We've just put up a new site dedicated to A New Literary History of America, the massive tome via which a distinguished editorial board and cast of hundreds have set out to build an answer to the question "what is America?" The first review is in -- a "mighty history and reference work for our time," says Publishers Weekly in a starred review, and an "astounding achievement."
On the site you will find 12 of the 219 essays that comprise the book printed in full for your enjoyment, as well as a soon-to-be complete table of contents, a video interview with HUP editor Lindsay Waters, an illuminating Q&A with Marcus and Sollors that could double as a manifesto for a revitalized American Studies, and a bit on the bookstore contest we mentioned a while back.
Greil Marcus (left) by Thierry Ardit, Paris. Werner Sollors (right).
A bit from each editor on why we need a "literary" history of this thing we call America:
Marcus: From the start, people have been trying to figure out what America is. The country itself—even before it was a nation—has always been the country’s great subject: in every kind of writing, in public address, in music, on the stage, on the screen. Thus the country has produced a deep and kaleidoscopic literary reflection of itself—but more than that, the literary attempt to say what the country is, taken in the broadest sense, has become an ongoing national argument about what the country can and should be. And that argument is as alive in a film by Preston Sturges as in Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address.
Sollors: The whole world is curious about American culture, its pervasive passions, its energies, and its idiosyncrasies. A volume that vividly presents, in their historical unfolding, more than two hundred cultural bits, things, works, objects that were “made in America” surprises with fresh insights on the naming of the continent or religious revivals, on children’s literature or hard-boiled prose and invites the reader to make connections among a huge range of topics.
||| A New Literary History of America will be published in September.