I have been doing a little housekeeping on the blog over the last couple of days, sorting out bits and messing around with the design. One of my jobs has been updating my ‘American Project’ page which is now just about finished (the page not the project).
So just for fun (and because I love lists) I have jotted down a few observations about this project so far.
Authors like Flannery O’Connor, Stephen Crane and Richard Wright are not nearly as well known in the UK. When I started to compile my list I asked my family and friends for ideas and the usual Hemingway, Melville and Hawthorne were suggested. Of course they were suggested with good reason but I am sure without the suggestions of many blog readers’ people like Willa Cather might not have made it.
American school children have it so much worse than British children when it comes to what books are read in school. Seriously we read books like A Kestrel for a Knave, Of Mice and Men and Animal Farm. Americans get The Scarlet Letter and The Red Badge of Courage, both of which are far more difficult to read than the English selection. If I’d been handed The Scarlet Letter at 15 I may have been put off by the classics for good.
Books like The Grapes of Wrath and Gone with The Wind have educated me on aspects of American history I knew very little about. Of course I do always do my own research rather than believe everything I read but like all books set in an historical setting, you end up learning about different time periods.
It’s not a must but it helps to have a vague idea of dates involving slavery and the civil war. Even if the novel isn’t set during the civil war or a time when slavery was practiced its surprising how often it crops up. If a character mentions that his grandmother was a slave or that his father fought in the civil war then it helps if you know roughly the time period the character is referring to.
I have only given up on two novels so far Moby Dick and Catch 22. 13 of the novels were by female writers and 21 by male.
Of course I still have a long way to go as this is very much an ongoing project and the list is always added to (feel free to suggest more!) My enthusiasm for this is still very strong as there is something about American Literature that excites me.
Posted by Jess