Praise for American Audacity:
“Giraldi is a literature-besotted Midas of prose: within its own purpose, every sentence gleams. And beyond this, whatever the shape of his subject, the soul of his subject is the strenuous daring of art. Nearly alone in his generation, he is willing to invoke Matthew Arnold, and on a single page can call forth Cesare Pavese, Conrad, Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, Emily Dickinson!”
“I cannot think of any other American critic in his generation for whom my esteem is so large. If criticism matters, as I very much hope it does, Mr. Giraldi is likely to develop into one of its major practitioners.”
"A gorgeous fury of language and sensibility, Giraldi’s indispensable paean to American literature clears the head and stimulates the nerves. He reminds us that the written word, when deployed with genius, is always dangerous, and he does so in dynamic prose that sparks and swishes like a downed power line."
“In one of the essays in his American Audacity, William Giraldi describes an eminent fellow-critic as ‘thrillingly authoritative, wholly convinced, giddy with aptitude.’ I read this as an instance of inadvertent self-characterization. We have been waiting some time for an emboldened and emboldening critical voice, and here it is.”
"Giraldi's encounters with writers and critics are invariably vigorous, fresh, and enriched by a voice entirely his own, attuned to language and alive to the pulse of art. This is an exemplary gallery of critical portraits."
“In a wide-ranging and provocative collection of essays . . . novelist and memoirist Giraldi . . . examines an array of American writers, praising those who successfully marry style and substance. He draws astute portraits of notable critics, including Stanley Fish, Katie Roiphe, and James Wolcott, and novelists, including Herman Melville, Harper Lee, and Richard Ford . . . Giraldi admires Cynthia Ozick because she wields, in her critical writing, an ‘apprehension of uncommon exactitude and style’ that demonstrates how criticism can be an art form in its own right. . . . Giraldi praises James Baldwin . . . because Baldwin is ‘so smart and sane it’s impossible to read him . . . and not sense yourself growing smarter and saner by the page.’ The same can be said of Giraldi’s graceful case for the value of good writing.”
“If literature, as William Giraldi writes in ‘American Audacity,’ is ‘the one religion worth having,’ then Giraldi is our most tenacious revivalist preacher, his sermons galvanized by a righteous exhortative energy, a mastery of the sacred texts and—unique in contemporary literary criticism—an enthusiasm for moralizing in defense of high standards…’American Audacity’ is the rare example of a collection that coheres into a manifesto…His critical criteria are timeless, which is the point; for a book to outlast its first breath, it must contend with all that has come before. This is an unequivocal truth, though it imposes a severity that would frighten most critics….Still, ‘American Audacity’ is, despite itself, a deeply optimistic book. As Giraldi acknowledges, bellyaching is eternal….So, too, is the remedy, which Giraldi vigorously pursues: to insist on intellect, honesty, memory.”
Nathaniel Rich, New York Times Book Review
"In this full-throated book of essays . . . Giraldi argues passionately for literary excellence."
New York Times
“An impressive new collection of essays . . . Giraldi is the sort of critic . . . who insists on the paramount importance of a work’s aesthetic features. . . . Giraldi leads by example. In his engaging essays . . . he endeavors to bring audacity back into focus, if only to show us what we have been missing.”
Times Literary Supplement
“William Giraldi writes the opposite of paltry criticism. He’s a talented, ambitious critic who is unafraid to take hard stances and ruffle literary feathers . . . He’s also the only critic in America who in his mid 40s deserves a book as expansive as American Audacity — a collection of essays on literary culture, critics, and writers. . . . Giraldi is a powerful writer [who] swings big, and it is fun to watch. . . . He’s a generous and wide reader, and American Audacity covers a healthy amount of literary terrain. . . .For Giraldi, pursuing truth in criticism means finding pleasure in literature. . . . [His] critical writing makes you want to read more, right now.”
Nick Ripatrazone, National Review
“William Giraldi is an accomplished writer, having published two novels and a memoir, all of which have been well received. But luckily for us, Giraldi has also devoted a significant portion of his career to literary criticism. Now, at the age of forty-four, Giraldi has published a collection of this criticism, American Audacity: In Defense of Literary Daring. Giraldi’s camaraderie with the great authors of the past is one of the book’s great strengths, one that has armed him to look upon the literary life and broader cultural world of today with clear eyes and a biting pen. . . .The sort of critical verve present in Giraldi’s writing is atypical amidst the mediocrity that suffocates book reviewing today. Giraldi’s love of true literature is palpable in his essays on Melville, Trilling, Poe, Hannah, and others, and with this love comes an insistence that literature must be a serious, high-minded endeavor.”
The New Criterion
"Giraldi is one of the few contemporary American critics worth reading."
"There's never a dull moment in American Audacity . . . [a] pitilessly probing collection. . . .Giraldi pulls out the pertinent words of literary lions like pocket change."
“A rich mine of splendid essays . . .Giraldi correctly sees himself as part of a tradition. In this way he resembles Harold Bloom, Edmund Wilson, and his beloved Lionel Trilling . . . Giraldi is at his best when examining intra-traditions of prose authors like the Catholic writers who emerged in the middle of the last century. . . [and] provides probably the best assessment ever written on [Denis] Johnson’s precarious collection [Jesus’ Son] and its magnetizing influence on younger writers.”
San Francisco Daily Journal
“Audacity, Giraldi argues, is a quintessentially American trait, one that has been (and continues to be) rewarded in our culture. As a literary critic, he fixes his eye on bold American authors unafraid to be audacious in their prose: James Baldwin, Harper Lee, Herman Melville, Cynthia Ozick.”