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Mark Hertsgaard is an American journalist, author and broadcaster. He is the author of Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of Our Environmental Future, A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles and On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency. His journalism has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, The New York Times, and many other publications, and he is a regular contributor to National Public Radio. He lives in San Francisco.
In May 2001, Hertsgaard (Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of Our Environmental Future) began a six-month journey through 15 countries to interview people of all sorts, from bus drivers to former parliamentarians, about one thing: the United States. Each chapter of his book opens with an anecdote illustrating a perception he found to be widespread: the United States is a land of vast wealth but also gross self-indulgence; American leaders are influential but arrogant and nave; and American citizens have immense freedom but are nonetheless insulated and ignorant. The impressions Hertsgaard gathers, however, serve primarily as springboards from which he plunges into his own blunt, sometimes dour analysis of American attitudes, practices and institutions. Hertsgaard at one point tells of a Cuban boy he met after America's presidential elections. "It sounds like you are having trouble with your democracy in the United States," the boy teases. "Perhaps Cuba should send you election observers next time." The wisecrack is an apt introduction to Hertsgaard's interpretation of the Florida ballot impasse, which he thinks exemplifies the faults of America's democratic process. If Hertsgaard's strength lies in elaborating upon foreigners' perceptions, however, his weakness lies in the way he addresses his readers. "I know that parts of this book will be difficult for some Americans to hear," he writes, in a tone a bit too superior. Agents, Ellen Levine and Diana Finch. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
'A brave attempt to establish and describe an intimate relationship between what you could call the good and bad sides of America' Guardian 'Most Americans living overseas will recognise what Hertsgaard has to say' Sunday Times