What does it mean to be an American, and what can America be today? To answer these questions, celebrated philosopher and journalist Bernard-Henri Lévy spent a year traveling throughout the country in the footsteps of another great Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville, whose Democracy in America remains the most influential book ever written about our country.
The result is American Vertigo, a fascinating, wholly fresh look at a country we sometimes only think we know. From Rikers Island to Chicago mega-churches, from Muslim communities in Detroit to an Amish enclave in Iowa, Lévy investigates issues at the heart of our democracy: the special nature of American patriotism, the coexistence of freedom and religion (including the religion of baseball), the prison system, the “return of ideology” and the health of our political institutions, and much more. He revisits and updates Tocqueville’s most important beliefs, such as the dangers posed by “the tyranny of the majority,” explores what Europe and America have to learn from each other, and interprets what he sees with a novelist’s eye and a philosopher’s depth.
Through powerful interview-based portraits across the spectrum of the American people, from prison guards to clergymen, from Norman Mailer to Barack Obama, from Sharon Stone to Richard Holbrooke, Lévy fills his book with a tapestry of American voices–some wise, some shocking. Both the grandeur and the hellish dimensions of American life are unflinchingly explored. And big themes emerge throughout, from the crucial choices America faces today to the underlying reality that, unlike the “Old World,” America remains the fulfillment of the world’s desire to worship, earn, and live as one wishes–a place, despite all, where inclusion remains not just an ideal but an actual practice.
At a time when Americans are anxious about how the world perceives them and, indeed, keen to make sense of themselves, a brilliant and sympathetic foreign observer has arrived to help us begin a new conversation about the meaning of America.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.21(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Bernard-Henry Lévy is a philosopher, journalist, activist, and filmmaker. He was hailed by Vanity Fair magazine as “Superman and prophet: we have no equivalent in the United States.” Among his dozens of books are Barbarism with a Human Face and Who Killed Daniel Pearl? His writing has appeared in a wide range of publications throughout Europe and the United States. His films include the documentaries Bosna! and A Day in the Death of Sarajevo. Lévy is co-founder of the antiracist group SOS Racism and has served on diplomatic missions for the French government.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is beautifully written, by an intelligent friend of America who can be critical while still displaying a real affection for and understanding of the USA in the 21st century. The juxtaposition of M. Levy's journey with the much earlier simialr journey by Tocqyerville works really well without being a constricting device. Being a Brit working for an extended period in DC this book was perfect for my feelings towards this fascinatingly varied and paradoxical country. The book is easily digested as each event or visit is described in 2-4 pages making it easy to pick up or dip in and out of. Highly recommended.
Levy is adept at picking apart old political myths. This is a tour of America at the time of the 2004 Bush versus Kerry election, but Levy's observations are as relevant today as four years ago. He has an interesting perspective, one with which I did not always agree, but nevertheless compelling in accentuation of the remarkable in American cultural and political venues. I would recommend this to those interested in the upcoming 2008 presidential tug-of-war. I was unable to discuss the book with my Lazy Girls Book Club in April 2008, as I had another engagement in Greenville that evening, but I heard that the discussion was lively and enjoyable. Maybe your book group would enjoy American Vertigo as well. Levy should come back every four years for an update of his observations.