The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, January 29, 2006  

A Valiant Effort, But Still Not Getting Us

Bernard-Henri Lévy has written a new book, a big book, an important book, a book with a ponderous title, American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville, one I think I'll skip, based on several recent reviews, including today's notice by Garrison Keillor, of all people, in the New York Times Book Review.

Pull quote:

[E]very 10 pages or so, Lévy walks into a wall. About Old Glory, for example. Someone has told him about the rules for proper handling of the flag, and from these (the flag must not be allowed to touch the ground, must be disposed of by burning) he has invented an American flag fetish, a national obsession, a cult of flag worship. Somebody forgot to tell him that to those of us not currently enrolled in the Boy Scouts, these rules aren't a big part of everyday life. He blows a radiator writing about baseball -- "this sport that contributes to establishing people's identities and that has truly become part of their civic and patriotic religion, which is baseball" -- and when, visiting Cooperstown ("this new Nazareth"), he finds out that Commissioner Bud Selig once laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington, where Abner Doubleday is also buried, Lévy goes out of his mind. An event important only to Selig and his immediate family becomes, to Lévy, an official proclamation "before the eyes of America and the world" of Abner as "the pope of the national religion . . . that day not just the town but the entire United States joined in a celebration that had the twofold merit of associating the national pastime with the traditional rural values that Fenimore Cooper's town embodies and also with the patriotic grandeur that the name Doubleday bears." Uh, actually not. Negatory on "pope" and "national" and "entire" and "most" and "embodies" and "Doubleday."

Talk about missing the whole point of the entire thing. Lévy, I mean, not Keillor, which is saying a lot, because Keillor misses a lot.

| HOME |

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |