The Real America

The Real America July 28, 2012

My friend, Michael O’Neil, in Perth, wants to know what is a good novel to introduce him to America? When Kris and I went to South Africa, I thought reading Alan Paton’s famous novel, , was the ticket — but it was from a different era. So, who has some good recommendations for Michael?

We’ve been painting the house recently, and I have been listening to and enjoying Wendell Berry’s That Distant Land. For me, it is a window into another time and place, and seems to evoke a particular vision of a “real” America. Part of the book’s burden is that this America has largely passed into history. Last year I read Marilynn Robinson’s Gilead and Home and had a similar experience of being transported into a bygone rural/small town USA.

In one sense, of course, there are as many “real” Americas as there are Americans. But, as someone who has never visited the US—something I hope to rectify one day, God-willing—I wonder if there are particular novels—or movies perhaps—which evoke “contemporary America” in the same deeply and profoundly human way in which Berry and Robinson have portrayed their characters and landscapes/environments.

Any recommendations?

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