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One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation Hardcover – June 3, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer Prize–winner Will (Men at Work) serves up an engaging compilation of his columns and reviews from the past five years. Touching lightly on the Bush administration and heavily upon American history, good government, obituaries and baseball among other less schismatic topics, Will is at his most colorful when describing the intrigues and absurdities of great figures in American political history—FDR setting the price of gold from his bed, Churchill imperiously ordering bacon and alcohol from White House staff. Will is, in the late William Buckley's words, the consummate conservative high-priest, who favors historical analogy and tasteful argumentation to partisan moralizing. The columns are uniformly excellent, but they are short-lived pleasures and can become disposable when read one after another—even the grouping by genre cannot obviate this—and these essays would have been better served had they been arranged chronologically. Nevertheless, this is a rewarding book, offering all the riches of a writer in full control of his medium and with plenty to tell. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In his eighth collection of writings, with the benefit of his characteristic wit and style and a 40-year-career as a columnist, Will offers a broad, insightful, and affectionate look at American culture. He is ecumenical in his admiration of iconic American figures: Daniel Patrick Moynihan is remembered as a Sisyphus “forever pushing uphill a boulder of inconvenient data” and Milton Friedman as the nation’s most “consequential public intellectual of the twentieth century.” Predictably, Will lambastes absurdities committed by liberals—the city of Oakland charging as hate speech an effort to promote heterosexual marriage as the foundation of the “natural family”—but also takes conservatives to task. Will is skeptical of big idea conservatism and nostalgia for Ronald Reagan as a substitute for thinking. In this collection, Will turns his attention mostly to the incredible array of ideas and notions of American life—consumerism, religious fervor, commercial vitality—and so conveys the energy and vibrancy of American culture, society, economy, and politics. In pithy commentary on culture, Will is admiring of the endurance of Harley-Davidson and Brooks Brothers, and critical of political correctness on university campuses and elsewhere. Will’s greatest rhapsody is reserved for sports, particularly his beloved baseball. Will blends journalism, history, philosophy, and analysis so gracefully that readers of any political stripe must admire his effort and his art. --Vanessa Bush

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum; 1 edition (June 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307407861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307407863
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,262,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Julie Neal VINE VOICE on June 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed One Man's America for its insight, and because George Will refuses to allow readers to be lazy. I must admit, though, that it often seems like he just swallowed a thesaurus, that he's never met a compound adjective he didn't like. "No vulgarity is unthinkable now that the Holocaust has become fodder for semi-intellectual wisecracks," he writes, "the plaything of theory-weaving and ax-grinding academic and artistic mediocrities who discern a moral equivalence between commercial advertising and Nuremberg rallies."

Of course, I'm comparing that to my own writing, which usually doesn't ponder the theory-weaving of much beyond My Disney Girl's Perfectly Princess Tea Party. But I digress.

Will's smart stories give readers much to think about.

Although proudly lacking the common touch, his essays are often about the common man. The stories in this collection cover a wide range of topics, including baseball pitcher Greg Maddux, the movie United 93, atrocities of the Holocaust, the messy birth of aviation and the similarities between the Pearl Harbor attack and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The last two essays in the book are personal and touching: Will talks about his 35-year-old son Jon, born with Down Syndrome, and the death of his mother Louise at age 98.

I don't usually share Will's politics, but I have always admired his writing, and this generally apolitical book was a pure pleasure to read. I should note, however, that many of the 138 stories may seem familiar. All but seven are reprints, originally published in Newsweek and the Washington Post.

Here's the chapter list:

1. People
2. Paths to the Present
3. Governing
4. Sensibilities and Sensitivities
5. Learning
6. Games
7. The Game
8. Wondering
9. Matters of Life and Death
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Format: Hardcover
"One Man's America" focuses not on the large events of the first years of the 21st century, but rather how a conservative sensibility reacts to smaller matters. While doing so he also provides an entertaining and instructive unfolding of the American story.

Will's work begins with people (William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, John F. Kennedy, etc.), and then on to various topics such as "The Amazing Banality of Flight," "Ed Schools vs. Education," and of course, an entire chapter on baseball. It ends, with a brief summary of his son's life with Down's Syndrome, and his mother's long dying with dementia. Throughout, it is thoughtful.

What I find most attractive about George Will, however, is not his intelligent, conservative perspectives, but his never-ceasing objectivity. Sometimes conservatives are just plain stupid, and when that is the case, George Will is the first to say so.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the eighth collection of George Will's columns and other writings. The book is a great series of reflections on American life from 2002 to 2008.

"One Man's America" is a treasure trove of columns on historical figures, politics, history, the culture, sports (especially Will's beloved baseball), education, and science. He has a couple of great columns on the recently departed William F. Buckley, and his year-end columns and his columns about books are especially enjoyable.

Will is a national treasure. He is so learned, and has a staggering amount of background knowledge, that he manages to drop numerous unfamiliar facts about familiar people and incidents into his columns, which means that the columns must surely be educational for even the most well-informed D.C. insider. You may not agree with him on every issue, but to read George Will is not to spend time--it is to invest time.
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This is an interesting book by Will that covers everything from baseball to politics to race relations. It is a collection of short essays written over the last few years. While Will is inarguably a leading thinker within the conservative movement, his book does not look fondly upon the Bush 43 administration.

And in case you thought George Will was devoid of a sense of humor, he writes, "But, then, serendipity has often attended the Fourth of July. That day is the birthday of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804), arguable the father of American literature. And of Stephen Foster (1826), arguably the father of American music. And - save the most luminous for last - the sainted Calvin Coolidge (1872), who oversaw a 45 percent increase in American's production of ice cream". (p. 235)
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The simple narrative on George Will is that he's conservative. That of course is either praise or criticism. But I found this book to be surprisingly apolitical. I actually found it to be both warm and engaging in how it celebrates fundamental human things. You even find joy and, dare I say, quiet inspiration in this book. The biggest inspiration? Mr. Will's observations come from a personal place. They seem not part of the daily cartoon-ish dialogues of left versus right, or good versus evil. Instead they are, whether agreeable to ones inclinations or not, those of an objective observer making a reasoned case. I finished this book and realized I'd gained perspective not ideology. And that was refreshing. And boy-oh-boy he writes well ...
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