – just that their literary racism takes a different form and that makes it stand out for me, making the books unreadable. I’m so used to the form British racism and classism take in classic fiction that I can read it quite easily – I notice it, but it doesn’t stop me in my tracks the way American racism does. I’m a very insular reader – I am at my most comfortable with the style of classic I read when young – primarily 19th century English, as will become clear when I get to that section! I feel it shows how conditioned we are (or, at least, that I am) by our education.

      I’ve enjoyed some Edith Wharton too, and loved Revolutionary Road, I haven’t come across John Williams though – I will investigate!

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  8. I’ve read many on this round-up, FF, and am sitting here chuckling over your impressions. Yes, I suppose we Americans are a bit more “forgiving” of our writers’ foibles, but we really must read things in the context they were written in. That said, some of your choices I haven’t read, so perhaps I need to dust off my classics and trade today’s fiction for some of the “golden past.” Or maybe not. There’s probably a reason why I didn’t wade through some of these tomes before, huh?!!

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    • Ha, it’s mostly your male writers that inspire my hatred – on the whole your women writers fare much better! What I’ve found by doing this is that I’m at my most comfortable with the kind of books I was introduced to young – mainly 19th century English classics – which makes me think that early conditioning probably has a big effect on our reading preferences for life. But I found plenty of great American classics along the way, so it was all worthwhile in the end! 😀

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  9. Memories of some great reviews! But 2 Steinbeck’s?! I haven’t read either of them but after The Grapes of Wrath I don’t want to hear a word against him – but there are lots among the good ones (and great ones) that I plan on reading, so I can breathe again!

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  10. Well, the point of Uncle Tom’s Cabin IS how the black characters are treated, after all, as it is a famous Abolitionist work, but I get what you mean. And The Last of the Mohicans, as with everything Cooper wrote, is just awful, I agree. Actually, your list and comments cracked me up several times. Henry James is more of a European writer than an American, at least that was what he was trying hard to be. I have to object, though, to any list that puts any book by Hemingway down as the best. But gosh, what a list! Rabbit Run? I threw that across the room when I was 18! And gosh, Moby Dick is a trial, isn’t it? Maybe the problem is with the people who decide what literature is in America.

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    • Yes, it’s not the racism I object to (in a literary sense) it’s the style it’s expressed in. I’m so used to the way racism is shown in British classics that I can read them quite easily, but the American style is so different it stops me in my tracks and makes me find the books hard to take. It’s purely down to conditioning, I’m sure – the style we learn to accept in our youth is always going to seem less shocking, if that makes sense. Haha, The Last of the Mohicans was just dreadful and as for Rabbit, Run – ugh!! Poor old Moby – I had so much fun at his expense for months – I miss him! 😉 I still haven’t read a lot of Henry James, but yes, I see what you mean about him taking a more European approach to style. That might make him work better for me in the long run. I can see why Hemingway is so divisive, but somehow his style works for me – I love his examination of masculinity (and just try to ignore his treatment of women)! Yes, it’s not just in America, though – I often read classics and wonder who chooses them. Wait till I get to the Scottish section – I had plenty of struggles there too!

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    • Passing would have been in the outstanding section if only it hadn’t been for the ending, which I just couldn’t buy! It’s one of the few books I’d actually have preferred to have been longer, so that it could have ended less abruptly and, from my perspective. more satisfyingly.

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  11. Love this roundup! I can agree and (respectfully) disagree with you on several. From the first group, I have The Jungle on my CC list. It’s a book I’ve wanted to read since I was a teenager, so I’ll let you know what you missed when I get to it. I’ve already decided Rabbit, Run will be one I don’t get to from my CC list. As for GWTW… I loved it and found it much darker than the film version. The latter part about Reconstruction was quite good, IMO. I really enjoyed In Cold Blood and thought it was supposed to be factual?! I think you already know my opinion on some of the others. 😉

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    • It’s the setting of the meat industry that puts me off The Jungle, but the idea of looking at the social conditions still appeals – I’ll wait and see what you think of it and then decide if I should reconsider! Rabbit, Run is dreadful – can’t imagine how anyone could enjoy it! I reckon if I’d read GWTW when I was young I’d have loved it – I certainly loved the film back in those days! But our attitudes have changed so much now, and I simply couldn’t tolerate the way she wrote about the black characters – sometimes I find it easy to make allowances for the time of writing, but sometimes it’s just too much. I never got as far as Reconstruction, I’m afraid! Yes, In Cold Blood is supposed to be factual but apparently Capote embellished it quite a bit, and there are some bits he just made up! I still enjoyed it though.

