Greil Marcus/Werner Sollors – A New Literary History of America

January 11, 2010

Just finished reading the Marcus/Sollors anthology, “A New Literary History of America,” cover to cover.

That sounds a bit crazy, I know, but I learned a lot and was very often entertained.

Here’s a list of my favorite entries, in chronological order:

  1. Francois Furstenberg, Washington’s Farewell Address (1796)
  2. Robert Clark, The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841)
  3. James Dawes, The Limits to Violence (1885)
  4. Richard Powers, The Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Monument (Memorial Day 1897)
  5. Walter Mosley, Hardboiled (1926)
  6. Paul Muldoon, Carl Sandburg and the American Songbag (1927)
  7. Marybeth Hamilton, Jelly Roll Morton Speaks (May 1938)
  8. Robert O’Meally, Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit (1939)
  9. George Hutchinson, Letter from Birmingham Jail (April 1963)
  10. Anne M. Wagner, Maya Lin’s Wall (1982)

Everyone has their hobbyhorses, though, me included, so I will also say that there should have been more about the last three decades. No entry on David Foster Wallace, despite the fact that he wrote the greatest book of the last quarter century. Nothing about Madonna, either: like it or not, she’s had an enormous influence on American culture over that same period. Her first album was pretty good, too.

Still, it was great in particular to see some American academics and intellectuals writing about stuff that really matters.


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