A. A. Gill Weighs In

Courtesy Simon & Schuster

Why didn’t Romanticism take off in America? The author investigates in an excerpt from his new book, “To America with Love.”

The Romantics searched for the sublime in mountains and torrents. They purposefully flung themselves in harm’s way in the Alps and the Hebrides. Romanticism grew addicted to the elemental fix. They swam the Hellespont and drowned in Italian lakes. But all that was merely a kitchen garden compared with the vast, towering nature of America. This New World is a catalogue of superlatives and extremes. It has always seemed to me that the sublime is the most natural, obvious, honest and open reaction to America, where even in the heart of cities you are never more than a cloud away from a wind that will blow you off your feet. No country is as constantly, as physically insistent as America. You are ever pressed up against the landscape, dumbfounded, terrified. Over the two centuries of mass migration, this place must have seemed overwhelming. To get there, to step off the boat, was to pass under the lintel. Oh, the heart-stopping fear, the wonder, the promise of it. Simon & Schuster will publish To America with Love in July.