Happy Friday everyone! Our intern, Alex Messina-Sehultheis, takes us through her English program at DePaul:
As a student in DePaul’s English program, one must become accustomed to receiving page-long reading lists included in class syllabi. It’s standard practice to read one novel every week, and it’s inevitable some of these books will test your interest and ultimately your patience. I know this to be true as a graduate student in the department where the next “Great American Novel” is frequently included on our reading lists. It’s because of those patience testing novels, among other reasons, that I am often so glad to be interning at Albert Whitman & Co where one can easily disappear into the lives of imaginative characters (whom, incidentally, thankfully have no interest in the “Great American Novel”).
Although these lists are sometimes filled with novels that are often made up of personal agenda and unending streams of consciousness, there comes along a book which makes one appreciate the gift of a beautiful prose. Marilynne Robinson is the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Gilead, which is the first novel in a series of three which follows the lives of several individuals in the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa. Gilead is an “intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart.” The narrative is told by the ailing reverend in the town as he recounts familial stories as a recording to his young son before he passes away.
We were asked to read both Gilead and Lila, which is the third novel in the collection. The novel is told through the reverend’s young wife (Lila’s) perspective. Both novels are an example of a seemingly effortless prose. Line after line proves the beauty of simplistic and meaningful writing. Robinson’s ability to describe the “human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life” is unlike many novels I have been required to read for class discussions. Her novels force the reader to slow down in order to fully absorb the luminous prose. I often describe her writing in the corniest way by telling people that when I read her work, it often feels like home. Her writing is familiar in a way that is still engaging and unexplored. I would recommend this book to anyone and would love to have a discussion with them about what I believe to be the next “Great American Novel.”
What would your choice be for the next Great American Novel?