AMERICA DAY BY DAY by Simone de Beauvoir
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Originally published in France in 1948, and here translated for the first time into English, this captivating journal records American culture as seen by the young, fiercely intelligent Beauvoir. Her observations rove in topic from “the dream of rootedness” to “the giddy exhilaration of the car and the wind,” and from the American obsession with material satisfaction to the nature of individual freedom. Beauvoir lands in New York in January of 1947, equipped with four flexible months, a promising letter of introduction from her companion, Jean-Paul Sartre, and The Second Sex not yet written. Though she’s a literary sensation, she’s anonymous on the street, which proves to be a huge advantage. Beauvoir travels from New York to Los Angeles and back by car, train, and Greyhound, relishing the “lavish monotony” of a landscape unlike Europe in its ’splendid stubbornness.” She’s enchanted by the optimism and affability she finds around her, by “the specific American poetry—of the drugstore. She wanders into Chicago’s bar-hopping morphine underworld with her lover Nelson Algren; she also mingles with the dreamy and disillusioned youth of America’s Ivy League. As the Red Scare accelerates, she grows preoccupied with the American fixation on liberty. She’s struck by our passion for solitude, coupled with our voyeuristic interest in the lives of the rich and famous. Sometimes she rants, clinging to her identity as a French intellectual while condemning the “ghastly opulence” of the US. Beauvoir remains both “dazzled” and “disappointed” by the extravagance of her subject, by “the battle it is waging with itself, in which the stakes are beyond measure.” Brainy and imaginative, critical and rhapsodic—and not to be missed.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-520-20979-6
Page count: 355pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1998


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