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American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville

by

American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"The convoluted style...cannot be blamed on the translator alone. In many instances, the English version faithfully reflects the bombast of the original. Lévy never uses one word when ten will do, and repeats them....Instead of giving a feel for a place or an institution through subtle details, Lévy numbs his readers with hyperbole." Henri Astier, The Times Literary Supplement (read the entire TLS review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"Lévy's journey through this 'magnificent, mad country' is indeed vertiginous as he loops from coast to coast and back, mounting to the heights of wealth and power — interviewing the likes of Barry Diller and John Kerry — and plunging into the depths of poverty and powerlessness, in urban ghettoes and prisons. (In this last, he truly follows Tocqueville, whose assignment in the young America was to visit prisons.) Each scene is quite short, which is frustrating at first, but soon the quick succession of images creates a jostling, animated portrait of America, full of resonances and contradictions. Sharon Stone in her luxurious home, railing about the misery of the poor, is quickly followed by Lévy's chat with a waitress in a Colorado town struggling to make ends meet. A gated retirement community in Arizona seems to the author like a prison, while Angola, a prison in Louisiana, has lush grounds that resemble a retirement community's. Lévy (Who Killed Daniel Pearl), the celebrated French thinker and journalist, is a master of the vignette and the miniature, whether explaining why he could feel at home in Seattle or pondering whether Diller's apparent amorality is 'too flaunted to be completely sincere.' In France, where anti-Americanism has been so popular, Lévy has been an anti-anti-Americanist, and while he finds serious fissures in this country's social landscape, in the end he is an optimist about the future of a country he admires for the richness of its culture and its political vision." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Bernard-Henry Lévy does nothing that goes unnoticed. He is an intellectual adventurer who brings publicity to unfashionable political causes." The New York Times

Review:

"[Lévy] provides fascinating vignettes....The result is an engaging but often-disturbing portrait of our nation from an eloquent, brutally honest foreigner who wishes our country well." Booklist

Review:

"Lévy's writing has always been an arms race between shrewd observation and rapt self-absorption, but that's not the only problem here....Lévy's hortatory prose seethes with provocation and paradox; the trouble is that so many of his observations are so stale and predictable." The New Yorker

Review:

"Those sharing Levy's politics will find comfort in his analysis; others will be dismayed by his banal observations and tiresome predictability." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"A vibrant and rollicking travelogue....If you can stomach a few sucker punches, American Vertigo has its gems. Lévy ends the book with a critical but fair view of the US, one that even the most patriotic reader can appreciate." The Christian Science Monitor

Review:

"[A] wide-ranging exploration....Many readers may feel more vertigo from his shoot-from-the-hip commentary than Lévy himself experienced in his travels." Library Journal

Review:

"It's been said that Lévy writes fast and publishes his work unedited. American Vertigo could have benefited from a more considered presentation." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)

Review:

"Lévy's American Vertigo is blessed and cursed by its own dizzy complexity. At turns, it's obvious, obtuse and insightful....If scale is a problem, how about the size of some of Lévy's sentences? They're constructed as if ideas and words were colliding bumper-cars." USA Today

Review:

"There's no reason for it to exist in English, except as evidence that travel need not be broadening and one should be wary of books with Tocqueville in the title." Garrison Keillor, The New York Times Book Review

Synopsis:

France's leading writer travels the country to discover what it means to be an American, and what America can be, at the dawn of the 21st century.

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.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400064342
Author:
Levy, Bernard-Henri
Publisher:
Random House
Author:
Levy, Bernard Henri
Subject:
General
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
United states
Subject:
United States - General
Subject:
Essays & Travelogues
Subject:
National characteristics, american
Publication Date:
January 2006
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Pages:
308
Dimensions:
9.42x6.88x1.02 in. 1.22 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » American Studies » 80s to Present
History and Social Science » Sociology » American Studies
Travel » North America » United States » General

American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville Used Hardcover
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$4.95 In Stock
Product details 308 pages Random House - English 9781400064342 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Lévy's journey through this 'magnificent, mad country' is indeed vertiginous as he loops from coast to coast and back, mounting to the heights of wealth and power — interviewing the likes of Barry Diller and John Kerry — and plunging into the depths of poverty and powerlessness, in urban ghettoes and prisons. (In this last, he truly follows Tocqueville, whose assignment in the young America was to visit prisons.) Each scene is quite short, which is frustrating at first, but soon the quick succession of images creates a jostling, animated portrait of America, full of resonances and contradictions. Sharon Stone in her luxurious home, railing about the misery of the poor, is quickly followed by Lévy's chat with a waitress in a Colorado town struggling to make ends meet. A gated retirement community in Arizona seems to the author like a prison, while Angola, a prison in Louisiana, has lush grounds that resemble a retirement community's. Lévy (Who Killed Daniel Pearl), the celebrated French thinker and journalist, is a master of the vignette and the miniature, whether explaining why he could feel at home in Seattle or pondering whether Diller's apparent amorality is 'too flaunted to be completely sincere.' In France, where anti-Americanism has been so popular, Lévy has been an anti-anti-Americanist, and while he finds serious fissures in this country's social landscape, in the end he is an optimist about the future of a country he admires for the richness of its culture and its political vision." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "The convoluted style...cannot be blamed on the translator alone. In many instances, the English version faithfully reflects the bombast of the original. Lévy never uses one word when ten will do, and repeats them....Instead of giving a feel for a place or an institution through subtle details, Lévy numbs his readers with hyperbole." (read the entire TLS review)
"Review" by , "Bernard-Henry Lévy does nothing that goes unnoticed. He is an intellectual adventurer who brings publicity to unfashionable political causes."
"Review" by , "[Lévy] provides fascinating vignettes....The result is an engaging but often-disturbing portrait of our nation from an eloquent, brutally honest foreigner who wishes our country well."
"Review" by , "Lévy's writing has always been an arms race between shrewd observation and rapt self-absorption, but that's not the only problem here....Lévy's hortatory prose seethes with provocation and paradox; the trouble is that so many of his observations are so stale and predictable."
"Review" by , "Those sharing Levy's politics will find comfort in his analysis; others will be dismayed by his banal observations and tiresome predictability."
"Review" by , "A vibrant and rollicking travelogue....If you can stomach a few sucker punches, American Vertigo has its gems. Lévy ends the book with a critical but fair view of the US, one that even the most patriotic reader can appreciate."
"Review" by , "[A] wide-ranging exploration....Many readers may feel more vertigo from his shoot-from-the-hip commentary than Lévy himself experienced in his travels."
"Review" by , "It's been said that Lévy writes fast and publishes his work unedited. American Vertigo could have benefited from a more considered presentation."
"Review" by , "Lévy's American Vertigo is blessed and cursed by its own dizzy complexity. At turns, it's obvious, obtuse and insightful....If scale is a problem, how about the size of some of Lévy's sentences? They're constructed as if ideas and words were colliding bumper-cars."
"Review" by , "There's no reason for it to exist in English, except as evidence that travel need not be broadening and one should be wary of books with Tocqueville in the title."
"Synopsis" by , France's leading writer travels the country to discover what it means to be an American, and what America can be, at the dawn of the 21st century.
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