The Great American Novel (sometimes abbreviated as GAN) is the term for a canonical novel that generally embodies and examines the essence and character of the United States. The term was coined by John William De Forest in an 1868 essay and later shortened to GAN. De Forest noted that the Great American Novel had most likely not been written yet.
Practically, the term refers to a small number of books that have historically been the nexus of discussion, including Moby-Dick (1851), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), The Great Gatsby (1925), and Gone with the Wind (1936). Exactly what novel or novels warrant the title is without consensus and an assortment have been contended as the idea has evolved and continued into the modern age, with fluctuations in popular and critical regard. William Carlos Williams, Clyde Brion Davis and Philip Roth have written novels about the Great American Novel—titled as such—the latter in the 1970s, a time of prosperity for the concept.
Equivalents to and interpretations of the Great American Novel have arisen. Writers and academics have commented upon the term's pragmatics, the different types of novels befitting of title and the idea's relation to race and gender.
Background and origin of the term
The development of American literature coincided with the nation's development, especially of its identity. Calls for an "autonomous national literature" first appeared during the American Revolution, and, by the mid-18th century, the possibility of American literature exceeding its European counterparts began to take shape, as did that of the Great American Novel, this time being the genesis of novels that would later be considered the Great American Novel.
The term "Great American Novel" originated in an 1868 essay by American Civil War novelist John William De Forest. De Forest saw it serving as a "tableau" of American society, and said that the novel would "paint the American soul" and capture "the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence". Similarly, Daniel Pierce Thompson said it had to be distinctly American. Although De Forest espoused praise and critique for contemporaneous novels, he ultimately concluded that the Great American Novel had yet to be written. The essay's publication coincided with the rising prestige of the novel. Previously, only five percent of American books were marked as novels, with most fictional works given the self-effacing title of a "tale". In 1880, writer Henry James simplified the term with the initialism "GAN".
The term soon became popular, its ubiquity considered a cliché and disparaged by literary critics. Lawerence Buell stated that the concept was seen as a part of a larger national, cultural and political consolidation. According to JSTOR Daily's Grant Shreve, as the concept grew, concrete criteria for the Great American Novel developed:
- It must encompass the entire nation and not be too consumed with a particular region.
- It must be democratic in spirit and form.
- Its author must have been born in the United States or have adopted the country as his or her own.
- Its true cultural worth must not be recognized upon its publication.
Additionally, Shreve states, referencing Buell, that "several 'templates' or 'recipes' for the Great American Novel emerged. ... Recipe 1 is to write a novel that is 'subjected to a series of memorable rewritings.' ... Recipe 2 is what Buell calls 'the romance of the divide.' Novels of this kind ... imagine national (and geographic) rifts in the 'form of a family history and/or heterosexual love affair.' ... Recipe 3, a 'narrative centering on the lifeline of a socially paradigmatic figure ... whose odyssey tilts on the one side toward picaresque and on the other toward a saga of personal transformation, or failure of such.'"
From the turn of the century to the mid-twentieth century, the idea eluded serious academic consideration, being dismissed as a "naively amateurish age-of-realism pipe dream" unaccustom to the culture of that time. Writers such as William Dean Howells and Mark Twain were equally blasé. Frank Norris too saw the concept as not befitting the time, stating that the fact of a great work being American should be incidental. Edith Wharton complained that the Great American Novel concept held a narrow view of the nation, simply being concerned with "Main Street". At this time, it also grew to become associated with masculine values.
Despite this critical disregard, many writers, prepped with "templates" and "recipes" for the matter, sought to create the next Great American Novel; Upton Sinclair and Sinclair Lewis both sought to create the Great American Novel with The Jungle (1906) and Babbit (1924), respectively. William Carlos Williams and Clyde Brion Davis released satirical explorations both entitled The Great American Novel – Philip Roth would later release a novel of the same name. Bernard F. Jr. Rogers said that Kurt Vonnegut's "entire career might be characterised as an attempt to produce something like "the GAN", but of its own time". The 1970s saw a general resurgence of the concept, with The New York Times using the phrase the most in their history, a total of 71 times.[a] The revival was perhaps the result of social change and related anxieties and the pursuit of a plateau between them.
