Leslie Fiedler
'A New Literary History of America' by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors

Daunting as it may be to assemble a centuries-spanning assessment of any country, even one with a fairly linear march through history, how does one approach a culture as unstable, contradictory and contested as ours? Where do you start? Where do you stop? And how, exactly, do you know when you're done? That was the task faced by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, editors of the gargantuan "A New Literary History of America" ( Harvard University Press: 1,096 pp., $49.95). By their reckoning, "new" means as recent as Barack Obama; "literary" means anything from Emily Dickinson's poetry to hip-hop's wild style; and "America" means the United...