Library of America

  • “The history of Shakespeare in America,” writes James Shapiro in his introduction to this groundbreaking anthology, “is also the history of America itself.” Shakespeare was a central, inescapable part of America’s literary inheritance, and a prism through which crucial American issues--revolution, slavery, war, social justice--were refracted and understood. In tracing the many surprising forms this influence took, Shapiro draws on many genres--poetry, fiction, essays, plays, memoirs, songs, speeches, letters, movie reviews, comedy routines--and on a remarkable range of American writers from Emerson, Melville, Lincoln, and Mark Twain to James Agee, John Berryman, Pauline Kael, and Cynthia Ozick. Americans of the revolutionary era ponder the question “to sign or not to sign;” Othello becomes the focal point of debates on race; the Astor Place riots, set off by a production of Macbeth, attest to the violent energies aroused by theatrical controversies; Jane Addams finds in King Lear a metaphor for American struggles between capital and labor. Orson Welles revolutionizes approaches to Shakespeare with his legendary productions of Macbeth and Julius Caesar; American actors from Charlotte Cushman and Ira Aldridge to John Barrymore, Paul Robeson, and Marlon Brando reimagine Shakespeare for each new era. The rich and tangled story of how Americans made Shakespeare their own is a literary and historical revelation. As a special feature, the book includes a foreword by Bill Clinton, among the latest in a long line of American presidents, including John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Abraham Lincoln, who, as the collection demonstrates, have turned to Shakespeare’s plays for inspiration.

  • Published in 1873, this autobiographical novel has been called the adult Little Women. It follows the semi-autobiographical story of an orphan named Christie Devon, who, having turned twenty-one, announces “a new Declaration of Independence” and leaves her uncle’s house in order to pursue economic self-sufficiency and to find fulfillment in her profession. Against the backdrop of the Civil War years, Christie works as a servant, actress, governess, companion, seamstress, and army nurse--all jobs that Alcott knew from personal experience--exposing the often insidious ways in which the employments conventionally available to women constrain their self-determination. Alcott’s most overtly feminist novel, Work breaks new ground in the literary representation of women, as its heroine pushes at the boundaries of nineteenth-century expectations and assumptions. The novel is supplemented here with all the usual Library of America features, plus a conversation with editor Susan Cheever, and a reading group guide.

  • On March 19, 2013, a distinguished group of writers and critics gathered at the Newark Museum’s Billy Johnson Auditorium in Newark, New Jersey, to celebrate the extraordinary career and lasting literary legacy of Philip Roth on the occasion of his 80th birthday. This keepsake volume gathers remarks from the evening’s speakers, a fitting tribute to the only living novelist whose work is collected in the Library of America series. Here you’ll find Jonathan Lethem, hilariously recounting his first consciousness-raising encounter with Roth’s work through the Kafkaesque novel The Breast; Hermione Lee, tracing the Shakespearian themes in Roth’s books, from Portnoy’s Complaint to The Humbling; Alain Finkielkraut, offering a deep reading of Roth’s final novel, Nemesis; Claudia Roth Pierpont, assessing Roth’s portrayal of women in such books as Sabbath’s Theater and The Human Stain; Edna O’Brien, recalling her long friendship with Roth; and the author himself, offering a quintessentially Rothian valediction.

  • The classic trilogy, in a hardcover collector's edition complete with the original illustrations. From the incidents of her own remarkable childhood, Louisa May Alcott fashioned a trilogy of novels that catapulted her to fame and fortune and that remain among the most beloved works in all of American literature. Here, in an authoritative single-volume edition, is the complete series. In Little Women, set in New England during the Civil War, Alcott introduces the unforgettable March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Little Men follows Jo, now married, into adulthood, as she finds herself the caretaker of a houseful of rambunctious children at Plumfield School. Jo's Boys returns to Plumfield a decade later; now grown, Jo's children recount adventures of their own.

  • Gwendolyn Brooks was one of the most accomplished and acclaimed poets of the last century, the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize and the first black woman to serve as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress--the forerunner of the U.S. Poet Laureate. Here, in an exclusive Library of America E-Book Classic edition, is her groundbreaking first book of poems, a searing portrait of Chicago’s South Side. “I wrote about what I saw and heard in the street,” she later said. “There was my material.”

