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The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice

by

The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From the author of Mystery Train and Lipstick Traces, an exhilarating and provocative investigation of the tangle of American identity America is a place and a story, made up of exuberance and suspicion, crime and liberation, lynch mobs and escapes; its greatest testaments are made of portents and warnings, biblical allusions that lose all certainty in the American air.

It is this story of self-invention and nationhood that Greil Marcus rediscovers, beginning with John Winthrop's invocation of America as a city on the hill, Lincoln's second inaugural address, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech about his American dream. Listening to these prophetic founding statements, Marcus explores America's promise as a New Jerusalem and the nature of its covenant: first with God, and then with its own citizens. In the nineteenth century, this vision of the nation's story was told in public as part of common discourse, to be fought over in plain speech and flights of gorgeous rhetoric. Since then, Marcus argues, it has become cryptic, a story told more in art than in politics. He traces it across the continent and through time, hearing the tale in the disparate voices of writers, filmmakers, performers, and actors: Philip Roth, David Lynch, David Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, Sheryl Lee, and Bill Pullman.

In The Shape of Things to Come, the future and the past merge in extraordinary and uncanny ways, and Marcus proves once again that he is our most imaginative and original cultural critic.

Review:

"Whether criticism should be a cool medium or a hot one I'll leave to others to ponder....Thrilling as The Shape of Things to Come is, its greatest achievement may be finally exhausting its readers on American exceptionalism forever." New York Times

Review:

"[Marcus's]...writing is risky, exciting, moving, bringing us back to the real, back to our best selves through the songs that America has been playing all around us." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"Marcus finds modern-day prophecy in the later novels of Philip Roth, the films of David Lynch, and the music of David Thomas's rock band, Pere Ubu." Library Journal

Review:

"Enormous fun for Twin Peaks freaks, Rothophiles, Ginsberg groupies and all who like to sit among the pins in a busy bowling alley." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Ranging as he does from Monica Lewinsky to David Lynch, Lou Reed back to Philip Roth, the Pixies to Pere Ubu, the great cultural critic Greil Marcus suggests in The Shape of Things to Come that in the USA, artists rather than politicians truly have the measure of the country." Paul Muldoon, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Horse Latitudes

Review:

"A pirate radio station broadcasting late at night from the heart of the lost republic." The Times Literary Supplement (London)

Review:

"There are wonders on nearly every page, connections made and broken between history and pop culture, and always there is Marcus's gift for summoning up an entire phenomenon in a single sentence." Entertainment Weekly

Synopsis:

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

 
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

 
A London Times Literary Supplement Best Book of the Year

 

In this exhilarating and kaleidoscopic investigation of American identity, Greil Marcus traces the nation's fable of self invention from its earliest Puritan beginnings to its successive retellings in the work of diverse contemporary artists. Marcus considers the birth of America as a New Jerusalem, a place of promises so vast that they could only be betrayed--and how from that betrayal emerged the nation's prophetic voice, the voice that calls America's citizens to self-judgment. Over the course of our history, Marcus finds that the prophetic voice has sounded less and less in the political realm--where it can be heard in the words of John Winthrop, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr.--and more in the work of individual artists, including Philip Roth, David Lynch, Sinclair Lewis, John Dos Passos, David Thomas of Pere Ubu, Allen Ginsberg, the band Heavens to Betsy, Bill Pullman, and Sheryl Lee.

 

In The Shape of Things to Come, the past and the present merge in the most extraordinary and surprising ways. Greil Marcus presents a stirring, and frightening, portrait of our country, our ideals, and ourselves.

Greil Marcus is the author of nine previous books, including Lipstick Traces, Mystery Train, and The Dustbin of History. He lives in Berkeley, California.
In The Shape of Things to Come, Greil Marcus traces America's fable of self-invention from its earliest Puritan beginnings to its successive retellings in the the work of contemporary artists as diverse as Philip Roth and David Lynch. While artists rather than politicians struggle to define what the nation is and what it is for, Marcus opens up the ferment of America as an idea and as a story.
 
From John Winthrop's sermon on the founding of a community as a city on a hill to Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s address to the March on Washington in 1963, Marcus explores America's promise as a New Jerusalem: the nature of its covenant, first with God and then with its own citizens. But the promises America made to itself were so vast they could only be betrayedand from that betrayal emerged the nation's prophetic voice. It is this voice that calls America's citizens to judgment: not the judgment of God, but a judgment they must render on themselves.
 
