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Grand and minute, elegiac and hilarious, Lynne Tillman expands the possibilities of the American novel in this dazzling read about a former historian ruminating on her own life and the lives of others--named a best book of the century by Vulture. In the hypnotic, masterful American Genius, A Comedy, a former historian spending time in a residential home, mental institute, artist's colony, or sanitarium, is spinning tales of her life and ruminating on her many and varied preoccupations: chair design, textiles, pet deaths, family trauma, a lost brother, the Manson family, the Zulu alphabet, loneliness, memory, and sensitive skin--and what "sensitivity" means in our culture and society. Showing what might happen if Jane Austen were writing in 21st-century America, Tillman fashions a microcosm of American democracy: a scholarly colony functioning like Melville's Pequod. All this is folded into the narrator's memories and emotional life, culminating in a seance that may offer escape and transcendence--or perhaps nothing at all. This new edition of a contemporary classic features an introduction by novelist Lucy Ives.
Soft Skull Press, 9781593763114, 384pp.
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
About the Author
Lynne Tillman is a novelist, short story writer, and cultural critic. Her novels are Haunted Houses; Motion Sickness; Cast in Doubt; No Lease on Life, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; American Genius, A Comedy; and Men and Apparitions. Her nonfiction books include The Velvet Years: Warhol's Factory 1965-1967, with photographs by Stephen Shore; Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co.; and What Would Lynne Tillman Do?, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. Her most recent short story collections are Someday This Will Be Funny and The Complete Madame Realism. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and an Andy Warhol/Creative Capital Arts Writing Fellowship. Tillman is Professor/Writer-in-Residence in the Department of English at The University of Albany and teaches at the School of Visual Arts' Art Criticism and Writing MFA Program in New York. She lives in Manhattan with bass player David Hofstra. Lucy Ives is the author of the novel Loudermilk and Impossible Views of the World, which was selected as a New York Times Editors' Choice, and the collection of stories, Cosmogony. Her writing has appeared in Art in America, Artforum, The Baffler, Frieze, Lapham's Quarterly, and Vogue, among other publications. For five years she was an editor with the online magazine Triple Canopy. A graduate of Harvard and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from New York University.