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The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America Hardcover – October 2, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. SignatureReviewed by Richard RodriguezSusan Faludi has written a brilliant, unsentimental, often darkly humorous account of America's nervous breakdown after 9/11. The intrusions of September 11, she observes, broke the dead bolt on our protective myth, the illusion that... our might makes our homeland impregnable... and women and children safe in the arms of their men.Drawing on political rhetoric and accounts from the New York Times and the major networks, as well as Fox and talk radio, her book makes clear just how sexually anxious Americans became in the aftermath of that terrible day. But the tragedy had yielded no victorious heroes, so the culture wound up anointing a set of victimized men instead: the firemen who had died in the stairwells of the World Trade Center.The woman's role, she argues, became that of victim. Husbands had lost wives, but it was on the surviving wives of September 11 that America's grief was fixed. When some widows—the Jersey girls—rejected the victim's role by asking pointed questions about governmental incompetence, they were quickly ostracized by the press.After September 11, we read that Donald Rumsfeld had been a wrestler at Princeton—and that became his legend in news accounts. Even the president clearing brush in Crawford, Tex., became the stuff of legend in the National Review, which juxtaposed Bush's refreshingly brutish demeanor with the way the president sizes up the situation and says, 'You're mine, sucker.' A late chapter on Jessica Lynch rehearses how the myth of the imprisoned woman rescued by male warriors was manufactured by the government and the media. But I wish Faludi had appraised the more important Abu Ghraib scandal. Arguably, the photographs of Private Lynndie England standing over naked Arab men shocked many of us out of any remaining childish belief in our own heroism. The last third of the book traces how the American male's determination to see himself as protector (and the woman as dependent) derives from colonial Puritan wars against the Indians and the cowboy conquest of the West. In the end, Faludi judges our invasion of Afghanistan to be inept and tthe war in Iraq disastrous. It is essential, she says, not to confuse the defense of a myth with the defense of a country. A nation given to childish fantasy ends up with a president dressed like Tom Cruise, a chest beater in a borrowed flight suit.Richard Rodriguez is the author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America (Penguin).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Panicked and anxious in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack, the nation has returned to the earlier mythology of the protective male and the dependent female, according to Faludi, author of Backlash (1991) and Stiffed (1999). She points to the sudden and stunning disappearance of women in the media as editorialists, commentators and scholars immediately following 9/11. In addition, police and fire departments across the nation have reduced their hiring of women, using 9/11 as justification for the need for brawny rescuers, while President Bush took on the persona of a cowboy, issuing threats to the terrorists. Faludi also examines how the media-fabricated rescue of Jessica Lynch morphed from a story of a heroic GI Jane to the more appetizing one of a fragile female rescued by heroic American male troops. She also examines the scrutiny and harsh criticism of four 9/11 widows who became politically active and asked embarrassing questions of the Bush administration. Faludi debunks the media-created myths of post-9/11 trends of baby fever, nesting, and security moms, all involving women returning body, mind, and vote to the hearth. Faludi traces the roots of the fascination with the tableau of the brawny male and the fragile female all the way back to Puritan America. In the conclusion of this insightful book, Faludi laments how all the myth-making has squandered opportunities to critically examine the flaws in American foreign and domestic policy. Bush, Vanessa
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 351 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1st edition (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805086927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805086928
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #865,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Robert Kall VINE VOICE on November 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
First, let's talk about the writing. Faludi is a brilliant writer. She could write about grass growing and make it a great read. There were times, reading her book, where I just had to stop and digest how well she puts things. A number of times, thoughts that she wrote with the beauty of Rumi came to mind.

Now, to the content of the book. Faludi submits a premise which she characterizes by a concept we learn in basic biology-- "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." And in her book, she calls the beginning narrative of the book Phylogeny.

The German zoologist, Ernst Haeckel, suggested, in this theory, the idea that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny means that as over the short time span of nine months, a fetus, in the womb, goes through ontogenetic phases of development, it recapitulates the stages of development we see as we go up the evolutional scale-- phylogenetically, that took billions of years to develop.

So we start, in biology, with single celled, then microscopic organisms, then fish, amphibia, with tails, mammals with tails, until we reach the anthropoid stage.

Faludi suggests that as a nation, we are now recapitulating our early evolutionary stages.

She says, "Haeckel's hypothesis retains a metaphorical power in the realm of cultural history. The ways that we act, say, in response to a crisis can recapitulate in quick time the centuries-long evolution of our character as a society and of the mythologies we live by. September 11 presented just such a crisis..."

In her beginning section, called ONTOGENY, She does a superb job documenting how, after the 9/11 terrorist attack, there were no obvious heroes. No brave surviving rescuers, no brave fighters, no people who bravely dug through the rubble to discover survivors.
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69 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Edward Aycock on October 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
First things first, I commend Faludi, as always, for her writing style. Faludi's journalism background has made her books very readable and her latest is no exception. Those who fear a long-winded book full of academic jargon need not be afraid. This is vintage Faludi.

Second, a previous reviewer has dismissed the argument of this book that it's just human nature the way people respond to such crises. Faludi goes to show us the opposite: human nature includes a survival instinct within us all, male or female but too often, other forces and the need to create heroes brings up a divide between men and women, casting the former as heroes and the latter as the victimized in need of saving. Perhaps this isn't a new argument, but Faludi brings it new life by comparing the post-9/11 climate to earlier periods in the history of the United States. I had heard of many of the male archetypes referred to here, the Daniel Boones, the Natty Bumppos but I have never read many captivity narratives and to me, this was new ground.

I could have used a bit more in the beginning when Faludi discusses Susan Sontag and Barbara Kingsolver. What those writers said after 9/11 is never quoted in full; I admit feeling a little angry at their comments in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, not because I was bloodthirsty but because they seemed the words of apologists and ill-timed. Then again, that was my emotional response to a day that still haunts me and I'll never be able to think rationally about it, but it would also cause me to miss Faludi's point: it's not so much what they said as the reaction to the women who spoke out as opposed to male commentators who said similar things yet were ignored by the press.

I recommend this book, whether you agree with it or not.
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58 of 69 people found the following review helpful By R S Cobblestone VINE VOICE on October 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America, by Susan Faludi, is unsettling.

Let me start with her ending:

"When an attack on home soil causes cultural paroxysms that have nothing to do with the attack, when we respond to real threats to our nation by distrusting ourselves with imagined threats to femininity and family life, when we invest our leaders with a cartoon masculinity and require of them bluster in lieu of a capacity for rational calculation, and when we blame our frailty in 'fifth column' feminists - in short, when we base our security on a mythical male strength that can only increase itself against a mythical female weakness - we should know that we are exhibiting the symptoms of a lethal, albeit curable, cultural affliction" (p. 295).

What? And Susan Faludi can make a case for this? As it turns out, however complex this is, Faludi makes a very strong case. There is a smell somewhere in the house, and Faludi attempts to track it down.

Here is the book, in outline form.

1. There was an event we call 9/11.

2. Society at all levels responded to this event.

3. In an extraordinary reversal of the "Rosie the Riveter" phenomenon that redefined the potential for women to hold up this nation, at all levels of society and in all quarters, the post 9/11 phenomena of "manly men" and "perfect virgins" is being forced upon us in entertainment, politics, media coverage, the blogiverse, and unfortunately, journalism.

4. This will have further impacts on society.

Faludi, with the writing and analysis skills I appreciated in her book, Backlash, tackles this topic head-on. My first reaction? Guilt. I was oblivious to the broader issues here.
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