Rockets and Rodeos and Other American Spectacles

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A decade after exploring the diaries of everyone from monarchs to madmen in the much-acclaimed A Book of One's Own, Thomas Mallon now paints a brilliant mural of America itself. Crossing the country from Alaska to Florida, from Hawaii to New England, Mallon gets up close to a dozen different national spectacles, including rocket launches, a rodeo championship, political campaigns, the trial of a bank robber, a small town's summer festival, and a pre-execution vigil at San Quentin. Traveling with him, readers will...
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Overview

A decade after exploring the diaries of everyone from monarchs to madmen in the much-acclaimed A Book of One's Own, Thomas Mallon now paints a brilliant mural of America itself. Crossing the country from Alaska to Florida, from Hawaii to New England, Mallon gets up close to a dozen different national spectacles, including rocket launches, a rodeo championship, political campaigns, the trial of a bank robber, a small town's summer festival, and a pre-execution vigil at San Quentin. Traveling with him, readers will join a host of characters in unique, moving, and entertaining circumstances. On a winter night near the Arctic Circle, they'll sit at Mary Farrell's blockhouse console as she rides herd on the scientists trying to blast a tiny rocket into the emerald-green aurora borealis. They'll chat with an uncomfortable Dan Quayle ("Would you like a stick of sugarless gum?") aboard Air Force Two; watch some eager auction-goers bid for the late Sir Rex Harrison's toupee; and, fifty years after Pearl Harbor, listen to survivors weep for their lost comrades. Rockets and Rodeos is an extraordinary group portrait of the United States, written with the same wit and elegance, the consistently sharp and affectionate eye, that have won Thomas Mallon high praise for his novels and essays.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mallon ( A Book of One's Own ), literary editor of GQ , here sandwiches together 12 uneven essays in pursuit of the quintessentially American experience. His wry tone frequently serves him well--the United Nations is ``endlessly verbose,'' the 1992 Sundance Film Festival is ``held together with fairly uniform ideological glue''--and he captures the telling ironies of a space-shuttle launch and a rodeo in Tulsa. Most of these pieces first appeared in such journals as the American Spectator , and, unfortunately, not all of them merit preservation in book form: a plodding account of an unexceptional criminal trial in New York City, a bit of ephemera about the 1990 U.S. Senate race in Rhode Island between Claiborne Pell and Claudine Schneider, and a sympathetic but none-too-deep road-trip account of the Vice President, in which Mallon concludes that ``Dan Quayle is no Dan Quayle.'' (Jan.)
Library Journal
From American Spectator contributor and author, most recently, of the novel Aurora 7 ( LJ 2/1/91) comes this collection of essays on several recent American ``spectacles.'' Mallon succeeds in keeping the reader's interest by the diversity of his subjects (a New York City bank robbery trial; a rocket mission studying the Northern Lights) and his smooth narrative style. Although a couple of the essays are overly long, they are all enlivened by Mallon's flair for characterization (e.g., in a stump speech Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell ``speaks in the soothing, excessively sane way of a bereavement counselor''). Rockets and Rodeos will appeal most to readers looking for good writing without requiring high drama. For popular collections.-- Pamela R. Daubenspeck, Warren-Trumbull Cty. P.L., Warren, Ohio
Joe Collins
Many writers set out to write the great American novel, but magazine writers are different, usually seeking the quintessential piece of Americana. Thomas Mallon's essays from magazines like "American Spectator" and "Harper's" have been collected in this easygoing volume. No great human mysteries are revealed; instead, Mallon's rather straightforward style combines an offbeat sense of humor with a wide-eyed view of the world as he looks at such "spectacles" as the launching of the first space shuttle after the "Challenger" disaster, an old-fashioned Oklahoma rodeo, and a parade through Dan Quayle's Indiana hometown that features its favorite son. The good essays, like the intricate account of a high-profile bank robbery trial in New York City and a moving look at the commemorations of the fiftieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, are contrasted by the merely routine. Mallon's visit with the soon-to-be-former vice president offers us no new insights into the man, and his assessment of covering the United Nations as "the media equivalent of being sent to the glue factory" is painfully true--the UN essay is a yawn. The best thing about such a collection of essays is that you don't have to keep a novel-length narrative in mind. You can pick up and put down the book as the mood strikes you.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780899199399
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 1/1/1993
  • Pages: 256

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