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In defense of American literature

Americans suffered a collective bout of hurt feelings last fall when Swedish Nobel Prize judge Horace Engdahl said that no US writer was likely to win the Nobel Prize in literature. "The US is too big, too insular," he disdained. But is that necessarily a bad thing?

Not according to Guardian blogger Stuart Evers. "When you've got so many stories to tell at home, why would you look abroad?," he asks in yesterday's Guardian in a piece titled "Why are we so fascinated with US literature?"

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Evers is British but confesses that three-quarters of the books on his shelves are by US writers. "So why so many American books?," he wonders.

For one thing, he says, he prefers American English to the home-grown variety. But mostly, he explains, "American fiction fascinates because of the country it seeks to depict: its vastness, its extremes of landscape and temperatures, its hundreds of races, its gulfs between wealth and poverty."

Then, he adds, there is "the American Dream, a subject as fascinating to those who observe it from afar as it is to those who live it."

Plenty of Ever's readers are sure to disagree and they will probably hoist their copies of Roberto Bolano's "2666" over their heads as they do. But for those aficionados of American lit still in mourning over the loss of John Updike, Ever's words may provide a soothing balm.


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