SURVIVOR POOL: Congratulations to co-champions Kenny Weisman and Dan Lurvey who navigated the rocky shoals of a tough NFL Season to finish 15-1 (one week all four survivors lost, so everyone continued.)
GREATEST AMERICAN NOVELS.
Now it gets tough. Little Women? Uncle Tom's Cabin? The Human Stain? Of Mice and Men (A personal favourite). Their Eyes Were Watching God? The Big Sleep? The USA Trilogy? The Jungle? The Good Earth? Rabbit, Run? The Bell Jar? One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? We could make a case for each of these novels to be on the list.
#5. The Naked and The Dead, Norman Mailer. Mailer wrote the Naked and the Dead, based on his personal experiences of combat in the Philippines in WWII, while in Paris in 1948, after the war, at age twenty-five, in a remarkable fifteen weeks. Every morning Mailer would read a section of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, and then suitably inspired, would sit down and write. The Novel has it weak points, which Mailer inspired. It shows an immature writer. The extensive characters are often predictably stereotypical, a product of Mailer's immaturity as a writer. For instance, there is a white, Liberal, Harvard educated sergeant (Robert Hearn), a smug Jew who believes himself superior to his comrades because of his education (Roth), an anti-semetic man of Irish descent (Roy Gallagher), a big-ol southerner with a happy-go-lucky nature (Woodrow Wilson).
The war novel is the prototypical Great American Novel, because our last two centuries were shaped by massive wars (the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam) and writers write about such things. We choose Mailer's novel precisely because it was his first novel and precisely because the novel suffers from the juvenile shortcomings of a new writer. Because beyond those criticisms, the novel provides a brutally clear view on the dehumanization of combat soldiers. Compared to Hemingway's war novels, this novel more realistically confronts the reality of war. Men defecate in their pants from fear. American soldiers murder Japanese prisoners of war in cold blood. Power, love, death sex, misogyny, and homosexuality are all at least touched upon. A remarkable first novel and a remarkable novel.
6. "Here is a book which, if such a thing were possible, might restore our appetite for the fundamental realities. The predominant note will seem one of bitterness, and bitterness there is, to the full. But there is also a wild extravagance, a mad gaiety, a verve, a gusto, at times almost a delirium... "Anais Nin.
Nin wrote the above as a preface to Tropic Of Cancer, by Henry Miller. But Miller, an American wrote Tropic Of Cancer in 1930-34, while living in Paris, and the novel is mostly about Paris. The novel broke ground in the use of sexuality, and it was banned in the United States until 1961. In 1939 Miller wrote a sequel, entitled Tropic of Capricorn, which was narrated by a "Henry V Miller" and was set in New York City. This novel was also banned in the US.
Because Tropic of Cancer was written in Paris and is about Paris, we included Tropic Of Capricorn, which was written about New York, as a dual selection.
Tropic of Cancer centers on Miller's early struggles as a writer. iIn the novel, Miller uniquely explains what he is up to:
Up to the present, my idea of collaborating with myself has been to get off the gold standard of literature. My idea briefly has been to present a resurrection of the emotions, to depict the conduct of a human being in the stratosphere of ideas, that is, in the grip of delirium.
Both novels use graphic and corse language to explore sex, and recount Miller's sexual conquests. But beyond the sex, the novels represent an exploration of humanity- madness, death, dance, music, homelessness, hunger, anger, sadness, love, lust, despair.
Miller and Vonnegurt represent our inclusion of novels with grounding breaking writing styles and subject matter. We expect these selections, grouped together as #6, will be the most controversial on our list.
7. Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegurt. The toughest pick for us. Spots one, two, and three, were relatively easy, and four, five, and six, also fairly clear. But in this spot the choice was a classic, like some of those we mentioned above. But we decided to include an author who was a startlingly new voice when he first published. Slaughterhouse Five was fueled by Vonnegurt's experiences in WWII. His intimate familiarity with the death and destruction and horror of war (The Dresden Bombing) fuel this novel which examines the disturbing condition of humanity. This is the only "modern" or more precisely, "post modern" novel we have included. The writing technique was unique. The novel follows no time line as the narrator Billy Pilgrim believes he can time travel. Death is everywhere and knows no boundaries as the horror of Dresden vis a vis a man put to death for a small theft make the
incomparable, comparable. "And so it goes...." Has there ever been a fictional character like Kilgore Trout? We needed a modern/post modernist novel, and Vonnegurt, whose style is distinct makes the list for creating a branch of American literature all his own. Like his narrator, Vonnegurt was ill suited to be a solider and like his narrator, Vonnegurt was captured by the Germans at the battle of the bulge and like his narrator, placed in an abandoned Slaughterhouse (#5) where he and his fellow POWs and German guards survived the firestorm bombing of Dresden by hiding in a deep cellar at Schlachthof Fünf.