On the subway I ride to work, there have been advertisements for a certain book calling itself the “great American novel.” (Great American Novel will be referred to as “GAN” throughout the rest of this post.) A Time of Season is written by Charles HunnaHustla, a first time novelist from
Until his encounter with a mysterious old man who called himself Anon, Vash Rantz had been as a derelict ship, drifting upon a sea of strange occurrences. He had lived as a mental wanderer, a dreamer, and though calling himself a poet, he had sailed from one experience to another without thinking they held meta-meaning. Then Anon had compelled him to look deeper into his life; and in contemplating the "why me?" of his having been witness to certain events, Vash had seen that a poet's gift is not that he feels more, but that much more befalls him to feel.
Is it just me, or doesn’t this seem a little presumptuous? Calling your own book the GAN is just a little tasteless. I have not read the book – it sounds horribly dull, and I don’t want to waste my well earned money – so I cannot critique it. What I can critique is how this book is portrayed.
A Time of Season – cliché of a title, amiright? – is presented as a serious novel that not only is the greatest book written by an American in the late 200 years, but a book that will change your life. First problem: the latter is why we have self-help books. True, many authors insert their own philosophical ideas into their books (Orson Scott Card, for one, is quite blatantly statist in his novels). A work of fiction, however, has rarely impacted me so much I change my own beliefs because of it. I am more likely to be swayed by sociological or historical research.
Second problem: There cannot be a single GAN. It is too hard to bring the entire American experience together into one book. There are too many American experiences. It is possible to have multiple GAN’s, but not just one.
Furthermore, good readers – this book is not about an American experience. It is about the main character’s self realization. It is not about race, war, or other societal problems, as many other GAN’s are (Huck Finn comes to mind, as does Great Gatsby, Invisible Man, To Kill a Mockingbird). It is about a single man’s personal feelings, not the great problems plaguing society.
Furthermore, I’m not even sure most Americans are like “derelict ships, drifting upon a sea of strange occurrences.” I believe that most Americans tend to live, for the most part, with some sort of purpose, whether that be the pursuit of money, love, sex, world peace, religion, learning… you get the idea. Most people tend to have a purpose in life, be it vain or altruistic.
Mr. HunnaHustla, I doubt you will ever read this, but if you want to write a GAN, write about what it’s like to live in
Most importantly, let other people say your book is a GAN. Saying so yourself is vulgar – no one will take you seriously. Let the critics laud you as the Ernest Hemingway of our time. Let your readers say your book is omgthegreatesthingeverwritten. Not yourself.