Works that reflect America's aims and desires.
Despite its relatively short history, the variety and abundance of American literature can be troublesome to would-be canon-makers. What best represents the essence of American letters?
Is the righteous muckraking of Upton Sinclair most quintessentially American – or is that surpassed by the profound critiques of America’s race culture offered by Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison?
How about none of the above?
For none of the authors hinted at here appear on the list of transformative works that Jay Parini elucidates in Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America.
To point this out is not to criticize Parini’s project, but only to indicate the extent to which concocting a list of exalted books is a Sisyphean task, even for a poet, novelist, and critic of Parini’s accomplishments.
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