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Old 06-12-2003, 01:45 PM
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What 1951-2000 U.S. Literature will endure?


Meaning - NOT your personal favorites, per se, but the ones that high school kids will have to read in 200 years (actually, if humanity is still around in 200 years, books will probably be scanned or implanted or something, but that is another story...)

Anyway - another way of asking the question might be: What U.S. Lit will have crossed over into the public consciousness? In the 1800's, your average American will probably at least have heard of, if not read:

Moby Dick (or The Whale)
The Scarlet Letter
The Red Badge of Courage
Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer and maybe Prince and the Pauper or CT Yankee
Little Women
Poe's short stories (Cask of Amontillado, Tell-tale Heart, etc...)

but not much more. Sure, any reasonable reading person will know about many more, but these few books are the ones that have "crossed over" and represent U.S. fiction for the 1900's. (NOTE: I am sure I missed one or two obvious ones, but you get the point).

So for the period of 1951 - 2000 - what has or will cross over and be required reading 200 years from now?

The obvious ones to me are:

Catcher in the Rye
To Kill a Mockingbird
Catch-22


The next ones are maybes:

Portnoy's Complaint
Song of Solomon
On the Road
The Invisible Man (Ellison, not H.G. Wells, thank you!)
World According to Garp
Slaughterhouse-5
The Shining (don't laugh, I'm serious!)
A Separate Peace
The Fountainhead (don't laugh, I'm serious!)
Cuckoo's Nest

Notice there is no Pynchon, Bellow, Updike, Mailer or a bunch of other highly respected and famous works and authors. I just don't see those works "crossing over" - anybody with the least interest would learn about them super-quick, but I am talking about books that come to represent the 2nd half of the 20th century and are students are expected to read and know - notice by including the Fountainhead, which I think is poorly written, I am trying to acknowledge its persistent (cult?) status. And by including the Shining, I am acknowledging the sheer magnitude of popularity Stephen King has experienced, the fact that he has been gaining respect (e.g., regularly appears in the New Yorker now) and am willing to bet that some later academics will hold him up as an author that is to be studied....

What are your thoughts - what are the top 3 core books? What are the next tier of books that could make it but you aren't as sure?
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Old 06-12-2003, 01:51 PM
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Lord of the Rings

I'm hard pressed to come up with anything else that will definately be remembered 200 years from now.
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Old 06-12-2003, 02:07 PM
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I hear ya, Mahaloth - but [nitpick] LOTR is British; I am looking for American. [/nitpick]

That being said, I notice I didn't include any sci-fi/fantasy....

Foundation Trilogy?
Stranger in a Strange Land?
Dune?
Neuromancer?

Maybe Neuromancer, simply because it coined the phrase cyberspace. But while Dune is my fave sci-fi book, it is not in the same realm of public consciousness as Catcher or Mockingbird. Nor is Stranger or the Foundation Trilogy...I don't know...
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Old 06-12-2003, 02:09 PM
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The problem with this question is that most of the titles you list from the 1800s were not the books that most people thought most highly of then. Twain was enormously popular, but Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer weren't thought of as more than children's literature. Moby Dick had a cautiously positive response on its first introduction but a backlash soon appeared and it was savaged by the intellectuals. Poe legendarily had a greater reputation in France than in the U.S.

And it's just too soon to know which of the current crop of authors will make it big. After all, your own list doesn't contain a single book written after 1982.

Mahaloth, the OP was on U.S. lit. And what an embarrassment for our whole culture if LotR is remembered as the defining literature of our times.
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Old 06-12-2003, 02:12 PM
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I vote for Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail 1972.
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Old 06-12-2003, 02:49 PM
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Good call on Cuckoo's Nest. And The Shining was to be my nomination. How about Watership Down?
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Old 06-12-2003, 02:55 PM
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I know the OP didn't mention kiddie lit, but I think Dr. Seuss will be remembered as one of the greats, almost the Lewis Carroll of his time.
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Old 06-12-2003, 03:08 PM
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Ditto Seuss. I think Updike is already in there a bit--I was required to read his short story A & P many times during my academic career.

I can't believe any sci-fi will make it, despite my love of the genre. No Asimov, Gibson, Heinlein, or Herbert.

But judging by past "classics" (usu. popular dime novels of their day--like the Leatherstocking Tales), our grandkids can expect to read a lot of Grisham and Clancy. Bleck.
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Old 06-12-2003, 03:15 PM
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Oh poop. I just realized why I can't say Watership Down. Don't mind me.....
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Old 06-12-2003, 03:18 PM
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I'll second Dr.Seuss.

Add.

