Cover for HUME: American Dream, American Nightmare: Fiction since 1960

American Dream, American Nightmare

Fiction since 1960

Kathryn Hume explores the landscape of American fiction since 1960 and the disenfranchisement she discovers there to extricate the thread of a literary movement that she calls “the Generation of the Lost Dream.”

In this celebration of contemporary American fiction, Kathryn Hume explores how estrangement from America has shaped the fiction of a literary generation, which she calls the Generation of the Lost Dream.

In breaking down the divisions among standard categories of race, religion, ethnicity, and gender, Hume identifies shared core concerns, values, and techniques among seemingly disparate and unconnected writers including T. Coraghessan Boyle, Ralph Ellison, Russell Banks, Gloria Naylor, Tim O'Brien, Maxine Hong Kingston, Walker Percy, N. Scott Momaday, John Updike, Toni Morrison, William Kennedy, Julia Alvarez, Thomas Pynchon, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Don DeLillo.

Hume explores fictional treatments of the slippage in the immigrant experience between America's promise and its reality. She exposes the political link between contemporary stories of lost innocence and liberalism's inadequacies. She also invites us to look at the literary challenge to scientific materialism in various searches for a spiritual dimension in life.

The expansive future promised by the American Dream has been replaced, Hume finds, by a sense of tarnished morality and a melancholy loss of faith in America's exceptionalism. American Dream, American Nightmare examines the differing critiques of America embedded in nearly a hundred novels and points to the source for recovery that appeals to many of the authors.


"Hume shows an encylopedic knowledge of the period she covers as she surveys novels that exhibit common techniques, problems, and issues. . . . This well-documented study, with its lengthy bibliography, will be valuable and engaging for students and scholars at all levels." -- Choice

"[Hume] works inductively, considering roughly one hundred novels published between 1960 and 1990 in order to illuminate their thematic alliances. . . . [This volume] succeeds because of Hume's sharp eye for detail. A master of the one-thousand-word critique, she is able to succinctly move thorugh dense novels without neglecting significant themes or ignoring pressing issues. . . . I can think of no better text to introduce graduate students to the field, enlighten specialists working in earlier periods, or guide the general reader looking for a map through the terrain of contemporary fiction." -- Eric Schocket, American Literature

"A significant critical evaluation of contemporary American fiction that is sure to influence our understanding of the literature of the second half of the twentieth century. . . . No one can claim to understand contemporary American fiction if he or she has not read and come to grips with the arguments in Hume's book." -- David W. Price, Southern Humanities Review

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