Monday, October 5, 2009

Greil Marcus and Five Centuries of the U.S. of A.

WHAT do thomas jefferson, linda lovelace, and pentecostalism all have in common? oh, probably a lot of things. but at the very least, they're all part of a huge new book called "a new literary history of america," which has just dropped on harvard university press. no anthology is perfect, but this one is full of fascinating stuff.

HERE is my new LATimes piece.

part of what makes the volume interesting is that one of the editors is both a west coaster, a rock critic, and a man conspicuously without a Ph. D., greil marcus. the book is full of left coast subjects and contributors. the mystery train author, who has had family in the bay area since he 1880s, explained to me that he doesnt see california as a strange of exotic part of america: beach boys songs like "in my room" not only reflected american reality but helped create it.

(the other editor is multiculturalism scholar and harvard professor werner sollors, who first experienced american culture through the US occupation of germany.)

i asked marcus who would read it: he said he didnt know, but was wishing he could leave it on street corners and watch who picked it up -- and what they felt moved to cheer or argue about.

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