  • Experience the creative explosion that transformed American art, in the words of the artists, writers, and critics who were there: In the quarter century after the end of World War II, a new generation of painters, sculptors, and photographers transformed the face of American art and shifted the center of the art world from Paris to New York. Signaled by the triumph of abstraction and the ascendancy of painters such as Pollock, Rothko, de Kooning, and Kline, this revolution generated an exuberant and contentious body of writing without parallel in our cultural history. In the words of editor Jed Perl, "there has never been a period when the visual arts have been written about with more mongrel energy--with more unexpected mixtures of reportage, rhapsody, analysis, advocacy, editorializing, and philosophy." Perl has gathered the best of this writing together for the first time, interwoven with fascinating headnotes that establish the historical background, the outsized personalities of the artists and critics, and the nature of the aesthetic battles that defined the era. Here are statements by the most significant artists, and major critical essays by Clement Greenberg, Susan Sontag, Hilton Kramer, and other influential figures. Here too is an electrifying array of responses by poets and novelists, reflecting the free interplay between different art forms: John Ashbery on Andy Warhol, James Agee on Helen Levitt, James Baldwin on Beauford Delaney, Truman Capote on Richard Avedon, Tennessee Williams on Hans Hofmann, Jack Kerouac on Robert Frank. The atmosphere of the time comes to vivid life in memoirs, diaries, and journalism by Peggy Guggenheim, Dwight Macdonald, Calvin Tomkins, and others. Lavishly illustrated with scores of black-and-white images and a 32-page color insert, this is a book that every art lover will treasure.

  • Revisit the Golden Age of classical music in America through the witty and adventurous reviews of our greatest critic-composer: For fourteen memorable years Virgil Thomson surveyed the worlds of opera and classical music as the chief music critic for the New York Herald Tribune. An accomplished composer who knew music from the inside, Thomson communicated its pleasures and complexities to a wide readership in a hugely entertaining, authoritative style, and his daily reviews and Sunday articles set a high-water mark in American cultural journalism. Thomson collected his newspaper columns in four volumes: The Musical Scene, The Art of Judging Music, Music Right and Left, and Music Reviewed. All are gathered here, together with a generous selection of Thomson's uncollected writings. The result is a singular chronicle of a magical time when an unrivaled roster of great conductors (Koussevitzky, Toscanini, Beecham, Stokowski) and legendary performers (Horowitz, Rubinstein, Heifetz, Stern) presented new masters (Copland, Stravinsky, Britten, Bernstein) and re-introduced the classics to a rapt American audience.

  • An All-Pro line-up of writers including Red Smith, Frank Deford, Jimmy Breslin, George Plimpton, Richard Price, Charles Pierce, Michael Lewis, and Roy Blount Jr tackle our most popular pastime: Since football's meteoric rise in the mid-twentieth century, the standout writers on the sport have gone behind and beyond the spectacle to reveal the complexity, the contradictions, and the deeper humanity at the heart of the game. Now, in a landmark collection, The Library of America brings together the very best of their work: gems of deadline reportage, incisive longform profiles of football's storied figures, and autobiographical accounts by players and others close to the game. Celebrating the sport without shying away from its sometimes devastating personal and social costs, the forty-four pieces gathered here testify to football's boundless capacity to generate outsized characters and memorable tales.

  • Pioneering feminist novels and rare stories from the author of Little Women: After the success of her beloved masterpiece Little Women, Louisa May Alcott brought her genius for characterization and eye for detail to a series of revolutionary novels and stories that are remarkable in their forthright assertion of women's rights. This second volume of The Library of America's Alcott edition gathers these works for the first time, revealing a fascinating and inspiring dimension of a classic American writer. The first of a trio of novels written over a fruitful three-year period, Work: A Story of Experience (1873) has been called the adult Little Women. It follows the semi-autobiographical story of an orphan named Christie Devon, who, having turned twenty-one, announces "a new Declaration of Independence" and leaves her uncle's house in order to pursue economic self-sufficiency and to find fulfillment in her profession. Against the backdrop of the Civil War years, Christie works as a servant, actress, governess, companion, seamstress, and army nurse--all jobs that Alcott knew from personal experience--exposing the often insidious ways in which the employments conventionally available to women constrain their selfdetermination. Alcott's most overtly feminist novel, Work breaks new ground in the literary representation of women, as its heroine pushes at the boundaries of nineteenth-century expectations and assumptions. Eight Cousins (1875) concerns the education of Rose Campbell, another orphan who, in her delicate nature and frail health, seems to embody many of the stereotypes of girlhood that shaped Alcott's world. But with the benefit of an unorthodox, progressive education (one informed by the theories of Alcott's transcendentalist father Bronson Alcott) and the good and bad examples of her many crisply drawn relations-- especially her seven boy cousins--Rose regains her health and envisions a career both as a wife and mother and as a philanthropist. Further advancing Alcott's passionate advocacy of women's rights, Rose insists that she will manage her own fortune rather than find a husband to do it for her. This Library of America edition includes several noteworthy features. All three novels are presented with beautifully restored line art from the original editions and are supplemented by seven hard-to-find stories and public letters (two restored to print for the first time in more than a century), an authoritative chronology of Alcott's life, and notes identifying her allusions, quotations, and the autobiographical episodes in her fiction.

  • Samuel Menashe (1925-2011) was the first recipient of The Poetry Foundation's Neglected Masters Prize in 2004 and this volume was published in conjunction with that award. Born in New York City, Menashe practiced his art of "compression and crystallization" (in Derek Mahon's phrase) in poems that are brief in form but startlingly wide-ranging and profound in their engagement with ultimate questions. Dana Gioia has written: "Menashe is essentially a religious poet, though one without an orthodox creed. Nearly every poem he has ever published radiates a heightened religious awareness." Intensely musical and rigorously constructed, Menashe's poetry stands apart in its solitary meditative power. But it is equally a poetry of the everyday, suffused, in the words of Christopher Ricks, with "the courage of comedy, flanked by the respect of innocence." The humblest of objects, the minutest of natural forms here become powerfully suggestive, and even the shortest of the poems are spacious in the perspectives they open.

  • The most comprehensive one-volume selection of Jefferson ever published. Contains the "Autobiography," "Notes on the State of Virginia," public and private papers, including the original and revised drafts of the Declaration of Independence, addresses, and 287 letters.

  • This first volume of The Library of America's three-volume edition of the complete prose works of Herman Melville includes three romances of the South Seas. Typee and Omoo, based on the young Melville's experiences on a whaling ship, are exuberant accounts of the idyllic life among the "cannibals" in Polynesia. They remained his most popular works well into the 20th century. Mardi("the world" in Polynesian) is a mixture of love story, adventure, and political allegory, set on a mythical Pacific island, that looks forward to the complexities of Moby-Dick. Together, these three romances give early evidence of the genius and daring that make Melville the master novelist of the sea and a precursor of modernist literature. Two companion volumes--Herman Melville: Redburn, White-Jacket, Moby-Dick and Herman Melville: Pierre, Israel Potter, The Piazza Tales, The Confidence Man, Uncollected Prose, and Billy Budd complete this edition of Melville's prose.

  • In a lifetime of exploration, writing, and passionate political activism, John Muir became America's most eloquent spokesman for the mystery and majesty of the wilderness. A crucial figure in the creation of our national parks system and a far-seeing prophet of environmental awareness who founded the Sierra Club in 1892, he was also a master of natural description who evoked with unique power and intimacy the untrammeled landscapes of the American West. The Library of America's Nature Writings collects his most significant and best-loved works in a single volume, including: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913), My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), The Mountains of California (1894) and Stickeen (1909). Rounding out the volume is a rich selection of essays--including "Yosemite Glaciers," "God's First Temples," "Snow-Storm on Mount Shasta," "The American Forests," and the late appeal "Save the Redwoods"--highlighting various aspects of his career: his exploration of the Grand Canyon and of what became Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks, his successful crusades to preserve the wilderness, his early walking tour to Florida, and the Alaska journey of 1879.

  • This Library of America book, with its companion volume, is the most comprehensive collection ever published of Mark Twain's short writings -- the incomparable stories, sketches, burlesques, hoaxes, tall tales, speeches, satires, and maxims of America's greatest humorist. Arranged chronologically and containing many pieces restored to the form in which Twain intended them to appear, the volumes show with unprecedented clarity the literary evolution of Mark Twain over six decades of his career.
    The nearly two hundred separate items in this volume cover the years from 1852 to 1890. As a riverboat pilot, Confederate irregular, silver miner, frontier journalist, and publisher, Twain witnessed the tragicomic beginning of the Civil War in Missouri, the frenzied opening of the West, and the feverish corruption, avarice, and ambition of the Reconstruction era. He wrote about political bosses, jumping frogs, robber barons, cats, women's suffrage, temperance, petrified men, the bicycle, the Franco-Prussian War, the telephone, the income tax, the insanity defense, injudicious swearing, and the advisability of political candidates preemptively telling the worst about themselves before others get around to it.
    Among the stories included here are "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog," which won him instant fame when published in 1865, "Cannibalism in the Cars," "The Invalid's Story," and the charming "A Cat's Tale," written for his daughters' private amusement. This volume also presents several of his famous and successful speeches and toasts, such as "Woman -- God Bless Her," "The Babies," and "Advice to Youth." Such writings brought Twain immense success on the public lecture and banquet circuit, as did his controversial "Whittier Birthday Speech," which portrayed Boston's most revered men of letters as a band of desperadoes.

