In a move blatantly designed to pander to my 17-year-old self, the Library of America has, through its blog, announced its Summer and Fall 2011 titles. Joining various bearded dudes between glossy black covers with a red white and blue stripe and a ribbon bookmark will be, for the first time, Kurt Vonnegut and Pauline Kael. The Vonnegut volume, coming in June, collects his four novels from 1963-1973 (that skips the first three, including Mother Night, and includes Cat’s Cradle, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions) alongside stories from the period. The Kael is billed as “Selected Writings,” and isn’t out until November. (In the meantime, someone requests a sexier title.)
Library of America editor-in-chief Geoffrey O’Brien is also a film critic, and a fan of crime fiction (sometimes both at once), and his interests are reflected in the L of A’s canon-broadening of recent years, into criticism and genre fiction. (E.g.) Vonnegut was preceded into the Library by a rough sci-fi contemporary and fellow cult leader.
Kael, for her part, is the third film critic to be collected by the Library, following James Agee and then, shortly after his death, Manny Farber (as well as an initial anthology of American film criticism). Andrew Sarris is surely next.
The upcoming titles, while also featuring the inevitable Ambrose Bierce, reflect the Library’s move towards a broader mandate and classics with a more immediately catchy, contemporary resonance: their enshrinement of Philip Roth continues apace with novels from the late 90s (it’s surely daunting to secure the rights to a living writer; even Bellow had to wait to be dead). There’s also anthologies of “American Writers on Aviation and Spaceflight” (a boxing collection comes out next month too), and a humor-writing anthology edited by Andy Borowitz (“from Mark Twain to The Onion“). And their expansion outward from the dead great white males continues with two volumes of Harlem Renaissance novels. The Canon Wars have left us with… a much bigger canon.