Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Can't Resist a List: Help Me Make a Midwestern List!
In my exploration of "Top 100" and even "Top 1000" lists, I found several regional lists from the U.S. For my home state of Maine, I found a book, The Mirror of Maine, which was actually a catalog of an exhibit. The Agee Films website has a list of 125 Great Southern Books (of which I've read 32 -- I like me some Southern writin'!) And the San Francisco Chronicle invited readers to submit selections for a couple of Western 100s -- one for fiction and one for non-fiction. At least one of the Chronicle selections caused me to wonder whether anyone had actually read the book -- for whatever the title may suggest, Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac is about Wisconsin.
And that brings me to the project I want your help with -- a Midwestern booklist, since I couldn't find one on the Internet. This idea had been percolating in the back of my mind for a while, and came to the fore when Onkel Hankie Pants inquired whether the Guardian's list of 1000 Novels included Ole Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth. No, said I. Humph, said he. And I agree, it should be in there. But even more so, it deserves to be on a list of books to read for a sense of the Midwest and its literary riches.
I could make a pretty good list off the top of my head, but some states might get short shrift. I could do a little better by trolling the Library of Congress subject headings. But I think a better list would come from a variety of people, so I'm asking my blogreaders and other friends to weigh in. Please send me, in comments or, if you just can't figure out comments, by email, your list of Great Midwestern Books. Here are a few rules:
1. The Midwest shall be deemed to consist of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. No arguments please. This list is attested both by Midwest Living magazine and by Joel Mabus, whose song is at the top of the page. States on the edges do partake somewhat of their neighboring regions, but they're still "hopelessly Midwestern".
2. The works submitted should actually take place in/be about the Midwest, no matter where the author was born. For example, take Ernest Hemingway, born in Oak Park, Illinois. A Farewell to Arms? Nope. "Big Two-Hearted River"? Ya sure, you betcha.
3. Any type of "bound printed material" qualifies -- novels, short stories, poetry, non-fiction. (Poetry should be specific -- for example Sandburg's poem about Chicago, or Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology, not just "the poems of X"). We're leaving out songs and screenplays and movies this time, OK? But I guess stage plays are OK too.
4. Please include a brief annotation, with the state with which the work is identified and a little about why you'd include it.
5. Submit as many as you want. I don't have a preconceived idea of how long the list will be. Don't worry about duplications -- votes will be counted.
Just to get you started, here's an example of what I want:
SOUTH DAKOTA: Wilder, Laura Ingalls. The Long Winter. My favorite of the "Little House" books describes the trials of the Ingalls family and their neighbors in De Smet during an exceptionally hard winter. Lots of ups and downs, from the abject misery of twisting sticks of hay to burn in the stove to the joy when the train finally gets through and the missionary barrel of Christmas gifts is opened, give a realistic picture of the life of the homesteader.
Let the list begin!