In more than 300 pages, nobody tells a joke. Nobody does much work. Nobody sits and eats and enjoys their food. You've lived all your life in America, never attended a megachurch or a brothel, don't own guns, are non-Amish, and it dawns on you that this is a book about the French. There's no reason for it to exist in English, except as evidence that travel need not be broadening and one should be wary of books with Tocqueville in the title.The book is called "American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville." (You can read the first chapter here.)
Lévy is quite comfortable with phrases like "as always in America." Bombast comes naturally to him. Rain falls on the crowd gathered for the dedication of the Clinton library in Little Rock, and to Lévy, it signifies the demise of the Democratic Party. As always with French writers, Lévy is short on the facts, long on conclusions....No matter how many words beginning with D in a sentence there may be...
America is changing, he concludes, but America will endure. "I still don't think there's reason to despair of this country. No matter how many derangements, dysfunctions, driftings there may be . . .
"no matter how fragmented the political and social space may be; despite this nihilist hypertrophy of petty antiquarian memory; despite this hyperobesity - increasingly less metaphorical - of the great social bodies that form the invisible edifice of the country; despite the utter misery of the ghettos . . . I can't manage to convince myself of the collapse, heralded in Europe, of the American model."Ha. This reminds me of a book in my half-read books collection: "America," by Jean Baudrillard. I got some ways into it -- I was seriously trying to read it, you know, doing that thing readers do where we submit to merging our mind with the mind of another human being -- and I just had to shake myself out of it and say nothing here rings true.
Thanks, pal. I don't imagine France collapsing anytime soon either. Thanks for coming.
Hmmm.... "America" has a blurb from a NYT book review on the back. "Since de Tocqueville...."
IN THE COMMENTS: An interesting process of melllowing on Lévy!