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      • It’s that bit about it meat packing industry that draws me to it! 😂 (says she who is a vegan, yet has beef cattle in the pasture!) I watched GWTW numerous times over the years, but only read the book in the last decade. I’m glad I waited until I was an adult, since I didn’t find any romanticism in the period that I might have felt when I was younger. I think we all see things through the eyes of our own upbringing. That said, I try to put my opinions on the back burner when reading any period pieces, remembering things were different when they were written. This goes not just for slavery (which, of course, happened in the same way in other countries – think Brazil – not that that excuses anything), but colonialism, serfdom, classism, anti-semitism, or any kind of prejudice (which covers a butt-load!). I’m afraid if I focused on injustice, I’d be in a depressed state 24/7!! 😱

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        • Ha! I’m a meat-eater, but I like to pretend meat just turns up in little trays in the supermarket as if by magic! Such a hypocrite! 😂 I agree, and usually I can make allowances for changed attitudes. But just sometimes the way an author writes about race or women or class annoys me so much that it spoils all the rest, and that’s what happened with GWTW. It happens more to me with American fiction than British, not because I think American authors are more racist/sexist, etc., but because I’m more used to the way race and class are portrayed in British writing so it doesn’t jar me so much. I do think it depends on what style of writing we get used to when we’re young – for me, anyway. I’m always more comfortable with British writing even when they’re being racist or sexist or classist.

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  12. This is going to be a long comment, I’m sorry! Quite a few of the books on the list seem to come from the mid-20th century when a small group of white men dominated publishing and put together ‘classic’ lists. For instance, instead of Moby-Dick, try Bartleby the Scrivener, a novella far ahead of its time in showing the hollowness of capitalism. I’d rate both Willa Cather and of course James Baldwin far higher, though I understand you didn’t get along at all with the book by Baldwin that you read. Ernest Hemingway could be very good, but also absolutely awful. Here are three writers you might want to try; Ann Petry, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Hughes.

    I’d put some of these authors into the popular category rather than classic – for example Nathanael West, John Steinbeck, James M. Cain, Margaret Mitchell. Steinbeck’s writing is pedestrian, but what could be interesting in his work was telling the stories of the influx of Midwesteners fleeing the Dust Bowl and moving west, especially to California.

    Diana makes a good point that’s often forgotten, some of the most racist treatment and attitudes by ‘Americans’ were actually not-long-off the ship Europeans from England, Scotland, France, Spain, etc. An import we’re still trying to rid ourselves of.

    I’m not a fan of either Updike or Salinger, but agree about about Carson McCullers and Robert Penn Warren. It’s always interesting to see your reaction to some of these books!

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    • Yes, there are far more twentieth century writers in this section than in my English section, for example, although my Scottish section has lots of twentieth century books in it too, and interestingly I struggled just as much with a lot of them, though for different reasons. I think I just have to accept that as far as classics are concerned English 19th century is my true comfort zone! I still haven’t read a lot of Hemingway but I’ve loved everything I’ve read so far, sometimes despite myself! I enjoyed Their Eyes Were Watching God a lot, and I’m sure Ann Petry is lingering on my wishlist somewhere.

      I had already read a reasonable number of American classics before putting this list together, so have read other Steinbecks and Melvilles previously, with mixed results! I loved Grapes of Wrath (with some reservations) so was surprised myself at how much I grew to dislike Steinbeck over the course of the challenge. Melville, I’m afraid, never works for me. I did try deliberately to include some lighter authors in each section, again with mixed results – on the whole I found the heavyweight literary writers worked best for me, especially in the American section, where I discovered in particular that I don’t really enjoy anything that approaches the noir style.

