The Great American Anything

Here is a parody of the idea of “The Great American Anything” offered by the character Jerusalem Webster Stiles (who is the “devil” to John Shawnessy’s “Faust”) in Ross Lockridge, Jr.’s Raintree County. One should be aware that Lockridge’s novel was his considered entry into the “GAN” (Great American Novel) sweepstakes. The cynicism of Stiles (and as he is the least “pasteboard” of the characters) seems clearly where the author’s own mind found itself at the end of this long book.


–Centennial Exhibit No. 1

Attractively landscaped, in the midst of the fairground, a favorite retreat for epicures, gourmands, and gastronomes, The Great American Restaurant contains a Banqueting Hall 115 feet by 50 feet, Special Rooms for Ladies, Private Parlors, Smoking-Rooms, Bath-Rooms, and Barber-Shop. Fountains, Statues, Shrubbery surround the building. In this pleasant setting the Great Aerican Stomach can be ministered to in the most agreeable surroundings. In the Special Rooms, the Great American Ladies can be Special in the Great American Way. In the Private Parlors, the Great American Privacey can be had by all. In the Smoking Rooms, the Great Americn Cigar can be smoked. In the Bathrooms, one can lave one’s limbs with a Great American Soap, pouring over one’s recumbent form the incomparable waters of a Great American Bath. In the Barber-Shop, one can get the Great American Haircut, plus shave, for two bits. Among the Fountains, the Statues, and the Shrubbery, one can commune with nature and perhaps ambulate hand in hand with one’s beloved and when no one is noticing be Greatly American in the most approved and interesting fashion…


I am looking forward to getting a look at any dated revisions (if they survive) to see if this particular piece was inserted AFTER the novel had been accepted for publication. Lockridge was made to cut thousands and thousands of words from the novel and remove altogether one massive (500 pages?) dream narrative that he insisted was a “key” to the novel.

If the dreams that are included in the published version are any indication of this missing section, I’m glad it was cut. The dreams seem to me to simply spell out what the reader should be thinking about the “psychology” behind character’s actions and lives and the events that envelop them in the novel.

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