January 24, 2007 4:56 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a novel suitable for first year students studying the contemporary US?

Has to be in print in the UK and not 400 pages long. Have used Fight Club in the past, but a bit long in the tooth. Someone suggested Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin but I am unsure...
posted by A189Nut to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First year as in University
posted by A189Nut at 4:59 PM on January 24, 2007

Are they English-speaking students, and if not native, then at what level? Should language be a concern here?
posted by occhiblu at 5:00 PM on January 24, 2007

Can you say something about the particular themes you plan to cover in the class? What else are they reading?

I guess I would avoid Lionel Shriver just because my sense is that she's lived in the UK for a very long time. I think that if you're going to assign a book to teach about the contemporary U.S., ti's not a bad idea to assign something by someone who actually lived in the U.S. when he or she wrote it.
posted by craichead at 5:20 PM on January 24, 2007

Home Land by Sam Lipsyte is the last thing I read that fits this. It's really good, and a much quicker read than Fight Club.
posted by dogwalker at 5:24 PM on January 24, 2007

Possibly DeLillo's White Noise? It was written in the mid-'80s, so it's more broadly contemporary than immediately contemporary, but it's certainly got some particular angles of American culture down cold. It's a book that tends to inspire pretty passionate responses, too -- in my experience, people either love it or hate it, which could certainly make for interesting classroom discussions.
posted by scody at 5:38 PM on January 24, 2007

Crying of Lot 49 and My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist came to mind. Both very quick, engaging reads.
posted by moift at 6:28 PM on January 24, 2007

*Though My Cousin... may not qualify as a novel for your purposes.
posted by moift at 6:29 PM on January 24, 2007

Not great literature, per se, and somewhat longer than the 400 pages, but I remeber thinking that any of Tom Wolfe's novels would make excellent introductions to contemporary American society.
posted by AwkwardPause at 6:34 PM on January 24, 2007

Rule of the bone, by Russell Banks.
posted by docgonzo at 9:46 PM on January 24, 2007

Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe. I think that sums it up neatly.
posted by NekulturnY at 12:58 AM on January 25, 2007

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