Lover of the Fancy

Early C20th American culture and dissent

The Great American Novel
William Carlos Williams

£4.99

The Great American Novel (1923) is an experimental novel by William Carlos Williams. Although he is predominately known as a poet, Williams frequently pushed the limits of prose style throughout his career. In the defining decade of Modernism, Williams sought to try his hand at the so-called ‘Great American Novel’, a concept fueling impassioned debate in academic and artistic circles nationwide. Far from conventional, Williams’ novel is a metafictional foray into matters more postmodern than modern, a commentary masquerading as narrative and a satire of the all-American overreliance on cliché in form and content. “If there is progress then there is a novel. Without progress there is nothing. Everything exists from the beginning. I existed in the beginning. I was a slobbering infant. Today I saw nameless grasses–I tapped the earth with my knuckle. It sounded hollow. It was dry as rubber. Eons of drought. No rain for fifteen days. No rain. It has never rained. It will never rain.” Williams’ novel begins with the word and a birth. Language describes the experience of awakening to experience, of coming into consciousness as a living being in a living world. Using words from everyday speech, he builds a novel out of observations, a book that remains conscious of itself throughout. Like the child whose first experience with the written word often comes from names and slogans stretched over trucks and billboards, the reader eventually comes to accept their new reality, a world where people love and succeed and fail, where history and art intercede to make meaning where they can. The Great American Novel showcases Williams’ experimental form, stretching the meaning of the term ‘novel’ to its outermost limit.

Paperback, 72pp
Mint Editions, 2021
ISBN 9781513283012