Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Brief Discussion with Jay Parini on Thirteen Books That Changed America:

The Committee Room continues its exploration into the books that have been most influential in the shaping of American culture with a discussion of Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America (Doubleday, 2008) by Jay Parini. Reading Promised Land is like taking a speedy cruise through American literature with a genial and well-informed guide. 

In his introduction Parini writes -- "this was never meant to be a list of the 'greatest' American books: not The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, or The Education of Henry Adams.  Although I love poetry, I knew that not even Walt Whitman and Robert Frost, let alone Wallace Stevens or Elizabeth Bishop, had noticeably 'changed' America in any significant way (except among that tiny group who actually read poetry)...I wanted books that shifted consciousness in some public fashion, however subtly, or opened fresh possibilities for the ways Americans lived their lives."  

Jay Parini is a poet, novelist, essayist, and scholar whose work includes major biographies of Robert Frost, John Steinbeck, and William Faulkner and the volumes of poetry The Art of Subtraction, Town Life, and Anthracite Country. One of his novels, The Last Station, about the final year in the life of Tolstoy, was made into an Academy Award nominated film.

Jay Parini's List of 13 Books That Changed America

1.  Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford (written 1620-1647, published 1856)
2.  The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1787-1788)
3.  The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (1793)
4.  The Journals of Lewis and Clark by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (1810)
5.  Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)
6.  Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
7.  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)
8.  The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois (1903)
9.  The Promised Land by Mary Antin (1912)
10. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936)
11. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock (1946)
12. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
13. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963)

Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America includes an appendix of one hundred additional books that, as Parini writes, "actually shifted something or solidified a change already in place."

Jay Parini recently talked with TCR about books that changed America

TCR Talks with Jay Parini

Jay Parini
Q: You write that "novels have rarely had a discernible effect on the public" yet you include three novels in your primary list of thirteen most influential books. Could you comment on this?
A: I really don't think novels have much cultural impact, at least not in a flashy way.  But Uncle Tom's Cabin was an obvious exception.  Stowe really did shift public opinion in favor of abolition in the northern states. It's no wonder Abe Lincoln called Stowe the "little lady who started this great war."  Huckleberry Finn was just a book I thought was too central to the making of the American character to avoid, and I wanted to write about it.  So I did.  Same with On the Road.  I think Kerouac was the least of these novelists, as an influence. But his book marked a flowering of the counterculture, and it gestured toward the sixties and the major cultural shifts of that time.  I wished I could have written about The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath.  But there was no room.  And these books didn't really change anything, although they depicted aspects of American life in such vivid ways that people often think they did.

Q: You write that bestsellers reinforce ideas already in place rather than shape new ideas. Could you comment on this?
A: My guess is that bestsellers work because they make people say in their heart of hearts: "Ah, yes. This is how things run." Genuinely original novels don't do that.  They confound our easy assumptions about the way the world operates. Thrillers, horror, detective novels, etc:  these are the books that play off received ideas.  It's literary fiction that cuts through thick ice, and creates pathways to knowledge.

Q: The list of thirteen has a thirty year gap in the mid-nineteenth century -- nothing between Walden and Huckleberry Finn.  A list of twenty-five books that changed America compiled by Robert Downs (see TCR post 4/12/2012) in 1970 also has a gap in this time frame. Could you comment on why this period seems to have generated nothing of consequence?
A: I noticed this gap but don't fully understand it.  It's possible that after the Civil War a certain exhaustion -- imaginative exhaustion -- set in, and it took a long time for anyone to rev up the engines of invention to the necessary level.  I wish I could answer this question; it's an important one.

Q:  The most recent book in the list of thirteen was The Feminine Mystique published way back in 1963. Could you comment on why nothing more recent was selected?
A: Well, in the appendix I do go up to 2006 (An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore) but it's hard to know what books in the past half a century have had a very powerful effect.  It takes time for anyone to judge such things.  I didn't know of a single book that had dramatically changed our view of the world after 1963.  I'm sure that someone more informed about current trends than I am could manage; but I'm more of an historian in the sense that I have a better sense about things that have really receded in the rear-view mirror.  I am quite sure there are lots of important books that have shifted things dramatically; I just don't know myself how to talk about them in the same way you can talk about the thirteen books I studied.  I suspect that several books on climate change will have had a huge effect on our times, including The End of Nature by Bill McKibben.

