Behold! Raintree County is the Great American Novel!
I had no great interest in American literature at the time, being more concerned with the rambunctious adventures of Simon Templar, the "Saint" of many novels by Leslie Chartris. But I was stunned to realize that the height of success and the depth of despair might fall upon someone at the same moment.
It wasn't until some years later that I actually got around to reading the book, and indeed I'm not entirely sure when that was--not at university, not in the U.S. Army, but some time between 1958 and 1968, when I was serving my own apprenticeship in the writing of fiction. I was blown away by the experience. I thought that Raintree County was the best thing I'd ever read. Now I've taken it up again, and I'm astonished to find that it has pretty much dropped off the literary radar. So I have started on my web page to celebrate it: Behold! Raintree County is the Great American Novel!