Two years ago, novelist Banks was interviewed by French television for a documentary about American history. His testimony so impressed Banks's French publisher that he made a book out of his remarks, translated into French, co-released with the documentary. Now Banks's words have returned stateside. Unfortunately, they do not travel well. Letting a gifted storyteller like Banks have a go at telling the story of America isn't a bad ideahis voice is appealing, and the brevity and scope of his tale are bracing. As condensed histories go, this is a good one. Banks creates a clear and simple dynamic, identifying three original dreamsfor profit, for religious freedom, for eternal youththat have struggled within our body politic throughout our history. His text, however, betrays a dogmatic agendaleft of center, antiwar and self-righteousundermining the simplicity that might otherwise be a virtue. Fuzzy generalizations like "Americans have always believed in the almost spiritual beauty of machinery" give way to harsh indictments of presidents Wilson, Reagan and the Bushes, as the charming historical survey turns shrill ("Rockefeller didn't believe in the American dream, but everyone who worked for him did"). Banks is eloquent here, but in a sense perhaps unintended, he's dreaming. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Dreaming Up Americaby Russell Banks
With America ever under global scrutiny, Russell Banks contemplates the questions of our origins, values, heroes, conflicts, and contradictions. He writes with conversational ease and emotional insight, drawing on contemporary politics, literature, film, and his knowledge of American history.
Best-selling novelist Banks's (Cloudsplitter; The Sweet Hereafter ) first work of nonfiction was developed from a television interview with a French documentary producer two years ago, which was translated into French and is now available in English in the United States. Originally directed to a French audience to describe the history of the American people, the content is nonetheless enlightening to Americans, too. The book presents, essentially, an interdisciplinary overview of America from Colonial times to the present and America's development out of spiritual, ethical, and materialistic impulses. Banks's narrative is not always flattering, as he dissects our national myths and exposes the realities, but it may nudge readers to take an introspective look at themselves and our nation. The book is also not comprehensive, but it is a condensed and holistic construct of American history, eloquently written and highly readable. Banks ends with an implicit warning about our nationalism, which he describes as a destructive force, a fervor and mass hallucination, that can control our thinking. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Mark Alan Williams, Library of Congress
- Seven Stories Press
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- Penguin Random House Publisher Services
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 2 MB
Meet the Author
RUSSELL BANKS is the author of sixteen works of fiction, many of which depict seismic events in US history, such as the fictionalized journey of John Brown in Cloudsplitter. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes, and two of his novels—The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction—have been made into award-winning films. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, founding president of Cities of Refuge North America, and former New York State Author, Banks lives in upstate New York.
- Date of Birth:
- March 28, 1940
- Place of Birth:
- Newton, Massachusetts
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A mythical book about the American Dream, or in Russell Banks lexicon--the American Dreams. In his theory, there was the Spanish idea for profit--the El Dorado American Dream-- the Ponce De Leon dream for eternal youth--the Fountain of Youth-- and also the consummate English search for religious freedom. He said eventually these all came together to find the uniqueness of the American Dream. This book was very charming, as it offers insights that are totally unique compared to the usual pavulum of other writers. However, he goes on unneccessary tirades against the Bushes, Reagan, and Kennedy. It offers a thing for history buffs that isn't brought back in usual American history books--the spiritual knowledge of America.