BROKEN IMAGE: Foreign Critiques of America by Gerald Emanuel -- Ed. Steam

BROKEN IMAGE: Foreign Critiques of America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Apparently as a counterweight to the enthusiasm of de Tocqueville, Bryce, Churchill, et al., Steam has compiled what he disarmingly calls ""a biased, distorted, unfair, arbitrary and slanted collection"" of travelers' reports on the American republic. Deprecators who span two centuries (17701970) include Dickens, Jose Marti, Maxim Gorky, Knut Hamsun, H. G. Wells, Freud and other worthies who among them find fault with just about everything red, white, and blue. The Abbe de Pauw starts things off in the 18th century by pronouncing the indigenous American Indians ""a degenerate species, cowardly, impotent, without physical strength, without vitality, without elevation of mind."" Also the vehement Abbe claimed America grew frogs weighing up to 37 pounds. Dickens, Mrs. Kemble, and other 19th century liberals left scathing eyewitness accounts of the degradations of slavery and the brutalization of blacks. Eleanor Aveling Marx waxed irate over capitalist exploitation of that uniquely American worker, the cowboy, and William T. Stead, the English reformer produced If Christ Came to Chicago, an invocation to the Almighty to turn his wrath on that Midwestern Babylon of gamblers, hoodlums, and whores. Other charges include: materialism, avarice, paucity of literature and art, political instability, philistinism, rudeness, arrogance, and ""nervousness."" Freud, appropriately enough, was greatly vexed by the lack of convenient public toilets and summed it up by declaring ""America is a mistake; a gigantic mistake, it is true, but a mistake none the less."" Entertaining -- but likely to provoke a touch of xenophobia in even the most placid of patriotic bosoms.

Pub Date: March 10th, 1972
Publisher: Random House