“Almost as soon as the concept of the Great American Novel was invented, in the nation-building years after the Civil War, Buell finds it being mocked, noting that one observer dryly put it into the same category as ‘other great American things such as the great American sewing-machine, the great American public school, and the great American sleeping-car.’ It was enough of a cliché by 1880 for Henry James to refer to it with the acronym ‘GAN,’ which Buell employs throughout his book.” On the reigning gold standard for quality in American fiction. (Related: we asked nine experts their picks for the best American novel.)
It’s hard to get a better glimpse of the postwar white male American writer than the essays of William Styron. In My Generation, a new book of collected nonfiction, Styron writes about a raft of his contemporaries, including but not limited to Philip Roth, James Baldwin and Truman Capote. In the NYT, Charles Johnson reviews the collection. You could also read Alexander Nazaryan on a book by Styron’s daughter.
In Florida, legislators are wondering whether or not they should raise tuition costs for students studying the humanities, or really anything other than STEM fields. Likewise, James Dyson (yes, the vacuum guy) bemoans Britain’s abundance of “students choosing to read humanities at university.” As a rejoinder, one New Statesman blogger notes that the study of humanities does not inhibit technological innovation, and that as a bonus, “we gain from having people who reshape our cultural landscape and put things in new contexts.”
Etgar Keret, one of Israel’s best-known fiction writers, has a new memoir out, The Seven Good Years. The book covers a seven-year stretch between the birth of his son and the death of his father. At The Rumpus, Ryan Krull talks with Keret about the memoir, nuclear politics and living in Warsaw. You could also read Bezalel Stern on Keret’s most recent collection of short stories.
The New Yorker has been hosting a Twitter game show, and this time around the contestants were words and in a macabre turn each word was berated by the audience, the people calling out for the death of that contestant. One word was forced to ultimately bite the bullet and will no longer be welcome in the magazine’s next issue. Tragic.
RIP Günter Grass, who passed away in a hospital in Lübeck, Germany this morning at the age of 87. Grass, who won the Nobel in 1999, achieved fame upon publication of his debut novel, The Tin Drum. For more on the author’s life, you can read Ranbir Sadhu’s review of his memoir.