Laughing the wrapt inflections of our love


In 1919, the novelist and critic Waldo Frank published “Our America,” a manifesto for a new generation of American artists. Surveying the cultural situation of the United States, on the brink of what already looked to be the American century, Frank saw “an untracked wilderness but dimly blazed by the heroic ax of Whitman.” Yet a new generation of trailblazers, he thought, was about to emerge from the complacent materialism of postwar America. Writers like Sherwood Anderson and Van Wyck Brooks—along with masters of new genres like Alfred Stieglitz and even Charlie Chaplin—promised not simply to create a modern art but to renew the spirit of the country: “In this infancy of our adventure, America is a mystic Word. We go forth all to seek America. And in the seeking we create her.”

“Our America” was an intellectual sensation, going through three editions in its first six months. None of Frank’s readers, however, rose more eagerly to his challenge than twenty-year-old Hart Crane, working behind the candy counter of a drugstore in Akron, Ohio.

more from the New Yorker here.