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American Audacity: In Defense of Literary Daring

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  65 ratings  ·  23 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 462 pages
Published August 21st 2018 by Liveright
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4.14  · 
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 ·  65 ratings  ·  23 reviews

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James Murphy
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are 2 points of news about Giraldi's collection of essays: how well he writes and the penetrating intelligence of his observations about American literature, past and present. He can turn a phrase and make a point with as much music as anyone I've read lately. He's a joy to read.

These are essays in 3 groupings: literature and reading in general, an assessment of well-known critics from Lionel Trilling to Harold Bloom, and an assessment of writers and their works from Poe to Richard Ford's
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was all kinds of fantastic! Geraldi is the kind of critic who is smart, insightful, and is not afraid to have an opinion. He makes you want to be a better reader. Get ready to add more books to your TBR!
Kent Winward
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Maybe could have been subtitled: "In Defense of Literary Snobbery", but either way it was sure fun to read. The compilation of articles written over the years suffers from the plight of almost all these efforts, namely, it can be uneven. Yet, there is much fodder in these pages and certainly, one walks away feeling edified, challenged, and I admit, a little more highbrow than when I started.
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: litcrit-essays
Smart, opinionated, I must add this book to my overflowing library. I complain about uncommitted lackluster book reviews, not Giraldi. He has something to say and strong ways of saying it. Nathaniel Rich reviews the book in the New York Times and the first paragraph is exemplary:

"If literature, as William Giraldi writes in American Audacity, is “the one religion worth having,” then Giraldi is our most tenacious revivalist preacher, his sermons galvanized by a righteous exhortative energy, a mast
Jeffrey Luscombe
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great set of essays from someone who loves books and reading. It seems like I've read three books once I've looked up some of the old articles, books and forgotten critics and authors that Giraldi referenced in his essays (and he references A LOT!). A great Xmas gift and was surprised not to see it listed in the NY Times top 100.

PS And for the record I did read Clarissa (twice, actually for a course and then in a 'fun' reading group in my graduate year).
John Pistelli
Though better known as the novelist who wrote the now-Netflixed Hold the Dark, William Giraldi has over the last decade been amassing a mighty corpus of literary criticism.

Two tendencies set Giraldi's essays apart from those of his peers. First, he pays close attention to style, his own and others', taking pains to point out the beauties and infelicities of the writers he reviews and to flaunt his own gift for alliteration, allusion, and irony. Second, Giraldi's attitude toward literature could
Michael Ritchie
Nov 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Maybe I've just been out of academia too long, but this collection of essays struck me as overwritten in style and obvious in content. I found little new in his writing on established authors (I admit I skipped some of the essays on newer authors). Giraldi likes interesting style, as do I, but he goes a bit overboard with some frequency. I agreed with many of his stances, and I especially liked his introduction and his essay on the problem of the Catholic novelist. But overall a disappointing co ...more
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My apologies to Mr. Giraldi, because he doesn't think a reviewer’s feelings should matter, but I loved his book.

It’s the best kind of book about books, the kind that you can’t stop thinking about for days after you’ve finished reading it, and eventually find yourself wishing you could have coffee with the author and just talk/argue with him directly in conversation for a few hours. (Admittedly, I’m always going to have a soft spot for someone who quotes my beloved Robertson Davies.)

The relative
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"Powys sees the necessity of attaining 'a mind sensitive to rare and gentle things,' a mind adequately armored against the frothy nothings of the hour'" (7).
"Someone with thousands of books is someone you want to talk to; someone with thousands of shoes is someone you suspect of soul-death" (33).
"For readers, what they read is where they've been, and their collections are evidence of the trek" (34).
"...the book's tremendous value is, or course, noneconomic, while most Americans have a hard time
David Curry
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
William Giraldi’s American Audacity: In Defense of Daring in Literature should be a challenging and rewarding experience for readers who turn to literature not as a pastime or for mere entertainment or confirmation but as a fundamental life resource.

