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Superior, Nebraska: The Common Sense Values of America's Heartland Hardcover – February 12, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Boyles (Vile France), who now lives in France, comments on contemporary American politics, using his childhood stomping grounds in rural Nebraska and Kansas as his touchstone. Boyles is more partial to Republicans than Democrats largely because he identifies Democrats with dysfunctional urban areas and condescension toward rural residents. Offended by Thomas Frank's 2004 book What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, he dismisses the argument that rural Republicans frequently vote against their own interests in the name of social conservatism, such as opposition to abortion. Yet Boyles covers much of the same ground as Brian Mann's better-reasoned and more skillfully written 2006 response to Frank, Welcome to the Homeland: A Journey to the Rural Heart of America's Conservative Revolution. Still, Boyles shares memorable character sketches, and his diatribes against alleged elites can be both amusing and piercing: There's a reason why even smart people voted for George Bush, a man whose rhetorical style is best suited to a pickup truck window, instead of John Kerry, a man who was clear and erudite in most of what he had to say. They simply liked what Bush said badly more than what Kerry said well. Mostly, however, Boyles treats those he disagrees with as condescendingly as they supposedly treat rural sages. (Oct.)
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Review

From Kirkus Reviews

To the question posed by Thomas Frank's bestselling What's the Matter with Kansas? (2004), a journalist responds, much as the Emporia Gazette's William Allen White did in 1896: "Nothing under the shining
sun." The Republican River (no, it's not named after the Party) meanders along the Kansas/Nebraska border, and from the small towns along its banks Boyles (Vile France: Fear, Duplicity, Cowardice and Cheese, 2005, etc.) casually reports for an oftentimes clueless coastal America on the state of political and anthropological affairs. He begins by supplying some geography and history, both personal--the family homestead in Superior, Neb.--and regional-snapshots of pre-Civil War "Bleeding Kansas," the flood of 1935, the sheer scale of the Midwest as a determinant, the orphan trains that brought 200,000 city kids to the plains between 1853 and 1930. But the author mostly focuses on putting right a number of misconceptions commonly held by cultural elites who never tire of telling Midwesterners what they ought to be thinking and doing. Aren't all the people "out there" moss-backed Republicans who, unaccountably it seems, vote against their own proper interests? No, voting patterns are not at all monolithic-indeed, they are quite sophisticated. Aren't all the small towns rapidly depopulating? Yes, though not nearly as quickly as most of the eastern seaboard's major cities. Aren't the newspapers dying? The regional dailies, sure, but the local weeklies, specializing in hometown news, are doing quite well. Isn't Wal-Mart an unalloyed disaster for Main Street? No. Aren't the people religious fanatics? Yes, from the perspective of a reporter for the AP, NPR or the New York Times. No, if you're a native accustomed to the Midwest tradition of respect for religious belief, where even a proud Democrat can unashamedly attribute the region's mostly civil politics to Christ-taught values of love and forgiveness and a deep confidence in the ideas that make democracy work. Except for some occasional vitriol infecting his discussion of the educational, judicial and political establishment, Boyles is a good-natured guide, shaking his head not so much in anger but rather in bemusement at the academics, commentators and rabid partisans who get so much of the Midwest so wrong. A conversational, amusing, instructive look at a landscape too many Americans merely fly over or--if they think of it at all--misunderstand.

From the Superior (Nebraska) Express

After being repeatedly told by reporters from both coasts that there is something wrong with those of us who have chosen to live here along the banks of the Republican River, I'm glad to find at least one writer who has found nothing wrong with our choice. Boyles lived, worked and reported from the small towns along the Republican and concluded we are not the dim, hoodwinked constituents some would like to make us out to be.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385516746
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385516747
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #435,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Irwin W. Fisk on March 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Many voters in the urban mega-centers of the U.S. tend to question the intelligence of voters in the Heartland. Denis Boyles artfully explains why voters in the Heartland tend to be independent in their thinking and actions. This includes their view that people should not reply on big government, but should work out their own problems when possible. Boyles cites many examples that take place daily in small towns in Nebraska and Kansas. A must read for those who live in Red States and those in the Blue States who would like to understand the politics of Red State voters.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Red State Rascal on March 8, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
Denis Boyles' affectionate portrayal of life in the heartland is not merely an exercise in sentiment (Boyles spent his boyhood summers in and around Superior, Nebraska (as did I)--hence, the title of the book.) Though the author is brimming with fond memories of his youth, he weaves his lively recollections together with current research into the thoughts, wit, and wisdom of the people who animate the small towns along the Kansas/Nebraska border.

The result is an entertaining and insightful look at distinctly Midwestern values like faith, family, civility, and community. Boyles' shortand for this collection of attributes is "common sense." He says that it is the region's most abundant commodity and, "Too bad it doesn't come in barrels, because there's a huge reservoir of the stuff out there . . . ."

The author uses numerous interviews to help us get to know the people who shape the culture of this often overlooked (and expansive) part of America. He also does top-notch reporting on a number of contemporary debates that raged recently in Kansas--from court intrusion into public education funding to the state school board's row over "science" standards. (How dare those "conservatives" point out that Darwin's theory is a . . . theory?)

The book makes you want to visit places like Concordia, Lindsborg, McCook and Superior and meet their salt of the earth, three-dimensional inhabitants. Not a bad idea. By doing so, maybe a little of their common sense values would rub off on the rest of us.

Overall, a superior read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Blue Like State on March 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've been a fan and a friend of Denis Boyles for many years, but even if he was a random stranger I would have enjoyed his thoughtful examination of a place that many Americans only see from the windows of pressurized cabins. There is a lot of life and complexity on the Great Plains. Boyles has written this fascinating country a witty love letter that is part memoir, part reportage and all heart. Read this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By George Lauby on March 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It is an excellent book, well-researched, insightful, beautifully written. Denis Boyles is eloquent. The intelligence of this book lies in the topics that Boyles selected... things we face and want to understand better -- politics, intelligent design, evolution, school funding, rural life, helpfulness and good government.
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