I still come across characters in books who want to write The Great American Novel, though in real life (or as real as it gets online) I don’t see people saying that. Has the desire to write The Great American Novel been superseded by the desire to write the next million-dollar bestseller? And is either goal realistic for most of us, or even worth pursuing?
Frankly, when I started writing this bloggery, I didn’t even know what The Great American Novel is, so I went trolling the Internet (so much more fun than actually sitting here writing!) to see what I could see. (Ah, the adventure of it all!)
(I don’t know why blogging brings out my desire to use parentheses — I seldom use them in my other writing, but there it is.)
Anyway, from what I gather, The Great American Novel shows the impact of American culture on the characters, shows the spirit of life in the United States at the time of publication, and is supposed to be a counterpart to the great English writers. Nothing in that definition precludes the novel being a bestseller, but it’s generally assumed that The Great American Novel is a literary novel rather than a commercial one. If the novel needs to show the spirit of life in the U.S. at the time of publication, then that means it needs to show today’s culture. Do we have a culture any more? I sure hate to think that fast food restaurants and blockbuster movies and and bestselling pap — books and music — are the only things that define us culturally. Though they certainly have had an impact on all our lives.
And why The Great American Novel? Why not the Great International Novel? The Great One-World Government Novel? The Great Earth Novel? Aren’t we supposed to be moving out of a parochial viewpoint into a global one? Either way, I am not writing an American novel, great or otherwise, even though my novels are set in Colorado. Perhaps Light Bringer, which will be published later this year can be considered a The Great Earth Novel since it strives to tell the history of humankind in a unique way. (Some people call it science fiction. Could be, I don’t know — I just told the story.)
What about you? Do you have any desire to write The Great American Novel? The Great Canadian Novel? The Great Global Novel? The next million-dollar bestseller?