Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Mediocre Australian Post about The Great American Novel

I finished The Great Gatsby early last night but wanted to digest before I posted, and am slightly annoyed it has taken me so long to read it. I had a slightly different idea of the story from popular culture than the actual story. This was great as the twists in the plot were still surprising for me. I liked Jay Gatsby. I thought I wasn’t supposed to. But I do, even with his slightly dodgy past and naivety, however this like is probably helped as I imagined him as Jude Law. I found myself despising most of the other characters instead. It’s short but fantastically written. Definitely a book to recommend, even if you’re not a classics reader read this (and The Picture of Dorian Gray, my two you have to reads).

The Great Gatsby has been described as “The Great American Novel”. Why, I’m not so sure. As described above though, I think it was brilliantly written and a great read however what is it that makes it more Great or more American than the rest? One could also argue at only approx 110pp long it may not even be a novel at all. But besides that, what constitutes the “Great American Novel”? And why do Americans have the need to call everything that is good writing the “Great American Novel”? (Mind you, the person who called The Corrections that deserves to be stabbed in the face repeatedly with a pen.)

And it seems to be an American phenomenon. I promise I am not getting on my anti-American high horse here, this is honestly an observation. There seems to be this need to define writing as exceptional, without letting the writing speak for itself.  I am happy to be proved wrong here and am actually really interested to know. Does anyone else know of another book described as “The Great ....... Novel”, that is not American? Australian, British, French, Russian, Indian, Japanese, Canadian, etc. Please let me know in the comments below.

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