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American: Beyond Our Grandest Notions Hardcover – October 22, 2002

3.0 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

TV pundit Matthews invokes a kaleidoscope of cultural icons, including Lincoln, Bogart, Hemingway, Oprah and the Don't Tread On Me rattlesnake in this giddy, slapdash, intermittently coherent love letter to "American-ness." Matthews boils down this broad idea into some basic-and sometimes contradictory-precepts. Americans, he says, are pugnacious but anti-militaristic; they admire gun-slinging loners and heroic men of action, but love the little guy and underdogs; they are optimists with a manifest destiny and an eye for personal reinvention. Matthews's analysis rarely goes beyond hagiographies of celebrities and politicians and ardent appreciations of movies like Casablanca and Rocky (or in a darker-but still light-mood, Taxi Driver, whose psychotic hero is an "oddly comforting figure from our frontier past" possessed of an "edgy generosity" and "readiness to give all"). Some claims are suspect: that Americans "reject the dandified haberdashery of war," for instance, might come as news to legions of Civil War reenacters. The volume's vaguely populist centrism nods benignly at Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, at pro-gun and pro-choice sentiments, at Vietnam War POW John McCain and Vietnam War draft-dodgers, all of whom partake of our transcendent national essence. His Whitmanesque embrace of contradictions papers over great fissures in American politics and society, but that is precisely the point of Matthews's positive, chest-thumping thesis: it's all good. Photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Chris Matthews is host and anchor of MSNBC's Hardball, and star of the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show. A veteran of fifteen years with the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, he was a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter and senior aide to Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Jr., former U.S. Speaker of the House. Matthews is the New York Times bestselling author of Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think, as well as the classics Hardball and Kennedy & Nixon. Matthews lives with his wife, Kathleen Matthews, news anchor for the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C., and their three children in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (October 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743240863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743240864
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,020,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Okay, so what makes the audio version of a book better than the bound version? Why, the reader, of course! How about if the reader is the guy who actually wrote the book? Even better, right? Suppose the guy has a highly rated show on MSNBC? Hmmm...intriguing. If you're a Hardball fan, you've come to expect a certain delivery from its mildly quirky host, Chris Matthews. Here we have a gathering of Matthews' favorite moments in American history. They may not necessarily be your favorite moments, but who cares? It's just fun listening. Matthews succeeds in bringing historical perspective and American attitude to what he considers to be important moments in cinema, politics, and events, which have shaped our country and its development. He could have continued with the idea, and possibly have written ten times the volume of work, but he kept it short and sweet. Here's the beauty of the concept. Sequels, sequels, and more sequels. Matthews has left the idea wide open for endless opportunities to add to the collection. I for one will be there to purchase every audio CD version as it becomes available. When you listen to Matthews reading his own stuff, you can occasionally catch a glimpse of the emotion he wants you to feel. Probably the same emotion intended during the writing process. He tried to keep it subdued, and during the first disk he appeared to consciously keep it under the speed limit. But with everything he does the intensity level creeps up on you, and he takes it up a notch. You really can't help but get into it. Why is Chris Matthews so successful, well respected, and yes feared by certain political and media figures? Because they don't take the time to research what his passions are before they appear on his show.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Author Matthews has an "All-American" view of our collective
history, and he does a nice job of highlighting some of the
things that have specifically shaped him into a particular
"all-American" character himself.
He touches briefly on some of our cultural heroes, and since
they are all worthy of review, his thoughts on them are
worth reading. It seems a bit odd that he puts such emphasis
on movies and their heroes, but those movies have no doubt
influenced his view of America, just as other factors have
shaped our own view.
The author hits only the high points of a rather odd mixture
of historic figures, but they are all worth reviewing, and
he gives the reader some positive thoughts to consider, and
it is a nice review of a few American leaders who have influenced our collective thinking about exactly what a "real"
American is.
Given the author's experience and education, this book has a
rather "light" feel to it, and it is rather easy to get through
it quickly, but his points are nonetheless valid. Many factors
make up a true American, and they come from a great variety of
sources during the last 300 years, and we still credit a lot
of our qualities to our forebearers, both real and fictional.
An interesting read.
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By A Customer on November 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Chris Matthews' new book, American - Beyond our Grandest Notions, is a gem. It's a quick read, and for that reason alone may appeal to students, parents who want be able to explain to their kids why America is truly the land of the free and home of the brave and perhaps most importantly - this book will give boomers and seniors a much needed booster shot of pride in this nation.
The prejudice comes in because it frankly and without pretense champions the citizens of the USA. Not a bad combination in today's world where it is fashionable to take the pseudo-intellectual position of seeing the rest of the peoples of the earth as victims of Americans and beating their chests with feigned mea-culpas. We've had decades of post-modern, deconstructionist cynicism. It is entirely appropriate at this time in our history to remind ourselves that Americans have some unique qualities and why this is so. The 10 people Matthews chose to demonstrate these characteristics come from nearly 250 years in our past to the present.
Want to have some damned good, honest responses to share with the next boor who whines about the demise of your homeland? Treat yourself and people you care about to a copy of American.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recommend this book, it is only 200+ pages and very well documented. It could be very good resource material for a civic class, American history class, and should be required reading for American's. This book is NOT negative, but delves into why we are like we are and not like anyone else in the world. Chris comes up with ten, uniquely American notions and they are very interesting. IMHO (in my humble opinion) this is very worthwhile reading! Senator John McCain is one of his contemporary examples, but Chris goes back to before the Revolutionary War for other examples.
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Format: Paperback
This book is alot like light beer. It satisfies somewhat, but after consuming it, you wonder why. I like Chris Matthews, because I think he tries to be fair to both sides on his TV show. I read to learn new things, and regretfully I learned little from this book. This book tries to tie in history, famous figures, and movies. Well, I suppose there is something to this, but history is history and not stories in movies. The other tenet in this book is the characteristics of Americans that make them different from the rest of the world. Again a long stretch. People are people, and Americans are no more unique than others in this world.

I think highly of Chris Matthews and his first book Kennedy and Nixon. This just wasn't a great book. There are more deserving books out there.
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