Recommended Reading: John Williams suggests some reads as we prepare for the presidential primaries.
“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.)
“The greatest Intelligence Agency use of Twitter that never really happened is @US_CIA, a remarkable account that posted plausible Langley public notices that became noticeably stranger over time. Eventually it was claiming 30% of all CIA employees were LGBT and/or First Nation and tweeting directly to @khamenei_ir, Iran's ayatollah.” At The Awl, Ken Layne investigates the world of Espionage Twitter.
We recently linked to a new interview with Ian McEwan, whose latest novel The Children Act comes out next week. The LA Times has a full review of the new book, and the piece pairs well with Charles-Adam Foster-Simard's review of McEwan's Sweet Tooth. And of course there's Atonement, which comes up in a variety of Millions articles, from Michael David Lukas's essay on the polyphonic novel to Seth Sawyer's recent piece on food and reading.
In the sixties, when he was a student at Cambridge, Stephen Greenblatt came across a book of Persian art. The book inspired a lifelong interest in the region, which in part explains why, after the University of Tehran invited him to give the keynote address at the first annual Iranian Shakespeare Congress, he packed his bags and headed over to the Middle East. In The New York Review of Books, the Harvard professor and Swerve author writes about his experience.