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Showing 1-10 of 12 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 19 reviews
on March 12, 2016
I met a man who wrote high school history books. He said the publishers told him to avoid three things in the books out of fear of offending the buyers. They told him, "Don't write about sex, politics, or violence." Of course, history, for the most part, is based on sex, politics, and violence, resulting in a lot of boring and sanitized history books. Well, here is a book that didn't listen to the voices of fear. It puts it out there with the added elements of literature, art, music, technology, religion, greed, murder, racism, sex, and as much as can be found in 1050 pages. This is a book to sip slowly. I started reading it in September and finished the final entry in March. The book has over 200 entries, and I wish it had more. I took my time, reading one or two articles a day, underlining, highlighting, and commenting in the book, until I came to the end. I loved the experience. Most days I'd read an article and find a gem or an idea, a reflection, or an episode I hadn't considered or even knew existed. This book changed how I see America. While it reinforced some ideas, it also introduced perspectives I hadn't considered. While each article is written independently of the others, common themes of American mythology, racism, class structure, politics, sex, and violence weave through the pages.
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on June 8, 2012
The "new" in "A New Literary History of America" is that it looks at the idea of America rather than its facts. Yes, facts about the American experience are unavoidable in this book but they are stones placed in the garden not the garden itself.

Why focus on the "idea" of America? Because for a long time it was as an idea, the new world, that it resonated with people in the old. No other place has the history of living in the imagination before becoming a reality. It meant that "America" was weighted down by expectations that no nation could live up to but that wasn' t for a lack of trying.

The book is organized chronologically which is a brilliant device. It allows for the conversation about America to spring forward from dates and events, facts, if you will, that add to the idea in rich and varied ways. Yes, the book covers the usual suspects of literature: Emerson, Whitman, Dickinson and so on but also Linda Lovelace, Bebop and Harriet Wilson.

I imagine this literary history as a pinball machine with the reader as the player launching the ball, the idea of America, into the flippers, bumpers, kickers and slingshots. The idea bounces around among various experiences of America as it journeys through this playfield until finally the shiny ball emerges no worse for wear. That is the idea of America. Such cannot be said of the real place, for which its idea serves sometimes as hope, other times as despair but always with the promise of the new and the clean slate.
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on February 9, 2015
Wonderful text! On a scholarly level, I use it with my research and teachings (especially to introduce a new text). Personally, it is just fascinating for some light reading. Highly recommended.
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on April 8, 2013
so unique. got this for a class, ended up dropping class but am hanging on to this gem. all articles were commissioned for this edition, really nice digestible (small) articles about important people and events in our nation's cultural history.
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on January 6, 2010
Books like this, like top 100 lists, will never be all things to all people. That said this is a fantastic trip through America's rich and varied cultural history. I love the chronological arrangement, I enjoy picking a decade that interests me and working my way through it. Edited by Greil Marcus of Lipstick Traces fame (if you haven't read it you should), the contributors range from authors, academics, journalists and cultural critics. The entries are well written and full of surprises. Any literary history that includes both Charles Willson Peale and Superman is tops in my book.
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on December 1, 2009
Finally we have a literary history paying due respect to African American, Native American, Asian American (including an essay on that very designation),Gay and Lesbian, and other previously neglected elements in that history. Superfluously, however, we have essays (and this is a book of chronologically arranged but otherwise disconnected essays with no connective tissue) that don't fit or make very little sense in the general context (and title) of the book. Even the final essay, on Hurricane Katrina, by the editors themselves, which by itself is a fine one, is a one-off and makes sense only as a political counterpoint to Kara Walker's artwork immediately following (thus maybe a two-off). It's a messy hodgepodge containing some memorable pieces, not all of which bear on our literature.
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on September 18, 2012
Having to read this book for class isn't too bad but it can get a little dry at times as a result, I only end up reading half of the "story" or chapter whatever they call it.
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on January 25, 2011
This a compilation in rough chronological history that in 4-6 page essays offers a literary history of the United States. One can argue about people that were left out and about some that were included. I'm sure there is some merit to those arguments. Still it offers an excellent vehicle to learn about America's history and opportunity to become interested in writers and other figures with whom many readers (or at least me) may not be familiar.
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on March 11, 2010
A book I will read for the rest of my life, and always keep accessible.
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on August 5, 2013
"A New Literary History of America" is what I ordered and what B. R. Media sent is "Literary America". Different author, different publisher, different book. The bar code sticker on the back of the book is for "A New Literary History of America" but it is a book called "Literary America." We have ordered from Amazon for years and this is the first time anything like this every happened. Sloppy.
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