|About the Book|
This is a book about how it feels to be alive in America at centurys end - the Edens and the wastelands, the psychic heft of it all, our ghosts, hopes, myths, and heroes. Its about who we are, who we think we are, and how well remember the way weMoreThis is a book about how it feels to be alive in America at centurys end - the Edens and the wastelands, the psychic heft of it all, our ghosts, hopes, myths, and heroes. Its about who we are, who we think we are, and how well remember the way we were. Henry Southworth Allen, prizewinning culture critic for the Washington Post, finds his characters for this drama in latterday demigods: Jack Kennedy, Miss America, Ralph Lauren, Mickey Mouse, Ingrid Bergman, the yeoman farmer (as seen in Rhonda Long, 15, grooming a black Angus at a state fair), physicist Stephen Hawking in his wheelchair, three generations of Wyeths painting elegies to an age when the Anglo-Saxon ruled, and the ageless Zsa Zsa Gabor sidling across a hotel room in satin mules. With elegance, energy, and wit, Allen describes an era when heaven is a dream of endless second chances and everything else bristles with doom. Americans strive endlessly, he says, to be saved from that doom - sweating in aerobics classes and shivering in forests primeval. We believe in the redeeming powers of summer houses, the FBI, the common many, the good war, journeys into space, the sacramental power of guns, the sanctity of little white towns in New Hampshire, and the proposition that the secret of success is knowing how to go precisely too far enough. He sees with an anthropological eye, which is to say he sees meaning - the meaning of our periodic fits of national gloom, of an Age of Consumption, of wilderness, Vietnam, innocence, and all the other symbols that float through the national psyche like one of those mammoth American flags waving over a Cadillac dealership...proudly hailed by a country that rarely stops to think aboutthem at all.