      I do agree with Diana’s point about British treatment of class having similarities to American treatment of race, though I think America really has to accept its own responsibility for the unique way racism has developed and thriven in the US. My problem with racism in American books, however, is more one of style. The way racism comes out in their literary form is very different to the way British racism is portrayed, and therefore stands out far more to me, making the books unpalatable. While I’m aware of the racism and classism in English literature, I’ve been conditioned in how to read beyond it from an early age so can tolerate it more easily – mostly. But, for example, I can’t stand Virginia Woolf specifically because of her treatment of servants and working class characters. And yet many people love her.

      There’s no doubt my reactions to the American classics are strong, whether love or hate, and that’s always more fun than reading bland books that are soon forgotten! 😀

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      • I think we might be defining classics differently, I don’t see them as necessarily appearing at a specific time, but how they are usually seen, at least in this country.

        There’s no question that the US must face up to and take responsibility for how racism has manifested itself in the country and try to rid itself of it for once and all. What I was trying to say is that it had a starting point in the decisions by various European countries to export slavery and the accompanying racism to the Americas and Caribbean. It’s not only the US which is still dealing with problems stemming from that initial root. Even Canada, that paragon of virtue, has had its own problems with it.

        Time for a coffee and chocolate break and a toast to having strong opinions about books!😄

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        • I tend to have a pretty loose definition of classic – really any book that’s over fifty years old and has been fairly consistently in print over its lifetime. That means that I get to include lots of fun genre books that probably don’t deserve to qualify, but it also means that sometimes a book sneaks on because of its popularity rather than its literary worth. I often wonder if fifty years is long enough – it’ll be interesting to see which of these books is still considered classic in another fifty years.

          I think we may have to agree to disagree on how much the American form of racism owes to Europe. Certainly in the last two hundred years we’ve diverged significantly, in that as in many other cultural aspects of life. There is of course racism in all countries, but how deeply it is embedded in the institutions of societies differs from country to country, I think it’s fair to say.

          Haha, indeed! And this is International Chocolate Weekend! 😀

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  13. Excellent, love it! I really dislike those great white American male authors and their books like the Rabbit ones, et al, so I’m with you there. Gone with the Wind I sort of enjoyed when I read it but I know better now!

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    • Yeah. male American writing of the middle of the last century is pretty unique, and not in a good way! I loved the film of GwtW when I was young, but as you say we’ve all learned since then, and the book really jarred.

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  14. Great post and well done for reading so many American classics! 😃 I remember enjoying To Kill a Mockingbird when I was at school. I have also read Tender in the Night, which I didn’t hate it but didn’t like it that much either – Pretty much how I felt about all of Fitzgerald’s novels. 🙄😅

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  15. Had a chuckle over your summary of the worst being “introspection taken to tedious extremes, dreadful writing and way too much religion! ” I’ve given up on many US writers for those reasons. Unfortunately on my TBR I have some of the books you took a strong dislike to like Tender is the Night. But I think I’ll scratch the James Baldwin and Last Exit to Brooklyn from my wishlist.

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    • There’s such a gulf between American fiction and British fiction – they really like to psychoanalyse themselves, don’t they? We’re going that way too now, though, I think, which is why I find a lot of contemporary fiction tiresome… 😉 Don’t scratch Baldwin without reading other reviews – my reaction to that one was definitely extreme, and loads of people think it’s wonderful. But Last Exit to Brooklyn is a revolting book with no redeeming qualities, and Tender is the Night got universally slated when several of us did it as a review-along recently…

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      • I bought Tender is the Night on the strength of a TV series in the UK where Richard E Grant visited different countries in Europe and talked about some of the books that evoked a certain place. I love the South of France so jumped on this one. Hope I haven’t wasted my money

        Liked by 1 person

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