The Official State Novel of Jersey? Fuggedabahddit!

Book CoverIf I were still teaching composition, or if I taught English in a grammar or middle school, I would totally make an assignment out of this news story: the House of Representatives in the state of Massachusetts has declared Moby Dick the state’s official “epic novel.” The bill still needs to pass the Senate and secure the Gov’s signature, but still, the idea of a “state novel” caused a bit of attention. State Representative Cory Atkins was dismayed, according to the AP article (Hi Hillel!):

Rep. Cory Atkins said she was “appalled” and contended her district in Concord has “more authors per square mile than any other.”

“What about Louisa May Alcott? What about (Nathaniel) Hawthorne? How am I going to face my constituents?” she said.

Continuing Rep. Atkins’ “What about…?” question, I have to ask, what would be the official state novel of your state or territory or province or zone or whatever? What author in your locale of residence produced the best written novel that should represent the whole state? More specifically, which romance novelist in your state wrote the best novel, in your estimation? (And at this moment, are romance novelists in Maryland heading for the border to take up residence in PA or WV? Heh heh.)

This is one of those moments where I wish I could be an English teacher again.


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  1. 1
    Teddypig says:

    Tennessee Williams ~ Baby Doll

  2. 2

    I’m close enough to MD living in Northern Virginia that I think La Nora can take VA too.

  3. 3
    MRM says:

    I think Thomas Wolfe would be a good choice to represent NC, most likely with Look Homeward, Angel.  I hate to admit it, but I haven’t actually read any of his works (not a shining moment for this UNC grad with an English degree, but oh well).

  4. 4
    Joanna says:

    I think Stephanie Laurens for Victoria, Australia
    but that’s an easy one…

  5. 5
    Julie Leto says:

    I’m glad I don’t live in Massachusetts.  That would be a tough pick.  But I do think that Hawthorne is a better choice than Melville, just because more people have actually read Hawthorne in high school than read all of Moby Dick.  (Which I have and which I loved…but the Scarlett Letter was still better.  Not to mention the House of the Seven Gables actually exists in Salem.  Plus, Hawthorne was briefly a state employee.  I don’t think Melville ever was.)

    For Florida, I believe it would be Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s The Yearling, though I hated the book, it is a great reflection of old Florida.  And it was written by a woman.  Always a plus.  Or we could go the misogynistic route and pick Hemingway.

  6. 6

    Alabama’s would be easy, Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. Linda Howard would probably be our official romance novelist.

  7. 7

    Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s The Yearling for Florida.  It’s read by all the schoolchildren and gives a good overview of Cracker life.  Their Eyes Were Watching God was the pick for a community wide reading program in Florida a few years back, and presents a glimpse into the African American community and women’s issues. 

    I would also recommend Patrick Smith’s A Land Remembered as an example of a classic Florida novel.

  8. 8

    Oh, and for Florida romance authors?  Let’s see…there was some broad who wrote about pirates in Key West and St. Augustine, and Crackers and smugglers following the Second Seminole War, but dang if her name isn’t slipping past me….[g]

  9. 9
    ev says:

    For New York- it would be The Wizard of Oz. I really can’t think of anything else that would come up to it in popularity. the yearly Oz Festival is always packed.

    We have lots of romance authors- Carly Phillips and a whole list of them. That would probably be a much harder choice to make.

  10. 10

    Did Atkins actually just try to compare Louisa May Alcott to Herman Melville?  For real?  Let me throw out a hearty, “Bitch, please.”

    As for a state book of Michigan, we don’t seem to have that many famous authors.  Maybe something by Edna Ferber.  Or Chris Van Allsburg.  We could claim Jumanji as our state book, I guess.

  11. 11
    El says:

    As a Marylander, who even went to the same high school (I believe she was in my sister’s year) as La Nora, I’ve got that one covered.

  12. 12

    As a gal who grew up in and around Boston, I have to say: “face my constituents?” Eh?

    I haven’t heard much about this on the state-wide news, although I’m sure somewhere in literary circles there’s a huge kirfluffle.

    But I can’t help but imagine that any “constituents” who might confront Atkins about this injustice would be crazy old ex-hippie professors and therefore loony as fuck. In which case, I do not envy her having to face them.

    Actually, I do. They sound like my kind of people. :)

  13. 13
    dillene says:

    For my home state of Michigan, I would almost certainly have to pick the novelization of “RoboCop”.  Anyone here ever been to downtown Detroit?  Yeah.

    I’m currently living in DC, and I won’t bother to pick one novel to cover all of the malarkey that goes on here.  It’s just too bad that “A Confederacy of Dunces” takes place in New Orleans and not DC.

  14. 14
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    For Connecticut, I would nominate either Susan Cooper or Maurice Sendak.

  15. 15
    Mary Beth says:

    Sounding in for Illinois here. I would suggest Ray Bradbury… but I don’t know what book I’d choose. Illustrated Man, perhaps?

  16. 16
    Michelle says:

    For Oregon, it would absolutely have to be Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. 

    But since it’s Oregon, someone would start arguing that no, it should be “Sometimes a Great Notion.” 

    Next thing you know there’d be a ballot measure, annoying tv ads, and somehow Bill Sizemore the Ass Hat would get involved and try to cut funding for something essential.

    Maybe we should all meet up at Powell’s for a focus group?

