A Time Magazine Best Book of the Year
A New York Times Notable Book
Synopses & Reviews
Drawing on complete, unprecedented access to West Point and its cadets, David Lipsky explores the academy's rich history, describes the demanding regimen that swallows students' days, and examines the Point as a reflection of our society. Is it a quaint anachronism, or does it still embody the ideals of equality, honesty, and loyalty that moved Theodore Roosevelt to proclaim it the most "absolutely American" institution?
Lipsky tackles these questions through superbly crafted portraits of cadets and the elite officers who mold them, following them into classrooms, barracks, mess halls, and military exercises. His reportage extends from 1998 through 2002, arguably the most eventful four years in West Point history. He witnesses the end of hazing, the arrival of TV and telephones in dorm rooms, the exposure and concealment of several scandals, and the dramatic aftermath of 9/11. He depicts young people of every race and class, and details a rigorous training program that erases their preconceptions and makes them a tight-knit community.
Lipsky's extensive experience covering college students for Rolling Stone helped him gain an astonishing degree of trust and truth from both cadets and administrators. They offer candid insights on drug use, cheating, and the army's tortuous search for meaning as new threats loom. Amid all the turmoil, Lipsky finds, to his surprise, that "of all the young people I'd met at all the colleges I'd visited, West Point cadets although they are epic complainers were the happiest."
"Immensely rich....A genuinely evocative and wonderfully detailed portrait of an absolutely American institution." Brian Palmer, Newsday
"A superb description of modern military culture, and one of the most gripping accounts of university life I have read." David Brooks, The New York Times Book Review
"A fascinating, funny and tremendously well written account of life on the Long Gray Line." Lev Grossman, Time
"Illuminating...Lipsky has done a distinguished service to a proud school." Wook Kim, Entertainment Weekly
"A sunny portrait of a group of young men and women who, as one of them says, 'don't quite fit in.'" The New Yorker
As David Lipsky follows a future generation of army officers from their proving grounds to their barracks, he reveals the range of emotions and desires that propels these men and women forward. From the cadet who struggles with every facet of West Point life to those who are decidedly huah, Lipsky shows people facing challenges so daunting and responsibilities so heavy that their transformations are fascinating to watch. Absolutely American is a thrilling portrait of a unique institution and those who make up its ranks.
About the Author
David Lipsky is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times, Harper's Magazine, and the Boston Globe, among other publications. His fiction has appeared in the New Yorker and The Best American Short Stories, and his novel, The Art Fair, won acclaim from The New York Times Book Review, Newsweek, People, and others. His honors include a MacDowell fellowship and a Henry Hoyns fellowship. He lives in New York City.