  • Incomparable in their dramatic clarity and emotional force, the nine gems in this 1944 collection, now available in an exclusive Library of America e-book edition, affirm Katherine Anne Porter’s genius for writing stories, as Eudora Welty observed, “with a power that stamps them to their very last detail on the memory.”

  • Published in 1939, this landmark collection of three short novels, now available in an exclusive Library of America e-book edition, elevated Katherine Anne Porter, in the words of one contemporary reviewer, “into the illustrious company headed by Hawthorne, Flaubert, and Henry James.”

  • The Library of America presents an exclusive e-book edition of the astonishing 1930 collection that introduced a major new voice in American literature. “If Katherine Anne Porter had written nothing but these short narratives," observed the New York Times, "she would be among the most distinguished masters of her craft in this country.”

  • "If you wanted a poem," wrote Gwendolyn Brooks, "you only had to look out of a window. There was material always, walking or running, fighting or screaming or singing." From the life of Chicago's South Side she made a forceful and passionate poetry that fused Modernist aesthetics with African-American cultural tradition, a poetry that registered the life of the streets and the upheavals of the 20th century. Starting with A Street in Bronzeville (1945), her epoch-making debut volume, The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks traces the full arc of her career in all its ambitious scope and unexpected stylistic shifts.
    "Her formal range," writes editor Elizabeth Alexander, "is most impressive, as she experiments with sonnets, ballads, spirituals, blues, full and off-rhymes. She is nothing short of a technical virtuoso." That technical virtuosity was matched by a restless curiosity about the life around her in all its explosive variety. By turns compassionate, angry, satiric, and psychologically penetrating, Gwendolyn Brooks's poetry retains its power to move and surprise.

  • Praised by poets and critics ranging from A. E. Housman and Thomas Hardy to Edmund Wilson, Edna St. Vincent Millay's bold, exquisite poems take their place among the enduring verse of the twentieth century. Claiming a lyric tradition stretching back to Sappho and Catullus and making it very much her own, Millay won over her contemporaries--and readers ever since--with her passion, erotic candor, formal elegance, and often mischievous wit. J. D. McClatchy's introduction and selections offer new and surprising insights into Millay's achievement. Included are her most beloved and justly admired poems, such as the wry bohemian anthem "Recuerdo" and the sonnet sequence Fatal Interview, the poetic record of a love affair that is presented in its entirety. McClatchy has also chosen works that extend our sense of Millay's range: translations, her play Aria da Capo, and excerpts from her libretto The King's Henchman. "I have for the most part been guided by my taste for Millay at her tautest and truest," writes McClatchy. "There are precise and resonant images everywhere."

  • Born a slave and kept functionally illiterate until he escaped at age nineteen, William Wells Brown (1814-1884) refashioned himself first as an agent of the Underground Railroad, then as an antislavery activist and self-taught orator, and finally as the author of a series of landmark works that made him, like Frederick Douglass, a foundational figure of African American literature. His controversial novel Clotel; or, the President's Daughter (1853), a fictionalized account of the lives and struggles of Thomas Jefferson's black daughters and granddaughters, is the first novel written by an African American. This Library of America volume brings it together with Brown's other groundbreaking works: Narrative of William W. Brown: A Fugitive Slave, Written by Himself (1847), his first published book and an immediate bestseller, which describes his childhood, life in slavery, and eventual escape; later memoirs charting his life during the Civil War and Reconstruction; the first play (The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom, 1858), travelogue (The American Fugitive in
    Europe, 1855), and history (The Black Man, His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements, 1862) written by an African American; and eighteen speeches and public letters from the 1840s, 50s, and 60s, many collected here for the first time.

