The BPL is closed today, but the Monday Discussion stops for no one.
Since we all spent the holiday weekend thinking about the founding of our country, I thought I'd ask everyone what books, movies, or music, we find "American."
What I like about this question is that the answer could be just about anything; it is a personal feeling that would make you choose something, not anything you could search in a card catalog. So what stories make you think of this country, our freedom, and ours lives, for better or worse?
For me, this is a no brainer. I was an American Studies major in college, and I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the documentaries of Ken Burns. To me his movies, the books he compiles to go with them, and the soundtracks scream America to me. He has been quoted thousand of times saying that he uses all of his films to tell the same story-- that of America and its people. If I had to pick one film though, it is The Civil War. Even after having spent an entire year of my life watching it over and over, it is still a moving story of our country's struggle to stay together.
In terms of more traditional nonfiction, David McCullough makes American History come alive for me in his narrative nonfiction. Of course most of you will be familiar with John Adams, but I would also suggest The Johnstown Flood and, my favorite, The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge. I have a drawing of the Brooklyn Bridge over my television because of that book. McCullough turned the bridge and the people who built it into symbols of American ingenuity, and the book (and the film Ken Burns made based on the book) still inspire me.
In fiction, Independence Day by Richard Ford captures the American family in turmoil. Frank Bascombe takes his troubled son on an ill-fated Independence Day weekend trip and much of what it means to be a father, a son, and an American family is explored in this Pulitzer Prize winning book. Independence Day is the 2nd book in the Bascombe trilogy.
Finally, when I think of American literature, Mark Twain always comes to mind. Twain captured what it meant to be American and the contradictions between what we say and how we live. He was never afraid to satirize our country and probe deeply into serious issues at a time when this attitude was not as common place as it is today. If you ever come by the BPL RA desk, we have his bust watching over our staff as we help readers. I like to think he would be proud of us.
Now it is your turn. What books, movies, or music do you find the most patriotic?
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