Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated
by Gore Vidal
Thunder’s Mouth/Nation Books, 2002, 160 pp., $16.50Why Do People Hate America?
by Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies
Icon Books, 2002, 231 pp., $19.99″What We Think of America”
Granta Issue 77, Spring 2002, 256 pp., $20.95″Dissent from the Homeland: Essays after September 11″
The South Atlantic Quarterly, Spring 2002, 200 pp $12.00

Anti-Americanism is an emotion masquerading as an analysis, a morality, an ideal, even an idea about what to do. When hatred of foreign policies ignites into hatred of an entire people and their civilization, then thinking is dead and demonology lives. When complexity of thought devolves into caricature, intellect is close to reconciling itself to mass murder.

One might have thought all this obvious. On the evidence of two of the works under review, it is not. Consider the sad case of Gore Vidal, once “a great wit” (in the words of Norman Mailer, who proceeded to skewer him), now a witless crank. Reposing in Ravello, Italy, Vidal maunders from snippet to snippet. His latest volume of musings manages to be skimpy and redundant at once. Collecting one’s Vanity Fair pieces as if they would stand up in book covers is an act of, well, vanity. That such an exercise should be escorted into the world by the Nation‘s book publishing arm speaks unflatteringly about publishing standards on the left.


Todd Gitlin‘s most recent book is Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives. His next is Letters to a Young Activist, to be published this spring by Basic Books. He is a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University. A shorter version of this piece appeared in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

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