  • James Thurber, whimsical fantasist and deadpan chronicler of everyday absurdities, brought American humor into the 20th century. His comic persona, a modern citydweller whose zaniest flights of free association are tinged with anxiety, remains hilarious, subtly disturbing, and instantly recognizable. Here, in over 1000 pages, editor Garrison Keillor presents the best and most extensive collection ever assembled. Over 100 pieces include "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and "The Catbird Seat," the brilliantly satirical Fables for Our Time, the classic My Life and Hard Times, and the best of The Owl in the Attic, Let Your Mind Alone!, My World--And Welcome to It, and the other famous books. Plus 500 wonderful drawings, including The Seal in the Bedroom and celebrated sequences like "The Masculine Approach" and "The War Between Men and Women." Rounding out the volume is a selection from The Years with Ross, a memoir of the New Yorker publisher, and a number of wonderful early pieces never collected by Thurber.

  • This final installment of the highly acclaimed four-volume series traces events from March 1864 to June 1865. It provides an incomparable portrait of a nation at war with itself, while illuminating the military and political events that brought the Union to final victory, and slavery and secession to their ultimate destruction. Here are more than 150 letters, diary entries, memoir excerpts, speeches, articles, messages, and poems by over a hundred participants and observers, both famous and unsung, including Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Robert E. Lee, Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Harriet Jacobs, Henry Adams, Elizabeth Keckly, and George Templeton Strong, as well as Union and Confederate soldiers; women diarists from North and South; and freed slaves. The selections include vivid and haunting firsthand accounts of legendary battles and campaigns-- the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, the Atlanta campaign, the Crater, Franklin, Sherman's march through Georgia and the Carolinas--as well as of the desperate conditions inside Andersonville prison; the sinking of the Confederate raider Alabama; the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment; and the struggles of both black and white civilians to survive the harsh and violent downfall of the Confederacy.

  • At the outset of what he called "the greatest, the gaudiest spree in history," F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the works that brought him instant fame, mastering the glittering aphoristic prose and keen social observation that would distinguish all his writing. This Library of America volume brings together four volumes that collectively offer the fullest literary expression of one of the most fascinating eras in American life.
    This Side of Paradise (1920) gave Fitzgerald the early success that defined and haunted him for the rest of his career. Offering in its Princeton chapters the most enduring portrait of college life in American literature, this lyrical novel records the ardent and often confused longings of its hero's struggles to find love and to formulate a philosophy of life.
    Flappers and Philosophers (1920), a collection of accomplished short stories, includes such classics as "Dalyrimple Goes Wrong," "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," and "The Ice Palace."
    Fitzgerald continues his dissection of a self-destructive era in his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned (1922), as the self-styled aristocrat Anthony Patch and his beautiful wife, Gloria, are cut off from an inheritance and forced to endure the excruciating dwindling of their fortune. Here New York City, playground for the pleasure-loving Patches and brutal mirror of their dissipation, is portrayed more vividly than anywhere else in Fitzgerald's work.
    Tales of the Jazz Age (1922), his second collection of stories, includes the novella "May Day," featuring interlocking tales of debutantes, soldiers, and socialists brought together in the uncertain aftermath of World War I, and "A Diamond as Big as the Ritz," a fable in which the excesses of the Jazz Age take the hallucinatory form of a palace of unfathomable opulence hidden deep in the Montana Rockies.

  • Who were the original hipsters? In this dazzling collection, Glenn O'Brien provides a kaleidoscopic guided tour through the margins and subterranean tribes of mid-twentieth century America--the worlds of jazz, of disaffected postwar youth, of those alienated by racial and sexual exclusion, of outlaws and drug users creating their own dissident networks. Whether labeled as Bop or Beat or Punk, these outsider voices ignored or suppressed by the mainstream would merge and recombine in unpredictable ways, and change American culture forever.
    To read The Cool School is to experience the energies of that vortex. Drawing on memoirs, poems, novels, comedy routines, letters, essays, and song lyrics, O'Brien creates an unparalleled literary mix tape bringing together Henry Miller, Miles Davis, Jack Kerouac, Diane di Prima, Lenny Bruce, William S. Burroughs, Bob Dylan, Annie Ross, Norman Mailer, Terry Southern, Andy Warhol, Lester Bangs, and dozens of others, including such legendary figures as Beat avatar Neal Cassady, jazz memoirist Babs Gonzales, inspired comic improviser Lord Buckley, no-holds-barred essayist Seymour Krim, and underground filmmaker Jack Smith. His one-of-a-kind anthology recreates an unforgettable era in all its hallucinatory splendor: transgressive, raucous, unruly, harrowing, and often subversively hilarious.

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