Thursday, May 23, 2013
May 23, 2013: American Studies Beach Reads Redux, Part Four
[Last year, I helped celebrate summer with a series on American Studies Beach Reads. It was a lot of fun, so I thought I’d do the same this year; I’m doing so a good bit earlier this time to give you some good options for your Memorial Day Weekend reading. Please share your nominees for a crowd-sourced weekend post that’ll kick off its shoes and settle into the hammock!]
On the biting autobiographical novel that also packs an emotional punch.
I’ve written about Fanny Fern at length in two prior posts, so in lieu of my first two paragraphs I’ll just link to those:
And this one on her inspiring partnership with and third marriage to James Parton.
Any of Fern’s writing would keep you good company on the beach, but here I want to make a brief case for her autobiographical first novel, Ruth Hall (1854). It’s true that if you know the real-life people on whom many of the novel’s character are based, it takes on an added layer of sting; but even without that knowledge, Ruth offers the same striking combination as Fern’s best columns: a mixture of sarcastic humor and poignant emotion, of sly wit and painful honesty, of social satire and confessional roman à clef. Like Sylvia Plath’s The Bell-Jar (1963), with which it has a good deal in common, Fern’s novel will make you laugh and cry within the same page, or even the same sentence—and that pretty rare feat makes for some great beach reading if you ask me.
Final beach reads tomorrow,
PS. Nominations for AmericanStudies beach reads? Share ‘em please!