The Godfather and American Culture: How the Corleones Became "Our Gang"

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SUNY Press, Apr 25, 2002 - Literary Criticism - 344 pages
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Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is an American pop phenomenon whose driving force is reflected not only in book sales and cable television movie marathons but also in such related works as the hit television series The Sopranos. In The Godfather and American Culture, Chris Messenger offers an important and comprehensive study of this classic work of popular fiction and its hold on the American imagination. As Messenger shows, the Corleones have indeed become “our gang,” and we see our family business in America reflected in them. Examining The Godfather and its many incarnations within a variety of texts and contexts, Messenger also addresses Puzo’s inconsistent affiliation with his Italian heritage, his denial of the multiethnic literary subject, and his decades-long struggle for respect as a writer in contemporary America. The study ultimately offers a way of looking at the much-maligned genre of popular or bestselling fiction itself. By placing both the novel and films within a number of revealing critical situations, Messenger addresses the continuing problem of how we talk about elite and popular fiction in America—and what we mean when we take sides.
 

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Contents

Popular Fiction Taste Sentiment and the Culture of Criticism
19
Mario Puzo An American Writers Career
51
Bakhtin and Puzo Authority as the Family Business
87
The Godfather and the Ethnic Ensemble
107
Barthes and Puzo The Authority of the Signifier
149
The Godfather and Melodrama Authorizing the Corleones as American Heroes
173
The Corleones as Our Gang The Godfather Interrogated by Doctorows Ragtime
209
The American Inadvertent Epic The Godfather Copied
229
The Godfather Sung by The Sopranos
253
Conclusion
291
Notes
299
Works Cited
317
Index
327
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Page 11 - But on the truest candor, it has an inhibitory effect. Most serious matters are closed to the hardboiled. They are unpracticed in introspection, and therefore badly equipped to deal with opponents whom they cannot shoot like big game or outdo in daring. If you have difficulties, grapple with them silently, goes one of their commandments.

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About the author (2002)

Chris Messenger is Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of Sport and the Spirit of Play in American Fiction: Hawthorne to Faulkner and Sport and the Spirit of Play in Contemporary American Fiction; and is the coauthor, with Chet Walker, of Long Time Coming: A Black Athlete s Coming-of-Age in America.

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