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In the six years since 9/11, as the bush regime has squandered domestic solidarity and international goodwill, many of the archetypes and ideals with which weve traditionally framed the American enterprise now seem endangered, even hollow. This raises the question, has America ever been what it thinks it is? What Is America? goes to the heart of that inquiry. Ranging with dazzling expertise through anthropology, history, and literature, Wright reconfigures our self-perception, arguing that the essence of America can be traced to the foundations of our history-literally to the collision of worlds that began in 1492, as one civilization subsumed another-and exploring how these currents continue to shape our world.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780786720972
ISBN-10: 0786720972
Format: Hardback
(210mm x 140mm x 36mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Avalon Publishing Group
Publisher: Avalon Publishing Group
Publish Date: 12-Aug-2008
Country of Publication: United States

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » A Canadian author examines America's historical sins.According to Wright (A Short History of Progress, 2005, etc.), America's contempt for government regulation, conservation and international cooperation, her gun-crazy, religious zealotry and her abandonment of the public good in favor of military and market imperatives, all promise to make the New World Order depressingly like the Old. Especially now, he argues, after the depletion of the "loot, labour and land" that fueled the Columbian Age, we must squarely face the facts, not the myths, of our record to avoid future chaos and catastrophe. Through a lens seemingly constructed by Howard Zinn and Jared Diamond, Wright's oblique take on the past 500 years, a parade of European and American horrors, will not come as news to anyone who's sat in a high school or college history classroom in the past 40 years. Still, few of those students will have likely heard so charming an analysis of American depredations. Drawing especially on his deep knowledge of the Indian cultures populating the hemisphere before European contact and employing a particularly wide-ranging set of literary references from Melville to Jonathan Franzen, Emerson to Primo Levi, Wright approvingly cites Tocqueville, Frederick Jackson Turner, Karl Marx, Woodrow Wilson, John Maynard Keynes, Jimmy Carter and Al Gore. Among the many villains identified, Andrew Jackson takes pride of place, closely followed by Nixon, both Bushes, Theodore Roosevelt, Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan. The author speaks kindly of the League of Nations, the Kyoto Accord and the European Union, but disparagingly about globalization ("a feeding frenzy") and deregulation ("a free-for-all to grab the most in the shortest time"). Though he warns against the errors of "presentism" (projecting current values onto history) and hyperbole, Wright can't seem to help himself, prematurely placing Barack Obama in a list of prophets that include Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King.An entertaining, highly tendentious account of where we've been and where we're headed. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Ronald Wright

Ronald Wright's other widely translated works include the highly regarded Time Among the Maya, Stolen Continents, and his novel, A Scientific Romance, a New York Times Book of the Year. He lives in Canada.

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