At a recent meeting of our local chapter of the Chess and Root Beer Club one of our more erudite members reminded us that America was founded as a European dumping ground for religious fanatics, criminals, and international corporations created to scam as much of the wealth of the land and its people as possible. And we now expect Americans to be somehow good and altruistic people?
Okay, that suggests a strong reason for the greed, violence, and mythic delusions of the country but, as Peggy Lee says, “Is that all there is?”
We all spent a couple of hours trying to think of anything else that represented America but greed, violence, and delusion apparently covered it all although corruption and mendacity were accepted as subsets of greed and violence. So the discussion was moved to a lighter subject and everyone was asked to name the book or movie that they felt best represented America. I considered this a difficult question which would require hours, if not days, to answer but I was surprised to hear two people blurt out The Godfather without any hesitation.
Other suggestions included: The Alamo (the American need to take land and riches away from the original owners), Gone With the Wind (is this the America the conservatives long for?), America America (okay, I was the only person that saw this movie or read the book), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (an interesting suggestion despite Dick Cheney not being in the film), Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (a good one but ruled not universal enough in its depiction of American greed and violence), Wall Street (despite the “I’m sorry” sequel), and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (you may scoff but Pee Wee has a lot to say to Americans).
Book groups regularly get into a discussion of what might be the Great American Novel (although in Norway they don’t really care). Despite the best English novels actually being Irish, I don’t believe the Great British Novel has been decided on either. Any word from Moldavia? Still, if you considered the Great American novel as a literary work which best represents the true nature of the country, then it follows that the Great Bolivian novel will also represent the true nature of the country, Bolivia in this case.
So without reference to any particular country, what novel best represents that country? For those of you that are so steeped in American Exceptionalism that even recognizing the value of literature from other countries is an act of treason, just stick to your suggestion for the Great American Novel.
Let’s see if we can generate yet-another-reading-list out of this exercise.