Lovers of the lively, the encyclopedic, and the lavish labyrinth of American history can take heart in a kaleidoscopic new survey of the Land of the You-Know-What. A New Literary History of America, edited by writer Greil Marcus and Harvard professor Werner Sollors, is a compendium of chronologically arranged essays expounding, with the help of a crack team of writers, on points in time and imagination where things change. This potentially wishy-washy thesis gives rise to 220 dazzling entries: Novelist and screenwriter Michael Tolkin finds the hardboiled language of the 1930s alive and well in the Big Book of AA; Ann Marlowe examines the four memoirs published by Linda Lovelace, star of the famous porn film Deep Throat; and Jonathan Lethem takes a look at the invention of motion pictures. Also: Ishmael Reed weighs in on Huck Finn, David Thomson picks apart Ernest Hemingways highly stylized persona, and Camille Paglia goes off about Tennessee Williams. A rowdy and articulate crew of writers and thinkers makes this a wide-ranging survey, fascinating from beginning to end. Tonights panel also features contributors Clark Blaise, Kathleen Moran, Bharati Mukherjee, and David Thomson.
Thu., Jan. 14, 6 p.m., 2010