“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.)
“You mean people who are now in their twenties? They won’t care. People who are in their twenties will have already done this stuff, so there’s now a record. When those people are old enough to be in charge of things—which by the way I don’t ever want them to be in charge of things, and luckily, I will be dead when these people take over—everybody will have that vulnerability. When everybody is vulnerable to something it’s not a weapon.” Fran Lebowitz talks to The Awl about old New York, writer’s block, and why the politicians of the future won’t have sex tapes.
The Empathy Exams, a new collection of essays by Leslie Jamison, gets its title from a piece about medical acting that was published in The Believer. On the Harper’s blog, you can read an interview with Jamison, who calls her collection “a refusal to choose between these approaches — criticism, confession, journalism.” (Michelle Huneven interviewed Jamison for The Millions a couple of years ago.)
The Millions Walking Tour of NYC Indie Bookstores is only a week away. Get all the details and RSVP.Little Dorrit is must-see-TV in the Packer household.For those considering undertaking Infinite Jest, we recommend Slate’s Audio Book Club discussion.Meanwhile, in the first installment of New York Magazine’s new “Reading Room” feature, participants get, er… wet.”‘I never wanted to write this book,'” [Alec Baldwin] tells us… ‘It was also a book I never wanted to read, but here we are, Alec and I, making the best of a bad situation.'”The influence of the late J.G. Ballard, who died this week, reached from Jonathan Lethem to Thom Yorke.What’s Bret Easton Ellis up to? Not much, apparently.An inspired blog feature collects one-star Amazon reviews of the classics (via HTMLGIANT).In praise of Peter Handke and A.J. Liebling.Senator Arlen Specter realizes that there’s no way to endear yourself to Republican primary voters like writing for The New York Review of Books.William H. Gass goes for baroque. (via The Complete Review)Some small presses are trying out a subscription model.The earliest known dust jacket for a book has been found. (via LitKicks)The Orange Prize shortlist has been announced.Ben Yogoda writes a defense of common English.Trade paperbacks thrive in tough times. (Our suggestion: make them even smaller.)Earth Day was this past week, and now we know: used books are “greener” than new.