These books consider prose genres at the outer boundaries of both scholarly attention and length. Adopting a reader-centered critical approach, both authors foreground underappreciated texts—Morson takes up the extremely short, Letzler the excessively long—in attempts to encourage critical reappraisal of their materials. Morson’s method is classification, subdividing short forms into diverse (and occasionally oppositional) genres: apothegms and dicta, wise sayings, sardonic maxims, and the summons, among others. Letzler’s project is much more strident in tone and, though among the authors he covers are a number of contemporary Americans—William Gaddis, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace—who have received no shortage of scrutiny, his goal is to refocus attention within those texts “to passages that most critics have learned to ignore” (29).

It is precisely this process, by which readers have taught themselves to ignore certain text, that interests Letzler. He revels in...

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