When someone broaches the endless search for the Great American Novel, we laugh in exasperation. Why are we still chasing that Grail when its right there on the shelf, right before our eyes? Its hard to dispute the qualifications of, say, Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, The Catcher in the Rye, or Slaughterhouse-Five, but if were talking about the one, true Great American Novel, it has to be To Kill a Mockingbird. Just has to.
Harper Lees Pulitzer-winning work was a childhood memoir, more or less, but the author was in the right place/right time both as a saucer-eyed child surveying a classless society and, in maturity, as a progressive thinker perched on the precipice of civil rights to capture Americas deep goodness and flaws. The reason Mockingbird must be considered best is its unflinching repudiation of racial inequality the issue closest to the American psyche at a time (1960) when such things were, to use the vernacular of the books small-town-Alabama setting, just not done.