Franz Wright is the son of the poet James Wright, and though the father isn’t named in these poems, “his Everest shadow” falls constantly over the younger Wright’s life and work. Like his father a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and beset with depression and substance abuse, Franz struggles “in the mask of the first person” to achieve his own voice. The poems in his tenth collection, Wheeling Motel (Knopf, $26.95) are spare, frank lyrics that often ride the knife’s edge between pain and an achingly beautiful poignancy. Otherwise, they move restlessly among lists, sing-song rhymes, mock interviews, hallucinations, and dreams. Wright focuses squarely on unhappiness—including his father’s—but moves through it quickly, finding a difficult comfort in language; in music, “which told me early I should be filled with joy”; and, most of all, in faith, which “will tell you what no eye has seen/teach you to see/what no ear has heard.” 

Wheeling Motel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307265685
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Knopf - September 15th, 2009

Wheeling Motel: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375711473
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Knopf - August 16th, 2011

A New Literary History Of America (Harvard Univ., $49.95) is an immense critical achievement. The more than 200 essays commissioned by the editors, Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, capture the plurality of American historical and cultural experience in all its complexity, fluidity, and contradiction. The editors broadly and flexibly interpret “literary,” applying the term not only to texts and authors, but to cultural moments and ideas. A stadium-sized roster of essayists, including Jonathan Lethem, Arnold Rampersad, Kara Walker, and Camille Paglia, explore such disparate topics as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” the origins of the European concept of a “New World,” and an exploration of “hardboiled” as a state of mind. The book’s amazing diversity is unified by a single thread, which is simply, as Marcus and Sollors state, “speech, in many forms.” Thus, this anthology represents America as an intersection of voices and experiences speaking to each other, calling out, protesting, creating, and recreating anew. This is a vital book for any student (or product) of American culture.

A New Literary History of America (Harvard University Press Reference Library) Cover Image
By Greil Marcus (Editor), Werner Sollors (Editor)
ISBN: 9780674035942
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Belknap Press - September 1st, 2009

A New Literary History of America (Harvard University Press Reference Library #16) Cover Image
By Greil Marcus (Editor), Werner Sollors (Editor)
ISBN: 9780674064102
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Belknap Press - May 7th, 2012

Elaine Showalter, a prominent literary scholar who recently served as the chair of the Man Booker International Prize, throws all stuffiness to the winds with A Jury Of Her Peers (Knopf, $30), her exceptionally readable literary history of American women writers from the mid-1600s through the 20th century. Showalter is always opinionated (Gertrude Stein she describes as “unreadable, self-indulgent, and excrutiatingly boring”), and she encapsulates her assessments with such wit, passion, and erudition that reading her personal choices of the 250 female writers she wants in her literary hall of fame is a consistently fresh and lively experience. Some of these authors were overlooked in their time, and others are rediscoveries; this compendium offers readers a whole new library to explore.

A Jury of Her Peers: Celebrating American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400034420
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Vintage - January 12th, 2010