Q: Could you comment on books published since the 1980s? In looking at the appendix, the 1960s and 1970s were a vibrant period. The appendix includes nine books from the 1960s and seven from the 1970s. However, from the 1980s there are just four books and there is just a single book from the whole decade of the 1990s (The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington).
A: It's as I said above, the closer we get to the present, the harder it is to understand what is happening.  History takes time to gather in focus.  I just know of few books in the eighties and nineties that made a difference.  We might not know about them for a few more decades.  Or know about the impact they had.  The eighties and nineties do, from where I stand, seem awfully dull as decades -- politically and intellectually less well-defined.  Perhaps the really important books are so far to the side -- philosophical tomes, for instance -- that they will take a long time to digest.  I often read books by thinkers like Noam Chomsky and Charles Taylor, for instance; the latter, a Catholic liberal from Canada, seems to me extraordinary but difficult.  Martha Nussbaum may be another philosopher who will make a difference.  But it's early to tell on any of these.  I also think highly of Wendell Berry and many nature writers, who have a lot to tell us about our world.  But it will take a long time to assimilate this work and understand what effects it has had on how we live our lives.


  1. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up.
    Weight Loss South Melbourne

  2. There animator that may be obtained very easily. But, essentially, all your animators possess the capacity and also ability connected with different.
    Khuyến mi giảm giá

  3. A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post.
    best back pain chiropractor salinas ca

  4. Find Out Now, What Should You Do For Fast daniel currie?
    These were a number of the most common mistakes that human beings turn out to be making, in a supplier’s marketplace. Have you furthermore may offered houses in a dealer’s marketplace? If sure, percentage your hints inside the feedback underneath. For in addition recommendation or information, please head on over to our discussion board.
    daniel currie

  5. Thanks so much for the blog post.Really thank you! Much obliged.
    Happy new year wishes for mother

  6. I couldn't find any knowledge on this matter prior to.Also operate a site and if you are ever interested in doing some.
    CBD E Liquid

  7. I couldn't find any knowledge on this matter prior to.Also operate a site and if you are ever interested in doing some.
    Maiko Kawano

  8. Really informative article post.Really looking forward to read more. Really Great.

  9. Thanks so much for the article post.Much thanks again. Really Cool.
    luxury apartments in south delhi

  10. Thank you for the article, thanks for sharing. And i'm really like this blog
    Agen Sabung Ayam
    Agen Casino Terpercaya
    Agen Maxbet Terpercaya

  11. I loved your blog post.Really thank you! Will read on...
    adsense sandbox

  12. Latest Politics news
    Great, thanks for sharing this article. Keep writing.

  13. Wow I dont found any blog/article similar to this before in my whole life. I can can tell the others to see and check this blog/article
    time tracking tools

  14. interesting articles and this is my first first reading a very interesting article thanks for this article that fits with the theme news.
    judi poker

  15. I really appreciate this post.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

  16. I seriously appreciate that post.Really looking forward to study more. Fantastic.
    European Aircraft Sales/

  17. Whatsapp messenger provide platform immediate messaging contribution service for smart phones.Everybody realizes that WhatsApp is an incredible.whatsapp apk download

  18. Call girls in jaipur
    Thank you so much for the article you are listed above, really appreciable and will really helpfull. Thanks for writing such a good article.Vip escorts Service in jaipur Available 24*7.

  19. Ayuk Buruan Daftar Diri Anda Di Armanitogel Dan Sekarang Ada Promo Bonus Deposit Di Armanitogel 10%, Tunggu Apalagi.
    Gabung Bersama kami Agen Togel Terpercaya

    Bandar Togel
    Agen Togel
    Bandar Togel Terpercaya

  20. Ayuk Bergabung Bersama kami PokerSemi.
    Juga menyediakan berbagai macam game dalam 1 ID
    Banyak Bonus Dan Jackpot yang akan menanti anda...!!!
    Agen Poker Online
    Agen Poker
    Poker Online
    Poker Uang Asli
    Agen Domino
    Capsa Susun
    Domino QQ
    Bandar Game
    Agen Domino Terpercaya

  21. Thank you The information you submit is very useful, waiting for the next update Gan, Greetings Success :)

    Taruhan Bola
    Bandar Judi Online
    Casino Online
    Agen Bola

  22. This post is just what I consider a well thought out posting. Straightforward as well as the point. I'll definately keep a look out for more posts like this.
    dewa poker

  23. Thank you Information that you convey is very useful, waiting for the next update friend, Greetings Success :)
    agen judi poker online terpercaya di indonesia

  24. I just was investigating the furnished article with an earnest high quality! This content Independent Mumbai Escorts
    Escorts Service in Mumbai
    Independent Mumbai Escorts is certainly helpful and lighting up.

