Our Times... And Mine

A newsman returns to a classic work by a famous predecessor and finds that Mark Sullivan’s vanished America has something to tell us

I confess, I am not the likeliest candidate to have condensed Mark Sullivan’s Our Times into a new, one-volume edition. That landmark of popular history is a genuine, certified classic, and usually about the closest any working reporter gets to a classic is a Coke at the end of a long day.

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Caution: I Brake For History

A BOLD NEW KIND OF COLLEGE COURSE BRINGS the student directly to the past, nonstop, overnight, in squalor and glory, for weeks on end

 

O Public Road … you express me better than I can express myself. ” I first read Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road,” in Leaves of Grass , as an Ohio schoolboy. The great democratic chant struck me hard, a lightning bolt of simple, authoritative words proclaiming that only in motion do people have the chance to turn dreams into reality. Even as a fourteen-yearold I already suspected this. Read more »

The Man Who Can Scare Stephen King

The American master of horror fiction was as peculiar in his life as he was in his writing

Among the presents that came Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s way during the Christmas season of 1936 was a skull from an Indian burial ground. The gift was appropriate for a lifelong connoisseur of the weird. It was also a portent: Less than three months after receiving it, Lovecraft died of cancer at the age of forty-six. Read more »

The Hazards Of American Individualism

A distinguished scholar of American literature discusses why, after a career of study and reflection, he believes that Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman are bad for you

Quentin Anderson, Julian Clarence Levy Professor in the Humanities Emeritus at Columbia University, argues in his best-known book, The Imperial Self: An Essay in American Literary and Cultural History , that the writings of three of our most representatively American authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Henry James, embody a distinctly American grand refusal of history and social roles.Read more »

Thomason U.s.m.c.

A TEXAS MARINE WHO DREW BEAUTIFULLY AND WROTE AS WELL AS HE DREW BECAME THE LAUREATE OF THE MEN WHO CHECKED THE LAST GREAT GERMAN OFFENSIVE. ALL BUT FORGOTTEN TODAY, HIS 1926 BESTSELLER REMAINS PERHAPS THE FINEST ACCOUNT OF AMERICANS IN THE GREAT WAR.

“The book is here now: a straight-forward prose account of four battles, with infinite detail of the men and emotions in these battles, reinforced with sketches and impressions drawn upon the field. It is, in the opinion of many of us who ought to know, the finest account of their sons in battle which the American people have received. …” The writer who felt he was qualified to judge a war book was Laurence Stallings, who had been wounded in action in Belleau Wood and whose wildly popular play What Price Glory ?Read more »

Classics Illustrated

They cost five cents more than regular comic books, and the extra nickel was supposed to buy what we now call cultural literacy. But they were controversial from the very start.

Along with baseball cards and other ephemera, Classics Illustrated have become pricey nostalgia items for those who grew up in the supposedly halcyon years after World War II. But the comic-book series, whose mission was to promote the reading of “great literature,” has always been more controversial than other cultural icons of the time. I first encountered them at the age of seven, when, after each weekly trip to the library, I’d buy a fifteen-cent CI in the local drugstore.Read more »

A Short Walk On Guadalcanal

J. L. O. Tedder missed the battle, but his peacetime pursuits are heroic enough

Every so often one comes across a writer who should be awarded the literary equivalent of the Victoria Cross or the Medal of Honor—one who gazes into the jaws of a hellish assignment and goes forward, resolute paragraph after resolute paragraph, knowing that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, that the end will be cruel and the reward negligible. Read more »

The Titan

Theodore Dreiser’s stark realism brought the American novel into the twentieth century. He paid a heavy price for his candor.

Theodore Dreiser dominated the American literary landscape in the first quarter of the twentieth century. To his contemporaries he seemed to have risen sui generis , like a newly formed volcano, and as Norman Mailer said, “Dreiser came closer to understanding the social machine than any other American writer who ever lived.” But he was more than a chronicler of social forces; he was a self-conscious artist, a literary pioneer, a bridge between the Victorian and the modern sensibility. His friend and critical champion H.Read more »

The Home Front

It was bitter civil war, and a remarkable book offers us perhaps the most intimate picture we have of what it was like for the ordinary people who got caught in its terrible machinery

What was the American Revolution really like, for real homes and real families caught up in its hardships and dangers? It is over two centuries since that famous “hurry of hoofs in a village street … the voice in the darkness, the knock at the door” alarmed our now-distant ancestors, and the vast literature of that war tells us very little about how it was for plain people—matters rarely recorded in the days before there were news media, feature writers, television coverage, and a history industry. We have lost human contact. Read more »

My Favorite Historical Novel

American Heritage recently asked a wide range of novelists, journalists, and historians to answer a question: what is your favorite American historical novel, and why? The results made two things clear: that the question was not nearly so simple as it sounded; and that it had been well worth asking. Herewith, a vital anthology that debates the nature of the historical novel and points you toward the best examples our culture has to offer.

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