Books: Many Minds

LITERARY HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES (three vols., 2,239 pp.)—Edited by Robert E. Spiller, Willard Thorp, Thomas H. Johnson, Henry Seidel Canby—Macmillan ($20).

It took one year to plan, three years to write, and two more to edit this ambitious literary history of the U.S. The first two volumes consist of essays by 55 scholars; the third is a valuable bibliography. Here, presumably, is everything most readers could possibly want to know about American writing.

And as a source book, it is a success. Its authors have retold the story of U.S. literature—from Cotton Mather's desire to "fill this Countrey with devout and...

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