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Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013

Truth’s Ragged Edge: The Rise of the American Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), by Philip F. Gura

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Truth’s Ragged Edge
is a minor revelation. Turns out, pre-Civil War America was not a literary desert but teemed with authors, literary journals and publishers. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill literary professor Philip Gura skimps on Poe (though what he mentions is fascinating), summarizes Mellville and devotes most pages to unfamiliar authors. His success is that his introduction to forgotten novelists makes readers interested in learning more. In analyzing our nation’s first gothic novel, Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland (1798), Gura examines this foundational American story not only for its soundings into the unconscious mind but for exploring the perennial paradox of the promise of individual freedom and the necessity of community.