Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Distributed by: PGW Perseus
ISBN-10: 1-933368-44-6
Trade Paperback: 308 pages
Publication Date: October, 2006

American Genius
Lynne Tillman

This is what we'd get if Jane Austen were writing in 21st century America—a book that expands the possibilities of the national novel and of the female protagonist. Tillman brings into being a microcosm of American democracy, a scholarly colony functioning like Melville's Pequod, in which competing values—rationality and irrationality, generosity and selfishness, love and lust, shame and honor—compete with one another through a hilarious narrative, cycling through skin disease, chair design, Manifest Destiny—folded into the narrator's memories and emotional life, culminating, in Wagnerian fashion, in a séance, offering escape, transcendence, or perhaps nothing...


Lynne Tillman: The author who inspired the Manhattan avant-garde

—John Freeman, Independent Online Edition

"Magnificently, Lynne Tillman makes skin do what Herman Melville made boats do—contain multitudes. American Genius, though less macho, belongs in the same class as Moby-Dick and Gravity's Rainbow: encyclopedic novels about America and the world. Grand and minute, elegiac and hilarious, this book will also contradict anything anyone can say about it."

—Matthew Sharpe, author of The Sleeping Father

"American Genius is a masterpiece. The intricate sentences, which include the alternative or opposite possibilities raised by every topic and event, provide bewitching experiences of the ambiguities of experience, always as clear as crystal, even as they shatter the crystal into luminous shards. The book is also preposterously humane, since even the most unencouraging characters finally settle into their places in Tillman's microcosm and become objects of something like nostalgia, the way unsympathetic people known years ago become warming icons of lost times. The central character is herself a wonder of indeterminate openness even as she keeps shutting things down, a paradigm of human warmth and doubt. As I read the book, I waited for things to happen that never did and was delighted with their not happening, with being obliged to stick to the "eternal" round of predetermined but never predictable days; and often the most serious impudences in the story made me laugh out loud. American Genius is utterly original, utterly enthralling."

—Harry Mathews

"American Genius is written in cadences both sharp and mesmeric. It is concerned with the drama of obsession and neurosis as a lone woman in an alien environment muses on illness and the lure of cats, on her parents and her friends, on the strangeness of the known world. She studies the figures around her, unsure of herself but certain about many other matters. She has an interesting mind and a large store of fact and anecdote and observation. This is a new sort of novel, all the more interesting and engrossing for that."

—Colm Toibin

"Lynne Tillman has always been a hero of mine—not because I 'admire' her writing, (although I do, very, very much), but because I feel it. Imagine driving alone at night. You turn on the radio and hear a song that seems to say it all. That's how I feel..."

—Jonathan Safran Foer

"Bracing, absurd, argumentative, and luminous..."

—Jonathan Lethem

"One of America's most challenging and adventurous writers."


"To describe Tillman as a postmodern cross between Henry James and Hegel fails to do her justice."

—Stewart Home, Bookforum

"To encounter a writer of Tillman's acute intelligence writing as well as this is a cause for real celebration."


"Lynne Tillman writes with such elan, such spirited delight and comic intelligence that it is difficult to take anything but pleasure."

—Douglas Glover, Washington Post Book World

"What impresses me most about Cast in Doubt is the great and powerful subtlety with which it peers out of itself —Tillman's intelligence and sophistication have led her toward a quality I can only call grace. Like Stein, Ashbery, and James, this book could be read over and over, each time with deepening delight and appreciation."

—Peter Straub

"Like an acupuncturist, Lynne Tillman knows the precise points in which to sink her delicate probes. One of the biggest problems in composing fiction is understanding what to leave out; no one is more severe, more elegant, more shocking in her reticences than Tillman."

—Edmund White

"A private eye in the public sphere, she refuses no assignment and distils the finest wit, intelligence and hard evidence from some of the world's most transient artifacts and allegories. This is a truly memorable book."

—Andrew Ross

"A firsthand account of one woman's European journey and a riveting investigation of the troublesome notion of 'national identity,' Motion Sickness has true intellectual originality, a gorgeously sly dry irony, and a rich cast of thinkers and drinkers and eccentrics and hoods."

—Patrick McGrath