It’s been quiet round these parts—August in book publishing—but we’re all still reading! A really nice video review of Mallory Ortberg's TEXTS FROM JANE EYRE is up today from bookriot's “In The Mailbag” above. “Anyone you know who is really into the classics and also has a sense of humor will appreciate this…It's just hilarious and perfect.” Thanks, guys!
Bill Gates: Six ‘Really Fantastic Books’ to Read This Summer. Yes to ”The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert. Terrific mix of science and storytelling.
The American epic comes in many forms, encompassing an Aaron Copland composition, Orson Welles’The Magnificent Ambersons or Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will be Blood, or even walking through an art museum and falling into a trance looking at the paintings of Winslow Homer. We look, listen, or watch these works because they tell us what we long to know about ourselves as Americans; what’s wrong and what could be better. The characters might not find redemption, the colors the painter uses might not always portray a cheery future, and the stories might seem a little outlandish or even impossible, but there’s always the possibility of resolution, of hope.
Herman Melville understood this with his white whale; Theodore Dreiser did too. William Faulkner passed the idea down to Toni Morrison. James Baldwin saw it in the church, Cormac McCarthy in a dystopian future, Denis Johnson with CIA agents and solitary men of the Pacific Northwest, and Marilynne Robinson dealt with the women of Fingerbone, Idaho in Housekeeping. These authors have shown that the truly great American Epic is possible, but rare and profoundly special.
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