The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation
On Sale: June 3, 2008
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In his provocative and compelling new book, America’s most
widely read and most influential commentator casts his
gimlet eye on our singular nation. Moving far beyond the
strict confines of politics, George F. Will offers a
fascinating look at the people, stories, and events–often
unheralded–that make the American drama so endlessly
entertaining and instructive.
With Will’s signature erudition and wry wit always on
display, One Man’s America chronicles a spectacular,
eclectic procession of figures who have shaped our cultural
landscape–from Playboy founder Hugh Hefner to National
Review founder William F. Buckley Jr., from Victorian poet
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to Beat poet Lawrence
Ferlinghetti, from cotton picker— turned—country singer Buck
Owens to actor-turned-president Ronald Reagan.
Will crisscrosses the country to illuminate what it is that
makes America distinctive. He visits the USS Arizona
memorial in Pearl Harbor and ponders its enduring links to
the present. He travels to Milwaukee to celebrate the
hundredth anniversary of an iconic brand, Harley-Davidson.
In Los Angeles he finds the inspiring future of education,
while in New York he confronts the dispiriting didacticism
of the avant-garde. He ventures to the Civil War
battlefields of Virginia to explore what we risk when we
efface our own history. And on the outskirts of Chicago he
investigates one of the darkest chapters in American
history, only to discover a shining example of resilience
and grace–the best the country has to offer.
Will’s wide lens takes in much more as well–everything from
the “most emblematic novel of the 1930s” (and no, it is not
about the Joads) to the cult of ESPN to Brooks Brothers and
Ben & Jerry’s. And of course, One Man’s America would not be
complete without the author’s insights on the national
pastime, baseball–the icons and the cheats, the hapless and
Finally, in a personal and reflective turn, Will writes
movingly of his thirty-five-year-old son Jon, born with Down
syndrome, and pays loving and poignant tribute to his
mother, who died at the age of ninety-eight after a long
struggle with dementia.
The essays in One Man’s America, even when critiquing
American culture, reflect Will’s deep affection and regard
for our nation. After all, he notes, when America falls
short, it does so only as compared to “the uniquely high
standards it has set for itself.” In the end, this
brilliantly informative and entertaining book reminds us of
the enduring value of “the simple virtues and decencies that
can make communities flourish and that have made America
great and exemplary.”
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