The Novel: An Alternative History, 1600-1800

Steven Moore, Author
Steven Moore. Bloomsbury, $39.95 (1024p) ISBN 978-1-4411-8869-4
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In this second volume of his ambitious study on the novel, Moore cheekily continues his deconstruction of classic works from the medium’s most formative centuries. Tracing an arc that starts in the Enlightenment and ends in Romanticism, the book divides the vast historical territory by region to make the tapestry of literary influences and numerous authorial digressions easier to follow—iconic novels are frequently referenced before their own entry (Sterne’s Tristam Shandy lingers ominously over first eight hundred pages). Moore’s style is erudite but loose, swinging from long, dense exegeses, to pithy discussions of aesthetics, to personal anecdotes concerning favorite books. Mischievous humor and a range of contemporary references are often the sugar to Moore’s dense analytical medicine: The 40-Year-Old Virgin comes up in the section on Don Quixote, Pat Benatar makes an appearance as well. Refusing to simply connect the dots between canonized works, Moore chooses instead to catalog the “hundreds of little-known novels that not only provide context for [a] dozen or so classics, but are interesting in their own right.” It’s this rigorous aim that gives the book velocity. This is a must-read for those interested in studying the novel’s long evolution from less traditional angles. (Sept.)
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