Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by John Dicker & r & & r & American Vertigo by Bernhard-Henri L & eacute;vy & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & ernard-Henri L & eacute;vy, one of those French intellectuals we just don't get much of stateside -- brilliant thinker, agile writer, elegant dresser, married to a model, politically engaged enough to go to Sarajevo and film a war documentary -- is also one of those French intellectuals Americans don't have to be afraid hates us: He doesn't. Liberal but not leftist, deeply critical but not hysterically postmodern about it, he's fascinated, intrigued, impressed by America: He likes us and isn't condescending about it. Yes, he thinks we were wrong to go into Iraq; he can't believe a self-proclaimed Christian country still embraces the death penalty; and he thinks Guantanamo is a horrific gash in America's image that won't soon heal. But L & eacute;vy, like Alexis de Tocqueville, remains impressed by our vigor, our optimism, our faith -- in the country, in a God in heaven, and in the God we seem to find in ourselves.


A couple of years ago, The Atlantic Monthly contracted L & eacute;vy to pull a new Democracy in America: They asked him to trace Tocqueville's journey and to write about it for them. American Vertigo vastly expands on those articles, taking L & eacute;vy from the mountains to the prairies, from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. On the way, he visits prisons (including Guantanamo) and cities (mourning Detroit, falling in love with Seattle and Savannah, Georgia), hires both a lap dancer and a hooker in Vegas (just to interview them, mind you), and investigates coal mines in Utah, the Mayo Clinic in St. Paul, Mount Rushmore (noting that its sculptor was a Ku Klux Klan member), a Church of Christ megachurch in Memphis, a MoveOn.org meeting in Berkeley, an Amish community in Des Moines, the Dallas street where JFK was assassinated. He contemplates the nuts who think creationism is science, the phenomenon of home schooling, stock car races in Knoxville, Tenn., and the spectacle of Sharon Stone pontificating about politics. He interviews neocon thinkers (Bill Kristol), actors (Warren Beatty, Woody Allen), tycoons (George Soros), writers (Norman Mailer), pols (Barack Obama, Hillary, John Kerry) and big-time intellectuals (Francis Fukuyama).


It's a dizzying, heady itinerary, with L & eacute;vy gamely writing thousand-word essays on everything he experiences, and though much of what he writes is familiar enough -- his essay on Los Angeles harps on the fact that the city doesn't have a center -- the cumulative effect of reading the book is like taking a crash course in American Studies in the back seat of a Chevy screaming down Route 66.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Rich Man, Poor Men
  • Rich Man, Poor Men

    Can the wealthiest U.S. president ever help the poorest U.S. citizens?
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • La Resistance
  • La Resistance

    Michael Moore, Congressional Democrats and local progressives: How they are resisting Donald Trump's agenda
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Must-See TV?
  • Must-See TV?

    Alternatives to the inauguration (and how to make watching more fun if you have to)
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
Polar Bears and Climate Change

Polar Bears and Climate Change @ Mountain Gear Corporate Offices

Mon., Jan. 23, 7-9 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • The Landed and the White

    How Americans followed tradition when they voted for Trump
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Comment


Briefs


marijuana


green zone


Politics


Readers also liked…

  • Patrolling While Black
  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Manufacturing Fear
  • Manufacturing Fear

    Spokane's Republican sheriff says members of his own party are dangerously dividing people
    • Aug 12, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation