“Wacky” — that’s what the Boston Globe‘s review editor, Alex Beam calls Harvard’s New Literary History of the United States
Beam tries to figure out why “this wildly uneven, 1,100-page doorstop” was published. The book’s editor, Greil Marcus tells him,
Harvard press conceived this as something that would be bought by libraries. But I think it’s going to have a much different life. You’ll see all kinds of people reading this, arguing with it, getting angry, and finding satisfaction in the work.
The angry part works for Beam, who hilariously tears apart some of the book’s essays, but does give the book a back-handed compliment, “With this many monkeys hammering away at this many typewriters, there is bound to be some good material,” including a “fabulous essay on Alcoholic Anonymous” (yes, AA’s Big Book is part of this literary history, indicating it’s not your run-of-the mill textbook).
Prepub reviews were much stronger. PW called it “an astounding achievement in multiculturalism and American studies, which in the age of Google and the Internet lights the way toward serious interpretive reference publishing.”
It’s on order by most of the libraries we checked.