Garrison Keillor reviews the latest Tocquevillian odyssey, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy's "American Vertigo" in today's NYT. (Amusing choice, editorial board.) A much more intelligent review comes from Franklin Foer and Alan Wolfe in Slate (surprise).
Neither review really makes me want to read Levy's little journal, but Garrison Keillor is outright offended by it, perhaps because it threatens the idea of America he tries to present in his Prairie Home Companion bullshit. It's a review etched in acid, and, frankly, I never knew Garrison was such an asshole. The man uses the word "negatory." Who has he been hanging out with—David Spade?
Maybe I'm taking Keillor too seriously, but this series of sentences is either entirely unself-conscious or entirely arch, or both—"Lévy is quite comfortable with phrases like "as always in America." Bombast comes naturally to him... As always with French writers, Lévy is short on the facts, long on conclusions." (emphasis added)
Keillor complains about two things—Levy's attraction to the rather strange elements of America—"Beverly Hills; Dealey Plaza in Dallas; Bourbon Street in New Orleans; Graceland; a gun show in Fort Worth; a "partner-swapping club" in San Francisco with a drag queen with mammoth silicone breasts; the Iowa State Fair ("a festival of American kitsch"); Sun City ("gilded apartheid for the old");a stock car race"—and Levy's love of paradox and rhetorical questions.
But where would Keillor visit, if he were a French philosopher intent on describing America to itself? I mean seriously, is America that different from its oddest parts?
Oops. That was a rhetorical question.