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English pubs in literature -- can America compete?

July 8, 2010 |  1:31 pm

Beertaps

British author Richard Francis is a novelist and a scholar -- this fall, Yale University press will publish his book "Fruitlands: The Alcott Family, the Englishmen, and Utopia" about the Transcendentalists, particularly Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May, who grew up to write "Little Women"). It promises to be an engaging literary and cultural history, one that's thoroughly and carefully researched. So for now, before things get too heady, Francis has published a novel in England, "The Old Spring," about the day in the life of a pub.

"All my life I’ve loved pubs. My non-fiction is concerned with utopian theories and experiments, and pubs can be seen in the same light -- they are communities devised to make people feel happy, though of course they don’t necessarily succeed," Francis writes on his blog. "Neither do utopian communities, and my guess is that pubs have a higher success rate."

At the Guardian, Francis lists his top 10 pubs in literature, beginning with Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" and ending with Graham Swift's "Last Orders," with suitable helpings of Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, Thomas Hardy, William Shakespeare and even T.S. Eliot along the way.

His list is, sadly, very British. Aren't there some great pubs in American literature? What would you nominate for the top 10 American pubs -- make that bars -- memorialized in literature?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

twitter.com/paperhaus

Photo: Beer taps at the Lucky Baldwin Pub in Pasadena. Credit: Courtney Hergesheimer / Los Angeles Times


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