I've been working on this post for quite some time now (erm, two months). I keep hesitating to actually post it because I have never heard a single person criticize Where the Red Fern Grows. And I'm about to. Hold onto your hats.
Where the Red Fern Grows is a classic American story--but I hope you won't throw stones at me when I say I hope it's not considered classic American writing.
It's pretty obvious that Wilson Rawls didn't have tons of formal training when it came to fiction writing. That doesn't necessarily mean his book is bad. It's fun, sweet, and emotionally provoking (how many of us have cried at the end?). It explores the timeless theme of humanity's relationship with nature and animals. It's a perfect read-aloud and it's easily relatable.
That said, there were some annoying and even laughable flaws in the writing. I believe that a true classic has both the elements of a good story and a beautiful way of telling it. In that way, this book was more of a fun story than a classic for me (emphasis on for me).
I debated whether I even wanted to bring this up, because it feels like a snobby, elitist way to look at literature. I'm not trying to say this book isn't worth reading or that it isn't good. This book is instantly lovable with children and adults alike, and Rawls was certainly masterful at conveying emotion. I'm not trying to condemn the book. However, I do think that the writing is worth critiquing, if only because this book is lauded far and wide (well, far and wide within the United States). It almost feels heretical to say that there's anything wrong with it because everyone loves it so much.
However, this book felt more like a campfire story than a real novel. I think it really brings to life the American spirit--as long as you don't look at it aesthetically. I think it has more to do with the culture than with any kind of literary merit.
What do you think?