"Raintree County" is an American version of Tolstoy's "War and Peace".
I've actually read "War and Peace". Lockridge's "Raintree County" rises to that level--and, in my estimation--surpasses it. I love the Russians--Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev. And I love Walt Whitman and Ross Lockridge for the same reason. They all have what the Spanish call "duende," what the American blacks clamor to express by the word "soul". These aren't weak, spineless, effete Victorians afraid of beauty, passion, shame and awkward emotions.
They cast light into the dark corners of the human soul and throw open man's collective experience for all to see--something rarely achieved in typically dryer Anglo-Saxon literature.
Ross Lockridge's "Raintree County" astounded me. It left me wondering how this great American genius has been ignored, neglected. The only thing I can think of is that Lockridge makes the fatal mistake of being honest, of writing too accurately about the time-period, of not lying and indulging in historical revisionism. As a result, spineless readers wince when the "N" word is used, or terms like "pickannies," "darkies" or various other period vulgarities are employed by despised side-characters.
For this reason geniuses like Booth Tarkington are banned and suppressed.
It's sad. They want to revise the past and make it "acceptable" for modern audiences. But if you sanitize, you gut, you neuter, you destroy the hard edges which give the time-period texture, verisimilitude. (I mean, if slaves were well-treated why did we fight the Civil War?) But modern hacks would have writers keep all profanities out of it, re-write it so that nothing crude or insensitive made its way in.
If you want lies, watch a Hollywood movie, read a trash novel; if you want genius, poetry, brilliant insights and literary talent, give "Raintree County" a try. Maybe, with enough of us protesting, the prude schoolmarms with tenure at universities will be nudged from their slumber and realize that they have neglected one of the titanic achievements of modern American literature.