  25. Hello, thanks for the blog post. Will read on... I can not thanks enough for the post. Actually many thanks! Can study on. Really educational article. Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.
    buy ethereum in pakistan

  26. I really like and appreciate your blog post. Significantly obliged. This is one awesome post. Thanks Again.
    Posicionamiento Web Colombia

  27. Very good post post. Seriously best wishes! Should browse on... So i am fortunate for those post. Quite eager for look at more. Great value your current sharing. Actually getting excited about look at more. Wish more.
    Don Cooper Boulder

  28. Superb write-up post. Quite thanks! Can understand on... I'm just fortunate for ones post. Actually looking towards examine more. Great appreciate a sharing. Quite getting excited about read through more. Desire more.
    grace church Downriver

  29. Great survey, I'm sure you're getting a great response. Sneek Peek

  30. Nice And Informative Website. Please Keep Continue Such Kind Of Effort. I Shared Your Post With My Friends Also. I Run My Independent Mumbai Escorts Service. I Provide You High Class Mumbai Models And Beautiful Mumbai Call Girls. We Are Available To Serve You 24 X 7. For Booking Contact With Priya Singh Ph- 09987215552
    Wensite : http://www.escortagencyinmumbai.com/
    mumbai escorts service
    mumbai escorts
    mumbai escort service
    escort service in Mumbai
    mumbai call girls
    Andheri escorts
    Bandra escorts

  31. Independent Escort Service In Mumbai, Call - +91- 9004009481
    Hi friends are you looking the best escort service in Mumbai? Contact me, my name is Ritu Sharma. I am an independent Mumbai escort girl. I provide the best service in low cost. I am compostable to move at your own place like your room, hotel etc. I am glad to tell you I am available 24 X 7 for you. My personal no- +91- 9004009481
    I am fully professional escort girl. I am trained completely in my profession. I understand you personal feeling and needs. Once you take my service you call me again. Apart me in my profession I have some beautiful Mumbai models also in low price. You can take enjoy with me short time, and long time. Just you need to call me at my personal number to book my VIP services.
    Reach To A Safe Juncture With The Escort Service In Mumbai
    Have you become bore with your life? Is there no enjoyment and fun? There is one solution with me. Do you know what? The escort service in Mumbai is the one. You can find very pretty girls in the website. Are you a resident of Mumbai? Or do you come Mumbai often for official purpose? You can always find these escorts. Just a phone call and she will be ready to serve you. But they are in a high demand. You need to make your booking in an advance. But, we have wide collection of escorts. Choosing from that list is possible too. Are you eager to see them? The website can give you a vivid view. Also, you can visit the agency of escort service in Mumbai. All of them will be present there.
    Perfect Companion With Escort Service In Mumbai
    We, human being are social beings. We cannot stay alone. A partner is always required. For every male, a female partner is needed. Life become meaningless without such companion. You can now take the Mumbai escorts here and there while you are out. The escort service in Mumbai has great flexibility. Some of the escort agency will allow the time flexibility as well. There is special rate for each escort. Some girls are extremely demanded by clients. Thus, their rate is high. If you want to get the best one of the lot, its is the time to hurry up.
    Escort Service In Mumbai- English Speaking
    Can you imagine, even escorts can speak in English? Proper training is given to all of them at the very early stage. Some of the escorts already know English language right from the time they were recruited. But, some of them were not aware of this language. Thus, special training is provided to them. The spoken English is taught o them so that they can speak with all types of clients. Thus, they can entertain the international clients. Sometimes, there are business clients who have come from other parts of the world. How do they get entertained? escort service in Mumbai will be the remedy.

  32. a pride for me to be able to discuss on a quality website because I just learned to make an article on

  33. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. Moral stories for kids

  34. These are really great ideas in about blogging. You have touched some nice factors here. Any way keep up writing.

  35. Mumbai Escorts is the Cheap escorts service in all across Mumbai.If you are one of those people who continually need to meet new girls and know them better, at that point you should go on dates. meet our Female Escort in Andheri or Mumbai female Escorts for enjoying your night life.