Celestine Prophecy
Illusions. Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
Robert Frost
Ernest Hemingway
Scarlet Letter
Catcher in the Rye
Brave New World
Animal House
1984

Outside American Literature as I do not think Literature must have a nationality even in the future.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead
Lord of the Rings
Kalevala
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Old 06-12-2003, 03:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mahaloth
Lord of the Rings

I'm hard pressed to come up with anything else that will definately be remembered 200 years from now.
I thought Tolkien was born in South Africa and then moved to UK (or was it viceversa?).
Fight Club?
On the Road?
The Naked Lunch?
Dunno, itīs hard to say.
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Old 06-12-2003, 03:49 PM
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I was going to say "The Great Gatsby," but realized I was in the wrong half century.

The Old Man and the Sea

Good call on Frost, Antiquarian, but most of his best stuff is pre-1950, I believe.
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Old 06-12-2003, 04:35 PM
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I don't want to hijack anyones post but why don't we look at literature as a whole from the 20th century, instead of the parameters we have now. I can't think of a reason Lit would be geocentric in 200 years.
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Old 06-12-2003, 05:56 PM
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Atlas Shrugged.

The Fountainhead was published in 1943.
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Old 06-12-2003, 06:02 PM
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If Literature can include a magazine, I vote for Playboy.

Yes I read it.
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Old 06-12-2003, 06:10 PM
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Antiquarian
Celestine Prophecy
<snip>
1984
[QUOTE]

I do hope you're not serious about that craptacular piece of shit, Celestine Prophecy? You might as well include Alchemist, Men are from Mars, Women from Venus, Real Men don't eat quiche and Max Headroom's Guide for life.

Also, Orwell was born in Bengal, India, and a British national, so he should not be included.

My take on such a list: It should include great literature and/or books that will tell people 200 years from now something about our society. I choose to exclude books written during these years, dealing with events outside these years.

Tom Wolfe / The Bonfire of Vanities
Don De Lillo / Underworld
Norman Mailer / The executioner's song (Or Harlot's Ghost)
Bret Easton Ellis / American Psycho
J.D. Salinger / Catcher in the Rye
Erica Jong / Fear of Flying
James Ellroy / American Tabloid & The Cold Six Thousand


There are more of course, these just off the top of my head.
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Old 06-12-2003, 06:14 PM
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East of Eden & The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, and possibly others by Ray Bradbury
The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Possibilities: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (SF will continue to be read if the story is good and the characters are believeable) by Heinlein
Some of Sharyn McCrumb's ballad novels, especially She Walks These Hills and The Rosewood Casket.
Some of Updike's work
The poetry of Nikki Giovanni and Gwendolyn Brooks

World Literature:
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez
Jorge Luis Borges' work
the poetry of Seamus Haney (hope spelling is right)
some of the mystery novels of P.D. James. To enlarge upon a statement of Chandler's in The Simple Art of Murder, the reasons why we read mysteries ain't going out of style any time soon.
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Old 06-12-2003, 06:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Antiquarian
I'll second Dr.Seuss.
...
Animal House
...
Yeah, the book was good but the movie is the definitive version.

BTW Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, was a Brit.
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Old 06-13-2003, 12:21 AM
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I think The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, because it's a great book, but more importantly because it chronicles the beginning of the space age, and as we go into the future I think the dawn of space will be increasingly seen as almost mythic in nature.

How about The Princess Bride? I know it seems a longshot, but I swear that movie is getting more popular with each successive generation. Most of my generation never read the book, and the movie only did mediocre business. But everyone I know watches it regularly on DVD, and their kids universally love it.
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Old 06-13-2003, 12:22 AM
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The Princess Bride? Interesting. But I doubt anything more than a tiny fraction of the movie's viewers has read the book.
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Old 06-13-2003, 01:00 AM
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Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five
Alice Walker The Color Purple
William Styron Sophie's Choice
Alex Haley Roots
Truman Capote In Cold Blood
Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
James Dickey Deliverance
James Lee Burke
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Old 06-13-2003, 01:47 AM
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Of all the SF authors, I'd say Philip K. Dick stands the best chance of being remembered, based on his short fiction and some of his major works like The Man in the High Castle and A Scanner Darkly. I've read more than one reference to Dick as "the Kafka of the latter 20th century." Bradbury is a good bet, too.

Of course, if there were any justice in the world, R. A. Lafferty and Cordwainer Smith would be remembered forever.
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Old 06-13-2003, 08:11 AM
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First time I have been able to check, given my work schedule....

Exapno - of course, you're right - this will play out over time. That is the whole point to this thread - place your bets as to what you think will stand the test of time.