In the 21st century, retaining its contention and derision, the concept has move towards a more populist attitude, functioning as "catnip for a listicle-obsessed internet".[b] Adam Kirsch noted that books such as Roth's American Pastoral (1997) indicate that writers are still interested in creating the Great American Novel. Commenting upon the Great American Novel's place in the 21st century, Stephens Shapiro said that "Maybe the GAN is a theme that rises in interest when the existing world system is amidst transformation, as America's greatness of all kinds swiftly fades away." When asked in a 2004 interview if the Great American Novel could be written, Norman Mailer—who had long been interested in the idea—said it could not, for United States had become too developed of a nation. Tony Tulathimutte similarly dismissed it as "a comforting romantic myth, which wrongly assumes that commonality is more significant than individuality".
Racial and gender commentary
Multiple commentators have noted the concept's relation to racial and national identity, be it influence from by large-scale immigration, which brought forth authors closely aligned with the Great American Novel or novels detailing marginalized peoples, some furthermore trying to "bridge the racial divide". Commenting upon the idea's racial aspects and presence in popular conscious, Hugh Kenner wrote in a 1953 issue of Perspective that:
The lad who was going to produce 'The Great American Novel' as soon as he had gotten his mind around his adolescent experience is part of the folklore of the 'twenties, and the prevalence of this myth documents the awareness of the young American of thirty years ago that the consciousness of his race remained uncreated.
Perrin, Andrew Hoberek and Barbara Probst Solomon all noted that the 70s saw Jews pursue the GAN. Perrin said it was a boom decade for, what Hoberek, called the "Jewish GAN". Solomon was by 1972 sick of "nice Jewish sons who are writing the GAN". Aaron Latham, in a 1971 article, highlighted Roth and Mailer as Jews who wanted to the write the next GJN and GAN, respectively.
The Great American Novel's relation to masculinity was seen as a problem by female writers. Gertrude Stein once lamented that, as a lesbian Jewish woman, she would be unable to compose the Great American Novel. Joyce Carol Oates similarly felt that "a woman could write it, but then it wouldn't be the GAN". Viet Thanh Nguyen said that "[o]ne of the unspoken silences of the Great American Novel is the assumption that it can only be written by white men". Laura Miller wrote, in a Salon article, that "The presumption and the belligerence embodied in this ideal have put off many American women writers". She also noted that many characters in Great American Novel candidates are male: "the notion that a female figure might serve the same purpose undermines the very concept of the Great American Novel". Although British analyst Faye Hammill noted that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos, was one of the few that 'doesn't stink'. Emily Temple of Literary Hub suggested that if the protagonist of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (1963) were male it would likely be considered more seriously as a Great American Novel contender.
There are several different interpretations of what makes a Great American Novel. Some say that it depicts a diverse group facing issues representative of "epoch-defining public events or crises." John Scalzi felt that for a novel to be the Great American Novel it had to be ubiquitous, notable and analyze United States through a moral context. De Forest, similarly saw the Great American Novel as having to capture the "essence" of America, its quality irrelevant. Norris considered the musings upon what made a novel "great" and/or "American" to showcase patriotic insecurity. Mohsin Hamid echoed the idea that the GAN is indicative of insecurity, connecting it to a "colonial legacy".
Commentators have said that the concept is exclusively American in nature. Journalist John Walsh offered a national equal in the form of Russian writer Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace (1869); Buell felt that Australia was the only country to replicate America's search.[c] Scholes said that the Great American Novel has always been thought of adjacent to European literature. David Vann was of the belief that they had to be "anti-American". Rogers felt that it does not need to have American protagonists or be set in United States and should not espouse patriotism or nationalism.
