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The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don't Think for Themselves Paperback – October 5, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The middle mind is that superficial, politically correct, nonthreatening cultural terrain that is all around us today. It is, as White tells us, prevalent in the media (especially the supposedly liberal media such as NPR), academia and politics. To the right of the middle mind are the cultural conservatives who want to turn back the clock to a mythic America of the past; to the left are the "tenured radicals" whose criticism of society seldom reaches beyond the university. Steven Spielberg (whose Saving Private Ryan is methodically criticized; White does a good job in exposing it as a simplistic, anachronistic piece of pro-war propaganda), Charlie Rose and NPR's Terry Gross are given as examples of the middle mind in action. I am not familiar with the latter two, but White portrays them as pseudo-serious talk shows full of celebrity gossip.
There are a couple of problems with this book. One is the insufficient attention given to the central topic of the middle mind itself. White gives some good examples of it, but never really pins down the middle mind and its relationship to the extremes.Read more ›
Nonetheless, a prescription, and a valuable one, can be abstracted from this rather scattered and wide-ranging work of social criticism: let us critically examine our cultural, political, aesthetic and social worlds with an eye to the possible alternatives and open possibilities. White performs evocative readings of disparate social artifacts, ranging from Saving Private Ryan, The Accidental Buddhist, and Radiohead's music to political efforts co-opt "stupid smart" gen-Xers for business revitalization. Some of these readings miss the mark while others are quite perceptive; I suspect every reader will find occasion to agree and to disagree. I would suggest that far from attempting to feed us "correct" opinions, White is telegraphing a critical stance to the world whose absence he rightly deplores. By analogy, if this book were about the state of the culinary arts, it would not be a cookbook of tried-and-true recipes, but a call that we should challenge ourselves to discover the joy of cooking, with all the risk and mess it entails. Who knows what new culinary creations might come of it?
This is an extremely ambitious short work -- a book that ultimately points to a world of thought and engagement far beyond its own pages. Highly recommended.
The problem is, I think, that it's poorly written. White bounces between little jokes, truncated academic arguments, and insightful observations about American society while the reader just holds on to his racing prose. It's more a rant than an argument. If I had been his editor, I would have said, "This is great, Curtis. It's good that you got this out of your system. NOW you can write an actual book about this subject."
I think I agree with his basic views, but his arguments wander off into fogs of compacted references and then are abruptly announced as completed: "Now, having finished with the left, I'll critique the right." Finished? Had you STARTED?
I think my biggest disappointment with the book is that very little of it is actually about the "middle mind" (after reading the book, try to sit down and write a one page essay distinguishing the middle from the lower and upper mind)and virtually none of it is about "why Americans don't think for themselves" (which is the book's subtitle).
I've been trying to think of people I could recommend this to (people who don't share the exact same educational background as White), and I can't think of anyone. I really don't know who the audience is for this . . . perhaps graduate students. I am going to use it in my class because I agree with his positions, but think analyzing his statements would be a great exercise in critical thinking.
I think the point of a book like this is that it could persuade people who don't already agree with his basic stance. And, in this, I think the book fails.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book first delineates in excruciating detail the problems, etc. with the New Criticism and Cultural Studies. Of some interest to the university professor of Literature? Read morePublished on September 1, 2013 by Bill Deef
I thought White's book was in general mean-spirited, especially his ad hominem remarks about Terry Gross. Read morePublished on June 18, 2013 by THERESA BEACH
I've devoured this and his later book. For people who give them a chance, they may awaken from whatever dogmatic slumbers they find themselves in. Read morePublished on June 7, 2013 by Music Omnivore
I made it to page 80 or so before I grew sick of searching through the sea of names and book references for coherent points. Read morePublished on August 8, 2012 by Wal-Mart'Queisha Jenkins
I can't profess to understand everything in The Middle Mind, but I admire the author for his courage in taking on the subject of why Americans (humans?) don't think for themselves. Read morePublished on December 1, 2011 by Peter A. Farrell
The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don't Think for Themselves is brilliant. A Great vendor described the copy precisely, shipped it quickly and charged reasonably. Read morePublished on May 14, 2011 by M. Y. Mim
Needless to say, this is controvercial. My take is that if you can not bear to have your sacred cows slaughtered and if, yes, you would prefer not to think, don't bother. Read morePublished on July 8, 2010 by Daniel S. Smith
hardly relevant at this point - I am reading the book eight years after it's been published. Yes the book is rambling, yes it attacks lite intellectuals/entertainers for not being... Read morePublished on March 23, 2010 by nativewater
We have been slowly programed to ignore things we shouldn't and this book points out many things I have noticed.Published on September 24, 2009 by P. Kelley