Three Books Try to Figure Us Out

I don’t know why the “holiday season” always seems to awaken a desire to do more reading while delivering no more time to do so,  but it does. Here are three new books I’m hoping to encounter this month or soonest, curled up by that proverbial crackling  fire like something out of a Currier and Ives greeting card.

 *The Limits of American Power: The End of American Exceptionalism  by Andrew Bacevich

  “A historical perspective on the multiple illusions that have governed American foreign policy since 1945. The realism he proposes includes respect for power and its limits; sensitivity to unintended consequences; aversion to claims of American exceptionalism; skepticism of easy solutions, especially those involving the use of force; and a conviction that, at the end of the day, the books have to balance.”

OK, forget that last part at least for the next couple of years. But I want to hear about the rest.

 How Football Explains America by Sal Paolantonio

 “. . . shows how at its heart the country’s true pasttime is an insatiable need for storytelling and mythmaking, how Johnny Unitas is like John Wayne and Joe Montana is like Luke Skywalker.”

 Reminds me of a great essay I used to teach  in a college writing class, “Baseball Green and Football Red” by Murray Ross, which argued that each major sport illustrates a different American mythos: baseball, the pastoral, small-town individualism of the rural past; football, the corporate, group-centric and more militaristic ethos of the urban present.

Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium by Dick Meyer

  “It’s the public part of ‘us’ we hate. We lack trust in the big institutions in American life: government, the press and corporations. We’ve created a culture that now feels toxic: television, sports, omni-marketing, video games, fashion and the like. We dislike the way we behave when we’re physically in public–loud cellphone talkers, iPod zombies, road ragers and surly chain store employees.”

I hope Meyer maps the way out of the toxic culture, but as I noted earlier,  he may have a hard time scaring up much of a following, thanks in part to the bottomless vanity of the Baby Boomers.

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