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The American Future


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A timely and masterful history of the world's most controversial superpower, by one of the nation's most popular and prestigious historians.

About the Author

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University. His award-winning books, translated into fifteen languages, include Citizens, Landscape and Memory, Rembrandt's Eyes, A History of Britain, The Power of Art, Rough Crossings, The American Future, The Face of Britain and The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words (1000 BCE - 1492). His art columns for the New Yorker won the National Magazine Award for criticism and his journalism has appeared regularly in the Guardian and the Financial Times where he is Contributing Editor. He has written and presented forty films for BBC2 on subjects as diverse as Tolstoy, American politics and John Donne.


Past performance may not guarantee future returns, but it's the best we have to go on, contends this lively meditation on American history. Looking back from the tumultuous 2008 election campaign, historian Schama (NBCC-award winner for Rough Crossings) ponders four themes in American history as they played out in the lives of historical figures: the tension between militarism and liberty in the careers of Civil War general Montgomery Meigs and his family; the progressive influence of evangelical Protestantism on abolitionist and civil rights crusaders; America's conflicted attitudes toward immigrants as seen through the adventures of 18th-century French emigre J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur; and Americans' profligate exploitation of the land and water in an elegy for the Cherokee tribe. Schama's wide-ranging narratives wander between contemporary reportage ("For a minute or two after the photo op, George Bush was left to his own devices and came my way") and fluent, richly literate history. He's alive to irony and hypocrisy in the American story-Mexicans of the 1820s, he notes, shuddered at the uncouth Yankee immigrants flooding into Texas-but Schama is optimistic that the nation's perennial openness and complexity can see it through the storm clouds ahead. (June) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

In this companion to a BBC documentary about the 2008 presidential campaign, British transplant Schama (University Professor of Art History & History, Columbia Univ.; Rough Crossings)-a foremost revivalist of the grand narrative historiographic tradition-trains his interpretive virtuosity on the United States. Schama, who views Obama's triumphant ascendancy as the realization of the grandest American values, ties campaign themes to the larger historical traditions, tensions, and contests that gave rise to them. He cuts back and forth between vignettes of his visits to Nevada, Texas, and Georgia, among other locales, and startlingly original takes on America's practices of democratic warring, deep but diverse religiosity, ethnic and racial identity, and grabs for land, water, and energy. Some readers will be put off by the author's affectionate but condescending assumption of dialect-inflected depictions of Iowan voters, Mexican American veterans, and Mississippian Civil Rights heroines, but these passages are comparatively brief. In the end, while Schama makes a real contribution to an understanding of how America is special (and imperiled), this work is not based on archival research and does not reveal new stories that illuminate a complex past. Appropriate for all readers but perhaps best for the general public. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/09.]-Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., PA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Schama is a genius of storytelling * The Times *
The American Future shares Kerouac's almost inebriated eloquence, the words tumbling delightfully across the page, the sentences as playfully ornate as the Charlie Parker saxophone solos that Kerouac so adored... Also an inspiring and illuminating work of history, a reflection on the essence of America with a bedrock of deep knowledge behind the bebop prose. A more inspiring evocation of the spirit of liberal America - past, present and future - does not exist -- Niall Ferguson * Financial Times *
The master storyteller takes on the greatest story of our time, America ... Essential reading * Tatler *
This is the most exhilarating book that has been written about America for at least eight years...ebulliently combative...instantly engaging...weaving the immediate present with its earlier history... Schama has delivered a glittering tale of America's past * Spectator *
A wonderfully thought-provoking book... Schama continually illuminates the broad sweep of events with reference to telling details...fascinating * Daily Express *

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