  36. Banrdar bola. domino dan togel. sekarang membagi bagi hadia dan bonus mencapai hingga 100% buruan gan daftar diri anda di Bandar Bola Piala Dunia 2018 dapat kan smart phone keren. dan rasa kan bonus nya. ayok di tunggu ya gan


  37. I request you to write some vlogs for my website and I can also provide you backlinks to your website plz visit
    Call girls in Guwahati
    Call girls in Bangalore
    Call girls in Bangalore
    Call Girls in Jammu
    Call Girls in Noida

  38. Complex remodeling process will require more fees. construction contractors fontana

  39. Video watch online HD today latest all new full episodes of Colors Tv Kasam Tere Pyaar Ki. Kasam is an Indian hindi drama serial complete Episodes.
    It is the story of two childhood friends Rishi and Tanushree, who grow up separately but are destined. After 17 years, Rishi marries Tanushree but she is shot to death. She is reincarnated as Tanuja.Both Rishi & Tanuja die in a car accident and were reborn as Ranbir & Kritika to fulfil their promise.
    After 25 years
    Rishi & Tanuja are reborn as Ranbir & Kritika. Ranbir is a famous footballer in Canada, while Kritika lives with her mother in Punjab. After her mother's death, she moves to find her father, Arun Kohli who lives in Mumbai with another woman he is married to, namely Pammi and has two daughters, Ishaani and Jiyana. Circumstances make Ranbir and Kritika to bump into each other all the times and they both take an instant dislike for each other. Whereas Jiyana (Kritika's step-sister) and Akshay (Ranbir's brother) also dislike each other.

  40. Welcome to CricTracker. If you continue to browse and use this website you are agreeing to comply with and be bound by the following terms and conditions of use, which together with our privacy policy govern Cricket Tracker Network‘s relationship with you in relation to this website. Cric Tracker

  41. hello there. This is an information Masterkiu that is very interesting and really provides very useful knowledge. I really appreciate what you have done this.

    BandarQ Online
    Agen Domino 99


  42. Renu Das Kolkata Escorts Services has gorgeous females provides Independent Escorts Service in Kolkata call girls at 100% satisfaction with VIP models. Provided Kolkata escorts at our agency are professional in nature and are eager to serve you at your place.
    Kolkata Escorts
    Kolkata Escort
    Escorts in Kolkata
    Escorts Service in Kolkata
    Female Escorts in Kolkata
    Independent Escorts in Kolkata
    Kolkata Escorts
    Escorts in Kolkata
    Escorts Service in Kolkata
    Female Escorts in Kolkata
    Independent Escorts in Kolkata
    Kolkata Escorts
    Kolkata Escorts
    Kolkata Escorts

  43. kandungan dengan cepat dan akurat terbukti ampuh untuk melunturkan janin kehamilan muda 1 minggu hingga 1 , 2 , 3 dan 4 bulan
    obat penggugur kandungan adalah suatu bentuk proses berakhirnya kehamilan dengan dikeluarkannya janin ( fetus ) atau embrio sebelum memiliki kemampuan untuk berkembang dan bertahan hidup diluar rahim , sehingga bisa menyebabkan kematiannya pada janin
    Disini akan kami beritahukan kepada Anda langkah cara cepat menggugurkan kandungan dengan cepat dan selamat adalah KURET dan obat aborsi
    Kunyit memang tidak di baik di konsumsi oleh ibu hamil yang sedang hamil muda sehubungan dengan sifatnya untuk melancarkan haid , dan di percayai sebagai obat telat datang bulan
    jual obat aborsi paling manjur Misiprostol Cytotec asli terbukti ampuh melunturkan janin kuat tanpa kuret dengan bersih untuk usia 1 , 2 , 3 sampai 4 bulan dengan aman
    cara mencegah kehamilan Cara Mencegah Kehamilan saat berhubungan suami istri perlu perencanaan
    cara menggugurkan hamil

  44. Ishq Subhan Allah Although they experience a bit of a rocky road in the initial days of their marriage, the events of their honeymoon bring them closer. Zara starts to fall in love with Kabir, while Kabir is still hesitant. Kabir's sister-in-law's sister, Rukhsaar, has been in love with Kabir from a young age, and tries everything to split them up.

  45. A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. self publishing

  46. Potential buyers may prefer not to pay for some of the extras, such as a hot tub or pool. You're better off keeping the changes simple. www.martynpattie.co.uk

  47. Your home's value should not be more than 20% above the average, which means that a $10,000 kitchen improvement project well could be a better investment than a $10,000 hot tub, especially if yours will be the only home in the area with a hot tub. www.thelondondecorators.co.uk

  48. A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post unblocked games

  49. This comment has been removed by the author.

  50. Nice And Informative Website. Please Keep Continue Such Kind Of Effort. I Shared Your Post With My Friends Also. I Run My Independent . Juhu Escorts Service. I Provide You High Class Mumbai Models And Beautiful Mumbai Escort Girls. We Are Available To Serve You 24 X 7. For Booking Contact with Priya Singh Ph- 09987215552 My website is - http://www.escortagencyinmumbai.com/juhu-escorts/
    . Juhu Escorts