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America and Americans by John Steinbeck

America and Americans (1966)

by John Steinbeck

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Title:America and Americans
Authors:John Steinbeck
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America and Americans by John Steinbeck (1966)


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" ... we seem to be in a state of turmoil all the time, both physically and mentally. We are able to believe that our government is weak, stupid, overbearing, dishonest and inefficient, and at the same time we are deeply convinced that it is the best government in the world, ... (page 29)

Fans of Steinbeck's novels know that he was an astute observer of the individual psyche. In America and Americans, a collection of nine lengthy opinionated essays and American landscape photos, he attempts to analyze the collective American psyche by trying to answer some very interesting questions: How did our history make us who we are as a people? How did the actual physical landscape of America impact our ancestors and us? How did our eventual prosperity as a country affect us? What are our dreams for the future? What do our aspirations say about us? He handles all these questions with his typical tact and humor, but in no way does he ever sugarcoat the truth as he sees it.

No stone is left unturned here. Steinbeck seems to have a lot to say about a variety of subjects. He tackles politics, child rearing, and the problem of having too much leisure time. He writes passionately about the connection between criminal behavior and its sometime root, drug abuse. "Where need for money is the mother of the violence, the reason is again sad and sick and destructive, this time self-destructive, the need for drugs to abolish consciousness or stimulants to give shape and substance to a schizoid twin, hallucinatory aids in the creation of another world to take the place of this hated one. This too is a kind of murder ... another kind of murder of the self ... (page 142)" So much of what Steinbeck writes here, some 40 plus years ago, seems so apropos for today that it's downright eery: "... Americans have a love for the President that goes beyond loyalty or party nationality; he is ours, and we exercise the right to destroy him."

This is not a fawning love letter to the land of the free, home of the brave. It is a brutally honest look from one of its accomplished authors who chose not to see it through rose-colored glasses but with clear sight. The love and pride Steinbeck had for his country is clear though. It's almost as if he loved his adolescent country with a fatherly type of love. Steinbeck, who would pass away two years later after this book was published, seems to be calling it home for a family meeting to impart his wisdom and blessing. "If I inspect my people and study them and criticize them, I must love them if I have any self-love, since I can never be separate from them and can be no more objective about them than I am about myself. I am not young, and yet I wonder about tomorrow. How much more, then, must my wonder be about the tomorrow of my people, a young people. Perhaps my questioning is compounded of some fear, more hope, and great confidence."

I would highly recommend this coffee table book, not only for the history and insight Steinbeck imparts on a variety of topics, but also for the wonderful photography included. ( )
2 vote avidmom | Feb 18, 2012 |
This a must read for high school students in their social studies, english, or history classes. Steinbeck's writing style earned him the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, and it is no different in this opinionated travelogue, where his opionions just happen to coincide with mine. ( )
  andyray | Mar 20, 2010 |
What happens when a gifted writer, skilled in observation, turns his gaze to America and Americans? The pictures are nice, but there is much of interest in this book written in the 1960s. The teacher in me cannot resist. I wouldn't impose the entire book on a student, but there are selections that would be relevant in American history, American literature, sociology, and theology. Personally, I think this would make a great read aloud to share with students.
  mebrock | Jun 24, 2008 |
This is essentially an American travelogue by John Steinbeck, encompassing his own opinions and those of the Americans he met in his journey across the country, along with photographs by 55 photographers, including Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Alfred Eisenstaedt. This is a good sourcebook for helping to understand the melting pot at a time in our history when it was beginning to come to a boil. ( )
  burnit99 | Feb 22, 2007 |
Unsparingly, though with humor, affection and his own matcheless vein of anecdote, John Steinbeck describes America as he sees it: with its natural wealth, its moral and political shortcomings; with a gallery of Aemrican types--heroes, eccentric, Indians, teen-agers, misguided parents, old people; with the paradoxes of America's history and the promise of its future.
1 vote | billyfantles | Sep 27, 2006 |
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Foreword:  In text and pictures, this is a book of opinions, unashamed and individual.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Do not combine with the anthology "America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction".
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The author offers his opinions on life in America during the mid-twentieth century.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670116025, Hardcover)

Photographs of Americans by various prominent photographers. Commentary by Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:28 -0400)

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