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Going too far enough : American culture at century's end

Author: Henry Allen
Publisher: Washington : Smithsonian Institution Press, ©1994.
Edition/Format:   Print book : National government publication : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
This is a book about how it feels to be alive in America at century's end - the Edens and the wastelands, the psychic heft of it all, our ghosts, hopes, myths, and heroes. It's about who we are, who we think we are, and how we'll remember the way we were. Henry Southworth Allen, prizewinning culture critic for the Washington Post, finds his characters for this drama in latterday demigods: Jack Kennedy, Miss America,
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Additional Physical Format: Online version:
Allen, Henry.
Going too far enough.
Washington : Smithsonian Institution Press, ©1994
(OCoLC)624689134
Material Type: Government publication, National government publication
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Henry Allen
ISBN: 1560983671 9781560983675
OCLC Number: 30625485
Notes: Includes index.
Description: xii, 244 pages ; 25 cm
Responsibility: Henry Southworth Allen.

Abstract:

This is a book about how it feels to be alive in America at century's end - the Edens and the wastelands, the psychic heft of it all, our ghosts, hopes, myths, and heroes. It's about who we are, who we think we are, and how we'll remember the way we were. Henry Southworth Allen, prizewinning culture critic for the Washington Post, finds his characters for this drama in latterday demigods: Jack Kennedy, Miss America, Ralph Lauren, Mickey Mouse, Ingrid Bergman, the yeoman farmer (as seen in Rhonda Long, 15, grooming a black Angus at a state fair), physicist Stephen Hawking in his wheelchair, three generations of Wyeths painting elegies to an age when the Anglo-Saxon ruled, and the ageless Zsa Zsa Gabor sidling across a hotel room in satin mules.

With elegance, energy, and wit, Allen describes an era when "heaven is a dream of endless second chances and everything else bristles with doom." Americans strive endlessly, he says, to be saved from that doom - sweating in aerobics classes and shivering in forests primeval. We believe in the redeeming powers of summer houses, the FBI, the common many, the good war, journeys into space, "the sacramental power of guns, the sanctity of little white towns in New Hampshire, and the proposition that the secret of success is knowing how to go precisely too far enough.".

He sees with an anthropological eye, which is to say he sees meaning - the meaning of our periodic fits of national gloom, of an Age of Consumption, of wilderness, Vietnam, innocence, and all the other symbols that float through the national psyche "like one of those mammoth American flags waving over a Cadillac dealership...proudly hailed by a country that rarely stops to think about them at all."

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