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The Best American Book of the 20th Century

Date
2015
Publisher
Onomatopee
Format
Artists' Books
Genre
Literature
Description

Consisting of the first sentence of the first best-selling book of 1900, as listed*;
the second sentence of the second best-selling book of 1900, as listed;
the third sentence of the third best-selling book of 1900, as listed;
the fourth sentence of the fourth best-selling book of 1900, as listed; the fifth sentence of the fifth best-selling book of 1900, as listed; the sixth sentence of the sixth best-selling book of 1900, as listed;
the seventh sentence of the seventh best-selling book of 1900, as
 listed; the eight sentence of the eight best-selling book of 1900, as listed; the ninth sentence of the ninth best-selling book of 1900, as listed;
 the tenth sentence of the tenth best-selling book of 1900, as listed; the eleventh sentence of the first best-selling book of 1901, as listed;
and so on up to the end of the century, to the thousandth sentence of the tenth best-selling book of 1999.

Each sentence is footnoted with its reference. Ten sentences form one paragraph, representing one year. Ten paragraphs form one chapter, representing one decade. The book represents a century: the American Century.
In constructing ‘The Best American Book of the 20th Century’, artist cooperative Société Réaliste replaces the proper nouns by pronouns. This slightly enhances the original text and enables a selected overview of the history of Best American Fiction in one condensed, ambitious novel.

As ‘The Best American Book of the 20th Century’ travels through the textual materiality of an entire century of mass-produced literature, it suggests intertextual relationships between the narratives of American fiction. Since a multitude of changes in time and culture converse in the book, the project transverses the usual, formal standards of language, questioning power dynamics between reader and writer. Are Pearl S. Buck, Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, Margaret Mitchell, Ayn Rand, John Steinbeck, Daphne du Maurier, J. D. Salinger, Stephen King, and Toni Morrison basically telling a similar story? Do they, through this project, become the collective authors of one, all-encompassing- book? Is the project an opportunity to re-assess and reflect upon modernity’s spell on our collective imagination? And, ultimately, how does its composed text resonate in our present times?

Contributors: Constance Barrere Dangleterre, Bianca Stigter, Chris Sharp, Bart Groenendaal

  1. The Best American Book of the 20th Century
 

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