The Great American Novel podcast is an ongoing discussion about the novels we hold up as significant achievements in our American literary culture. Additionally, we sometimes suggest novels who should break into the sometimes problematical canon and at other times we’ll suggest books which can be dropped from such lofty consideration. Your hosts are Kirk Curnutt and Scott Yarbrough, professors with little time and less sense who nonetheless enjoy a good book banter.
This episode focuses on the novel branded more than any other as the Great American Epic Novel: Herman Melville’s classic 1851 novel Moby Dick. We delve into such important questions as, why was the whale white? What does it mean that Ahab leaves behind wife and child? Is he thwarting the will of God? Is Gregory Peck better in the film role than Patrick Stewart? Why chapters about ropes and squeezing sperm? Why, when all is said and done, is this the most canonical of all canonical novels? Is it truly worthy of the label “Great American Novel”?
Additionally, for Canon Fodder Kirk proposes Charles Johnson’s excellent 1990 novel, Middle Passage.
The intro song is “Old Ralley” by Lobo Loco; the outro is “Inspector Invisible,” also by Lobo Loco. The film trailer clips are from Moby Dick, directed by John Huston in 1956.