Russell Banks on “The Great American Novel”

Novel Ideas

by Laura Ricks

In a telephone interview, Banks explained how the idea for his lecture came to him when he and many of America’s literary elite were invited by The New York Times to choose the best works of American fiction of the last 25 years. After the votes were tallied, the top 15 were compiled into a definitive list. He says the idea “implies a belief I want to examine: that there is such a thing as the Great American Novel. We’re unusual, Americans, in that there isn’t this belief in a great English novel, or a great French novel. There are many great novels, but there isn’t this idea that there is just one out there waiting to be written.”

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