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A new literary history of America
Marcus, Greil.
Adult Nonfiction PS92 .N39 2009

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From Publishers' Weekly:

The full national-literary character of the United States is on display in this mighty history and reference work for our time. Written by a distinguished team, under the sure-handed editorship of musicologist and historian Marcus and Sollors, Harvard professor of English and African-American studies, this volume begins with America's first appearance on a map and concludes with the election of President Obama. Among the more than 200 contributors are Bharati Mukherjee (on The Scarlet Letter), Camille Paglia (on Tennessee Williams) and Ishmael Reed (on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn). The book includes entries on not strictly literary themes: the first U.S. natural history collection of painter Charles Willson Peale; the invention of the blues; and the art of Grant Wood. This balancing act is even less sure-footed as we enter present time with entries on Some Like It Hot and the National Football League. Although it is impossible to include every important author in one volume, Sylvia Plath barely gets a nod as does James Merrill. Such are the blemishes on exquisite skin. Overall, this is an astounding achievement in multiculturalism and American studies, which in the age of Google and the Internet lights the way toward serious interpretive reference publishing. 27 illus. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Marcus (Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music) and Sollors (English & Afro-American studies, Harvard) trace through literature the dynamism of American society and culture spanning 500 years, from the first time the name America appears on a map (1507) to the election of Barack Obama as president. The editors include over 200 chronologically arranged essays, original to this volume and including Camille Paglia on Tennessee Williams, Paula Rabinowitz on FDR's first fireside chat, David Treuer on Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha, Michael Tolkin on Alcoholics Anonymous, and Paul Muldoon on Carl Sandburg. The editors selected the entries from a pool of over 400 essays, requiring that each deal with a turning point, a new question, or a time when "what before seemed impossible came to seem necessary or inevitable." Verdict No single volume can fully capture the range of a nation's literary history, but this book succeeds in highlighting new ideas and providing a starting point for further investigation. Above all, it is a pleasure to read.-Mark Alan Williams, Library of Congress (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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