“Art isn’t a footrace. No one comes in first place. Greatness is not a universally agreed-upon value. … America isn’t one story. It’s a layered and diverse array of identities, individual and collective, forged on contradictory realities that are imbued with and denied privilege and power. Our obsession with the Great American Novel is perhaps evidence of the even greater truth that it’s impossible for one to exist. As Americans, we keep looking anyway.” Cheryl Strayed and Adam Kirsch discuss the Great American Novel in this week’s New York Times Bookends. For a slightly different take, consider the 9 novels our experts chose as the Greatest American novels, from Moby-Dick to The Godfather.
The Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas made headlines when it acquired the David Foster Wallace archives. Now it’s added another high profile author to its collection: J. M. Coetzee.
Haven’t read our own Mark O’Connell’s great new essay at Slate? To mark the hundredth anniversary of Dubliners, Mark paid a visit to the James Joyce House, which led him to reflect on life in his native city. “If you live in Dublin, if you are yourself a Dubliner,” he writes, “no matter how many times you read the book, it will always reveal something profound and essential and unrealized about the city and its people.”
Hold on to your starched collars: In breaking Shakespeare news, Oxford University Press announced that in its new edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe will receive credit as co-author on the Henriad plays. And if you’re really tired of Will getting all the credit, you’ll enjoy our recent piece about the surge of interest in Ben Jonson, who’s basically the Third Tenor to their more famous voices.