“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.)
“To read something before it is accessible to all is both a privilege and an unfair advantage.” Je Banach’s notes on keeping the secrets of the books she writes about (e.g., Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage) are thoughtful, poignant, and tantalizingly spoiler-free.
Award-winning poet Alice Oswald has pulled out of prestigious poetry award the TS Eliot prize in protest over its sponsorship by an investment company. Oswald’s words: “I think poetry should be questioning not endorsing such institutions.”
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan drops today. Our review. Also out recently are Walks With Men, a novella by Ann Beattie, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, a novel from Aimee Bender. This week also sees the long-awaited posthumous publication of Henry Roth’s An American Type. Another recent posthumous publication: Robert Walser’s mysterious Microscripts.
At Jacket Copy, Carolyn Kellogg talks with Jonathan Lethem about his new novel Chronic City “I love to dwell in the space of a novel — I don’t find writing uncomfortable, it’s something I really love doing. Writing a long novel, especially, it means that I’m creating this whole other set of people that I’m interested in, and this whole other world I get to go into, and I try to stay there. I try to go every day, not just to see the word count amass, which is helpful, but because then my subconscious is kind of living there.”
The Coffin Factory, a “magazine for people who love books,” interviews New Directions’ Barbara Epler and Tom Roberge about “publishing and finding bold, new experiments in literature from around the world.” (via)
“If Do-It-Yourself culture continues to gain appeal as fast as climate change lays on the chaos, we will need to look to the hinterlands for both practical guidance and hints about the fashions of the future. I recently watched Werner Herzog’s 2010 documentary (directed in collaboration with Dmitry Vasyukov) Happy People, which follows a few Siberian fur trappers over the course of a year, and let me tell you: when Celsius and Fahrenheit converge, Gennady of Bakhtia does not waste his time tossing boiling water into the air just to see what happens.” On surviving the next polar vortex.