I stumbled across a comment today in which the authoress declared an aversion to Jane Austen and a love of Steinbeck. It reminded me of a hypothesis I have:
It is universally acknowledged that a person will love either American literature or English literature but never both.
I have termed it:
The Great Debate
For my senior year of high school, I could either take English AP literature or American AP literature. Given my love of all things Austen, it shouldn’t surprise you that I picked English lit. However, I also did not want to be seen deficient in my knowledge of Great Literature by college admissions. Therefore, I spent the summer before my senior year reading books from the American lit reading list. The books I recall reading:
Song of the Lark
Grapes of Wrath
Of Mice and Men
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court
The Great Gatsby (I just don’t get this book)
The Scarlet Letter
The Sun Also Rises
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
I also attempted to slog my way through Winesburg, Ohio and The Octopus but was completely undone. The fact that the summer ended without any suicide attempts on my part was a miracle. Seriously. Not that they were all intolerable. I enjoyed Ramona, Song of the Lark, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and ACYIKAC. But the tediousness of the remaining books sort of overpowered any sort of pleasure gained by them. What I achieved from this summer of self-study was a firm dislike in American literature, which on subsequent readings of other books has not lessened to any great extent.
The problem is, I don’t know from what this dislike stems. At first I chalked it up to the fact that the majority of American literature is incredibly depressing in a “I want to slit my wrists kind of way.” The general theme is: an idyllic character/location/surrounding is corrupted by the big city/industrial revolution/money/etc. However I have enjoyed other depressing books from other countries such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Anna Karenina. I was talking to Mr. F. about it today, and we both agreed that we would rather read Russian literature than American. So “an air of depression” was not the answer to my question.
In the end, I have to lamely state that English literature has a “readability” that American literature does not.
So dear readers I must ask you. Am I completely making this up? Have you noticed this debate before? Which literature do you most relate to and why?