A Colossal Wreck: A Road Trip Through Political Scandal, Corruption and American Culture

A Colossal Wreck: A Road Trip Through Political Scandal, Corruption and American Culture

by Alexander Cockburn
     
 

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Alexander Cockburn was without question one of the most influential journalists of his generation, whose writing stems from the best tradition of Mark Twain, H.L. Menchken and Tom Paine. Colossal Wreck, his final work, finished shortly before his death in July 2012, exemplifies the prodigious literary brio that made Cockburn’s name.

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Overview

Alexander Cockburn was without question one of the most influential journalists of his generation, whose writing stems from the best tradition of Mark Twain, H.L. Menchken and Tom Paine. Colossal Wreck, his final work, finished shortly before his death in July 2012, exemplifies the prodigious literary brio that made Cockburn’s name.

Whether ruthlessly exposing Beltway hypocrisy, pricking the pomposity of those in power, or tirelessly defending the rights of the oppressed, Cockburn never pulled his punches and always landed a blow where it mattered. In this panoramic work, covering nearly two decades of American culture and politics, he explores subjects as varied as the sex life of Bill Clinton and the best way to cook wild turkey. He stands up for the rights of prisoners on death row and exposes the chicanery of the media and the duplicity of the political elite. As he pursues a serpentine path through the nation, he charts the fortunes of friends, famous relatives, and sworn enemies alike to hilarious effect.

This is a thrilling trip through the reefs and shoals of politics and everyday life. Combining a passion for the places, the food and the people he encountered on dozens of cross-country journeys, Cockburn reports back over seventeen years of tumultuous change among what he affectionately called the “thousand landscapes” of the United States.




From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Michael Kazin
Cockburn possessed one of the most distinctive journalistic voices on the Anglo-American left. He was, by turns, relentlessly cynical and wittily erudite, as this journal-like collection of published and unpublished writings from 1995 to 2012 amply demonstrates…It was often difficult to know whether to take Cockburn seriously, but it is also hard to put him down.
The New York Times - Dwight Garner
…an acerbic new compendium of Mr. Cockburn's work from the past two decades…It's alive on every page, this thing; its feisty sentences wriggle…Collections of political essays, even those presented in offbeat form, as is this one, tend to date quickly. A Colossal Wreck will have a long life among those who care about the crackling deployment of the English language, partly because Mr. Cockburn had such a wide-ranging mind. He was interested in everything. This book contains vivid writing about food, art, orgasms, Halloween costumes, blues singers, tear-jerking movies, surprise parties and dozens of other things…Mr. Cockburn opposed euphemism and coddling of every sort. His book is a stay against boredom.
Publishers Weekly
Cockburn, a radical journalist and Nation columnist who died in July 2012, casts a jaundiced, jolly eye on passing scenery in this stimulating if erratic miscellany. In these short, sharp pieces, Cockburn (Corruptions of Empire) covers 18 years of U.S. politics and history, from Monicagate through Occupy Wall Street; recounts travels through America; eulogizes family and friends (and damns nemesis Christopher Hitchens for “constant public drunkenness and brutish rudeness”); and expounds his idiosyncratic version of left-wing politics. Cockburn issues his usual scabrous denunciations—of American military adventures, Wall Street, every Democrat from the Clintons to the “slithery” Obama, and of anyone who was spineless enough to vote for them. Meanwhile he embraces gun culture and conservative populism, which he finds more temperamentally congenial than the politically correct left in the U.S. Cockburn’s stylish prose is full of erudition, ribald gossip, and pithy insight, but under hard scrutiny, it’s not always convincing, reliable, or coherent. He calls Gerald Ford “America’s greatest president” and swats down dubious conspiracy theories only to float his own. (He blames ex-New York Governor Elliot Spitzer’s call-girl scandal on a right-wing plot.) No matter, Cockburn’s gleefully contrarian punditry makes for an entertaining read. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

"It’s alive on every page, this thing; its feisty sentences wriggle … A Colossal Wreck will have a long life among those who care about the crackling deployment of the English language, partly because Mr. Cockburn had such a wide-ranging mind ... His book is a stay against boredom." – Dwight Garner, New York Times
A Colossal Wreck provides ample evidence for Cockburn's standing as one of the left's most perceptive and entertaining commentators.”—The Guardian

