American Genius by Lynne Tillman
A Comedy

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Lynne Tillman’s previous novels have won her both popular approval and critical praise from such literary heavyweights as Edmund White and Colm Tóibín. With American Genius, her first novel since 1998's No Lease on Life, she shows what might happen if Jane Austen were writing in 21st-century America. Employing her trademark crystalline prose and intricate, hypnotic sentences, Tillman fashions a microcosm of American democracy: a scholarly colony functioning like Melville’s Pequod. In this otherworld, competing values — rationality and irrationality, generosity and selfishness, love and lust, shame and honor — collide through a witty narrative, cycling through such disparate tropes as skin disease, chair design, and Manifest Destiny. All this is folded into the narrator’s memories and emotional life, culminating in a séance that may offer escape and transcendence — or perhaps nothing. Grand and minute, elegiac and hilarious, Lynne Tillman expands the possibilities of the American novel in this dazzling read.

About Lynne Tillman

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Lynne Tillman (New York, NY), Associate Professor/Writer-in-Residence in the Department of English at the University at Albany, is the author of four novels, two collections of short stories, one collection of essays and two nonfiction books. She has collaborated often with artists and writes regularly on culture. Her novels include No Lease on Life (1997) which was a New York Times Notable Book of 1998 and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Cast in Doubt (1992), Motion Sickness (1991), and Haunted Houses (1995). Absence Makes the Heart (1990) and The Broad Picture (1997) are both collections of Tillman's essays that were published in literary and art periodicals. In 1995, Tillman's The Velvet Years: Wharhol's Factory 1965-1967, was published with photographs by Stephen Shore, and it presented Factory personalities' narratives as well as her critical essay on Warhol, his art and studio. Tillman is also the author of the nonfiction book The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co. (1999) a cultural history of a literary landmark, where writers and artists would congregate for nearly 20 years. She is the Fiction Editor at Fence Magazine.
Published October 28, 2006 by Soft Skull Press. 320 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Aside from long, engrossing digressions on the development of fabrics, the history of the chair, the incarcerated Charles Manson groupie Leslie Van Houten and many other subjects, the narrator maintains one insistent train of thought, involving her sanguine Polish beautician.

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The New York Times

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The “kitchen helper,” on whom Helen conceives a crush, is little more than two strong thighs, an (imagined) erection and a lecture (from Helen) on de Tocqueville, from which she soon escapes into more nebulous ruminations: “I pulsed with amorousness and stealth, but an experience is fleet-footed ...

Oct 08 2006 | Read Full Review of American Genius: A Comedy

The Guardian

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We hear about her routines for mealtimes, her liking for baths, the life histories of her family pets, the Polish woman who gives her facials, the murderess Leslie Van Houten, underarm waxing, Kafka, the history of fabrics, slavery, states' rights, and Eames chairs.

Feb 23 2008 | Read Full Review of American Genius: A Comedy

Entertainment Weekly

Originally posted Oct 06, 2006 Published in issue #901-902 Oct 13, 2006 Order article reprints

Oct 06 2006 | Read Full Review of American Genius: A Comedy

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