Recommended Reading: “The Pumpkin Tree” by Robert Wrigley.
“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 can not be that I monopolize / The making of the songs that give you praise / Or that such pools as are your dearest eyes / Have just one bather through the unclear days. / Then, let me take my place amid the pack, / If I so pack my songs with your rare worth / There were no quality they then should lack / But they were bettered by that happy death.” A previously unpublished Ezra Pound sonnet selling at auction is always newsworthy–especially when it fetches nearly $12,000. Here is a related Millions piece about the difficult poetry of Ezra Pound, John Berryman, and Ted Berrigan.