Everything in motion

Radical inclusiveness in a new literary history of the USA
by
March 2010, no. 319

A New Literary History of America edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors

Harvard University Press, $95 hb, 1,122 pp

Everything in motion

Radical inclusiveness in a new literary history of the USA
by
March 2010, no. 319

Cynthia Ozick’s most recent collection of criticism, The Din in the Head (2006), contains a brief but engaging essay called ‘Highbrow Blues’. It begins with her musing about a gaffe made by Jonathan Franzen following the publication of The Corrections (2002). Oprah Winfrey had selected Franzen’s novel for her televised book club, which was popular enough to turn any work she chose into a bestseller, but Franzen was uncomfortable with her program’s folksiness. He felt that the club’s reputation for featuring works of middlebrow fiction did not fit with his literary ambitions and that an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show was not likely to enhance his credibility. ‘I feel,’ he explained, ‘like I’m solidly in the high-art literary tradition.’ Brickbats flew from all directions. But why, wonders Ozick, did Franzen’s remark seem so jejune?

James Ley reviews 'A New Literary History of America' edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors

A New Literary History of America

edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors

Harvard University Press, $95 hb, 1,122 pp

From the New Issue

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.