. . .IN PURSUIT OF THE AMERICAN DREAM by Bob Dotson

. . .IN PURSUIT OF THE AMERICAN DREAM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This self-consciously--nay, doggedly--inspirational collection of vignettes is compiled from segments appearing originally on The Today Program. Describing the dreams and struggles of a succession of obscure but heroic Americans, Dotson's stories of out-of-work farmers and idealistic loners seem refreshingly populist in the context of a general news program with Today's stuffy tendencies. Yet those same stories seem repetitive and ineffectual in book form. Dotson is quite right to insist that poor people have feelings--and histories--worth examining (as in the series of essays on survivors of the Dust Bowl); or that altruism is not dead (as in the piece on policeman Bill Sample's campaign to grant the wishes of terminally ill children). But reading a whole book based on these optimistic truisms is like feasting entirely on sugar. Dotson clearly identifies with his gallery of eccentrics, dreamers and strugglers-the lady who puts little hats on turtles and the kid who trades in his dime for a nickel because he thinks the bigger coin is more valuable. But his very sympathy prevents his interviews from developing a sufficiently keen edge to offset their sentimentalism. The strongest piece here--because it offers denser documentation and a somewhat more controversial subject matter--is on the intertwining destinies of blacks and Indians in territorial Oklahoma. The weakest are those on individual families, for few of Dotson's subjects are genuinely articulate, and the perspective of the TV camera is needed to evoke their significance: Dotson's exposition does little but admire and marvel. Dotson is obviously a nice guy; this is a nice book. But it lacks the perspective (as opposed to adulation) of genuine journalism.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Atheneum