American Classics

For a grand total of four dollars I have acquired the complete works of Hawthorne, Melville, and Twain (thanks, Nook!).  I have a lot of reading to do this summer!

Eventually that will mean a few Read More posts as I hack through these fine gentlemen.  As an overview, here’s where I stand with the three.

I’ve read a fair bit of Hawthorne and have always enjoyed him since my first crack at The Scarlet Letter in high school.  My wife has me beat on his short stories, although I’ve read a few.  I’m looking forward to catching up on his other works.

I despise Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.  There, I said it.  Fine, I’m un-American.  I hate Bruce Springsteen, too.  But I love Twain’s short stuff and I have fond memories of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  I have huge admiration for his story-telling and tone, more on which below.

Melville is my greatest mea culpa in the American Canon.  Up there with never seeing Forrest Gump (don’t bother telling me how great it is), I’ve never read Moby Dick.  I basically consider it a moral failing, which is why I’m starting my reading binge with it.  The only Melville I’ve ever read is Bartleby, which I didn’t even know was Melville when I read it.  Yes, yes, I don’t know how I can call myself literate either.  I’m fixing it, okay?

I’ve selected the three authors quite apurpose, more so than for the abstract comfort of being better read.  I’m looking for an infusion of voice, tone, diction, all that good stuff, for my own writing.  I continually come back to Hawthorne as my exemplar for American writing; now I’m going to study him more carefully while I round out my base with the other two.  I suspect Melville is going to have a major impact on me, and everyone needs a little more of Twain’s tone in them.

Sure, I could go more modern.  I like Fitzgerald, and we can skip over villains like Hemingway to read masters like Wolfe.  But I’ve already read those guys, and I’m looking for something a little more…something.  Classical?  Magical?  Something.


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