American Genius: 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 Toibin. 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 seance 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.