Twickster - you know, I agree with the Old Man and the Sea, since it was published in 1952, but I still think of Hemingway as a 1901-1950 writer, lumped in with Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Sinclair Lewis. I feel the same way about Steinbeck. But that's just me...

Antiquarian - have to agree with The Gaspode here - Celestine should be thrown aside with great force...

mobo85 - great call on Seuss - Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Horton all feel like they could endure - and of course the Grinch, but it feels like the cartoon surpasses the book on that one...

John Mace - of course you're right re: the Fountainhead. But that would mean we'd have to include Atlas Shrugged, as you state, and it is such a piece of excrement that I really didn't want to have to do that - oh well...

Lots of other great ideas - I would challenge you to really try to not just "build a list" as we Dopers tend to do with this type of thread, but really focus. What 5 books will endure, say - and if you agree that Mockingbird, Catcher and Catch-22 are reasonable choices, that would limit you to two remaining slots. Of course if you disagree with those, please say so and state why, for discussion purposes. If you choose not to follow this approach, that is obviously your call - just trying to keep things focused....

Thanks!
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Old 06-13-2003, 08:26 AM
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I don't think "On the Road" will last into the future; it's too much of a niche book.
I think the Harry Potter books will have staying power. ...oh wait, Rowling is a Brit. Nevermind.
I think something by Toni Morrison will be remembered...shes' fairly popular and well-liked by critics (I just can't think of which title would be last).
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Old 06-13-2003, 10:01 AM
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What about Vladimir Nabakov's Lolita? I'm hazy on the publishing date but I'm pretty sure it was after he emigrated from the Soviet Union. And it follows the Gaspode's criteria of commenting on the culture in which it takes place (suburbia of the '50s/'60s).
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Old 06-13-2003, 10:13 AM
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Lolita is a great book, Skammer - no doubt. But Nabokov is Russian, as you say, and the book was first published in France (in English, but through a French publisher, I think) a few years before the 1st U.S. edition....
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Old 06-13-2003, 10:18 AM
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1. I know Tolkien is Brittish.

2. I just missed the part in the OP where it said, U.S. literature.

3. Did THREE people have to correct me?

And Exapno Mapcase, why would it have been embarassing for it to be remembered as our great literature. It is.
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Old 06-13-2003, 12:04 PM
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Quote:
I thought Tolkien was born in South Africa and then moved to UK (or was it viceversa?).
If you're going to go that route, then Asimov is Russian. But I think that if an author identifies himself as a particular nationality, writes as a member of that nationality, and targets an audience of that nationality... Well, it quacks like a duck. Although I'm not really sure why nationality is so important, anyway: Brits and Americans read each others' books all the time.

But a clarification on the OP: Is this about literature, or books? Because films are included in the first category, and movies like the Star Wars trilogy (I'm counting them as one work) are sure to endure. Wait-- Is Star Wars American?
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Old 06-13-2003, 12:22 PM
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Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" will endure.
Asimov's Foundation trilogy as well.
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Old 06-13-2003, 01:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mahaloth
1. I know Tolkien is Brittish.

2. I just missed the part in the OP where it said, U.S. literature.

3. Did THREE people have to correct me?

And Exapno Mapcase, why would it have been embarassing for it to be remembered as our great literature. It is.
Well, my correction was a simulpost, so that shouldn't count against you.

I objected to your saying:
Quote:
I'm hard pressed to come up with anything else that will definately be remembered 200 years from now.
I don't, as it happens, think that LotR is great literature, though I know I'm in the minority. But you were saying that it is the only book that will be remembered. And that just horrifies me. Not only are there all the books that have been mentioned so far, but probably a thousand others that are good candidates, especially if you're allowing in non-US works. And compared with those 1000+, Tolkien just doesn't rank very high.

Besides, I want future high schools to know what our culture and times were like and there are far better books for that purpose than LotR.
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Old 06-13-2003, 02:02 PM
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Great ones listed here. One I think missed:

THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT by Sloan Wilson will probably still be around -- though maybe only grad students will read it.

Outside chance:
All the president's Men (tho not for its literature value).
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Old 06-13-2003, 04:27 PM
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Not mentioned, but worthy...


Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - P.K. Dick

Wise Blood - Flannery O'Connor

Autobiography of Malcolm X - Alex Haley

Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison

A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry

Salem's Lot - King
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Old 06-13-2003, 04:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Chronos
Is this about literature, or books? Because films are included in the first category, and movies like the Star Wars trilogy (I'm counting them as one work) are sure to endure. Wait-- Is Star Wars American?
Chronos Star Wars is American; George Lucas grew up in scenic Modesto, CA, which has recently seen a couple of murders muddy its image. But I didn't realize that movies might be considered Literature - I am not saying that that is incorrect, only that I had not heard that categorization before...

