American Audacity: In Defense of Literary Daring (Hardcover)
One of the most gifted literary essayists of his generation defends stylistic boldness and intellectual daring in American letters.
Over the last decade William Giraldi has established himself as a charismatic and uncompromising literary essayist, “a literature-besotted Midas of prose” (Cynthia Ozick). Now, American Audacity gathers a selection of his most powerful considerations of American writers and themes—a “gorgeous fury of language and sensibility” (Walter Kirn)—including an introductory call to arms for twenty-first-century American literature, and a new appreciation of James Baldwin’s genius for nonfiction.
With potent insights into the storied tradition of American letters, and written with a “commitment to the dynamism and dimensions of language,” American Audacity considers giants from the past (Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Harper Lee, Denis Johnson), some of our most well-known living critics and novelists (Harold Bloom, Stanley Fish, Katie Roiphe, Cormac McCarthy, Allan Gurganus, Elizabeth Spencer), as well as those cultural-literary themes that have concerned Giraldi as an American novelist (bestsellers, the “problem” of Catholic fiction, the art of hate mail, and his viral essay on bibliophilia).
Demanding that literature be audacious, and urgent in its convictions, American Audacity is itself an act of intellectual daring, a compendium shot through with Giraldi’s “emboldened and emboldening critical voice” (Sven Birkerts). At a time when literature is threatened by ceaseless electronic bombardment, Giraldi argues that literature “must do what literature has always done: facilitate those silent spaces, remain steadfastly itself in its employment of slowness, interiority, grace, and in its marshaling of aesthetic sophistication and complexity.”
American Audacity is ultimately an assertion of intelligence and discernment from a maker of “perfectly paced prose” (The New Yorker), a book that reaffirms the pleasure and wisdom of the deepest literary values.
— Publishers Weekly
[William] Giraldi is a literature-besotted Midas of prose: within its own purpose,
every sentence gleams. And beyond this, whatever the shape of his subject, the
soul of his subject is the strenuous daring of art. Nearly alone in his
generation, he is willing to invoke Matthew Arnold, and on a single page can
call forth Cesare Pavese, Conrad, Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, Emily
— Cynthia Ozick
A gorgeous fury of
language and sensibility, Giraldi’s indispensable paean to American literature
clears the head and stimulates the nerves. He reminds us that the written word,
when deployed with genius, is always dangerous, and he does so in dynamic prose
that sparks and swishes like a downed power line.
— Walter Kirn, author of Blood Will Out and Up in the Air
In one of the essays in his American Audacity, William Giraldi describes an eminent fellow critic as ‘thrillingly authoritative, wholly convinced, giddy with aptitude.’ I read this as an instance of inadvertent self-characterization. We have been waiting some time for an emboldened and emboldening critical voice and here it is.
— Sven Birkerts, author of The Gutenberg Elegies and Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age
A rich mine of splendid essays.... Giraldi correctly sees himself as part of a tradition. In this way he resembles Harold Bloom, Edmund Wilson, and his beloved Lionel Trilling... Giraldi is at his best when examining intra-traditions of prose authors like the Catholic writers who emerged in the middle of the last century... [and] provides probably the best assessment ever written on [Denis] Johnson’s precarious collection [Jesus’ Son] and its magnetizing influence on younger writers.
— San Francisco Daily Journal
with writers and critics are invariably vigorous, fresh,
and enriched by a voice entirely his own, attuned to language and alive to the
pulse of art. This is an exemplary gallery of critical portraits.
— Morris Dickstein, author of Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression and Gates of Eden: American Culture in the Sixties