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.