As Marcus follows this drama, he find the prophetic voice less and less in public argument and political speech, and more in the work of novelists, filmmakers, musicians, poets, and actorsincluding Roth, Lynch, Sinclair Lewis, John Dos Passos, David Thomas of Pere Ubu, Allen Ginsberg, the band Heavens to Betsy, Bill Pulllman, and Sheryl Lee. In The Shape of Things to Come, the past and the present merge in the most extraordinary and uncanny ways. As Luc Sante said of Marcus's The Old, Weird America, this is not only "the most imaginative cultural criticism being done . . . it's a light in dark times."
"A bold, brash book that reckons with the countrys genius for failure and seeks salvation in art, film, music and myth . . . Marcus finds hope and humor in the strangest places, as hes done for more than 30 years as a fearless observer of scary America . . . Marcus willingly cedes center stage to his own authorial inventions and lets the prophesizing voices all around him do the talking."Steven Jenkins, Green Cine.com

"His writing is cool, vivid, fixated. The book's premise is simple: 'There is no American identity without a sense of portent and doom' . . . This book is brilliant. Frightening, exciting, sickening. It brings you alive as an American."The American Prospect

"An impossible fever-dream conversation, in which Abraham Lincoln, Sleater-Kinney, obscure bluesmen, old punks, characters from 24, Sinclair Lewis, and Martin Luther King Jr. speak to each other on some frequency only Marcus can hear and transcribe. The cacophony is us, and in such scary times it's imperative that we listen."Frances Reade, San Francisco Weekly

"Marcus knows that as you dig deeper into American culture and its histories, it just gets weirderand a lot more interesting. Beneath the pabulum that the corporations serve us as mass culture is a vibrant, sexy, scary and confusing unholy mess of music and art, movies and poetry . . . Nobody does it better than Greil Marcus."Michael Roth, San Francisco Chronicle

"Greil Marcus is one of America's great listeners. Over 30 years and nine books, he has reshaped the possibilities of criticism, departing from questions of taste and tailing instead grand, nation-sized mythologies of heroes and villains, promises and betrayals, and our need to believe in the whole thing. Marcus's latest, The Shape of Things to Come, is a provocative and demanding book about 'prophecy and the American voice' . . . This is a powerful, confounding, and disturbing book about taking the nation, literally, at its word."Hua Hsu, The Village Voice

"A bold, brash book that reckons with the country's genius for failure and seeks salvation in art, film, music and myth . . . Marcus finds hope and humor in the strangest places, as he's done for more than 30 years as a fearless observer of scary America . . . Marcus willingly cedes center stage to his own authorial inventions and lets the prophesizing voices all around him do the talking."Steven Jenkins, Green Cine.com

"Among American rock critics, Greil Marcus is the titan whose brilliance is taken for granted . . . With The Shape of Things to Come, Marcus is after some big fish. He uses Puritan settler John Winthrop's 1630 invocation of America as a 'City Upon a Hill' along with speeches by Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to broach the topic of American exceptionalism, and explore the nation's covenant with God and its people. In analysis that is often dazzling . . . he closely reads poems, movies, novels, performances, and punk rock songs by an array of subjects ranging from grrl-rockers Heavens to Betsy to everyman actor Bill Pullman to novelist Philip Roth."Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"[A] fascinating book on the notion of prophecy in the American character, which [Greil Marcus] explains has played out in our era 'most intensely in art' . . . The chapters on Lynch and Thomas are rich with allusions and connections to many other types of prophetic art (e.g., poetry, photography, film noir) and music (e.g., blues, pop, country) that express the nation's 'promise and its betrayal.' Highly recommended."Amy Lewontin, Library Journal

"Marcus plumbs the depth and breadth of American exceptionalism through his unique lens of cultural criticism, forging often astounding links between people, places, works of art and miscellaneous phenomena, as he has in most of his previous nine books. The independent scholar posits that the United States of America is a cultural construction, grounded in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Without those bedrocks, Marcus believes, the nation would be 'little more than a collection of buildings and people who have no special reason to spe

Synopsis:

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

 
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

 
A London Times Literary Supplement Best Book of the Year

 

In this exhilarating and kaleidoscopic investigation of American identity, Greil Marcus traces the nation's fable of self invention from its earliest Puritan beginnings to its successive retellings in the work of diverse contemporary artists. Marcus considers the birth of America as a New Jerusalem, a place of promises so vast that they could only be betrayed--and how from that betrayal emerged the nation's prophetic voice, the voice that calls America's citizens to self-judgment. Over the course of our history, Marcus finds that the prophetic voice has sounded less and less in the political realm--where it can be heard in the words of John Winthrop, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr.--and more in the work of individual artists, including Philip Roth, David Lynch, Sinclair Lewis, John Dos Passos, David Thomas of Pere Ubu, Allen Ginsberg, the band Heavens to Betsy, Bill Pullman, and Sheryl Lee.