 “Alex struck American journalism like lightning.”—Michael Tomasky, Daily Beast

 “Always surprising, outrageous, brilliant and yet strangely compassionate. He weaves together the public and the private with a sustained comic ingenuity that is matchless.”—Edward Said

 “Alexander Cockburn set a high standard of crusading journalism for fifty years … With his Wildean wit, love of elegant women, penchant for hunting and fondness for P. G. Wodehouse, Cockburn defied the stereotype of the disgruntled left-wing scribe.”—The Independent

 “Cockburn essentially pioneered the modern persona for which Christopher
Hitchens became much better known: the fancily Oxford-educated leftie Brit littérateur/journalist who would say all the outrageous things his bland Yank counterparts lacked the wit, courage, erudition, or épater -spirit to utter on their own … Cockburn was far more committed and purposeful in his outrageousness.”—The Atlantic

Library Journal
★ 09/01/2013
By the time Anglo-Irish journalist Cockburn (coeditor, CounterPunch magazine) died in 2012, he was widely considered one of America's best radical journalists (a longtime U.S. resident, he became a citizen in 2009). Once described in a New York Times review as a "Marxist Mencken," Cockburn possessed both wicked humor and deadly aim, whether in his muckraking of the CIA or the press or in his political criticism of our presidents, politics, or foreign policy. He could, at the same time, write delightful sketches on horse racing, Thanksgiving, and Louisiana back roads. This book is arranged like a journal, with brief dated entries spanning from 1995 to 2012, and so serving as a continuation of his earlier The Golden Age Is in Us, which left off in 1994. While many entries are borrowings from his published journalism, there's a good deal of personal material here as well, along with contrarian views certain to affront all points along our usual left-right spectrum, whether about gun shows, global warming, Iraq, Israel, police funerals, Ron Paul, Hillary Clinton, or Rupert Murdoch. VERDICT Readers who know Cockburn will need no reviewer's verdict, and those who do not, whether they agree or disagree page by page, will likely relish the book as a demonstration of masterly prose in service of an encompassing spirit.—Robert Nardini, Niagara Falls, NY
Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-01
The personal and political chronicle of the witty, eloquent liberal scourge who never let left or right get in his way. The late journalist Cockburn (Guillotined: Being a Summary Broadside Against the Corruption of the English Language, 2012, etc.), who died in 2012, was a rare bird in the opinion business: unpredictable yet consistent in his approach to power. Whether writing for the Nation, Village Voice or the newsletter CounterPunch (which he co-founded), he was always the proud son of a family where Marxism was the dominant faith, authority was the enemy, and revolt was the answer. He found Barack Obama "slithery" as a candidate and hopeless as president. He held Rupert Murdoch and the New York Times in equal contempt and regarded Christopher Hitchens as a publicity hound. He was no respecter of party platforms, hating in more or less equal measures the Iraq War, vegetarianism, gun control, abortion, the whole idea of global warming and any police officer who gave him a ticket. He didn't mind taking sides when he had to and happily helped destroy the re-election campaign of South Dakota Republican Sen. Larry Pressler. ("I am responsible for the Democratic majority in the Senate," he later crowed. "Take that, you work-within-the-system types!") He found common ground with anyone who fights the power, including Julian Assange, Ron Paul, and the tea party and Occupy movements. Cockburn loved America but thought it fascist; the killing of Osama bin Laden was an act of "brute, lawless, lethal force." He could get sentimental about the death of old friends but kept mum about his own approaching demise. Instead, he went out in typical style, railing against the military-industrial complex. A fine trip through a rambunctious, productive, provocative and well-lived life.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781781681824
Publisher:
Verso Books
Publication date:
09/10/2013
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
602
Sales rank:
1,222,421
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Alexander Cockburn was the co-editor of CounterPunch and the author of a number of titles, including Corruptions of Empire, The Golden Age Is in Us, Washington Babylon and Imperial Crusades. Brought up in Ireland, he moved to America in 1972 writing for the Village Voice, the Nation and many other journals. He died in July 2012.

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