This month's book: 'American Dream, Global Nightmare' by Ziauddin Sardar & Merryl Wyn Davies

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The Independent Culture

With a month to go before the US election, vehement critiques of George W Bush and his policies are filling up our bookshops in drifts as thick as leaves in a New England fall. Almost all of these tirades and exposés come from US authors, and almost all read like some bitter family quarrel. A bunch of crazed relations have taken over the house, but it's time to reclaim the inheritance. As Michael Moore's latest volume put it, "Dude, where's my Country?" But, for 96 per cent of the world's people, it's not our country. Very few of these books not only inspect US culture from the outside, but suggest that the superpower's global influence has precious little to do with the party label of the White House imcumbent.

This work, by a pair of British authors, does just that, with a forensic detachment that's far too cool and curious to deserve an "anti-American" tag. Sardar and Wyn Davies (collaborators to the bestselling Why Do People Hate America?) reveal and dissect the fundamental beliefs that fuel Republicans and Democrats, liberals and neocons, alike. They take their framework from Hollywood, viewed as the central factory of American myths for worldwide export. Chapters enlist the plots and themes of movies - from The Player to Groundhog Day - to explore the meanings and effects of American dreams and (as the authors claim) delusions. Does this device succeed? Do the arguments cohere? You may not have a vote in November; but you have one on this page.

Icon Books, £7.99