East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Everyone in America knows The Grapes of Wrath; most of us had to read it for h.s. English class. East of Eden, then, is perhaps the book we all wanted to avoid after having to slog through GofW. But that would be a shame to continue shunning this book. The story of the Hamiltons and the Trasks is as entertaining, American, and equally harrowing stories as anything in fiction. The character that adds everything to this novel is Cathy Ames, a true monster of a human, a demon in disguise, a user and abuser of men and women (but especially men). She is, in a word … DELIGHTFUL. What a great woman of fiction, one who uses her intelligence and gumption to get what she wants in the American world of ‘take what you can get.’
A Frolic of His Own by William Gaddis
Here lies the story of Oscar — last names don’t matter — a history lecturer and hobbyist writer. He’s about to sue the writers/directors/producers and film studio that has made a movie out of what Oscar claims is a rip-off of his monumental Civil War play. And along the ride that Gaddis takes us, all things American are skewered, basted, roasted, and eaten: religion, brand names, real estate agents, film studios, publishers, agents, TV news, higher eduction, students of higher education, and (and especially) lawyers and the practice of civil litigation. Just a comic delight that, for all its tangential micro-stories, makes you laugh aloud at the absurdity of culture, society, and how both are practiced in the USA.
Shosha by Isaac Bashevis Singer
The eponymous woman in this story of hardship and redemption, is Shosha, once a little girl who looked forward to marrying Aaron, a neighborhood boy, but who lost contact with him when his family moved to a different part of Warsaw. Aaron, an aspiring writer, is beset with bad ideas, until one day a rich American and his actress wife come to town. In the few years remaining before Adolph Hitler plunges the world into war—and the Polish Jews into concentration camps—Aaron reunites with Shosha, and they try to make life worth living as disaster bears down on them.
The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.