 

In The Shape of Things to Come, the past and the present merge in the most extraordinary and surprising ways. Greil Marcus presents a stirring, and frightening, portrait of our country, our ideals, and ourselves.

About the Author

Greil Marcus is the author of nine previous books, including Lipstick Traces, Mystery Train, and The Dustbin of History. He lives in Berkeley, California.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312426422
Author:
Marcus, Greil
Publisher:
Picador USA
Author:
Marcus, Greil
Subject:
Non-Classifiable
Subject:
United States - General
Subject:
Popular Culture
Subject:
US History-General
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20070831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes a frontispiece
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.5 x 0.755 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » American Studies » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » American Studies
History and Social Science » US History » General

The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice New Trade Paper
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$19.00 In Stock
Product details 336 pages Picador USA - English 9780312426422 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Whether criticism should be a cool medium or a hot one I'll leave to others to ponder....Thrilling as The Shape of Things to Come is, its greatest achievement may be finally exhausting its readers on American exceptionalism forever."
"Review" by , "[Marcus's]...writing is risky, exciting, moving, bringing us back to the real, back to our best selves through the songs that America has been playing all around us."
"Review" by , "Marcus finds modern-day prophecy in the later novels of Philip Roth, the films of David Lynch, and the music of David Thomas's rock band, Pere Ubu."
"Review" by , "Enormous fun for Twin Peaks freaks, Rothophiles, Ginsberg groupies and all who like to sit among the pins in a busy bowling alley."
"Review" by , "Ranging as he does from Monica Lewinsky to David Lynch, Lou Reed back to Philip Roth, the Pixies to Pere Ubu, the great cultural critic Greil Marcus suggests in The Shape of Things to Come that in the USA, artists rather than politicians truly have the measure of the country."
"Review" by , "A pirate radio station broadcasting late at night from the heart of the lost republic."
"Review" by , "There are wonders on nearly every page, connections made and broken between history and pop culture, and always there is Marcus's gift for summoning up an entire phenomenon in a single sentence."
"Synopsis" by ,

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

 
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

 
A London Times Literary Supplement Best Book of the Year

 

In this exhilarating and kaleidoscopic investigation of American identity, Greil Marcus traces the nation's fable of self invention from its earliest Puritan beginnings to its successive retellings in the work of diverse contemporary artists. Marcus considers the birth of America as a New Jerusalem, a place of promises so vast that they could only be betrayed--and how from that betrayal emerged the nation's prophetic voice, the voice that calls America's citizens to self-judgment. Over the course of our history, Marcus finds that the prophetic voice has sounded less and less in the political realm--where it can be heard in the words of John Winthrop, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr.--and more in the work of individual artists, including Philip Roth, David Lynch, Sinclair Lewis, John Dos Passos, David Thomas of Pere Ubu, Allen Ginsberg, the band Heavens to Betsy, Bill Pullman, and Sheryl Lee.

 

In The Shape of Things to Come, the past and the present merge in the most extraordinary and surprising ways. Greil Marcus presents a stirring, and frightening, portrait of our country, our ideals, and ourselves.

Greil Marcus is the author of nine previous books, including Lipstick Traces, Mystery Train, and The Dustbin of History. He lives in Berkeley, California.
In The Shape of Things to Come, Greil Marcus traces America's fable of self-invention from its earliest Puritan beginnings to its successive retellings in the the work of contemporary artists as diverse as Philip Roth and David Lynch. While artists rather than politicians struggle to define what the nation is and what it is for, Marcus opens up the ferment of America as an idea and as a story.
 
From John Winthrop's sermon on the founding of a community as a city on a hill to Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s address to the March on Washington in 1963, Marcus explores America's promise as a New Jerusalem: the nature of its covenant, first with God and then with its own citizens. But the promises America made to itself were so vast they could only be betrayedand from that betrayal emerged the nation's prophetic voice. It is this voice that calls America's citizens to judgment: not the judgment of God, but a judgment they must render on themselves.
 
