Hotel America: Scenes in the Lobby of the Fin de Siecle

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Winner of the 1995 National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism, this work observes the spectacle of democratic life and values in our time, and asks who is signing in and who is checking out, of the American experiment at the ?fin de si?cle.? Culled from Lewis Lapham?s monthly ?Notebook? column for Harper?s magazine, these essays describe the period between the winter of 1989 and the spring of 1995 in which the American explaining classes were casting around for a national folktale to take the place of the ...
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Overview

Winner of the 1995 National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism, this work observes the spectacle of democratic life and values in our time, and asks who is signing in and who is checking out, of the American experiment at the “fin de siècle.” Culled from Lewis Lapham‘s monthly “Notebook” column for Harper‘s magazine, these essays describe the period between the winter of 1989 and the spring of 1995 in which the American explaining classes were casting around for a national folktale to take the place of the communist conspiracy. In this book, Lewis Lapham draws a portrait of a society at a loss to know what to think or make of itself at the end of a century once defined as America‘s own. His observations speak to the moral and intellectual confusions visited upon the American ruling elites—in the media and the universities, as well as in business and government—during the years 1989–1995. The spectacle is both comic and sad, a march of folly that calls forth Lapham‘s range as an essayist. Lapham‘s sketches take as their occasions events as different from one another as the wars in Panama and the Persian Gulf, the apotheosis of Richard Nixon and the transfiguration of O.J. Simpson, the grim inspections of the American soul conducted by the agents of both the pious left (no smoking cigarettes, no dirty water in the swimming pools, condoms in the schools) and the zealous right (no serial murders in the movies, no lesbians in the army, prayer in the schools), the media‘s use of history as wallpaper and elevator music, the dwindling significance of President Clinton (vanishing as mysteriously as the Cheshire cat) and the bombastic arrival of Newt Gingrich (“a man for all grievances”), the practice of swindling the stockholders and the art of changing gossip into news.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A wonderful book.”—New York Times Book Review

“Few writers match Lapham's witty, entertaining style, and his insight into the issues of the period. Entertaining reading: strongly recommended.”—Library Journal

“Lapham ... is one of the few practicing masters of the political essay. His essays are insightful, original and witty ... [Hotel America provides] a necessary reminder of how the country really works.”—Toronto Globe and Mail

“Lapham refuses to talk down to his audience, much less cozy up to its ignorance and prejudices ... Nor will he surrender a jot of his wit, erudition and style.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Lapham's portraits of his country are astute and his dry wit as sharp as a knife.”—Times

“The essays in this anthology ... have in common with Lapham’s brilliance, acerbic wit, and disdain for all those who ‘defend the sanctity of myth against the heresy of fact’ ... Lapham believes that ‘a raucous assembly of citizens unafraid to speak their minds’ prods Americans to think creatively about their future. This raucous assembly of one proves the point.”—Kirkus Review

Forbes Magazine
...urbane prose and lethal wit.
Library Journal
This delightful collection of essays by Harper's senior editor addresses the political, social, and cultural features of American society throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Few writers match Lapham's witty, entertaining style, and his insight into the issues of the period is challenging and thought-provoking. Lapham happily ridicules the Reagan and Bush administrations for their readiness to go to war in Panama and Iraq; he seems equally dismissive of the Clinton administration's inability to control events. In several analyses of the American education systems, Lapham seriously and intelligently evaluates the overwhelming odds that our schools face and presents thoughtful suggestions for their improvement. Some essays are appropriately amusing and satirical, while many are serious indictments of our society's inability and/or unwillingness to meet the confusing challenges of the new world order. Offering entertaining reading, these articulate, highly literate essays are strongly recommended for all collections.-Jill Ortner, Sch. of Information and Lib. Studies, SUNY at Buffalo
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859840627
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 11/17/1996
  • Edition description: REISSUE
  • Pages: 378
  • Product dimensions: 6.09 (w) x 9.23 (h) x 1.14 (d)

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