The Paris Review

Is This a Classic Chicago Novel?

The newly established publishing arm of the Chicago Review of Books identifies itself as “a small press to republish classic Chicago literature in beautiful new editions.” But of what can a classic be said to consist? Looking at the etymology of the term, one finds that the meaning “of or belonging to the highest class; approved as a model” dates to the seventeenth century and derives from the Latin classicus, “relating to the highest classes of the Roman people”—in other words, superior. The obvious questions arise: superior to what and according to whom? Like so many highly subjective designations, the clearest definitions of classic are usually ostensive. The definer simply points to examples and says, That—that’s what we mean.

The text toward which Chicago Review of Books Press points to inaugurate their new series is Henry Blake Fuller’s , which they declare to be “the first great ‘Chicago novel’ ” and cite as having been listed by magazine as number six in their 2010 list’s editor in chief, Adam Morgan, quotes Dr. Joseph Dimuro of UCLA as calling

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