I am inclined, IMHO, to not include movies at Lit - to me they are their own category....but if they are Lit, then clearly a bunch from the 1951-2000 period would be absolutely critical and would endure, frankly, pushing most books aside.
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Old 06-13-2003, 04:40 PM
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I know The Stand by Stephen King will endure into the future, but somehow I don't see a book where

SPOILER:

a man has a gun placed up his rectum by another character just to watch him die


will have much of a place in schools.

And as an aside, schools (high school and college) rarely choose books based on nationality of the writer. If it's good literature, it will be taught. That is the criteria. So for a list of five:

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
1984 by George Orwell
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
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Old 06-13-2003, 04:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Justin_Bailey
And as an aside, schools (high school and college) rarely choose books based on nationality of the writer. If it's good literature, it will be taught. That is the criteria.
Actually, my university (and the high school I attended) do teach based on nationality. 11th grade was American literature and 12th was British lit (although we also studied Greek tragedy). Those same classes are taught at my college, although there are also general "short story" classes and the like. Besides, WordMan asked about U.S. literature because that is the topic he is interested in.

Quote:
So for a list of five:

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
1984 by George Orwell
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I hope you were contributing to the list of five, or we'll have to wonder if addition will be taught in schools in 200 years.
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Old 06-13-2003, 04:57 PM
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Re: Not mentioned, but worthy...


Quote:
Originally posted by spoke-
Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - P.K. Dick

Wise Blood - Flannery O'Connor

Autobiography of Malcolm X - Alex Haley

Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison

A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry

Salem's Lot - King
Interesting choices, spoke- - I suppose my question to you would be - if you had to narrow it down to five that would endure, would you include my "core 3" (see previous posts) and if not what would you swap out and why, and what additional 2 would you add?

and thanks, Lisa-go-blind I appreciate your trying to stay true to the OP.
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Old 06-13-2003, 05:08 PM
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Confedaracy of Dunces by John Kennedy O'Toole has the same timeless qualties as Gogol's Diary of a Madman
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Old 06-13-2003, 06:01 PM
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I second All the President's Men even if it is nonfiction. It's still one of the greatest stories of the last century.
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Old 06-13-2003, 06:04 PM
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My "top 5" would be:

To Kill a Mockingbird

1984

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Catcher in the Rye

My dark horse is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, since the "When is a machine no longer just a machine?" theme will become increasingly relevant to future generations.

I'm not sure I buy the premise that only a handful of books will endure, by the way. I can think of a number of 19th century books still talked about. I think several of the books listed in this thread will confound high school students (or maybe college freshmen) for many decades to come.

(One final note: I think The Fountainhead will be remembered much as we remember Uncle Tom's Cabin today. Not a very well-written book, and not great literature, but it sure stirred up a ruckus.)
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Old 06-13-2003, 06:08 PM
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Quote:
I hope you were contributing to the list of five, or we'll have to wonder if addition will be taught in schools in 200 years.
So my whole paragraph on The Stand went unnoticed? I can add, but it looks like you need glasses.
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Old 06-13-2003, 06:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Chronos
If you're going to go that route, then Asimov is Russian. But I think that if an author identifies himself as a particular nationality, writes as a member of that nationality, and targets an audience of that nationality... Well, it quacks like a duck. Although I'm not really sure why nationality is so important, anyway: Brits and Americans read each others' books all the time.

But a clarification on the OP: Is this about literature, or books? Because films are included in the first category, and movies like the Star Wars trilogy (I'm counting them as one work) are sure to endure. Wait-- Is Star Wars American?
Allright... since when is the UK a part of the US, you say?
Most of the literature I read is anglosaxon, and I usually donīt mind if this author is british or american. when I was going to reply on this board I noticed that most books I thought suitable to last to the next 200 years were written by english (not american) people. Thatīs why the correction.
I think Iīve read somebody psoting "1984", yes, I think that book will last 200 years or even more, but wasnīt George Orwell british also?
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Old 06-13-2003, 06:35 PM
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I'll have to agree with those who said To Kill a Mockingbird, and the works of Dr. Seuss.

As much as I loved Stranger in a Strange Land, I don't know if it will endure. I don't know what the reaction to it was when it came out, but it doesn't seem very mainstream to me.
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Old 06-14-2003, 05:57 AM
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Quote:
I think Iīve read somebody psoting "1984", yes, I think that book will last 200 years or even more, but wasnīt George Orwell british also?
D'oh! I'm an idiot. Don't know what I was thinking.

Substitute Invisible Man on my list.
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Old 06-14-2003, 07:01 AM
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And 1984 was written in 1948.
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