Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Great Chicago Novel

Dear Julia Keller,

I just read your article about the Great Chicago Novel. I loved your thoughts. My friend and co-blogger, Ukie Villain, lives in your neck of the woods and he pointed the article out to me.

I particularly like your comments that address the time warp that happens in our minds when we try to choose which novel we think is the greatest of them all, for Chicago, for America (is that North or South America?), or for everywhere.

A couple years ago I started to ask people, when I found myself in a situation where I was groping for subject matter, "What, do you think, is the great American novel?" I then got a bit obsessed with the subject and began asking everyone, co-workers, waitresses, and family until my husband said, "Enough, already!" I did collect 'comment' responses, surreptitiously, for a while on my blog site:

At any rate, back to the point, I did find that people looked back. Twain and Melville and Steinbeck were mentioned far more frequently than, say, DeLillo or Morrison. Perhaps, we must look back. We are trying to find the novel that will stand the test of time, and so we look for something that has stood the test already. But, looking back isn't enough to satisfy that longing for the great novel of our own time period and locale: 2009, Chicago. And it seems you've identified a great one, in Elizabeth Berg's new novel Home Safe, capturing the spirit of the day and place. But isn't it curious, that the great ones, the novels that make us breathe deeply, the ones that make us need the novel form, circle back around to the great themes, such as "loss and change"?

If we looked for that theme, we would find it, over and over and over and over, in the novels that are great, no matter when, no matter where.

Thanks for the great review.

Betsy DeGeorge

P.S. What is it like to be the Cultural Critic for the Chicago Tribune?

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