Buell identifies multiple types of Great American Novels. First is one who is subject to mysticism and stands the test of time. The second is "the romance of the divide", which imagines national rifts in the "form of a family history and/or heterosexual love affair"—race often plays a role. The third variety encapsulates the American Dream and see its protagonist rise from obscurity. Fourthly, novels which are composed of a diverse cast of characters "imagined as social microcosms or vanguards" and who are placed with events and crises that serve to "constitute an image of 'democratic' promise or dysfunction". Buell also said speculative science fiction may be the basis for a possible fifth archetype.
Kasia Boddy wrote that, "[s]ince its initial formulation", the concept "has always been more about inspiration than achievement; the very fact that it has been attempted but remains 'unwritten' providing a spur to future engagement with both nation and national literature". Speculating on De Forest's intentions when devising the notion of the Great American Novel and commenting upon its development, Cheryl Strayed wrote that:
De Forest was arguing in hopes of not one Great American Novel, but rather the development of a literary canon that accurately portrayed our complex national character, has been lost on many, as generation after generation of critics have since engaged in discussions of who might have written the Great American Novel of any given age, and writers have aspired to be the one chosen — a competitive mode that is, I suppose, as American as it gets. It's also most likely the reason that the idea has persisted for so long. To think that one might be writing the Great American Novel, as opposed to laboring through a meandering 400-page manuscript...is awfully reassuring. I have a purpose! I am writing the Great American Novel!
|1826||The Last of the Mohicans||James Fenimore Cooper||Although De Forest critiqued Cooper's writing as boring, many consider The Last of the Mohicans to be the first GAN. It was influential in defining American literature and addresses themes which are common in later American works, including rugged individualism and freedom.|||
|1850||The Scarlet Letter||Nathaniel Hawthorne||Although De Forest specifically labelled The Scarlet Letter as not being worthy of the label of GAN, it is now widely included on most lists. Buell recognized it as a "reluctant master text"—his first GAN script.|||
|1851||Moby-Dick||Herman Melville||According to Hester Blum of Penn State University, "What makes Moby-Dick the Greatest American Novel, in other words, is that Melville can invoke the preposterous image of a sobbing, heart-stricken moose and we think, yes, I have come to know exactly what that sounds like, and I know what world of meaning is contained within that terrific sound".|||
|1852||Uncle Tom's Cabin||Harriet Beecher Stowe||Buell claimed it to be the first novel to receive the acclaim of the GAN and that it was widely accepted that it was 'nearest approach to the desired phenomenon'. De Forest noted it as the only possible contender and as "a picture of American life".|||
|1868||Little Women||Louisa May Alcott||According to Marlowe Daly-Galeano, what makes Little Women "such an amazing novel [and possible contender for the GAN] is that it gives women's voices and women's stories the prime position in a way that...[was] very new and fresh to readers in the...late 1860s," and suggests that the "strongest mark of Little Women's influence" lies in subsequent stories told about "circles of women" and "cool girl protagonists" which all seem to have a "direct link" to Little Women. Gregory Eiselein remarks that several aspects of Little Women (its inclusion of colloquialisms and grammatical errors in its dialogue, the familiarity of the March girls' struggles, etc.) make it "one of the founding documents of American literary realism."|||
|1884||Adventures of Huckleberry Finn||Mark Twain||The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was one of the first American novels to utilize a regional vernacular. In 1935, Ernest Hemingway stated that "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called 'Huckleberry Finn'." William van O'Connor wrote, in a 1955 issue of College English, that "we are informed, from a variety of critical positions, that [it] is the truly American novel".|||
|1895||The Red Badge of Courage||Stephen Crane||Crane was among the earliest generation of American novelists to be influenced by De Forest and consciously strove to produce a "National Novel". Critic Robert Barr had named him the "most likely to produce the great American novel" only two years before Crane died suddenly at the age of 28. According to Yale professor of literature Jay Martin, Crane's war novel The Red Badge of Courage, set during the Civil War, "marks the culmination of the Great American Novel".|||
|1899||McTeague||Frank Norris||McTeague was declared a GAN as early as 1899. The librarian Faith Lee puts McTeague's status as a GAN beyond doubt. Norris's novel The Octopus has been declared one of the three GANs by Bill Kauffman.|||
|1925||The Great Gatsby||F. Scott Fitzgerald||Emory Elliott wrote, in 1991, that it is "still frequently nominated as the GAN". Kirsch, in 2013, said it to be "one of the first titles to come to mind whenever the Great American Novel is mentioned". Deirdre Donahue of USA Today and Fitzgerald scholar James L. W. West III felt that its "embodiment of the American spirit", relevance and prose were the reasons as to why it's the GAN.|||
|1925||Gentlemen Prefer Blondes||Anita Loos||Edith Wharton and Frank Crowninshield proclaimed the novel to be the GAN.|||
|1936||Absalom, Absalom!||William Faulkner||Absalom, Absalom! has been said to represent Buell's "romance of the divide".|||
|1939||The Grapes of Wrath||John Steinbeck||Jay Parini identified it as "a great American novel" due to its focus on United States during a crisis and the eclectic depiction of American life. Richard Rodriguez, similarly, felt that it was "the great American novel that everyone keeps waiting for" because of how it showed "the losers in America". Bill Kauffman declared it one of three possible candidates for the GAN.|||
|1951||The Catcher in the Rye||J. D. Salinger||The Catcher in the Rye is an example of a writer setting out to write the GAN and receiving such praise.|||
|1952||Invisible Man||Ralph Ellison||Joseph Fruscione said that Invisible Man was the GAN because it can be "many things to many readers".|||
|1953||The Adventures of Augie March||Saul Bellow||Amis felt that The Adventures of Augie March was the GAN because of its "fantastic inclusiveness, its pluralism, its qualmless promiscuity".|||
|1955||Lolita||Vladimir Nabokov||Mary Elizabeth Williams called Lolita the GAN because of its prose and says "'Lolita' forever remains a thing of timeless beauty."|||
|1960||To Kill a Mockingbird||Harper Lee||Scalzi calls it a GAN in that it is a notable and ubiquitous work that also deals with morality and the American experience. Oprah Winfrey described it as "our national novel."|||
|1973||Gravity's Rainbow||Thomas Pynchon||Pynchon's postmodern novel of World War II is commonly cited as "the most important American novel" of the post-war era. It has been said to conform to Buell's fourth type of GAN.|||
|1985||Blood Meridian||Cormac McCarthy||Vann felt that Blood Meridian was a GAN because it explored America's genocidal past. Dalrymple states "this book the Great American Novel. It’s a beautifully written, dark, bleak western—but unlike any western I’d ever known."|||
|1987||Beloved||Toni Morrison||The novel is noted for its depiction of the psychological effects of slavery and racism. When Beloved topped a poll seeking "the best work of American fiction" published from 1980 to 2005, A. O. Scott remarked that "Any other outcome would have been startling, since Morrison's novel has inserted itself into the American canon more completely than any of its potential rivals." Beloved has been noted to align with Buell's third type of GAN.|||
|1991||American Psycho||Bret Easton Ellis||Julia Keller saw the novel's inclusion of "brand names and sex and social anxiety" as part of the reason why it is the GAN.|||
|1996||Infinite Jest||David Foster Wallace||Buell noted that "For an appreciable number of turn-of-the-twenty-first-century readers...Infinite Jest [is] the GAN of our days".|||
|1997||Underworld||Don DeLillo||According to Robert McCrum, it developed a reputation as the GAN almost immediately after its publication.|||
|2010||Freedom||Jonathan Franzen||Buell described it as the "most widely acclaimed GAN contender...post-9/11".|||
|2012||Telegraph Avenue||Michael Chabon||John Freeman of the Boston Globe, praised Chabon for "imagining the Great American Novel with a multiracial cast."|||
|2014||The Brunist Day of Wrath||Robert Coover||Sam Coale of the Providence Journal writes: "There is no such thing as the Great American Novel, but this surely is one of them in its scope, sharp-eyed compassion and stripping away of hypocritical posturing. It is massive, mesmerizing, and riveting page by fulsome page, a triumph for Coover and a venomous, virulent, heartfelt vision for all of us."|
Notes and references
- This total excludes books with the phrase in their title.
