A reader sticks up for Mario Puzo:
No surprise there’s backlash against the inclusion of The Godfather. Academics and those who think of themselves as literary types can’t give credit to any novel that isn’t either “beautifully” written or previously endorsed by the academic/literary community. It’s easier to harp on sentences and metaphors than to talk about mythic story, plot, character, and theme. And the notion that the movie version of The Godfather was saved from the hack Puzo and created by Coppola’s genius is simply not borne out by facts. Coppola insisted the film be called “Mario Puzo’s THE GODFATHER” because Coppola recognized the power and importance of Puzo’s story. And Puzo co-wrote the screenplay.
I give a great deal of credit to Dr. Ferraro for being willing to think outside of the academic/literary box and giving credit to one of the greatest stories of the century. Most of the books on this list are snoozers, far removed from the reading tastes or interests of ordinary Americans.
Update from a reader:
Literary types! Oh, noes!
First, it’s worth noting that the reader doesn’t defend Puzo’s writing. S/he just tries to pretend it doesn’t matter by diverting attention from it to what the previous posts had already readily acknowledged: that The Godfather is a great story. For my money, though, if something is going to be labeled the Great American Novel, it had better damn well be a great story and be fantastically written. No amount of story greatness can make up for shit writing, and vice versa.
Nor does the writing need to be difficult or flowery to be great. E.B. White never wrote a difficult or flowery sentence in his life, but his writing is, aside from the usual contrarians, universally praised for its elegance. To take his most famous book, Charlotte’s Web is an American novel that has immensely powerful story, plot, characters, and theme; and the writing … well, it’s testimony to the wonderful roominess of the human mind that we can even think of what White did and what Puzo did as the same activity.