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American Studies Paperback – November 1, 2003
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Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The topics covered by this uneven group of essays run from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., to Larry Flynt and Jerry Falwell. Menand also has things to say about William James, T.S. Eliot, The New Yorker, Bill Paley of CBS, Pauline Kael, Christopher Lasch, Maya Lin, and "the mind of" Al Gore. Although I did a good deal of underlining--a lot of it trying to make sense of his comments about Christopher Lasch's philosophy against liberalism--there is something about Menand's conclusory style that is off-putting, as though his opinions are the only valid ones. For example, he claims that Justice Holmes "was utterly, sometimes fantastically, indifferent to the real-world effects of his decisions," citing the infamous "stop-look-and-listen" ruling concerning automobiles at train intersections. I think there is plenty of evidence otherwise, and I'm reminded of the famous "yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater" opinion in Lochner v. U.S.
At his best, Menand can summarize a view in very few, well chosen words: "It is easy to appreciate [Maya Lin's] works as environmental installations....natural materials shaped in topological contours. It takes a little longer to see that they are also refinements on destruction...the Vietnam Memorial is made by repairing a large gash in the earth." He also reminds us of things important to remember: that Al Gore wrote his senior thesis at Harvard on the impact of television on the presidency, concluding that "because television loves one face over many faces its effect has been to increase the president's political power at the expense of Congress's.Read more ›
He writes on subjects like William James, Pauline Kael, Al Gore, James Conant, and Norman Mailer with wit, insight, and surprising originality.
Menand is the kind of writer people will be reading 100 years from now, and readers then will say, "wow, this guy really nailed it." Give yourself the treat of this wonderful book.
Yet compared to works by such other New Yorker and NYRB alumni such as Joan Didion, Renata Adler, and Anthony Lane, this book is a rather bloodless work. People who have read Menand in the past will regret the absence of his deflation of Camille Paglia, or his critical review of "Saving Private Ryan," as well as his dissections of such movies as "Independence Day," and "The Wings of the Dove." But the problem is not simply selection. In his informative essay on Lin he notes her view that one reason that her work is so emotionally effective is that she herself maintained her emotional detachment, and her apolitical views.
This view seems to have infected Menand's prose, with disappointing results. On the one hand Menand's review of Pauline Kael is not as memorable as Adler's ruthless polemic against her. (He writes that her reviews were not really "rereadable." Sometimes, sometimes not. Nor true, in my view, of her reviews of "A Clockwork Orange," or "The Godfather, Part Two.") His essay on television is much more complacent than Mark Crispin Miller.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book was like new, even better than advertized. It was very reasonably priced. I am more than happy. Excellent in every way.Published on November 6, 2013 by Carrah A. Clayton
This collection of essays from Louis Menand covers a range of topics in 20th century American history. Read morePublished on September 5, 2006 by bjcefola
The essays in this book, while interesting, suffer from an acute case of stilted writing. In many cases, the complexity of Menand's syntax places heavy demands on the reader--to... Read morePublished on July 27, 2004 by D. Friedman