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What America Read: Taste, Class, and the Novel, 1920-1960 Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (December 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807832278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807832271
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #851,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Hutner exhibits skillful precision in advancing through this often misty and stony literary landscape. . . . [An] entertaining and comprehensive survey."
--Publishing Research Quarterly

"The originality of this project and the avenues it opens for further comparative work are undeniable. Hutner's book promises to enliven work in modernist and American studies, recalibrating our sense not only of what America read but of why that reading matters."

"Hutner covers a great deal of ground with a good deal of clarity, and his book deserves to be read with close attention by anyone interested in the reading habits of the American public."
The National Review

"A legitimate corrective to the English department syllabus."
Wilson Quarterly

"Hutner surveys four decades of American fiction from the viewpoint of the reading public and the mainstream critics of the time, and reveals just how shifts in the currents of critical tastes can leave many good works stranded and quickly forgotten."
-- NeglectedBooks.com

"An interesting analysis of how the literary academy decides which books will be remembered."
-- The Wall Street Journal

From the Inside Flap

Hutner describes the distorted, canonized history of the twentieth-century American novel as a record of modern classics insufficiently appreciated in their day but recuperated by scholars in order to shape the grand tradition of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner. In presenting literary history this way, Hutner argues, scholars have forgotten a rich treasury of realist novels that recount the story of the American middle-class's confrontation with modernity. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Balbach on November 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
`What America Read: Taste, Class, and the Novel, 1920-1960` is a fascinating literary history. Hutner examines the vast universe of books that made up most of what was published and read in America from 1920-60. Most of it was soon forgotten in favor of a small handful of "classics" that are studied over and over like Hemingway, Faulkner and a few others. He has found that most novels published then (and now) can be categorized into a genre that he says, like pornography, is hard to define but "you know it when you see it." This genre can perhaps best be defined as "middle class literature". Hutner understands the term "middle class" is a loaded one, but he uses it in a neutral way. It is the people who have the time and money to read books and search for answers in the ever evolving and often confusing cultural landscape of America. The middle class novel is typically instructing, realistic in style, and perhaps mirrors in some way the readers own life, or sets out to show a slice of life in America - to pick a modern example, the "post-9/11 novel". These novels represent the vast majority of literature published, and by their existence, define the "Great" novel. Every "Great novel", Hutner says, has been an anti middle class novel (although to be sure not every anti middle class novel is great).

Hutner's book is long and detailed and full of novels and authors that were once the critical and popular darlings - thought to be among the immortals - and now today forgotten. This is not the exception, but the norm, as Hutner shows in great detail year by year, decade by decade. Each chapter examines each decade, starting with the 1920s, going through the major works of the period. It's a veritable gold mine of novels and authors to read more about for those so interested.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tom Holland on May 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great overview of American best sellers from WWI till now. So few books like it, giving a sense of American middle-class taste in fiction.
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