- According to Buell the concept has always been "a more demotic than an academic enthusiasm".
- Shapiro speculated that this connection was because of their colonial past: "Perhaps nations founded on the genocide of indigenous people...may strive to produce cultural works that can distract from the crimes of the past?"
- Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007. Print.
- Buell (2014), p. 25.
- Rodgers, Bernard F. Jr. (December 1, 1974). "The Great American Novel and "The Great American Joke"". Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 16 (2): 12–29. doi:10.1080/00111619.1974.10690080. ISSN 0011-1619.
- Shreve, Grant (December 17, 2017). "The Great American Game of Picking the Great American Novel". JSTOR Daily. JSTOR. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
- Shapiro, Stephen (2015). "Review: The Dream of the Great American Novel". Nineteenth-Century Literature. 69 (4): 539–543. doi:10.1525/ncl.2015.69.4.539. ISSN 0891-9356. JSTOR 10.1525/ncl.2015.69.4.539.
- Buell (2014), p. 24.
- Showalter, Elaine (February 20, 2014). "Can the Great American Novel survive?". Prospect. Archived from the original on March 17, 2014. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
- Brown, Herbert R. (1935). "The Great American Novel". American Literature. 7 (1): 1–14. doi:10.2307/2920328. ISSN 0002-9831. JSTOR 2920328. Archived from the original on January 14, 2021. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
- Zafarris, Jess (July 4, 2018). "The First Book to Ever Be Dubbed the "Great American Novel" Might Not Be the One You'd Guess". Writer's Digest. Archived from the original on August 1, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
- Buell (2014), pp. 24—25.
- Buell, Lawrence (2014). The Dream of the Great American Novel. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-05115-7. OCLC 871257583.
- Buell, Lawrence (2008). "The Unkillable Dream of the Great American Novel: Moby-Dick as Test Case". American Literary History. 20 (1–2): 132–155. doi:10.1093/alh/ajn005. S2CID 170250346.
- Buell, Lawrence (2008). "The Unkillable Dream of the Great American Novel: Moby-Dick as Test Case". American Literary History. 20 (1–2): 132–155. doi:10.1093/alh/ajn005. S2CID 170250346.
- Knox, George (1969). "The Great American Novel: Final Chapter". American Quarterly. 21 (4): 667–682. doi:10.2307/2711602. ISSN 0003-0678. JSTOR 2711602. Archived from the original on January 18, 2021. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
- Boddy, Kasia (February 7, 2019). "Making it long: men, women, and the great American novel now". Textual Practice. 33 (2): 318–337. doi:10.1080/0950236X.2018.1509268. ISSN 0950-236X. S2CID 150330138. Archived from the original on January 18, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
- Buell (2014), pp. 3—4.
- Boone, April (2006). "William Carlos Williams's The Great American Novel: Flamboyance and the Beginning of Art". William Carlos Williams Review. 26 (1): 1–25. doi:10.1353/wcw.2007.0000. ISSN 0196-6286. JSTOR 10.5325/willcarlwillrevi.26.1.0001. S2CID 145489399.
- Strayed, Cheryl; Kirsch, Adam (January 13, 2015). "Why Are We Obsessed With the Great American Novel?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 6, 2022. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
- Perrin, Tom (February 2018). "Chapter 12 - The Great American Novel in the 1970s". In Curnutt, Kirk (ed.). American Literature in Transition, 1970–1980. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-15076-8.
- Scholes, Lucy (October 21, 2014). "Can a 'Great American Novel' be written in French?". BBC. Archived from the original on December 25, 2022. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
- Buell (2014), pp. 5,9.
- Buell (2014), p. 387.
- Kirsch, Adam (January–February 2014). "Made in the U.S.A." Harvard Magazine. Archived from the original on November 11, 2020. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
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- Nguyen, Viet Thanh (June 30, 2016). "Viet Thanh Nguyen's Great American Novels: 'The Woman Warrior' and 'China Men'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 5, 2022. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
- "One of the few books that doesn't stink': The Intellectuals, the Masses and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" by Faye Hammill. Critical Survey. Vol. 17, No. 3. 2005. Accessed March 24, 2021.
