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Fixed Ideas: America Since 9.11 Paperback – May 31, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 56 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review Books (May 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590170733
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590170731
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #682,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In times of national crisis, the public turns to such proven, clear-eyed observers of American society as Didion to place events within a historical and political context. But after September 11, those who initiated discussions regarding the causes of the tragedy were instantly branded as traitors as the White House simultaneously launched the war on terrorism and a public relations campaign that blatantly oversimplified the complex realities involved. A shrewd, seasoned, and superbly articulate interpreter of the machinations of American politics, particularly the art of spin, Didion concisely but precisely breaks down the rhetoric and media strategies of George W. Bush and company, identifying key "fixed ideas, or national pieties" that were marshaled "to stake new ground in old domestic wars" and bolster the administration's stand on everything from environmental laws to school prayer to the war in Iraq, which, Didion reminds readers, has actually been on the agenda since the Reagan administration. First published in the New York Review of Books, this is an essential work of clarity in a time of obfuscation. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She is the author of five novels and seven previous books of nonfiction. Joan Didion's Where I Was From, Political Fictions, The Last Thing He Wanted, After Henry, Miami, Democracy, Salvador, A Book of Common Prayer, and Run River are available in Vintage paperback.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
What has happened to freedom of speech in America? Why are we not publicly and openly debating the self-serving and undeomocratic policies of the Bush administration? Didion, in another fine essay on American life, asks these questions and tries to answer them. This is a fine book for anyone who worries about our nation proceeding out of control in its war for oil and corporate interests. Didion is clear in her concerns about why we have lost our powers of free speech and citizenship. A must read for anyone who cares about this nation.
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Jacob Whatley on September 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm confused by the tone of the reviews. Perhaps it has to do with my not being the type of person who self-describes as "patrician" or the type who'd give a Joan Rivers' "book" on Jewelry five stars?

Or maybe it's because I don't bulk buy at Sam's Club?

I certainly don't purchase a book based on page numbers.

Didion's concise essay has all the hallmarks that have made her one of our finer written voices. Yes, the text is "only" forty-four pages. (And the price is "only" $7.95.) If you're attempting to fill the trunk of your car, this isn't your cup of "patrician" tea.

But if you're wanting to read what one of our foremost writers makes of a situation that shook the country and the official response that followed then this is a read you won't want to miss.

For those who might carp of the "length," it's worth noting that Didion can do more with one carefully crafted sentence than most authors can do with a lengthy chapter.

Quality isn't measured by page count and those who can grasp that and those who enjoy strong writing will enjoy this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Theodore A. Rushton on March 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
As anyone looks back on the quagmire in Iraq, and increasingly so in Afghanistan, this book becomes ever more valuable as an example of the pre-war intelligence that challenged the rush to war.

Everyone knows of the "intelligence" failures about the "weapons of mass destruction" and the like. This slim book, well worth the new or used price, offers the other "intelligence". It is concisely the good intelligence of a prescient writer who cautioned against a headlong plunge into war based on foolish assumptions and the fatuous dreams of President George Bush and the neocons ("neocons" is short for "neo conservatives" and not for "new con artists" as rational readers might assume).

It's foolish to assert what President Al Gore would have done in the aftermath of a 9-11 attack; however, one element is certain: he would have paid heed to the voices of intellectual ability, as typified by Didion in this book. Vigorous and free-ranging debate was the policy during the Clinton administration, rather than ignoring the advice of senior military leaders and recklessly plunging into war to satisfy an ideological whim.

That's what makes this book so disturbing. War wasn't the only option in 2003; it isn't the only option now. In retrospect, any other choice than war would have been preferable. In retrospect, only a madman would send more than 3,000 Americans to their deaths, mostly at the hands of Iraqis who want all foreigners out of their country, but with some help from al Qaeda.

'Fixed Ideas' is really a misnomer; the reality, as Didion makes clear, is that "ideas" in America changed very dramatically after 9-11 to the detriment of democracy, free speech and rational debate.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on January 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Fixed Ideas: America Since 9.11," by Joan Didion, features a preface by Frank Rich. The title page notes that the text is "as published in The New York Review of Books of January 16, 2003." The copyright page notes further that the book is based on a lecture given by the author at the New York Public Library on Nov. 13, 2002. It's a short book (44 plus xiv pages).
The book is an attempt to look critically at the "national pieties," or fixed opinions that seem to have gripped the U.S. national psyche since the terrorist attacks of 2001. Didion discusses the "death of irony," conflicting ideas and attitudes since 9/11, the "New American Unilateralism," etc. She also tries to put "the inevitability of going to war with Iraq" in historical context.
Didion's intentions strike me as admirable, but in the end I found the book to be lacking in profound new insight. Although she raises some intriguing issues, the text is oddly inert and ends abruptly. Still, it's worth reading if you're interested in the cultural debates spawned in the aftermath of 9/11.
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