Contemporary American Literature Authors
By Elizabeth DiEmanuele
Contemporary American literature is subversive. It contains an element of the surreal, bizarre names, plots and consistent, biting commentary. Primarily postmodernist, these works are inherently distrustful. They not only question cultural inconsistencies, they allow such inconsistencies to naturally unfold within the narrative. As a result, contemporary American literature, arguably continues the pattern of highly-politicized fiction popularised in the 18th and 19th century, along with the thought-provoking philosophical questions of 20th century Modernist movement.
- John Updike, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom series (1960, 1971, 1981, 1990)
Much like William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Updike’s “Rabbit” series is told in a present-tense narrative, destabilizing the novel’s traditional style. Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom is a middle-class man who feels there is something missing from his life. The series follows Harry and his family through marriage, affairs and aging, each novel embodying the many triumphs and frustrations of the everyday American.
2. E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime (1975)
Set in 1906, Ragtime tells the story of Harry Houdini, a famous escape artist who crashes into a telephone pole outside a family’s home. Filled with many sub-stories and plots, Doctorow captures American history as a series of random events, challenging the nature of recorded history. As a result, Doctorow subverts the traditional set-up of the novel in its intricate mixing of historical and fictional characters into a single narration.
- Alex Haley, Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976)
As a work of, what Haley calls, “faction, ” Roots tells the semi-biographical story of his ancestors. Starting with the 18th-century, Kunta Kinte, Haley’s African ancestor who was captured and sold into United States slavery, he creates a genealogy of his ancestors. Through this recount, Haley records the injustices and struggles found within the African slave trade, making it not only a great novel but also a significant document for future generations.
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