Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Something to annoy everyone

Nougat for the old bitch... and a hand grenade for the young one. Nothing annoys like a list. Here is the American canon, but only the very highest heights of it. Objections and additions will receive my full attention and probably withering scorn.

Emerson: Journals
Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter
Melville: Moby-Dick, Billy Budd
Poe: Poetry and Tales
Longfellow: Poems
Emily Dickinson: Poems
Henry James: Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors
Thoreau: Walden
Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence
Frost: Poems
Wallace Stevens: Poems
Pound: The Cantos, Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, Translations
William Carlos Williams: Poems, Paterson
ee cummings: Poems
O Henry: short stories
Miller: Tropic of Cancer
Ashberry: Poems
Dos Passos: USA
Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
Faulkner: As I Lay Dying, Absalom! Absalom!
Runyon: short stories
Hemingway: short stories, A Farewell to Arms
Lowell: Poems
Bellow: Herzog
Roth: Patrimony
Donald Barthelme: short stories
Pynchon: V, Gravity's Rainbow
Mamet: Glengarry Glen Ross

The greatest American book ever is Leaves of Grass.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Braces self for withering scorn . . .

It's a good list, but in the spirit of this whole 'list thing' . . . Wot no Ginsberg, no Vonnegut?

Simon

mckie said...

I thought quite a lot about putting in Howl. And about Burroughs. But I'm just not sure they're right up there, though I'm prepared to entertain the possibility. Vonnegut just isn't, though I like him well enough.

I've changed my mind, anyway. the greatest American book of all time is The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker. Seriously, buy it now. It's in paperback with a DVD of more than 76,000 cartoons. It's about £25. I can't begin to say how fab it is.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'd stand by Ginsberg - poetry couldn't be the same after Ginsberg just as it couldn't be the same after Carlos Williams.

I guess Vonnegut is marginal and, tellingly, I might not even have brought him up had he not just become fodder for the 'other' part of your professional life, but . . .

Doesn't Slaughterhouse 5 represent a significant point in literature's attempt to write about the unwriteable as well being a major milestone in US literature's attempt to engage with the BIG historical events of the 20th century?

New Yorker catoons. Yes. I'm in awe of the good cartoonist's ability to distill an issue, an event, an idea into one telling image, one telling line and make you laugh as well. It's the ultimate in artistic economy.

Simon

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