I have found the only American equivalent to Paradise Lost, and it lies in between the cover pages of the Pete Hamill novel Forever.
The very basic plot is that a young man immigrates from Ireland in pursuit of the man who killed his father. After the initial voyage, he helps a slave escape, one who, in return, endows him with the gift of immortal life. The only condition is that he remains only on Manhattan Island- if he leaves the island for any reason, he will die, and it will be considered suicide, thus barring him from the Otherworld, the Celtic version of the afterlife. Thus, Cormac O'Connor remains on Manhattan Island for over three hundred years, and sees it change from a village on the tip of a wild island to the Metropolis it has become.
The bits of Irish and American history strewn about its pages make it seem more like reading a history book, albeit one with a thriving plotline that twists and turns with the times.
If nothing else, you will come away from this book realizing, truly realizing, that we are alive for the last time.
Things will never be perfect, but they are beautiful because we are here, we are living, we are eating and breathing and fighting. Time passes regardless of what we wish, and events will come and go. O'Connor watches all the people he loves die, and comes to wish for death. We need none of that- we should desire only life, and a good one at that, a wild brawling one that will live forever in the pages of history.
We think our stories are unique. We think that no one has possibly lived our life, felt our pains so severely, our joys so emphatically. We are wrong.
Our story has been told a million times. All of them. A strong kid who dies years before his time in a blink of an eye... that's happened. A wannabe writer who wishes for both extraordinary life and a quick death... fucking cliche. Star crossed lovers who are cursed by outside influences and even worse luck.... even Shakespeare wrote about that.
What makes the stories different are the nuances of our personalities. There are some who will not go quietly into the night. There are some whose personalities will not dictate the plot, but will write the words on the page, filling in the gaps between the covers in a way you didn't think they could.
We all die. It's hard for me to say it, but we all fucking die. Even me- I will be under a big, cold Celtic cross one day But our job as people is to live as passionately, as forcefully, as we possible can. We must make our choices, and forge our own paths, whether or not we think we can, or whether we believe we are capable of doing it well.
For in the end, unlike Hamill's character... we don't have all the time in the world. The clock is ticking to make this shit interesting... and for me to make myself happy. You too.
Make it fucking worth it.