Tuesday, 15 November 2011

How my American Literature project is going...

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


  1. I finished Moby Dick but had I not been hosting my own read-along I would I have stopped.

    Catch 22 was a DNF for me so I hear ya!

  2. This is such an exciting project! I will say that The Red Badge of Courage is probably my least favorite book...ever. Was forced to read it at 14 and never recovered. Additionally, I will never read Moby Dick, and probably not Catch-22 either.

    Peyton Place (1956) is a popular, almost cultish, American classic that was scandalous at the time. I read it about 5 years ago and couldn't put it down.

    I see you're reading O Pioneers! now. It's my favorite Cather so far. Will look forward to more posts on the project.

    P.S. - word verification is cathers :-)

  3. I have never heard of anyone having to give up on Catch22 before!! Can I ask what you didn't like about it?

    *sobs a wee bit*

  4. Ti - haha I'm glad I'm not the only one! I even just read Moby Dick one chapter a day to get through it but it got to the point where I was reading it but not taking in what I was reading so it was time to stop.

    JoAnn - I think giving a 14 year old The Red Badge of Courage is like some kind of torture haha. It was hard enough reading it as a 40 year old.

    I will add Peyton place so thank you for that!

    Amanda - ok well Catch 22 was in places very funny and had me laughing outloud but it just seemed to go on and on (I know that might be the point) so I gave up after 300 pages because I couldnt stand the thought of reading another 200 pages of it. I think it would make a really good audio book as the bits I read outload to my husband were the bits I enjoyed the most and the film was really good.

  5. This is SUCH a great project!! I am currently reading Moby-Dick and just finished The Scarlet Letter about a month ago. (The authors were friends. Apparently Melville was greatly inspired by Hawthorne while writing Moby-Dick.

    Gone With the Wind is my FAVORITE novel, and I can't wait to read The Red Badge of Courage.

    Cheers and Happy Reading, Jess! :-)