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Literature

Out of an agonizing American experience, the frail Scots author mined a treasure and carried it away with him

No one has ever come up with a satisfactory count of the books dealing with the Civil War. Estimates range from 50,000 to more than 70,000, with new titles added every day. Read more >>

A student of an underappreciated literary genre selects some books that may change the way you see what you do.

It has always struck me that the best business novels are interactive. Read more >>

A sampling of the wisdom of Americans from Ben Franklin to Cameron Crowe

In attempting to tell the story of our century by retrieving the subtlest nuances of the past, a historian makes an audacious foray into a new sort of literature

“Very early,” writes the distinguished historian John Lukacs in the introduction to A Thread of Years , his twentieth—and certainly his most unusual—book, “I was inspired by the recognition of the inevitable overlapping of history and literature, Read more >>
“Of late the American character has received marked and not altogether flattering attention from American critics.” The comment, from the opening page of Constance Rourke’s great, unjustly ignored book American Humor , bears one of her trademarks Read more >>

A LIFELONG FASCINATION with the stories of a famous pioneering family finally drove the writer to South Dakota in hopes of better understanding the prairie life Laura Ingalls Wilder lived there and later gave to the world.

When she was a little girl in Wisconsin in the 1870s, her father would take her and her sister on his knee after supper in their log house and tell them wonderful stories about bears and panthers and little boys who sneaked out to go sledding on the Sabbath. Read more >>

ALBERT MURRAY SEES AMERICAN CULTURE AS AN incandescent fusion of European, Yankee, frontier, and black. And he sees what he calls the “blues idiom” as the highest expression of that culture.

People have been waiting for the great American novel ever since Civil War days. But John Dos Passos may have written it sixty years ago.

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

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

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. Read more >>

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 repr Read more >>

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. Read more >>

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. Read more >>

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 a Read more >>

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. Read more >>

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? Read more >>

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the most controversial historical novel in memory, the author of The Confessions of Nat Turner speaks of a novelist’s duty to history and fiction’s strange power not only to astonish but to enrage

Twenty-five years ago this November, I found myself in Ohio, where I was being awarded an honorary degree at Wilberforce University. Read more >>

“Good writers,” says the author, “write the kind of history good historians can’t or don’t write”

“What if many of a so-called Fact were little better than a Fiction?” asked Carlyle. Read more >>

Fewer than half of O. Henry’s short stories actually take place in New York, but we still see the city through his eyes

For most of this century, and often against the starkest evidence, New York City has persisted in seeing itself as “Baghdad on the Subway,” an Arabian Nights swirl of color, motion, tough characters with soft hearts, soft chara Read more >>
You had better shove this in the stove,” twenty-nine-year-old Sam Clemens wrote his older brother, Orion, in 1865, “for … I don’t want any absurd ‘literary remains’ & ‘unpublished letters of Mark Twain’ published after I am planted.” Read more >>
In one of Willa Cather’s earliest novels, the heroine has been reflecting on the settlers who had come to Nebraska a generation earlier and on the great changes that have taken place in the intervening years. Read more >>

For a hundred years now Americans have been reading as comedy Mark Twain’s dark indictment of chivalry, technology—and all mankind

After a full century in print, Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court remains one of the queerer and more disturbing exercises of the American literary imagination, a brilliant comic fantasy that turns savage and shakes itself t Read more >>

Walt Whitman said, “The real war will never get in the books.” The critic and writer Paul Fussell feels that the same sanitizing of history that went on after the 1860s has erased the national memory of what World War II was really like.

The big push” is how the G-3 journal of the 103d Infantry Division described its attack against elements of the German 19th Army on November 16, 1944. At H-plus-15, American guns bombarded enemy lines, and the regiments moved forward. Read more >>
What makes science fiction the literature of choice for so many? Arthur C. Clarke, the novelist and scientist, gave a good answer once, when asked why he chose to write in this genre: “Because,” he said, “no other literature is concerned with reality.” Read more >>

The author walks us through literary Boston at its zenith. But Boston being what it is, we also come across the Revolution, ward politics, and the great fire.

Like three Bostonians out of four, I live on a site that was originally underwater. My house is on River Street, an alleyway that was built for stables at the bottom of Beacon Hill in the middle of the nineteenth century. Read more >>