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The Sot-Weed Non-Factor

The good folks over at Powerline have decided to stir up a little Summer fun with a poll on the greatest American novel of all time. I'm already in the tank for The Great Gatsby, but go over to PowerLine News and cast your own vote.

Gatsby is a short, but firm refutation of the author's own claim that American doesn't allow second acts in life. Tom and Daisy as proto-Clintons, trailing wreckage that they leave others to clean up. Jay's reach exceeding his grasp. And of course, the ash heap that would become the site of the Greatest World's Fair Ever Staged.

But, you can vote for John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor, if you've heard of it.

UPDATE: In the meantime, the comments section is open for alternative selections. Atlas Shrugged seems not to be literature, but what about Advise and Consent? Ben Hur? Lie Down In Darkness? Even Babbit or Call of the Wild.

I'm sure that I, a mere physics and math major, couldn't possibly have exhausted the possibilities.

UPDATE: I've added an "UPDATE" to the update above, since I didn't make it clear that I was responding to the Powerline Guys' assessment of Miss Rand.

That's an interesting question, though. And the King's position comes from the facts that the book 1) is fiction, 2) tells a story (not always the same thing), and 3) has been tremendously influential. The fact that Ayn Rand's philosophy is defective doesn't necessarily mean that her literature is.


Gotta add Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" to the list. Certainly the best novel of the last 25 years.

Gee, I havent heard of the Sot Weed Factof in 35-40 years. Wonder what happened to Barth? enjoyed all his books "Floatring Opera", etc I even had a peach basket that I filled with notes and bits of trivia that I wanted to write about some day.
I even wrote a research paper on stuff in my peach basket about Greenhorn

Yes, Ben Hur had some old plays and 2 movies based on it, and sold a lot of copies in the Gilded Age,but has anyone for many decades actually read it, for it to qualify as a great American Novel?

I have thought for a while that one of the great archtypal novels is Olive Higgins Prouty's Stella Dallas. Every so many decades when the U.S. social class system goes off balance someone makes another movie version of Stella. Not a great piece of writing, but it seems to hit a cultural nerve in the social fabric.

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