In his preface to Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman wrote: ‘The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.’ What made America great, what gave it such vitality, was its heterogeneous quality, the fact that it was, as Whitman saw it, ‘a teeming nation of nations’. For Ayad Akhtar, whose spirited autobiographical novel Homeland Elegies consciously invokes Whitman, the country has strayed from that ideal under Donald Trump. Where Whitman glorified multitudes and celebrated contradiction, the Trumpian right insists that to be American is to be one thing only. Far from making America great again, this undoes precisely what made the place exceptional.
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Lovely to be back in the Literary Review after a sabbatical: here are two new, fabulous books on America in the late 1970s. Highly recommended. https://literaryreview.co.uk/too-nice-to-be-president via @Lit_Review