THE AMERICAN MYTH OF SUCCESS: From Horatio Alger to Norman Vincent Peale by Richard Weiss

THE AMERICAN MYTH OF SUCCESS: From Horatio Alger to Norman Vincent Peale

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The author pokes around in the popular inspirational literature of the last hundred years to demonstrate that the American ""success myth"" always assumed that success rewarded virtue. Poor Richard stressed stick-to-itiveness but also the homely pieties, and Alger's Boot Black might ""strive and succeed"" if he were good. Later, a mental self-help tradition emerged, ranging from Mary Baker Eddy to the ""positive thinking"" of Reverend Peale. Weiss shows how the popularizers of America's sunlit future increasingly offered spiritual rather than material rewards. And while the public was industriously minding its morals, the robber barons were not. Weiss shuns the anecdote (alas) and his book has the air of a dissertation (footnotes are epidemic and there are intramural scholarly quarrels). His method is haphazard (unlike Schneider and Dornbush's careful content analysis of 48 inspirational best-sellers, Popular Religion, 1958), and he doesn't really supersede Kenneth Lynn's ground-breaking study, The Dream of Success (1955). Weiss' study is generally reliable but tediously deadpan--its best contribution, an excellent bibliography.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1969
Publisher: Basic Books