The American in the Great American Novel

Happy Independence Day, Flakes!

Y’know, here at Eat Your Serial we are all about the Great American Novel. At this very moment,

we’ve got twelve of them in the process of getting prepped to go to “press” (as it were) so we can launch our e-book store. Now you might say, “Brandon, not all the Eat Your Serial authors are American!” You’d be right, but that’s not the point. The point is that in our hearts, in our souls, we are a storytelling people. It’s in our melting pot blood.

There is a great tradition of storytelling in the American experience. In fact, some of our most quintessentially Americana moments are defined by authors like Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Harper Lee. Some of our most scathing reviews come from the minds of writers like James Baldwin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Alex Haley. Our strongest critiques can be found in the pages of Robert A. Heinlein, or Ray Bradbury.

We have always, through our storytellers, found the sheen of our greatness as well as the dinge of our failures, and paraded them around just the same. Why? Because we enjoy the stories. When one looks at the Star Spangled Banner (a wonderful poem, but a terrible song by the way), it is unlike many other national anthem in that it is a story more than a sentiment. It tells the tale of Francis Scott Key, the author, witnessing the Battle at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 (200 years ago this year, you’ll note). While the British attacked the Fort, Key was inspired by the defiance of the American character—the Song is taken from the poem “The Defiance of Fort McHenry,” in fact. The colorful and descriptive lyrics of the song do not speak of the grandeur of the land or the glory of the figureheads, but rather tells a tale of military battle, waged through the night, and despite all the odds and fiery doom, come morning our flag was still there. It is this spirit that we choose to put forward in our Anthem; at the start of our important events like Inaugurations and World Championships. Not the abstract glory, but a single defining moment to share. We show the world this story as an example of our existence; our individual members, working in concert, thus becoming a metaphor for our national identity.

In many ways, our authors and their stories are our immortal ambassadors to the world. The hard work and craft our authors put into their novels, short stories, poems, and essays are a window into our home. The words travel far; they change language, but always express the same core intent. When a writer takes the time to translate the American experience into written word, it helps form that concept, and sometimes the initial and only one that the rest of the world has of us. Pre-dating the movie Western by far, our image has always been defined by how we write about ourselves. Sure, we’re cowboys now, we’re Jersey Shore now, but we’re still Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, and Ben Franklin. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is still one of the most internationally popular books in print; it’s important that we realize that we are still defined by stories based on events very much in our past.

We’re still perceived as these rough around the edges, uncouth, and crass stereotypes formed in the 19th Century. We’re perceived as slow to change, proud to a fault, stubborn, and arrogant. At times, we most certainly are, but we are also perceived as innovators. We are perceived as opportunists in the best sense of the word. We are initiative. We are crafty. We are both Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence and Uncle Tom being sold down the river. All of our best and all of our worst are served up for our consumption, and we always have plenty left for the world to take in to judge us by. So on this day, the celebration of our national independence, take a moment to think about the stories told about us and the stories we tell about ourselves as an American collective. Put down your red elephant and your blue donkey, your white picket sign. We shuld remember that we are not only the Americans who write the Great American Novel but we also are the Americans in the Great American Novel–and despite our differences at home, we all get perceived together through that vehicle. It’s a great thing, and at Eat Your Serial, we’re glad to be a part of that tradition.

 

Enjoy the fireworks!

_____________________

Brandon Melendez

Media Director

Eat Your Serial, Inc.

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4 thoughts on “The American in the Great American Novel

  1. Great writing, I love the American spirit. This article tells me that there is still is hope of change in the way you perssive the American way of life. It takes someone like myself that has been arround for years without a place to put my head down and a place to call my own to appreciate our way of life before we were promised transparency and change.
    Grandapa Joe Ceder

    •  @JosephCeder I tried to keep this one pretty apolitical, honestly but if you see something that gives you hope, what kind of grandson would I be to deny it? Hahaha. At any rate, all I’m really saying here is that our differences aren’t really as vast as we tend to think they are, because once we leave our little bubble nobody cares about our finite shades of gray. In the world at large we are all Americans despite the color of the state we live in…so we might as well accept that and enjoy some good books we can all relate to!

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