First, thanks to all who provided suggestions for the fall Mission Impossible pick. It was a great list, and my colleagues and I narrowed down the choices to the following list. We’ll definitely keep the other choices handy for future programming. Many of you mentioned The Sound and the Fury (a great choice), but we’ll have to shelve that until we can devote more time to planning an author study. You can vote at the bottom of the page, but you might want to know about each candidate before you do – hence the blurbs. We’ll unveil the results at our May 3 lecture featuring Professor Weil.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville. 1851. Now a contender for the great American novel, this book was harpooned at the time of its 1851 publication by critics who found it overly long and boorish (observations no doubt still shared by countless high school students). The book was forgotten for decades before being rediscovered in the 1920s by scholars who understood and appreciated the multilevel symbolism and allegory dismissed by their 19th-century predecessors. Melville published little after the failure of Moby-Dick and made his living as a customs inspector in New York City, where he was born in 1819 and died in complete obscurity in 1891 (Library Journal).
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. 1857. Of the complex, richly rewarding masterworks he wrote in the last decade of his life, Little Dorrit is the book in which Charles Dickens most fully unleashed his indignation at the fallen state of mid-Victorian society. Crammed with persons and incidents in whose recreation nothing is accidental or spurious, containing, in its picture of the Circumlocution Office, the most witheringly exact satire of a bureaucracy we possess, Little Dorrit is a stunning example of how thoroughly Dickens could put his flair for the theatrical and his comic genius the service of his passion for justice (Amazon.com).
The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor. 1971. Winner of the National Book Award. The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O’Connor’s monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do not appear in the only two story collections O’Connor put together in her short lifetime–Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find. O’Connor published her first story, “The Geranium,” in 1946, while she was working on her master’s degree at the University of Iowa. Arranged chronologically, this collection shows that her last story, “Judgement Day”–sent to her publisher shortly before her death—is a brilliantly rewritten and transfigured version of “The Geranium.” Taken together, these stories reveal a lively, penetrating talent that has given us some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction of the twentieth century. Also included is an introduction by O’Connor’s longtime editor and friend, Robert Giroux (Amazon.com).
Middlemarch by George Eliot. 1871. George Eliot’s Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life is regarded by some critics as the greatest novel ever written in English. An in-depth portrait of a town and its inhabitants, the work describes the intricate bonds that connect people’s lives, exploring the relationship between individual action and the unwieldy, seemingly indeterminate forces that shape society (Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism).