The other day a couple of folks asked me to "sell" American Literature to them in five great novels. Of course, my first thought was to read off a few of my personal favorites:
1) The Great Gatsby
3) Moby Dick (eh...)
5) The Outsiders
They weren't impressed so I listed off a few more, novels I didn't even necessarily like but have great reputations, and these folks were still not trying to hear it. After a couple of minutes of trying to convince them of Toni Morrison's godliness and falling short I decided to turn to perhaps the best thing about American Literature: the short story. I mean how could one not absolutely adore the way John Cheever starts "poor Neddy" with a wife and a house on a summer morning and ends him in foreclosure and divorce on the brink of winter, all in the matter of a single day of swimming. I mean c'mon, man. Come on.
So I bring you:
I picked this bad-boy up in an intro to creative writing class many moons ago and I turn back to it quite often because it is just great. The first story, "Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story" by Russell Banks is perhaps one of the funniest, most creative examples of the post-modernist unreliable narrator ever. I don't want to explain to you what it's about because a great short story can't be summarized. This thing also includes Saunder's "Sea Oak" and Alice Walker's "Nineteen Fifty-Five" and some very cool, very different stuff like Sandra Cisnero's "Never Marry a Mexican" and "A Real Doll" by A.M Homes. It's all just so good. So good.