America, the beautiful (America, the ugly)

Laura Miller in Salon:


You could do a lot worse with the next 220 days of your life than to begin each one by reading an entry from the freshly published “A New Literary History of America” — the way generations past used to study a Bible verse daily. You could do a lot worse, but I'm not sure you could do much better; this magnificent volume is a vast, inquisitive, richly surprising and consistently enlightening wallow in our national history and culture.

Editors Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors have pitched the biggest tent conceivable, pegging each of the chronologically arranged essays in the book to “points in time and imagination where something changed: when a new idea or a new form came into being, when new questions were raised, when what before seemed impossible came to seem necessary or inevitable.” With this in mind, they've produced a compendium that is neither reference nor criticism, neither history nor treatise, but a genre-defying, transcendent fusion of them all. It sounds impossible, but the result seems both inevitable and necessary and profoundly welcome, too.

More here.