Of Thee I Sing


Happy 4th to all! We’re still free of the British, and the Chinese haven’t chosen to claim any of the fifty states we currently owe them. Let’s party.

As I struggled with a few ideas for my next post, Christopher suggested doing a post on the most patriotic books I’ve ever encountered. Why not? The only problem was that I couldn’t think of any books I’ve found patriotic. Rather, I found myself thinking of books that embodied America. Since I just finished rereading The Great Gatsby, that was at the top of my list.

Why Gatsby ? I would think that F. Scott Fitzgerald captured a particularly American spirit in that book. The sort of restlessness, the nostalgia and materialism, the glittering gaiety and desperate struggle to stay young all struck me as typically post-Civil War American. The characters Fitzgerald created are all, or have since become, American archetypes. Daisy- the popular girl, Tom- the athlete who has it all, Gatby- the outsider who can’t fit in no matter how he rises, Jordan- the athletic best friend, Myrtle- the tart with a heart… You can find them in any high school drama. They’ve just aged a bit. (Not to mention that we all had to read it in high school. The older you get, the fewer books we all have in common.)

Disagree? Well, you’re not alone. Here are a few other gut reactions to the question (paraphrased by me):

[Quick warning- apparently the 25-40 crowd is a wee bit cynical about our country. Shocking, I know]

Jesse (a seminarian at St. Tikhon’s)- On the Road because it shows how directionless the American way of living is. He has nothing to do with himself because he doesn’t understand the true purpose of life.

John (mid-thirties writer and one of my best friends since high school)- Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, any of those. That, or Fifty Shades of Grey.

Andrew and Janet* (a newly married couple living in Cambridge)- Anything in Oprah’s Book Club. The appropriation of classics into a personality cult is typical America.

Xenia(my niece and roommate)- Fahrenheit 451, because of the book burning. Or, you know, anything by an American.

So, friends, what’s the most American book you can think of? Gut reactions preferred, but f you want to give it some thought, go ahead. Don’t forget to watch some fireworks for me- some things you just can’t be cynical about.

*to be fair, Janet initially said Gatsby, too, so I almost won.


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