Quiet American Literature

So I thought that after 1930s nothing happened in American literature. Dreiser, Steinbeck, Faulkner*, and that’s it, lights out.

But it’s not true. Turns out there was a whole current of what I call “the quiet American literature.” Wallace Stegner and John Edward Williams belong to it. Beautiful writing. Very simple, not at all fussy. Zero pretentiousness. And so, so very American in the best possible sense.

I’m very happy I discovered these two great authors. I’m hoping there were other people writing in this vein. I blame my professors of American literature for making me think that Pynchon and DeLillo were the pinnacle of achievement in post-war US literature. They are both horrid, by the way. Utterly unreadable.

I had to spend 10 years in college getting 5 literature degrees only to discover much later that the best Latin American, US and Indian literature was concealed from me.

* Faulkner, by the way, was taught to me in my Spanish program because he’s considered (unfairly) to be the founder of the modern Latin American literature. In my American literature program I don’t remember him being mentioned much.

6 thoughts on “Quiet American Literature

  1. “the best Latin American, US and Indian literature was concealed from me”

    Who knows… maybe there are writers working in Russian or French that you’d like that were also concealed from you…


  2. I recently discovered Eve Babitz and really enjoyed Slow Days, Fast Company. I don’t know if you’d like it, I suspect her voice is one that people either like or find really annoying. Also, I grew up in Southern California, and it’s a very Southern California book somehow.


  3. Meanwhile, I feel like a fool because I thought “Stoner” was a YA novel until your post on it. I remember a classmate raving about it back in high school, and I just assumed. Also, based on the title I assumed a certain subject matter…


    1. That’s exactly what I thought, too! Until I saw a group of middle-aged English teachers on Twitter rave about it. Then I started to suspect that it’s probably a different subject matter.


      1. The actual subject matter sounds awful to me tbh (I hate campus novels), but with your recommendation I’m willing to give it a chance.


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