Synopses & Reviews
The dollars are green. The terror level is orange. And everybody's seeing red. Welcome to Bush World.
Rich, scary, and insanely polarized, America is living through one of the wildest eras in its history. In this delicious hybrid of pop mythology and political commentary, John Powers offers an irreverent guided tour of what he dubs "Bush World" with its terror attacks and obsession with Martha Stewart, its preemptive wars and celebrations of shopping. Sore Winners takes a fresh new look at the multiple personas of the Real Slim Shady, George W. Bush, the gloating Social Darwinism of shows like Survivor and The Apprentice, and the right-wing triumph of Fox News and the ranting "Id Conservatives." Whether pondering our two greatest white rappers, Eminem and Donald Rumsfeld, or the amazing rise of Gubna Schwarzenegger, the book paints a freewheeling portrait of a society in which racial politics are symbolized by the "Colin and Condi Show," gay-marriage opponents battle with Queer Eye's Fab Five, and religious fundamentalism is everywhere from Mel Gibson's Passion to America's bogeyman, Osama bin Laden. As he charts the sometimes comic tale of the left's attempts to escape from Bush World Michael Moore and Paul Krugman leading the charge Powers explores the need for liberals to reclaim virtue from sanctimonious conservatives and take back the political agenda.
Witty and wide-ranging rather than narrowly political, Sore Winners is one of the smartest, 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's Sore Winners is surreally comprehensive, laserously observant, 85 percent correct, and refreshingly unshrill." David Foster Wallace
"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
"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
"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
An irreverent and pointed guide to the ideas, values, characters and shared moments that have defined American culture during the current administration's term in office, by a political commentator for NPR's Fresh Air.
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.