  17. 17
    Michele says:

    I live in Texas so if there was a state novel it would probably be something by Larry McMurtry if they want to go the literary route- my pick would either be ‘Texasville’ or ‘Lonesome Dove’ because those are my two favorite McMurtry novels.

    As for the romance route… there have been so many romance novels set in Texas and there are so many great Texas authors that I’d have to do some thinking on that one.

  18. 18
    Cat Marsters says:

    I don’t believe anyone’s ever written a great novel about Essex, which is a shame since historically it was home to both the Witchfinder General and Oliver Cromwell.  Plenty of rich pickings.  Cambridge, yes.  London, oh my yes.  The bit in the middle?  Not so much.  I was born in Yorkshire, where there’s plenty to choose from; there’s even an Arts and Literature section on the Wikipedia page.  Essex doesn’t have one of those.

    However, I do recall some Betty Neels romance novels set in the area.  And I set my books locally sometimes.

  19. 19
    Joanne says:

    When I was young—and dinosaur roamed the earth—- if you were out of school and lived in New York State you wanted to live in New York City.  Though it’s the movie, not the book that put us in motion,  I would have to say ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ by Truman Capote.

    Proposing that as the State book might be just about the only thing that could get our reps to face their constituents.

  20. 20
    Danielle H. says:

    For Montana, I think A River Runs Through It by Norman MacLean would be a good pick.

  21. 21
    Mingqi says:

    I actually live in Massachusetts and am saddened.  First, by how lame it is that my state’s reps would waste time and paper passing a bill for a state novel.  Second, Moby Dick has considerably more haters than fans so I feel that it doesn’t have enough mass appeal to say this is the state’s novel…but then there are those stiffs who say mass appeal diminishes the literariness of a novel.  I had only read a VERY abridged version of it when I was younger and had found it a boring.  It boggles the mind to think people are actually reading it at full-length.  I would put a vote in for Hawthorne too- but maybe his stuff is too interesting to be considered a state novel.

    As for romance novelists in my state: LISA KLEYPAS with her novel, Dreaming of You though I liked Then Came You equally well too.

  22. 22
    Deb Kinnard says:

    Cat, what about FLAMBARDS? Didn’t Peyton set that in Essex?

    Loved that book.  And for Illinois, yes, Bradbury, though Chicagoans would probably insist on something by Studs Terkel. One of our more dedicated Chicago navel-gazers.

    For romance, I’d have to say Susan Elizabeth Phillips. She lives somewhere west of the Loop, but I’d say she qualifies.

  23. 23
    Mora says:

    Ohio has a shit ton of options. For non-romance, Sherwood Anderson if you want to go the dead white guy route. Toni Morrison, if you don’t.

    Romance is easy—Jennifer Crusie all the way.

  24. 24
    Lori says:

    For Florida, I would have to nominate Sick Puppy by Carl Hiassen.  It serves as a much-deserved skewering of our current political climate,and a wonderful commentary about development gone wild.

  25. 25
    BevQB says:

    Y’all can just keep your serious literary classics. Here in the Land O’ the Grey (Ohio) where our state rock song is “Hang on Sloopy” by the McCoys (seriously), we should be known as The Birthplace of Romantica, Home of Ellora’s Cave.

  26. 26
    Eve says:

    Sounding in for Nebraska here (although I’m from Texas and living in NE thanks to the USAF)

    Romance Novelists – Victoria Alexander and Cheryl St. John all the way! They’re both members of my writing cahpter and are two of the best ladies I know. Funny, take no shit, no holds barred – that’s them. :) Oh yeah, and their books rock too.

  27. 27
    Mia says:

    How about Steinbeck for California?  And for romance…maybe Jackie Collins?

  28. 28
    Melissandre says:

    Kansas would like to reclaim The Wizard of Oz from New York.  True, L. Frank Baum may not have lived here, but every Kansas resident has been asked at one point or another, “Do you know Dorothy?”  or “How’s Dorothy doing?”  If our whole state is going to be associated with Oz, then we get to claim the book.

    As for romance, Rebecca Brandewyne all the way!

  29. 29
    JaneyD says:

    I’m with Mingqi—Mody Dick is boring (and also the name of a rather less boring gay bar in Dallas).

    What the heck are these knobs DOING spending their time and their voters’ tax money on this when there are much more serious topics that need addressing.

    Is the state’s educational system getting all the money and equipment it needs?  Are the teachers getting the pay they deserve? Are the libraries getting enough funding?

    (Well who cares about THAT crap, we have to pick State Novel and pose for pictures!)

    I’ve heard of pork barrel projects. Does this qualify as blubber barrel?

    I’m all for recognizing great writers, but this blog alone proves that picking just one book per state to be a time-consuming if not impossible task. Everyone has a favorite.

    To judge by some politicians I seriously doubt they’re capable of making such a judgment. The lot in MY state has likely never opened any kind of reading matter unless there was a centerfold within—and I’m not talking National Geographic maps!

  30. 30
    Jean says:

    For the Virginia state book, I nominate “Janice Meredith,” by Paul Leicester Ford, a “romance” of the American Revolution. Published in 1899, it was a best-seller in 1900, and was the basis for a popular play in 1901-1902, and a movie in 1924—the movie starred Marion Davies as Janice. The novel was written at Colle, a farm that is located a mile from Monticello, here in Albemarle County, Virginia. If you wanted to read the novel, it is available free as an ebook at

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