I had a conversation with an old friend yesterday. We were in grad school together, and after a stint in Louisiana doing the professorating thing, he's now on Long Island doing the professorating thing. It's a climate more suited to his and his wife's New England upbringings.
So after the usual how's it going stuff was gotten out of the way, we started to name-check some authors, you know, dropping it English-degree style, beginning in Albany with William Kennedy. He declared that Ironweed, which I haven't read, is perhaps the greatest American novel of the twentieth century. Or maybe late twentieth century. I can't quite remember, but at any rate he thinks rather highly of it. So it goes on my stack. Perhaps it'll be next, because right now I'm not feeling very motivated to finish Pynchon's V. and I don't know why, because it's actually pretty good (the only Pynchon I've ever read start to finish is The Crying of Lot 49, although I've made some jabs at Gravity's Rainbow).
So from there it was on to Russell Banks briefly, and then to Cormac McCarthy. You see, we never left New England (at least as far as birthplaces are concerned, and yes I consider New York part of New England so get over it New Yorkers). My friend is recommending highly to me McCarthy's futuristic novel The Road, telling me it's very stark. That his older brother, jaded though he is and an author himself, found himself crawling into his son's bed after he'd finished reading it because he just needed to be near him. That's powerful stuff. As I've only ever read All the Pretty Horses (as has MA) and Child of God, The Road goes on my stack. Hey, it must be good, since it was an "Oprah Book Club" selection. Oh, yeah, it also won the Pulitzer or something like that.
Our conversation came to an abrupt halt, however, when he remembered that he had a fellow prof over while their daughters were having a playdate, and he didn't want to be the neglectful host.
I suppose we'll always have the MLA...
and for the lit geeks among you, half a point to discuss the origins of the title of this post without googling.