Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Reasons Why Not to Use the Phrase 'The Great American Novel'

I came across an article on Bustle's website titled, "The Great American Novel" Doesn't Do Justice To The Breadth And Greatness Of Literature In The U.S. by Kristian Wilson. In the article, Kristian Wilson makes a great case why we should avoid using the phrase "The Great American Novel".

In the above mentioned article, Kristian Wilson writes the following:
When he first coined the phrase "Great American Novel" in the title of an 1868 essay, John De Forest probably didn't imagine that people would still be running down his dream 150 years later. Writing for The New York Times in 2015, Cheryl Strayed pointed out that most of us mistake De Forest's intention. She argues that, rather than a single, definitive book — a "picture of the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence" — De Forest's essay was intended to inspire "not one Great American Novel, but rather the development of a literary canon that accurately portrayed our complex national character." Can one book do that? I don't think so.
I'd tend to agree with Kristian Wilson that it would be difficult for one novel to capture the complexities of our nation in one tome. 

I also think Kristian Wilson offers the following wisdom by writing the following in her article as well:
So let's cut the pursuit of the Great American Novel and focus on what really matters: producing and promoting literature written by people at every intersection of the American experience.
What are your thoughts??


  1. Having now read all the top 10 bestsellers and all the award winning novels from 1940 to 1963, I must agree with Kristian Wilson. Our big sprawling complex country needs many many novels to capture it.