Midweek @ Musings: Your Literary Mount Rushmore

Dean Franklin - 06.04.03 Mount Rushmore Monument (by-sa)-2During Monday’s commute, I listened to Books on the Nightstand podcast #148 and especially enjoyed the “literary Mount Rushmore” segment, where the hosts discussed four authors they would put on a Literary Mount Rushmore. I was preoccupied by the topic all day, and so this post was born.

First, historic background for readers outside the United States.  Mount Rushmore is a huge carving of four US Presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln), set in the side of a mountain.  It took 14 years to build, and is now a huge tourist attraction.  It’s an impressive portrayal of some of America’s founding fathers.  On the other hand, it’s controversial, because the territory was seized from Native Americans, and the presidents were all active during a time when the US was annexing Native American land.

Fortunately a “literary Mount Rushmore” is pure speculation, with the only controversy being spirited debate among literature lovers.  And I thought creating mine would be easy.  It was not!  I got bogged down dithering over my selection criteria.  Is it enough for the author to be a personal favorite?  Or should they have made significant impact on their genre?  And how would I define significant, anyway?  Should my Mount Rushmore represent multiple genres?  Races?  Countries?

Maybe I was over-thinking it a bit.  In times like these, it’s usually best to just go with my gut.  So here they are (the 60-foot stone carvings will have to come later):

  • Edith Wharton: the grande dame of American literature, in my opinion!  She even has her own page on this blog.
  • John Steinbeck: another literary giant.  The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden inspired me to read more classics
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: a much younger author who made Nigeria come alive and developed my interest in African literature
  • Vera Brittain: author of Testament of Youth, one of the most moving World War I books I’ve ever read; notable for her ardent feminism and ability to pursue a career in a time when doing so was next to impossible.

Which four authors would you put on your personal Literary Mount Rushmore?

p.s. Books on the Nightstand will devote their October 19 podcast to reader responses to this question.  Leave a message on their voicemail line: (209) 867-7323 by October 15, and perhaps yours will make the show!

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4 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: Your Literary Mount Rushmore

  1. OK, I’ll bite. Marcel Proust, Kurt Vonnegut, PG Wodehouse, Samuel Clemens. The criteria includes that each author must have a sizable catalog. Also, what the hell is Teddy Roosevelt doing on Mt. Rushmore? Let’s see, First President (check). . . Architect of Founding Documents (check). . . Preserved the Union (check). . . (uhm) Overcame Asthma and Played Dress-Up Soldier. I mean, it must have been a tight race with Chester A. Arthur for that fourth spot.

    • LOL! The Wikipedia piece I linked to says, “These presidents were selected by Borglum because of their role in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory.”

      I think I have a clue: Didn’t TR play a key role in designating National Parks and forming the National Park service? Mount Rushmore is a National Park. It’s the ultimate leadership vanity piece!

  2. I could kick myself for not buying a second-hand copy of The Testament of Youth last winter. But I know where it is in Toronto and if I’m very lucky then perhaps it will still be there next time.

    Could the Mitford clan count collectively? A lot of material has been published between them. (The first bit could be a tongue twister in any case!). Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Taylor would rate highly on my list as well.

    • Darlene, you can count any way you like! Although I’m smiling to myself thinking of the entire Mitford clan jockeying for position on the mountain!

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