American literature

Has Jonathan Lethem read every book ever published?

1 April 2017 9:00 am

According to Martin Amis in The Information, the last person to have read every book ever published was Coleridge. Faced…

Paul Auster’s 4 3 2 1 is an epic home-run

4 February 2017 9:00 am

After a long struggle to receive mainstream publication, Paul Auster’s first few novels were a genuinely significant contribution to American…

Julie Harris in the 1963 film The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson, high priestess of horror, finally gets the recognition she deserves

3 December 2016 9:00 am

A film critic friend, astonished that I had never heard of Shirley Jackson, told me to go and read her…

Is Jonathan Safran Foer having a midlife crisis?

10 September 2016 9:00 am

For Jonathan Safran Foer fans and sceptics alike, Here I Am comes as a wonderful gift, a truly painful, honest…

Robert Lowell c. 1940

Love, Robert Lowell and poetic licence

27 February 2016 9:00 am

The conceit of this book — the author’s third on Robert Lowell — is strong, although its execution is less…

Another ‘big book’ — with big problems — from Jonathan Franzen

29 August 2015 9:00 am

Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel, Purity, comes with great expectations. Its author’s awareness of this fact is signalled by a series…

Jonathan Galassi’s fictional poet made me doubt my knowledge of American literature

15 August 2015 9:00 am

Jonathan Galassi is an American publisher, poet and translator. In his debut novel Muse, his passion for the ‘good old…

Edith Pearlman in 2012

The short story in Britain today: enough to make Conan Doyle weep

10 January 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher bewails the current neglect of the short story, especially in the British literary press

Cowboys and Muslims: that’s the new global power struggle, according to the latest great American novel

10 January 2015 9:00 am

‘I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: if you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.’ When ‘The…

Fact, fiction or farce? The American comic novel is becoming increasingly hard to define

3 January 2015 9:00 am

The American comic novel is going through an odd phase. Just lately it seems like anything funny must sneak in…

Eugene O’Neill with his last wife, the actress Carlotta Monterey, who safeguarded him, and enabled him to write his later plays, though friends and family considered her his jailer

Eugene O’Neill: the dark genius of American theatre

29 November 2014 9:00 am

Sarah Churchwell on how Eugene O’Neill virtually single-handedly revolutionised American theatre in the first half of the 20th century

Keep the Man Booker Prize British

20 September 2014 9:00 am

Americans don’t need the cachet of our most prestigious literary prize  – but we do, says Matthew Walther

No worries: John Updike in his late fifties, on the beach at Swampscott, Mass

Up close and personal

26 April 2014 9:00 am

In recycling his most intimate encounters as fiction – including amazing feats of promiscuity in small-town New England – John Updike drew unashamedly on his own experiences for inspiration, says Philip Hensher

Samuel Beckett walks into a nail bar

29 March 2014 9:00 am

It isn’t very often that a writer’s work is so striking that you can remember exactly where and when you…

William S. Burroughs was a writer – not a painter, prophet, philosopher

8 February 2014 9:00 am

William S. Burroughs lived his life in the grand transgressive tradition of Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde and, like all…

The two people who brought us The Grapes of Wrath

25 January 2014 9:00 am

John Steinbeck (1902–1968), an ardent propagandist for the exploited underdogs of the Great Depression, had barely enough money for subsistence…

Critics can be creative - look at Malcolm Cowley

11 January 2014 9:00 am

Even Spectator book reviewers have to concede that their craft is inferior to the creative travail of authors. Henry James…

The Roth of tenderness and of rage

4 January 2014 9:00 am

In the autumn of 2012, Philip Roth told a French magazine that his latest book, Nemesis, would be his last.…

The mad, mum-fixated maiden aunt of modernism

7 December 2013 9:00 am

Marianne Moore’s poems are notoriously ‘difficult’ but her personality and the circumstances of her life are as fascinating today as…

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, edited by Andrew Jewell - review

17 August 2013 9:00 am

Richard Davenport-Hines on the tomboy from Red Cloud whose evocation of the vast, unforgiving landscape of the prairies is unrivalled

Mrs Bridge and Mr Bridge, by Evan S. Connell - review

8 June 2013 9:00 am

A policeman encountering Mrs Bridge on the home furnishings floor of a Kansas City department store recognises her at once…

All That Is, by James Salter- review

25 May 2013 9:00 am

Some authors’ lives are a great deal more interesting than others — James Salter’s, for one. Born in 1925 and…

The not-so-great Gatsby

11 May 2013 9:00 am

The cult around Fitzgerald’s most overrated work feeds the illusions of upper-crust Americans