James Ellroy

Marlon James’ Great American Novel: None (with an ‘American Tabloid’ asterisk)

The truth is no one novel could ever capture the American experience because there is no such thing. Or rather America is far too many things for one novel to ever capture.

So while the whole idea of a great anything is pointless and even potentially harmful, if were you to put a gun to my head, or threaten my never to be born children, I would nominate James Ellroy’s “American Tabloid.” Because Noir may have been America’s greatest cultural invention, even if she might not have invented it. Because American Tabloid is the only novel I’ve read so far that realizes that the crucial moments in history are made by people who never make the history books. It’s the rare novel to liberate American outcast language, Jazz talk, street talk, junkie talk, faggot talk, whore talk, and dare to position them as a new canon. And it is that American novel that realized before we did, that our American dream was somebody else’s nightmare.