A high-powered, cohesive collection of previously published essays on American literature and culture by the eminent critic. Marx's polished literary-historical inquiry into America lends continuity to both his conclusions and his subject--the ""myth of American origins."" As in his seminal study of the interpenetration of technology, culture, and politics, The Machine in the Garden (1964), Marx's aim here is to delineate what he calls the ""psychic root of pastoralism"" in America and to trace its history as a response to our cultural obsession with material progress. The book's title essay on Huckleberry Finn, for example, identifies Twain's idyllic vision as the precursor of a distinctly American radical pastoral mode, one later inherited and refigured by such giants as Hemingway and Norman Mailer, for whom the ""natural""--in all its crude beauty--became a principle of democratic integrity. Other than his exclusion of women from his discussion, Marx's argument is compelling and his examples perfectly suited to his task. He is less persuasive when he ventures into pure politics. ""American Institutions and Ecological Ideals,"" a discussion of the Realpolitik failures of ecology policy in America, reads like the pop sociology he elsewhere rebukes. Marx ends in the here and now, with Vietnam and Ronald Reagan, while nostalgically reminding us of the ideological roots that made both possible. These lucid, deeply considered essays give the pleasure of a complete, fully articulated vision. A striking and relevant book.