America, By Jean Baudrillard, trs Chris Turner
Sunday 31 October 2010
Billed as "travel/philosophy", America does not fall neatly into either category. It is a series of assertions, inspired by his travels in America, in which Baudrillard strains his hardest to be clever and provocative.
It's crammed with paradoxes (America is "the only remaining primitive society") ; outlandish metaphors ("The marathon is a form of demonstrative suicide") and patronising generalisations ("America is a desert"; Americans are "brutally naïve").
There's also a good deal of repetition ("a realised utopia is a paradoxical idea" – p85; "the idea of an achieved utopia is a paradoxical one" – p91). There are some insights (in America, there is "an air of openness to the confrontation between races") and some poetic descriptions (desert sunsets are "giant rainbows lasting for an hour"), but the constant playing to the gallery becomes irksome.
It's all wit and no judgement. Am I taking all this too seriously, and not getting the joke? Possibly. I'm aware that this is the response of an empirically inclined Anglo-Saxon. Read it and feel free to disagree.
And why are 'southern' ways of speaking spreading north?
Arts & Ents blogs
The 50 Best Christmas songs: Bells continue to ring for the Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York'
Stall talk: The arcane rules of chit-chat that take place in the gents'
Paul Walker: Fast and Furious cast release video tribute to late star
Nymphomaniac trailer shown to children at screening of Disney film Frozen
The top gay icons (straight up!)
- 1 Cameron's freebie to apartheid South Africa
- 2 Nelson Mandela life story: An unconquerable spirit
- 3 Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
- 4 A forgotten episode in Russian history leaves links with the Philippines
- 5 From 'terrorist' to tea with the Queen