Tuesday, March 9, 2010

If I Were to Ever Get a Tattoo, It Would Probably Be Something About the Stockyards

I know I come off as highly opinionated about a lot of different strange things. Sometimes at bars or parties or on buses, I will occasionally shout about topics with my outdoor voice. And I may or may not have threatened to break up with a boy because he didn't like Finding Nemo and therefore had no heart.

But when it comes to actual things worth having opinions about, I fully admit my inadequacy to tackle this topic. I will, because I love you, but please do not yell too much at me because your doctoral thesis was about how people who idolize Fitzgerald are ruining American literature. My doctoral thesis is currently about Should I continue watching American Idol even though ANTM is back on, because I already started that shit. So, you win by default.

In no particular order, here are ten books that I think of as the quintessential Americana.

1) To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger,RD.
3) The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
4) The Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
5) The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
6) O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
7)The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
8) On the Road by Jack Kerouac
9) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
10) Beloved by Toni Morrison

I know these are all novels about American History now. But whether or not you like the American character in Tropic of Cancer, it rings true. Selfish, decadent, decrepit, soul seeking, confused, drunken, weeping, whoring, desperate, evil, futile, beauty in our faults, murder for ourselves, clawing our way from the fields, disappointing our forefathers True. History of the Empire True.

My favorite American short stories (which I think are harder to write when they are truly memorable, like ships in bottles) are by Flannery O'Connor, Fitzgerald, Hawthorne, and Asimov. Yes, I'm counting him. I claim him for country.

And the quintessential American short story winner is The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. I would like to have that story tattooed on my back, scroll-like.

PS I would have Margaret Atwood's "Rape Fantasies" tattooed on my torso and inner thighs, but she's Canadian, so you know.

Ask me anything


  1. The only thing I'd add to the list would be Slaughterhouse Five, but what would I remove to add it? Difficult.

  2. I know. Because like, top ten anything is asking you to make sacrifices. It's sort of a list test of faith.

  3. No William Saroyan in your short stories list? I know he comes at things in a slightly off-kilter way, being an immigrant and all, but I think he writes Americana in a very fundamental sort of way.

    Also -- no Steinbeck? Really? (I do not personally _like_ Steinbeck, but the lack of his presence on your list surprises me, because I believe I am rather in the minority when it comes to Steinbeck dislike.)

  4. Right on. My only contribution would be to swap Cancer for Capricorn. Same narrator & just as gregarious, but actually takes place on Yankee soil. In Brooklyn no less.

  5. I'm so glad you count Asimov. He's one of my favorite authors and one of the famous people I wish I could have met. And you shouldn't have any qualms about counting him in your list of American short story writers because he was an American citizen by age 8.

    Of your top 10, though, I've only read 6 of them. Maybe 5. I can't remember if I read The Sun Also Rises. No, wait, I did.

  6. B- Steinbeck would have made the list if there were 15 spots instead of ten. But also so would the Joy Luck Club. Blame the arbitrary nature of the asker.

    Crayola - That's why I like Cancer better than Capricorn. I think Americans show up more against foreign backgrounds.

    Zannah - the only one I feel weird recommending is On the Road, because I got so damn sick of everyone in the world sucking Kerouac's dick, like he was a high school rockstar. But you know, it's an important thing.

  7. The Lottery is, BY FAR, the most amazing short story I have ever read. If you get it tattooed on your back I will find you wherever you are and kiss you on the mouth. (I'm a good kisser, so y'know, it's cool.) That would be a most amazing tattoo.

  8. Cause you know, if you were a bad kisser, IT WOULD NOT BE COOL.

  9. "It's an important thing." I need to start saying that about stuff. Only vague stuff. Nebulous. It's an important thing.


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