I admire Giraldi’s commitment to language, which is resolute throughout his essays. What, for God’s sake, could matter more in writing? In “the Memoir Now,” he pronounces: “Every book is true or false in its sentences before it’s true or false in fac
Micah Winters
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Midway through his fine piece on James Baldwin, William Giraldi offers perhaps the most explicit articulation of this volume's driving thesis when he writes that "If writers' aesthetics are not moral, if they do not comprehend that style is inextricable from morality, then they're just goofing off on their way to being forgotten." Style as inextricable from morality: though certainly not an idea original to Giraldi, I have nowhere come across a more inspired, inspiring insistence on the deep con ...more
Jennifer Spiegel
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio
This is among the best books I've read (listened to) this year, though not all of it was all interesting to me. It's a collection of Giraldi's very heady, very smart, scholarly, audacious, full-on pretentious essays and reviews on literature.

A word on the pretentious thing. Even I (self-proclaimed lit snob) was put off at times. That said, I wonder if it's vogue-y to call anyone pretentious who asserts one idea over another. Are we okay with arguments against relativism? Well, Giraldi asserts a
Holly Lofgreen
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
American Audacity is a silver-tongued, deeply imagined collection of essays embracing the cosmos of American Literature. Giraldi's conviction shines when he emphasizes the weighty charge to critics to rise to the meaningful craftsmanship we exalt in writers; he believes analysis should be a beautiful response to beauty itself, should creatively elaborate upon the transcendental statements of art in the most imaginative way. To be an intermediary between art and culture, good criticism is an act ...more
John Cooper
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it
If you read the New York Times Book Review, the New York Book Review, the London Book Review, or even Slate, you've read this kind of intelligent critical work before. Giraldi is unusually good at it, and his work is distinguished by a passion that often goes right up to the edge of sympathy without quite going beyond. He's very smart, and he cares a lot. I particularly enjoyed his essay on Harper Lee, whom he believes was obviously manipulated into the release of an early book she had no plans ...more
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Much, much to my chagrin I'd not heard of this guy. I didn't read the New Republic where he was the literary critic. Happy for this collection. I learned something in every chapter, and every chapter contained an original thought or quote worth writing down.

Recommended for lovers of literature.
Daniel Klawitter
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
An engaging collection of essays that argue passionately for the importance of literature in American culture.

Giraldi writes: "Tell me what books you read and I will tell you who you are; tell me you read no books and I will tell you there is no you."
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Girardi is one of my favorite contemporary essayists and he can sting in the best way. The best essays are near the front, with relatively minor pieces scattered throughout.
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dear, sir.
I did not buy your book; I checked it out from the library. You claim that "genteel poverty" no longer exists. You are wrong.
Come visit me sometime.
Bonnie Hoover
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Steel yourself for truly exceptional writing, cutting yet spot-on criticism and inspiring essays about authors you have yet to read.
Chad Brock
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"We have a moral obligation to be intelligent." Word.
Katherine Kostoff
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Oct 17, 2018
Patrick Cheney
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Oct 06, 2018
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Dec 10, 2018
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Sep 18, 2018
Robert McParland
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Aug 30, 2018
Matt Hagle
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Dec 04, 2018
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Books, like love, make life worth living"

The smartest love story I've ever read. The author's fierce intelligence, passion for literature, and unequivocal audacity ignite nearly every page.

"Tell me the books you read and I'll tell you who you are; tell me you read no books and I'll tell you there is no you." (from "A Single Shade of Grey" in section one - American Moments)

Particularly instructive for me was the way the author continually cites cliches and tautologies that can drain the vitalit
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William Giraldi's work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Georgia Review, The Believer, the Kenyon Review, and Poets & Writers. A senior editor at AGNI, he teaches in the Arts & Sciences Writing Program at Boston University.
“What does it mean when what you have becomes equal to what you do, when what you own is essential to who you are? In our everyday grasp of owning things, we tag it materialism, consumerism, consumption. But I trust you'll agree that the possession of books is not identical to the possession of shoes. Someone with thousands of books is someone you want to talk to; someone with thousands of shoes is someone you suspect of soul-death.” 3 likes
“I keep wondering what would have happened if his unquiet mother had hoarded books instead of semiautomatic weapons.” 1 likes
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