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Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier by [Sides, Hampton]
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Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Contemplating the various subcultures into which Americans organize themselves, freelance journalist Sides once mused, "If an American was into tiddlywinks, he could start a national association, and tiddlywinkers in their thousands would come crawling from the woodwork." Finding to his surprise that there actually was such an association, he set off to explore the national passion for joining. Sides attended the annual gatherings of eight associations that particularly titillated him; he reports here on a reunion of the power elite at the campy but exclusive Bohemian Club in San Francisco and the religious ardor he observed at annual meetings of Tupperware saleswomen, recreational-vehicles owners, sledders, aging hippies and Church of God disciples, among others. Almost always curious and entertaining, his descriptions of the settings, the members, the mystiques, the hoopla, the charismatic leaders and the histories of these groups throw revealing light on an idiosyncratic aspect of the national character. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Renowned for individualism, Americans paradoxically have what the author calls a "native genius" for forming groups. Here he presents eight such subcultures, each reflecting a kind of collective individualism run amok. His choices are as diverse as bikers at the Black Hills Motor Classic, Tupperware salesladies on their annual pilgrimage to company headquarters, modern hippies at their "Gathering of the Tribes," and members of the Bohemian Club, a secret all-male retreat of the rich and famous. Sides offers some sociological insights and historical background on each group, but he relies primarily on his acute power of observation and ability to tell a good story. A fun, fascinating book that is recommended for most public libraries.
- Jim Burns, Broward Cty. Lib. System, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1130 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (December 18, 2007)
  • Publication Date: December 18, 2007
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XUBG4Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,612 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. S Welch on July 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a newspaper columnist for The Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore., I loath the well-written but poorly reported essay. That's why I'm so anxious to endorse Sides' "Americana," which is, to be blunt, the best collection of essays on beyond-the-press-conference America I've ever read. Sides is not only a master of language - "they survey the scene with frozen smiles, like old-time Kremlin leaders on a reviewing stand" - but an observer extraordinaire. What makes his pieces shine is his incredible attention to detail, his not only seeing the aging band Steppenwolf at the Harley gathering, but REALLY seeing them: "haggard dinosaurs with tubercular-blue skin, their scaly forms mailed in black leather." From bikers to Tupperware women, from skate boarders to national spelling bees, Sides shows us an America that you won't always find on prime time. And does so with an open mind, an insatiable curiosity and a keen wit. But what places the book at the forefront of such collections is two last-chapter essays - "Point of Impact," about 9/11 and "First," about the war in Iraq. Sides' humor is delicious, but when he gets serious, as he does for these two pieces, he can tell a gripping story like few other American writers. If you want to better understand Americans - and treat yourself to uncommonly great writing in the process - "Americana" is for you.
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Format: Hardcover
As America becomes more centralized and more anonymous; what do citizens do to give themselves a sense of community? Mr. Sides shows us one way to overcome facelessness: get a very specialized interest and find some other folks who share it. Then have a reunion, a festival-a party.
These fascinating essays take up the stodgy Bohemian Club (the most private club in the world), Airsteam caravaners, Tupperware Jubilee, Bass fisherman, the Church of God in Christ Convocation, Iditarod-the 1500 mile Alaska dog sled race, Black Hills Motor Classic-the big Harley ruckus in Sturgis SD, and the Rainbow Family of Living Light gathering -a reunion of the flower children held yearly in a U.S. National Forest.
The most boring group by far are our captains of industry, military and government who belong to the Bohemian Club. In spite of their magnificent scenery, it reads like a board meeting. The Airstream people are a model of organization; participants are color coded down to their socks. The Rainbow Families pride themselves on their lack of organization and it is a true wonder they all manage to get to the chosen site at all, and then survive the experience. The year recounted was spent in the stark Jarbidge Wilderness in northern NV. It sounded about as pleasant as breaking rocks at Alcatraz, but all had a wonderful time. I wonder that the good citizens of Sturgis don't flee before the onslaught of The Hawgs, all grown older but still with the sense of humor of half-tamed grizzly bears.
This is a fun book to read, and Mr. Sides has organized it very well. He gives us a brief history of each organization, interviews participants, and gives an overview of the events provided.
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Format: Paperback
These are magazine stories, mostly from Outside magazine and mostly enjoyable and well crafted. His best by far is "Point of Impact," about 9/11. Hair-raising, heart-breaking and impossible to forget, for better or worse. Had to put this one down a couple of times. Overwhelmed, grossed out, choked up. It would not be a bad idea to read it on every anniversary. "First," about the war in Iraq, is also memorable. An early article, "Murder in Falkner," gets under your skin, too. It would be a decent read without these, so it adds up to a better than average collection.
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Format: Paperback
Americana by Hampton Sides is easy to read and interesting. The volume is composed of 30 short, non-fiction, people pieces. Each article offers a snippet of the kaleidoscope of the American character. Sides has a talent at choosing intriguing topics. Some of the topics are satirical, but, not with malice. Sides seems to attempt to bring understanding to each of the pieces by including lots of interesting facts. One piece, for example, on spelling bees and modern spelling contests includes a whole host of information on why the English language presents such spelling difficulties, and why English English and American English have evolved differently.

Some of the topics are of a more realistic bent. One, on the first American death in the second Iraq war and another portraying the impact of the 9/11 - Twin Towers collapse on several individuals are some of the best prose pieces I have read. For just plain writing fun and humor, two of my favorite pieces characterize the annual "Hog" motorcycle conflagration at Sturgis, South Dakota; and Biosphere 2 in Arizona, at the two-year exit. Taken in aggregate these diverse glimpses of America portray the individualism of America. Sides choses two words to integrate these individual stories of American character: confidence and openness.

Read this book. I think you will enjoy it.
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