As Marcus follows this drama, he find the prophetic voice less and less in public argument and political speech, and more in the work of novelists, filmmakers, musicians, poets, and actorsincluding Roth, Lynch, Sinclair Lewis, John Dos Passos, David Thomas of Pere Ubu, Allen Ginsberg, the band Heavens to Betsy, Bill Pulllman, and Sheryl Lee. In The Shape of Things to Come, the past and the present merge in the most extraordinary and uncanny ways. As Luc Sante said of Marcus's The Old, Weird America, this is not only "the most imaginative cultural criticism being done . . . it's a light in dark times."
"A bold, brash book that reckons with the countrys genius for failure and seeks salvation in art, film, music and myth . . . Marcus finds hope and humor in the strangest places, as hes done for more than 30 years as a fearless observer of scary America . . . Marcus willingly cedes center stage to his own authorial inventions and lets the prophesizing voices all around him do the talking."Steven Jenkins, Green Cine.com

"His writing is cool, vivid, fixated. The book's premise is simple: 'There is no American identity without a sense of portent and doom' . . . This book is brilliant. Frightening, exciting, sickening. It brings you alive as an American."The American Prospect

"An impossible fever-dream conversation, in which Abraham Lincoln, Sleater-Kinney, obscure bluesmen, old punks, characters from 24, Sinclair Lewis, and Martin Luther King Jr. speak to each other on some frequency only Marcus can hear and transcribe. The cacophony is us, and in such scary times it's imperative that we listen."Frances Reade, San Francisco Weekly

"Marcus knows that as you dig deeper into American culture and its histories, it just gets weirderand a lot more interesting. Beneath the pabulum that the corporations serve us as mass culture is a vibrant, sexy, scary and confusing unholy mess of music and art, movies and poetry . . . Nobody does it better than Greil Marcus."Michael Roth, San Francisco Chronicle

"Greil Marcus is one of America's great listeners. Over 30 years and nine books, he has reshaped the possibilities of criticism, departing from questions of taste and tailing instead grand, nation-sized mythologies of heroes and villains, promises and betrayals, and our need to believe in the whole thing. Marcus's latest, The Shape of Things to Come, is a provocative and demanding book about 'prophecy and the American voice' . . . This is a powerful, confounding, and disturbing book about taking the nation, literally, at its word."Hua Hsu, The Village Voice

"A bold, brash book that reckons with the country's genius for failure and seeks salvation in art, film, music and myth . . . Marcus finds hope and humor in the strangest places, as he's done for more than 30 years as a fearless observer of scary America . . . Marcus willingly cedes center stage to his own authorial inventions and lets the prophesizing voices all around him do the talking."Steven Jenkins, Green Cine.com

"Among American rock critics, Greil Marcus is the titan whose brilliance is taken for granted . . . With The Shape of Things to Come, Marcus is after some big fish. He uses Puritan settler John Winthrop's 1630 invocation of America as a 'City Upon a Hill' along with speeches by Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to broach the topic of American exceptionalism, and explore the nation's covenant with God and its people. In analysis that is often dazzling . . . he closely reads poems, movies, novels, performances, and punk rock songs by an array of subjects ranging from grrl-rockers Heavens to Betsy to everyman actor Bill Pullman to novelist Philip Roth."Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"[A] fascinating book on the notion of prophecy in the American character, which [Greil Marcus] explains has played out in our era 'most intensely in art' . . . The chapters on Lynch and Thomas are rich with allusions and connections to many other types of prophetic art (e.g., poetry, photography, film noir) and music (e.g., blues, pop, country) that express the nation's 'promise and its betrayal.' Highly recommended."Amy Lewontin, Library Journal

"Marcus plumbs the depth and breadth of American exceptionalism through his unique lens of cultural criticism, forging often astounding links between people, places, works of art and miscellaneous phenomena, as he has in most of his previous nine books. The independent scholar posits that the United States of America is a cultural construction, grounded in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Without those bedrocks, Marcus believes, the nation would be 'little more than a collection of buildings and people who have no special reason to spe

"Synopsis" by ,

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

 
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

 
A London Times Literary Supplement Best Book of the Year

 

In this exhilarating and kaleidoscopic investigation of American identity, Greil Marcus traces the nation's fable of self invention from its earliest Puritan beginnings to its successive retellings in the work of diverse contemporary artists. Marcus considers the birth of America as a New Jerusalem, a place of promises so vast that they could only be betrayed--and how from that betrayal emerged the nation's prophetic voice, the voice that calls America's citizens to self-judgment. Over the course of our history, Marcus finds that the prophetic voice has sounded less and less in the political realm--where it can be heard in the words of John Winthrop, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr.--and more in the work of individual artists, including Philip Roth, David Lynch, Sinclair Lewis, John Dos Passos, David Thomas of Pere Ubu, Allen Ginsberg, the band Heavens to Betsy, Bill Pullman, and Sheryl Lee.

 

In The Shape of Things to Come, the past and the present merge in the most extraordinary and surprising ways. Greil Marcus presents a stirring, and frightening, portrait of our country, our ideals, and ourselves.

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