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Sore Winners: American Idols, Patriotic Shoppers, and Other Strange Species in George Bush's Americaby John Powers
Synopses & Reviews
Politics and culture, culture and politics. They've never been normal in America, but today they're weirder than ever. Millionaire populists like Bill O'Reilly and Michael Moore dominate a political scene spinning ever further from the real world; meanwhile, we look to bizarre experiments like Survivor for our daily dose of reality.
In this wonderfully acerbic tour through our increasingly unhinged culture, John Powers takes on celebrities and evangelicals, pundits and politicians, making sense of the mess for the rest of us. He shows how we have come to equate consumerism with patriotism and Fox News with objective journalism, and how our culture has become more polarized than ever even as we all shop at the same exact big-box stores. Insightful, hilarious, and critical of both liberals and conservatives, this is one of the smartest and most enjoyable books on American culture in years.
"From Bush's infamous 'how dare you ask Chirac a question in French' press conference to Colin and Condi as tokenism writ large, L.A. Weekly deputy editor Powers marshals a host of sometimes obvious, media-based critiques in portraying Bush & co. as 'sore winners,' the products of a populist, social Darwinist culture where doing what you want because you can is OK. Episodic chapters veer in too many directions, incorporating pre-cooked chunks of presidential media history, myriad literary and pop culture allusions (everything from Robert Musil and Preston Sturges to Alice Sebold and Courtney Love) and even Powers's decidedly layman's assessment of what he deems (sore winner) Rumsfeld's lack of planning for postwar Iraq. But Powers's deconstructions of Bush-era political coverage, though too predictable when dealing with the right, have marked range and subtlety when discussing the left's attempts at fighting back. He's best, though, on the sore winner — effect writ large, describing a kind of flip side of the late '90s Bobos in Paradise: a mean-spirited, you-deserve-it mentality that Powers finds in everything from American Splendor to American Idol. Powers can be very funny (as when advocating an 'irony enema' for commentator Roger Rosenblatt), but scion Bush as sore winner isn't news, and the book is too thick with kitchen-sink ruminations to work as a whole. Agent, Bonnie Nadell. (On sale Aug. 3)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A bittersweet, breezy, smart look at current politics in the larger context of American culture....Solid work from a cultural critic who merits a broader audience." Kirkus Reviews
"Powers...boldly and entertainingly assesses public life in the 'unreal reality' he calls Bush World....Powers' brilliant synthesis and recap is invaluable in its coherence and incisiveness." Booklist
"To his credit, Powers concentrates on analysis of the country's divisions and the current administration's contributions to them rather than on proposing blue-sky remedies." Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"[E]ntertaining and well-reasoned....Powers connects...scores of...seemingly unlinked events and developments into a forceful plea for political and cultural sanity." San Francisco Chronicle
"[A] vivid, balanced account...Powers...is dispassionate, wry and often wickedly funny....One of the best things Powers does is try to understand the Bush supporters outside the core of right-wing crackpots." Newsday
"Sore Winners puts it all in perspective....It takes on icons of both the left and the right, decoding the through-the-looking-glass landscape of contemporary American culture." Los Angeles Times
"[A] bitingly sharp analysis....Powers assuredly navigates the reader through both the major (Saddam's capture) and minor (Joe Millionaire) events that shaped our media-soaked culture over recent years." Vogue
"Powers's Sore Winners is surreally comprehensive, laserously observant, 85 percent correct, and refreshingly unshrill." David Foster Wallace
"A disturbing trip down memory lane that places the last four years in true, horrible relief. John Powers takes us into the funhouse — and then shows us a way out." Colson Whitehead, author of John Henry Days and The Colossus of New York
"While reading this funny and engaging book, I felt the hair I had torn out reading David Brooks start to grow back." David Rees, author of Get Your War On
"John Powers's Sore Winners is an angry but astonishingly good-humored and generous account of the degraded political and media culture of the Bush era. Powers has read everything, watched everything, and come out of his obsession with his sanity and sense of proportion intact. A true populist intellectual, he has a sharp eye for elitism, the cant of the powerful, and the paralyzing dullness of his own side. I can't imagine a better guide for anyone trying to get his head screwed on right and mount a free-swinging attack on the worst president and the crassest popular culture in recent American history." David Denby, New Yorker film critic and author of American Sucker
"Sore Winners is one of the best books of political analysis I've read in the past five years. John Powers has an original and refreshing way of getting the reader to see politics differently." Bill Moyers
The dollars are green. The terror level is orange. And everybody's seeing red. Welcome to Bush World.
About the Author
John Powers is deputy editor of L.A. Weekly, where he writes a weekly media/culture column called "On." He is also critic-at-large for NPR's Fresh Air, and he has been the film critic for Vogue as well as international correspondent for Gourmet. He lives in Pasadena, CA.
Table of Contents
Introduction The Digital Presidency
Chapter 1 The Six Faces of George W. Bush
Chapter 2 From September 11 to 9/111: Birth of a Legend
Chapter 3 The Disquieting American, or The “Why Do They Hate Us?” Blues
Chapter 4 Idols and Survivors: Populist Social Darwinism
Chapter 5 Meta-Media Madness: We Distort, You Deride
Chapter 6 The Small Pleasures of Big-Box Culture
Chapter 7 Postcards from the Wedge
Epilogue Escape from Bush World
Afterword And You—And You—And You—And You Were There
A Select Bibliography
What Our Readers Are Saying
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