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- Scalzi, John (June 30, 2016). "The Great American Novel is 'To Kill a Mockingbird'". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. Archived from the original on July 14, 2020. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
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- Hamid, Mohsin (October 15, 2013). "Where Is the Great American Novel by a Woman?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on November 30, 2022. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
- Vann, David (November 14, 2009). "David Vann on Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian | Rereading". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on July 13, 2020. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
- Baym, Nina (2014). "Review of The Dream of the Great American Novel". The New England Quarterly. 87 (3): 538–540. doi:10.1162/TNEQ_r_00397. ISSN 0028-4866. JSTOR 43285103. S2CID 147646001.
- Scott, A. O. (May 21, 2006). "In Search of the Best". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 9, 2020. Retrieved July 2, 2020.
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There are, Buell says, four main types of potential Great American Novels. Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter epitomises the first – a cultural 'master narrative', identified as such by the number of reinterpretations and imitations that follow in its wake.
- Latson, Jennifer (March 16, 2015). "Why The Scarlet Letter Was a Mixed Blessing for Its Author". Time. Archived from the original on August 21, 2020. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
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- Buell (2014), p. 4.
- Fuller, Randall (May 2013). "The First Great American Novel". National Endowment for the Humanities. Archived from the original on August 1, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
- "The Great American Novel series: Little Women". April 27, 2022.
- Smith, Henry Nash (1984). "The Publication of "Huckleberry Finn": A Centennial Retrospect". Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 37 (5): 18–40. doi:10.2307/3823856. JSTOR 3823856.
- Ulin, David L. (November 14, 2010). "Celebrating the genius of 'Huckleberry Finn'". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. Archived from the original on August 1, 2020. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
- O'Connor, William van (1955). "Why Huckleberry Finn Is Not the Great American Novel". College English. 17 (1): 6–10. doi:10.2307/495715. ISSN 0010-0994. JSTOR 495715. Archived from the original on January 18, 2021. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
- Brown, Robert B. (June–July 1984). "One Hundred Years of Huck Finn". American Heritage Publishing. Archived from the original on August 18, 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
It was called the 'great American novel' as early as 1891 by the English writer Andrew Lang ...
- Mailer, Norman (December 9, 1985). "Huckleberry Finn, Alive at 100". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
- Martin (1967), p. 55.
- Martin (1967), p. 56, fn. 68.
- Martin (1967), p. 35.
- "A Great American Novel" (PDF). The New York Times. 1899. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
- Lee, Faith. "Friday Reads: McTeague: a story of San Francisco by Frank Norris". Falmouth Public Library. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
It is a great American novel. No doubt about it. And if you haven't read it, Karl Bridges and I recommend that you do. Bridges describes Norris' novel as being similar to Émile Zola's realistic tone and style, but "distinctive in its American voice".
- Emory Elliott et al. (eds.) (1991). The Columbia History of the American Novel Archived January 7, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Columbia University Press. p. 323. "The Great Gatsby (1925), a work still frequently nominated as 'the great American novel' ..."
- Donahue, Deirdre (May 7, 2013). "Five reasons 'Gatsby' is the great American novel". USA Today. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
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There hasn't been anything like this novel since it was written. And this is the great American novel that everyone keeps waiting for but it has been written now.
- Nixon, Rob. "The Grapes of Wrath". This Month Spotlight. Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on January 4, 2013. Retrieved September 22, 2010. Nixon quotes John Springer, author of The Fondas (Citadel, 1973), a book about Henry Fonda and his role in film version of The Grapes of Wrath: "The Great American Novel made one of the few enduring Great American Motion Pictures."
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It is Lee's only book and one of the handful that could earn the title of Great American Novel.(Lee has since published a sequel, Go Set a Watchman.)
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McCarthy's descriptive powers make him the best prose stylist working today, and this book the Great American Novel.
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