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United States: Essays 1952-1992 - "Thomas Love Peacock: The Novel of Ideas" (1980) Summary & Analysis

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Because most American novels are either genre works (romances, westerns, lawyer epics) for pure entertainment or else present themselves as in some understandable sense "true," The Novel of Ideas is practically unknown in this country—although it has a respectable tradition in Europe and England. Vidal observes that for the last half-century the "Serious American Novel" has dealt only with the white middle class, usually schoolteachers "who confront what they take to be real life" but is devoid of wit and irony, politics or theories of education or the nature of good.

The result: the serious novel is of no real interest to anyone, including those who write them, Vidal says. The insular quality of American letters is deeply-rooted in American history...

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This section contains 494 words
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Buy the United States: Essays 1952-1992 Study Guide
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