Sunday, December 6, 2009

America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction



Don't get me wrong: there's some very funny stuff here. But I had expected more.The book is formatted like a high school textbook, and even has the rubber stamp "issued to" on the inside cover with at least one zinger in it. We are therefore forewarned to read everything, including marginal notes, footnotes, photo credits, to see if they are serious or not. Mostly, they are not. Among my favorites are the marginal "Were you aware?" comments, including such gems as "During the average president's first four-year term, he spends 1,241 days figuring out how to get a second four-year term." Do the math.Nothing, absolutely nothing, is sacred here. There is a foreword by Thomas Jefferson, charts and diagrams of all sorts, most of which do make a point, although not always the one the title suggests. But there's also a picture of what is purported to be the Supreme Court naked, and a collection of gowns with which to "restore the dignity of the court." The "senior correspondents" make their contribution, including Stephen Colbert, who now has his own show, and Samantha Bee who does her self-effacing comments from the Canadian perspective. The first two-thirds or so of the book would rate at least four stars. But it falls off by the time we get to the chapter on America of the future, goes even further down hill through "the rest of the world" segment, and is largely bitter irony by the time you get to the part about the 2004 election. When it was new, this might have been funny; I couldn't say. I was rooting for the Libertarians that year.Yes, it's funny, and there are some valuable insights and zingers here. But much of it is also pretty adolescent in style. I think the Daily Show has matured significantly since this book was written.


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